Tag Archives: visually impaired

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.

Interview with visually impaired YouTuber Lucy Edwards

This month’s blog post is a bit of a different post for us, but we’re really excited about it! Last month, we found out what it’s like to be a blogger when you have a visual impairment, this month’s post is leading on from that, we thought we’d find out what it’s like to be a YouTuber when you have a visual impairment, so we decided to interview the lovely Lucy Edwards. Thank you so much to Lucy for very kindly letting us interview you!

 

Lucy Edwards YouTube profile image

 

Lucy is a blind YouTuber who has a love for make-up and often portrays this on her channel. Lucy’s channel contains videos on what it’s like living with a visual impairment, helpful resources for blind and visually impaired people and also some beauty related videos as well. She has been uploading videos on YouTube for a few years now, she has over 27,000 subscribers so she has a good idea on what it’s like to be a blind YouTuber.

 

 

We hope you enjoy the interview and get more of an insight into what it’s like to be a YouTuber when you have a visual impairment.

 

What made you want to start YouTube?

At the time I started my channel there wasn’t many people talking about going blind online. I felt so alone in what I was going through and I didn’t want anyone else feeling low because of their sight loss and not have any resources to turn to – so I thought I would make some videos. It helped me get through some bad blind girl days and I love having a community that just gets how you are feeling.

Screenshot of Lucy's video: Why I'm Blind.

What’s your favourite thing about being a disabled YouTuber?

I love meeting new people that are going through the same thing. I have met my friend Fern through vlogging and it has just been the best thing to connect with someone.

 

Is there any aspect of being a blind/visually impaired YouTuber that you feel is difficult because of your visual impairment?

It is hard to be on such a sighted platform when you are completely blind. Sometimes it is tiring because I have to remember where to look and make sure my makeup is perfect. If you are having a bad blind day and you just want to sit under the covers and block out the world then filming a video is probably not the best thing to do sometimes. I wouldn’t change it for the world though. I really do love the challenge as I feel it improves my eye contact and posture every time.

 

Do you have any tips for perspective disabled YouTubers?

Be yourself and always remember why you started in the first place. I think it is so fab that the community is growing but don’t let yourself compare yourself to anyone. You are amazing because there isn’t anyone else out there like you so remember that.

Lucy Edwards at a Beauty event with 2 celebrities

Finally, where would you like to go on holiday and why?

I would really love to go on a safari. I always dreamed of going when I could see but didn’t manage to go before I lost my vision. I have always wondered what it would be like if it was all audio described to me.

Elephant in the savannah

Thank you so much to Lucy for letting us interview you, we really appreciate it.

Make sure you check out Lucy’s YouTube channel, you can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

Post by Holly Tuke. To read more blogs from Holly check her website https://lifeofablindgirl.com/

 

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.

 

10 Tips on looking for a job when you have a visual impairment

This week’s blog has been written by our new guest blogger Holly Tuke, the award nominated disability and lifestyle blogger behind the successful blog Life of a Blind Girl.

 

10 Tips on looking for a job when you have a visual impairment

 

Finding a job can be difficult, even more so when you have a visual impairment or any other disability, but it can also be very rewarding knowing that you have got over many hurdles.

I have a visual impairment myself and I am registered as blind as I have no useful vision so I know what it can be like to find a job when you have a visual impairment.

I graduated university in 2017 so getting a job was constantly on my mind, as I knew that I couldn’t do basic jobs such as working in a shop, pub/restaurant, cafe or those sorts of things to just tie me over. I was working for a visual impairment charity whilst I was in my third year of university for a few hours a week so this was something to do whilst I was looking for a graduate job.

I don’t think I was fully prepared for how difficult it was going to be, I knew that it would be hard but I don’t think that I was fully prepared. I even considered changing my career path or going into postgraduate study.

Nevertheless, I managed to get myself a job in November 2017 which I absolutely love. So, I want to share 10 tips with you on looking for a job when you have a visual impairment.

 

1.   Know what field you want to go into

This is so important whether you have a disability or not, but I’d say that it is key when you have a disability as you can look for jobs in that specific field.

10 Tips on looking for a job when you have a visual impairment

2.   Look on job websites

Websites such as Indeed, Total Jobs and The Guardian Jobs are some examples of websites where employers advertise job vacancies. They are fully accessible as well which is a bonus.

Check local websites as well such as your local paper, colleges, schools, the local council or universities for employment opportunities. You would be surprised how many jobs are advertised on such websites. You can often receive email alerts when new job vacancies are listed on websites, these are very useful to have.

 

10 Tips on looking for a job when you have a visual impairment

3.   Communicate with people you know

This can be very daunting and you often feel rude doing this, but if you know someone that works in the field that you want to go into then it can be a great way of finding out about employment opportunities.

 

10 Tips on looking for a job when you have a visual impairment

4.   Make use of services available to you

Making use of services can be a great way of looking for jobs and receiving career advice, services   may include the RNIB Employment Line or services in your local area.

 

5.   Contact employers directly

If you are looking to work within a specific company or organisation then contact them directly or look for a jobs section on their website. They may provide you with useful information on how to find out about job vacancies within their organisation.

 

10 Tips on looking for a job when you have a visual impairment

6.   Do some volunteering

Many charities and organisations are often looking for volunteers, this can be a great way of getting experience for your cv, gaining new skills and volunteering is sometimes the steppingstone that you need to get a job within a specific organisation. Nevertheless, volunteering is very rewarding and looks great on your CV.

 

7. Know your CV

Not all employers accept CV’s, so you might have to fill out an application form to apply for a job. Knowing your CV can make this process easier. If employers do accept CV’s then make sure you taylor your CV to fit the job that you’re applying for.

 

8.   Ask for documents in an accessible format

You can’t apply for a job if documents aren’t in an accessible format, don’t be scared to ask for them in an accessible format, most employers are happy to do this. At the end of the day, you deserve a fair chance like everyone else.

 

9.   Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do

When looking for jobs, you may often come across jobs that you think you can’t do because of your visual impairment or other disability, but there are so many jobs that you can do.

As a blind person, one question that I often get asked is ‘what jobs can blind people do?’ And the list is practically endless. Obviously, there are limitations and there are certain jobs that we can’t do, but there are far more that we can do.

 

10.        Don’t give up!

I think that this is the most important piece of advice that I can give, it can often feel disheartening, upsetting or frustrating when you are faced with disappointment when looking for work but it is very important to not give up and feel discouraged. Determination, dedication and hard work will pay off in the end!

 

Those are a few tips that I can offer about looking for jobs when you have a visual impairment or another disability, I hope that they have been of use.

 

To read more blogs from Holly Tuke check her website https://lifeofablindgirl.com/

 

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.

 

 

 

Blind Skiing on the Slopes of Sauze – Italy

The last article of the year has been written by Eeshma Qazi and it’s a resume of her experience on one of Seable holidays.

 

 

How do you feel about skiing? Are you a champion skier, gliding gracefully down those slopes every December. Or maybe you like me, are a complete novice, whose idea of a good winter holiday is more a mountain of food by a warm fire than flinging yourself unceremoniously down a mountain of snow. And so, it was to my very great surprise and to my family’s complete shock, that I found myself along with a dozen 18-29 year olds on this VICTA/Seable trip. All of us were destined for the ski slopes of Sauze d’Oulx, a charming village nestled in the Italian alps. Our only commonalities being our visual impairment and our appetite for adventure.

 

 

At the Thistle Heathrow terminal 5, amidst the thrum of newly minted conversation and warm chocolate brownies, we were introduced to our tour guides for the next week. For those of you new to the scene, VICTA is a charity which caters for the needs (both social and otherwise) of young visually impaired people) and which often works with Seable holidays (a social enterprise and travel operator) for disabled travellers. Between the two organisations, we had four dedicated sighted guides as well as a number of others in the group who could see enough to assist. Itineraries discussed, icebreakers exchanged and ground rules established, we all went to bed promptly in anticipation of our unseasonably early flight on Tuesday morning.

 

After a blissfully short flight to Geneva and a bus journey through rolling, snow dappled alpine vistas, we finally arrived at Villa Cary, our hotel. More B&B than sprawling resort, we found to our delight that we had almost free run of the place. After a filling but touristy meal of a full English brunch, we retired to our rooms for a spot of sleep before reconvening at the hotel bar for dinner. Food came in the shape of a typically Mediterranean 3 course meal which left us full to bursting and ready for bed once again.

 

The next 4 days followed more or less the same pattern minus the continual urge to snooze. After a breakfast of bread, cheeses, spreads and meats, we spent our mornings on the pistes skiing with the help of one-on-one instructorship from an amazingly friendly and competent team of ski instructors whom we all got to know on a first name basis.

Blind Skiing on the Slopes of Sauze - Italy

Following an initial assessment, we were divided into groups according to our skiing expertise and took it in daily turns to do repeat rounds of the nursery, blue or red slopes with some serial skiers in the group choosing to return for some more skiing in the afternoons.

 

It is fair to say that sun burnt and windswept though we undoubtedly were, each one of us improved in our stamina and skill over the course of the trip, some by progressing to another slope, others by independently learning to stop, slow down and turn, and others still by simply conquering their fears of the piste enough to relax and enjoy the adrenaline that comes from controlled descent. For me, victory came in the entirely unflattering but completely honest observation of one of the instructors who informed me blithely that I must have improved, given that I was no longer so taut with nerves as to resemble a “penguin”!

 

Blind Skiing on the Slopes of Sauze - Italy

 

A café located next to the slopes formed our daily lunch haunt, serving a hearty fair of local delicacies such as rich polenta with sausage and veg, grilled burgers with fontina and gorgo, rustic soups, gloriously cheesy gnocchi and beautifully gratinated crespelle (soft pancakes liberally submerged in béchamel and topped with crispy mozzarella. For those of us who chose not to ski in the afternoons, free time included going sledding or to a local spa for massages, gym, facials and an enticing array of other treatments including Turkish baths and the exotic sounding Lomi Lomi. Evening meals included in our hotel stay were all served in the hotel’s bar-restaurant area. We made friends with the waitress and chef who were always happy to take requests and recreate our favorites from a few days before. A surprisingly diverse group of individuals, we all bonded over the leisurely dinners peppered with self reflection and tired contentment as well as the card games and competitive team quizzes which followed.

 

Blind Skiing on the Slopes of Sauze - Italy

 

As is the way with all good things, we were sorry on Sunday morning to have to wave goodbye to the quaint cobbled streets of Sauze, it’s beautiful snowcapped slopes and even our high vis florescent orange tea shirts which declared to the world in no uncertain terms that we were “blind skiers”. Bundled up warmly against the chill,we took a transfer back to Geneva where the promise of a swanky hotel awaited us. Highlights in Geneva included chocolate shopping and in particular, a mammoth 4.5 kg Toblerone (the size of a small toddler), meltingly delicious gruvyère and Emmental fondue, crispy potato Rösti and the lightest of mascarpone pizzas. After a general meander around the strangely quiet and orderly streets festooned with a muted, civilised sort of Christmas cheer, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for a sumptuous dinner,a Swiss pick and mix of the best of Italian and French cuisine, from tartars to risotto, steaks to pasta.

 

 

We returned to England on Monday exactly one week later, better friends and less floundering skiers than we had left it. Each of us glad of the opportunity and already planning our next potential VICTA/Seable experience. As for me, how do I feel about skiing now? Good enough to want to try it again, this time head held high, shoulders bent with intent, feet arched snow-plough like and stomach firmly concave.

7 Tips for Disabled People Looking for Employment

Here 7 Tips for Disabled People Looking for Employment. On average, around 50% of disabled adults with disabilities are unemployed around Europe. It is no wonder then that finding a job as a disabled person is very stressful and time consuming; as they have to face the fear of discrimination alongside other normal interview nerves everyone feels. However, whatever your physical or learning disability may be, under the 2010 Equality Act employees and jobseekers are protected against discrimination in order to ensure that you have equality, fairness, respect and understanding either at your place of work or during the recruitment process.

 

The UK government is actively trying to make sure more and more disabled people are getting into employment, as this is beneficial to both the employers and the employees! This blog’s aim is to try and help prepare any disabled adult looking for work to be the best they can be in their interview with a few simple steps:

 

1. Preparation is key

 

Research the company as much as you can do before the interview. One tip is to go onto the company’s website and read the ‘About/About Us’ section to gain a quick insight into the history of the company and what the company values are. Employers are always looking for individuals to fit into their work culture, so once you know what that is, answers can be prepared in order to fit that template!

If you have trouble reading, it might also be worth looking up the company on YouTube for any promotional videos they may have released that would also give a quick insight into the company values and culture.

2. Know your CV

 

Similarly to researching the company beforehand, it is always good to know what exactly is written down on your CV, especially if you have had help writing it. Have a quick read through and come up with examples for each point on your CV that an employer may ask you; for example, if they ask: “Tell me more about your role at *insert previous job here*”, make sure you know what you’re going to say beforehand so that the question doesn’t catch you off guard.

It will be useful to prepare answers on your CV beforehand and then get a friend or family member to look over your CV and ask you questions about it so that you can practice before having your interview!

 

 

 

3. Confidence goes a long way

 

The key to any interview is confidence! If you go into an interview oozing confidence, charm and optimism, then you’re more likely to make a good, lasting impression. Although, be careful not to be too confident as that can sometimes come across as arrogant and rude! There is a fine line, and if you’re not too sure, ask your friends and family for their opinion. The most important thing is to let your personality shine through and be yourself.

 

4. Your disability

 

If you don’t want to, try not to focus too much on your disability. If you have a hidden disability that may not be immediately obvious to employers, then it might be worth bringing it up at an appropriate time in the interview (such as when they ask if you have any questions or if you have anything else you want to talk about). If you don’t want to bring it up though, then do not feel obliged to if you don’t think it is necessary.

If your disability is more on the ‘obvious’ side then you may want to shift your focus elsewhere, which is absolutely fine. Your interviewer may have some specific questions about how your disability will fit into your role, which is also fine as they are probably trying to work out how to put adjustments in place for you should you get the job. An important point is that – if you feel comfortable – try to answer as many questions about your disability as you can as this will show that you are willing to cooperate with your employer to make your position as a disabled in their employment easier. However, it is important to remember that you are not obligated to answer any questions you don’t think are necessary or appropriate. If there are any questions you don’t want to answer, it’s important to stay calm and friendly while stating that you don’t feel comfortable answering the question due to X,Y, Z reasons. The interviewer may not know that they are making you uncomfortable, so it is important to let them know gently but clearly.

 

 

5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions yourself

 

This comes hand in hand with the ‘Preparation is key’ section – it is always good to have some questions lined up at the end of your interview. This shows that you have been engaged and listening to what the employer has been talking about, and also shows a keen interest in the job you’re applying for – something all employers are looking for in an employee!

Try to get some questions ready in your head while the interviewer is talking, such as if you’re unfamiliar with a certain term they use, be sure to ask what it means etc. Some questions to have ready up your sleeve may be:

  • “What is the company culture like here?”
  • “What does the path of progression look like?”
  • “How many people will I be working with?”
  • “What would you like from me, an employee?”

 

6. Know the location beforehand

 

This point may seem like a simple one, but is also very important. It is good to work out where the interview is, what accessibility is like and how long it will take you to get there and plan well in advance, particularly if you have a physical disability. Does it have accessible parking? Accessible toilets? Is there a step free access/a hearing loop/are guide dogs welcome? All of these points are important to find out beforehand to ensure you don’t have a stressful time before the interview has even started! If your employer knows you have a disability, they should supply you with all of this information, but if they don’t know about your disability or have just forgotten, then do not be afraid to reach out to your contact and ask them directly. This will show initiative and independence, so do not be embarrassed about reaching out.

I always recommend getting to the location 15-30 minutes before your interview is scheduled to start, just in case there are any problems on the way there. Even if you’re a little early, once you’ve worked out where the interview is you can go to a coffee shop and have a quick drink to pass the time. This also gives you a good chance to go over any notes you may have made in preparation for the interview.

 

 

7. Rejection

 

It’s good to cover this part, as, on average, there are over 200 applicants that apply for a single role, and only 20% of them make it through to the interview stage. There are also around 5 other people interviewing at the same time for the same role, so sometimes you will get rejected from a role you were hoping to get. This does not mean you aren’t good enough for the role, but it may be something as simple as perhaps the person who did get the job lives 10 minutes closer or has slightly different work experience that may suit the role better. It is important to not be put off from applying to jobs if you do get rejected from a role, and what is even better is getting in contact with the interviewer and asking them for some constructive feedback as this will help you in the future!

 

Here some helpful job websites that are specifically designed for disabled adults looking for work:

 

Some recruitment agencies that focus on disabled adults:

Action on Hearing Loss can provide specific information and advice to deaf or hearing impaired jobseekers.

 

Tel: 020 7588 1885  Fax: 020 7588 1886
Email: info@blindinbusiness.org.uk

Blind in Business provides a range of services to both undergraduates/graduates and employers to ease the transition between education and employment for visually impaired individuals. BIB works through the whole application process, from supplying recruitment materials and vacancy information in a range of formats, to providing specialist seminars and advice. All the services are free and available to any visually-impaired young person looking for work.

 

Tel: 028 9029 7880  Textphone: 028 9029 7882
Email: hq@disabilityaction.org

Disability Action’s Employment and Training Service offers information and support for people with disabilities, to help them find and stay in work or vocational training. They also provide disability and diversity awareness training to employers, organisations, businesses and other interested agencies.

 

Also, some helpful websites might be Gov.co.uk that has details of the ‘two ticks’ scheme, meaning that employers who are involved with this scheme guarantee an interview to all disabled applicants so long as you reach the minimum criteria for the job. Similarly, have a look at the European Disability Forum; a website to research your full European Disability Rights, that has some great job listings there too!

 

Article written by Rosie Sanderson.

 

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.