Photo Of The Day: Skulls For Sale

You can find many things at local markets: organic vegetables, artisan cheese, perfumes, wine, textiles, souvenirs … the list goes on. A look into the tastes and smells of a place, markets are a traveler’s jackpot.

But market souvenirs come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes you find the kind of things you might just get pulled over for in customs on the way home. Like this selection of morbid goods on the island of Boracay in the Philippines, captured by Flickr user Adam James Wilson. Skull and teeth anyone?

Have a photo that captures the spirit of travel? Submit it to the Gadling Flickr pool or mention us on Instagram @gadlingtravel and tag your photo with #gadling for a chance to be featured on Photo of the Day.

Video of the Day – Underwater in the Galapagos

I’m not one to shy away from a good adventure. I’ve bungee jumped Victoria Gorge, plummeted from a plane at 15,000 ft, and stood atop the summit of Kilimanjaro.

But the thought of strapping a cylinder to my back and descending into the depths of the ocean mildly terrifies me.

If there was one video that could change that and make me reconsider my fear, it would be today’s Video of the Day from underwater videographer Darek Sepiolo. Captured along the coast of the Galapágos Islands with a Sony EX1, this 7 minute adventure displays some of the incredible sea life that the Galapágos is famous for. From sea lions and exotic schools of fish, to hammerhead and whale sharks; it’s a stunning glimpse into an entire world that all too often goes unnoticed.

Do you have underwater pictures or video that we should see? Have you faced your fears while traveling? Leave a comment below and it could be tomorrow’s Video/Photo of the Day!

Photo of the day (1.6.2011)

Part of the joy of travel is trying new foods, like wild boar spare ribs or roasted chestnuts. Or barbequed monitor lizard. Flickr user LadyExpat spotted these enterprising young men in Ubud, Bali, taking the unfortunate reptile to market where it is apparently in hot demand for its skin and meat. Perhaps Mike Barish can tell us if it tastes like chicken when he returns from Bali.

Why not add your exotic food pictures to the Gadling Flickr pool? If they look tasty, we might choose one for a future Photo of the Day.

South by Southeast: Avoiding the hordes

I had high hopes for my arrival in Hoi An. This historic city, set along Vietnam’s Central Coast, has all the ingredients to be the perfect destination: a charming downtown lined with ancient Chinese buildings, a picturesque waterfront setting and a unique culinary history. So it was a shock when I stepped off my bus to find the city the epitome of a tourist trap, stuffed to the gills with tour groups, souvenir hawkers and pushy tailor shops. Hoi An, in my eyes, sucked. What happens then when travelers come to Southeast Asia with visions of the exotic and come away with a bad taste in their mouth? And how can we manage our expectations to best experience this fascinating destination?

As it turns out, increasingly we have to share the deserted beaches and charming historic quarters of our dreams with other visitors – and there are a lot of us these days. According to Vietnam’s Tourist board, the country received 3.7 million foreign visitors in 2009. Thailand is even higher, welcoming almost 14 million tourists. These travelers have left an unmistakable footprint, altering the places we love, the food we eat and the way we’re seen by locals. This influx of visitors (and their resulting impact) will only increase in the years ahead.

Yet despite the rise in tourists, Southeast Asia can be and still is the exotic destination of our dreams. You just need to come armed with a few simple strategies to maximize your enjoyment. Keep reading below to see how.Leave your expectations at home
Our idea of places we’ve never visited rarely matches with what we find when we get there. For Southeast Asia in particular, a steady diet of movies, books and glossy travel magazines have conditioned us to hold unreasonably high expectations. We come in thinking we’ll walk out the airport doors in Bangkok and plant ourselves on the beach beside a row of postcard-worthy palm trees. Instead we find superhighways and rows of 7-11’s.

Remember that people live in our fantasy destinations and they have everyday lives just like you and me. Revise your idea of what is and is not worth seeing. Sometimes watching Thais hang out at the mall can be just as interesting as a Buddhist temple.

Reconsider the “must-sees”
Hoi An is truly one of Southeast Asia’s most unique, one-of-a-kind destinations. But with that “wow factor” comes huge crowds and overwhelming popularity. To beat the tour buses you need to be flexible. Can you schedule your trip during an off-peak time of the year? Maybe you could get up early in the morning before the tourist hordes have descended? You can even consider alternate destinations that provide a similar atmosphere but with less fuss. Don’t be the guy that’s “too cool” to see Angkor Wat, but a little creative planning will make your visit far more enjoyable.

Get out of your guidebook
Guidebooks rule. I love the background information, the helpful maps and the suggested sleeping, eating and activities sections. But when you follow Lonely Planet to the letter, you’re following a well worn trail. It’s not a bad trail, mind you, it’s simply a path followed by thousands of other travelers each year. The prices you pay will be higher, there will be more travelers around you, and merchants will often view you as just another backpack with a giant dollar sign on it.

Don’t be afraid to skip the guidebook suggestions and follow your own instincts. You’ll often find some of the best adventures (and lower prices) off on your own. Not to mention less tourists.

Gadling writer Jeremy Kressmann is spending the next few months in Southeast Asia. You can read other posts on his adventures “South by Southeast” HERE.

Sanctuary Swala reopens in Tanzania

The Sanctuary Swala Camp has just reopened in Tanzania, and the luxury destination is ready for guests. The $1.5 million rebuild has updated the retreat’s 12 canvas pavilions with covered open spaces, large living areas and en suite bathrooms. The indoor and outdoor showers sound particularly enticing to me. But, the best part is probably the view from the large private lounge decks, where you can check out a watering hole that features lions, leopards and bull elephants. If you’re a junkie for exotic nature, this should become the next destination on your itinerary.

Sanctuary Swala is located in a secluded corner of Tarangire National Park, which despite the attractions, is among the least visited in Africa. The high concentrations of unusual animals is certainly a draw, but this is also a great place to hide from the world for a while, and it’ll make for great water-cooler conversations upon your return.

To celebrate the reopening, Sanctuary Swala has a couple of deals – hey, if you’re going to go to Tanzania, it should be made as easy as possible. Book two nights, and the third is free, as long as you travel by November 30, 2009. If you can’t make that timeframe, the camp is holding its 2009 rates through 2010, with Game Package Rates starting at $440 per person per night (all inclusive).