Happy birthday King Wangchuck and other national holidays

Going to a far-flung destination and want to connect with the people and see something special? One easy way is through local and national holidays. These are often unique to a particular country and provide insights into its culture and history. But it can often be hard to find out what’s going on next week in Tuvalu.

The Holidays Around the World blog is your answer, providing daily updates on all the major happenings. Today, for example, is the birthday of the fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. He abdicated last year, but his birthday is still a national holiday. The website does more than list holidays, it goes into detail about what you can expect while you’re there. Today the people of Bhutan are celebrating by eating emadatse (chili pepper and cheese stew) and chang (warm beer made from barley, millet or rice). If it’s anything like Tibetan chang, be careful. With the high altitudes in the Himalayas this stuff gave me the worst hangover I’ve ever had.

November 11 is, of course, the anniversary of the end of the First World War. The ceasefire started on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The soldiers on both sides knew it was coming, but instead of keeping a low profile until the war officially ended, they blasted away at each other with a massive artillery barrage. People are weird. This holiday is known as Armistice Day in France, Remembrance Day in Canada, and a more general Veterans Day in the United States.

So head on over to this cool little blog, and don’t forget to dance in the streets tomorrow to celebrate Azerbaijan’s Constitution Day.

Indie Travel Podcast launches new magazine

Craig and Linda Martin have been traveling the world together since 2006. In that time, they’ve launched the Indie Travel Podcast and turned it into a successful website (they were named Best Podcast in Lonely Planet’s 2009 Travel Blog Awards) and an excellent source of information for the independent traveler. Now, in a time when major glossies seem to be folding right and left, they’ve launched a magazine. You’ve got to admire that kind of moxie.

The Indie Travel Podcast website combines inspiring destination features with practical advice, like how to use Skype and other internet phone services or what to look for when booking a hostel. There are also entertaining and informative podcasts, videos and hotel reviews. The newly launched magazine combines the best features of the website with the same Indie Travel focus – it’s geared towards independent, adventurous travelers, and budget and long-term travelers.

The Indie Travel Podcast Magazine launches September 1. There will be four issues per year, available at NZ$40 (around US$27) including postage. I had a chance to take a sneak peak and was quite impressed with the quality of the production and the writers (familiar names in the blogosphere) attached to the project.

The feature articles are fresh and interesting – Tim Patterson’s article on the Kachin Independence Army in Burma put a human face on war, and Lola Akinmade’s photos of Lagos were stunning – and the regular columns promise to be informative and helpful – Kim Mance will offer practical advice for woman traveling solo and Christine Gilbert will show us how to be “location independent” so we can earn a living while traveling the world. In the premier issue, there are also blog reviews, an interview with round-the-world traveler Gary Arndt, a guide to tapas in Seville, book reviews, and profiles of Tonga, Egypt, Alaska, Angor Wat and the Baltic capitals of Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius.

If you’ve ever felt out of touch with the Travel + Leisure set (you know, those who file a $200 per night hotel under “budget options”) or if you’re just looking for more inspiration and practical information to feed your wanderlust, check out the Indie Travel Podcast Magazine. I think as the mag continues to grow, the quality will get even better. Plus, I’m a sucker for moxie, and I like the idea of supporting two “indie” travelers with the courage to follow their dreams.

DealBase.com – It’s like having a travel agent you don’t have to talk to

Travel shopping for people who don't have time for travel shopping.We always try to let you know when there’s a great new way to find travel deals, and DealBase is one of the best yet.

The fashionistas among you may be familiar with a site called ShopItToMe.com — this is that for travel. I’ll explain.

Basically, you go to DealBase.com and tell them what you want. Four or more star hotels in Vegas for under $300? Any hotel in New York for under $100? Whatever you’re looking for, you can customize your preferences into their system. Then, not only will they search immediately for deals for you or trips that match your criteria — they’ll e-mail you a “Deal Alert” if when they find another one!

“In this time of amazing travel deals, everyone wants to be the first to know about the best savings and insider discounts,” says Sam Shank, CEO. “DealBase.com’s comprehensive deal alerts empowers travelers by sending relevant offers and insider savings opportunities, so you can get these deals before they sell out.”

We think this is awesome. It’s like, the laziest easiest way to search for travel you can afford ever, especially since it often doesn’t matter when you travel — you’re just waiting for the right deal. If there’s somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, but think you can’t afford, plug in the details and who knows? Maybe two months from now, a deal will pop up!

So, go set up your DealBase account already.

Big Earth Productions launches travel website

Big Earth Productions, responsible for gripping travel documentaries such as Long Way Around and Long Way Down, have just launched a new travel website.

It’s designed to be a one-stop experience for finding information on adventure travel all over the world, providing tips on permits, visas, shipping, and transport. But they’ve gone beyond that to create an online community where people can share advice photos, and video.

BEP has filmed epic journeys starring Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor riding around the world on motorcycles, rickshaws, boats, and everything else imaginable, but especially motorcycles, which are the perfect vehicles for just about any terrain. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of emphasis on motorcycles here, with an entire section dedicated to Two Wheel Adventure, so if you want to do your own international Easy Rider epic, you’ll be set for information. The Cargo section will tell you what permits you need to get your bike to, say, Senegal. They’ll tell you all about pet visas too.

A lot of their pages rely on public participation, so at this early stage some elements are a bit spotty. A video page encourages people to upload shots from their trip and offers advice from documentary filmmakers on how to get the most out of any video camera in adverse conditions. The TV section includes clips from Big Earth Production’s documentaries. My favorite is series of crashes from the Dakar Rally. Did that guy really think he’d save his burning bike by throwing sand on it? Feel free to upload more of those, guys.

One page that holds a lot of promise is a clickable map of the world that aspires to have travel anecdotes and information for every country. Some countries don’t have much yet, but they will fill in with time. Since membership is free, you might want to head on over there and add your own content, but be sure to come right back to Gadling because, in the words of my three-year-old son, “we’re pretty cool.”

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Online bookings just got cheaper!

Online travel deals just got better. Even though airlines are tacking on extra fees, fares have been plunging for a while now, so it still cuts in favor of travelers. Travel websites have started to get in on the savings, too. Several sites are ditching their booking fees – at least temporarily.

Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia announced yesterday that they are waiving their booking fees. For Orbitz, this is a permanent move. In the hypercompetitive world of online travel sales, these guys are doing everything they can to get your travel dollars. So, if you’ve been waiting to save even more money on travel – as if the dirt-cheap fares aren’t enough – the deal just got a little better!

[Via BloggingStocks]