Thứ Sáu, 26 tháng 4, 2013

Burmese food Which you should eat in Myanmar (Burma)

Burmese food suffers from a bad rap – a rather unjustified bad rap in our opinion. While Burmese food can be somewhat oily, and lacks the diversity and firy spicing of cuisine in neighbouring Thailand, with a bit of advice and background knowledge we’re confident you’ll return from Myanmar having savoured some truly tasty and memorable meals.

A Burmese meal

T’ămìn (rice), also written as htamin, is the core of any Burmese meal. Rice is served with a variety of dishes that characterise Burmese cuisine, a unique blend of Burmese, Mon, Indian and Chinese influences. These dishes use a variety of local, largely plant- and seafood-based ingredients, and as with other Southeast Asian cuisines, an effort is made to balance the four primary flavours: sour, salty, spicy and bitter.

Although these foundations are relatively simple, one of the pleasures of eating an authentic Burmese meal is the sheer variety of dishes at a single setting, something that rivals even Thai food. Upon arriving at any Myanma saa thauk sain (Burmese restaurant), and having chosen a curry, fried dish or salad, a succession of side dishes will follow. One of these side dishes is invariably soup, either an Indian-influenced peh-hìn-ye (lentil soup, or dhal), studded with chunks of vegetables, or a tart leaf-based hìn-jo (sour soup). A tray of fresh and par-boiled vegetables and herbs is another common side dish; they’re eaten with various dips, ranging from ngăpí ye (a watery, fishy dip) to balachaung (a dry, pungent combination of chillies, garlic and dried shrimp fried in oil). Additional vegetable-based side dishes, unlimited green tea and a dessert of pickled tea leaves and chunks of jaggery (palm sugar) are also usually included.

Curry set
Rice, curry and sides

Burmese specialities

One of the culinary highlights of Burmese food is undoubtedly ăthouq – light, tart and spicy salads made with raw vegetables or fruit tossed with lime juice, onions, peanuts, roasted chickpea powder and chillies. Among the most exquisite are maji-yweq thouq, made with tender young tamarind leaves, and shauq-thi dhouq, made with a type of indigenous lemon. In fact, the Burmese will make just about anything into a salad, as t’ămìn dhouq a savoury salad made with rice, and nangyi dhouq, a salad made with thick rice noodles, prove.

A popular finish to Burmese meals and possibly the most infamous Burmese dish of all is leq-p’eq (often spelled laphet), fermented green tea leaves mixed with a combination of sesame seeds, fried peas, dried shrimp, fried garlic, peanuts and other crunchy ingredients. The slimy-looking mass of leaves puts some foreigners off, but it’s actually quite tasty once you get beyond the dish’s exotic appearance. A more user-friendly version of the dish is leq-p’eq thouq, where the fermented tea and nuts are combined in the form of a salad with slices of tomato and cabbage and a squeeze of lime. The dish is a popular snack in Myanmar, and the caffeine boost supplied by the tea leaves makes the dish a favourite of students who need to stay up late studying.

Tea Leaf Salad
Leq-p’eq (tea leaf salad), Bagan

Noodle dishes are prized by the Burmese and are most often eaten for breakfast or as light meals between the main meals of the day. The general word for noodles is hkuauq-swèh. The most popular noodle and unofficial national dish is moún-hìn-gà (often spelled mohinga), thin rice noodles served in a thick fish and shallot broth and topped with crispy deep-fried veggies or lentils. Móun-di (also known as mondhi) are spaghetti-like noodles served with chunks of chicken or fish. Another popular noodle dish, especially at festivals, is oùn-nó hkauq-swèh, Chinese-style rice noodles with pieces of chicken in a broth made with coconut milk.

Regional & Ethnic Variations

Local cuisine can be broadly broken down into dishes found in ‘lower Myanmar’ (roughly Yangon and the delta), with more fish pastes and sour foods; and ‘upper Myanmar’ (centred at Mandalay), with more sesame, nuts and beans used in dishes.

In Mandalay and around Inle Lake, it is also fairly easy to find Shan cuisine, which is somewhat similar to northern Thai cuisine. Popular dishes are k’auq sen (Shan-style rice noodles with curry) and various fish and meat salads. Large maung jeut (rice crackers) are common throughout Shan State.

Shan Noodles
Shan noodles

Shàn k’auq-swèh (Shan-style noodle soup), thin rice noodles in a light broth with chunks of chilli-marinated chicken or pork, is a favourite all over Myanmar, but is most common in Mandalay and Shan State. A variation popular in Mandalay, called myi shay, is made with rice noodles and is often served with pork. Another Shan dish worth seeking out is ngà t’ămìn jin, ‘kneaded fish rice’, a turmeric-tinged rice dish.

Mon cuisine, most readily available in towns stretching from Bago to Mawlamyine, is very similar to Burmese food, with a greater emphasis on curry selections. While a Burmese restaurant might offer a choice of four or five curries, a Mon restaurant will have as many as a dozen, all lined up in curry pots to be examined. Mon curries are also more likely to contain chillies than those of other cuisines.
Rakhaing (Arakan) food most resembles dishes found in Bangladesh and India’s Bengal state, featuring lots of bean and pulse dishes, very spicy curries and flatbreads.
In towns large and small throughout Myanmar you’ll find plenty of Chinese restaurants, many of which do a distinctly Burmese take on Chinese standards. Despite being the most ubiquitous type of dining in Myanmar (upcountry this is often the only kind of restaurant you’ll find), it’s probably the least interesting.

Indian restaurants are also common, although much more so in Yangon than elsewhere. Most are run by Muslim Indians, a few by Hindus. Excellent chicken dan-bauq (biryani), as well as all-you-can-eat vegetarian thali served on a banana leaf, is easy to find in the capital. The Myanmar people call Indian restaurants that serve all-you-can-eat thali ‘Chitty’ or ‘Chetty’ restaurants.

Source: lonelyplanet.com

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Thứ Tư, 24 tháng 4, 2013

Sightseeing in Vietnam – where should you go?

Vietnam is one beautiful country with many beautiful places that you can visit and tour. But not everyone knows. Now, best sightseeing tours in Vietnam through the eyes of Huong Viet Travel

Hanoi
 
Hanoi Redbridge

The capital of Vietnam, It is the center of cultural and political life, a city of lakes, trees, broad boulevards and almost 600 temples and pagodas. The city has retained much of its old architecture and colonial charm. There are many famous sights in this lovely city ( Hanoi ) such as the one-pillared pagoda, the Temple of Literature – first university in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum or Hanoi’s Old Quarter.

HaLong Bay

Ha Long Bay

Sightseeing in Halong Vietnam, One of the most scenic areas in Vietnam, there are over 3000 fascinating sculptured islands rising from the clear emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. The rock formations are full of lovely grottos, caves and small beaches. A journey by motorized sampan allows you to wander through these rock formations which legend says were made by a mighty dragon whose feet caused the formation of mountains in the sea.

Sapa

Close to the Chinese border where have many minority hill tribes. SaPa is surrounded by ladder rice fields, mountains and forests. To reach Sapa, you can journey by overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai and then continue by car up the mountain. Vietnam’s indigenous flora and fauna are in abundance in this region

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh)

Saigon Notre Dame Cathe

Ho Chi Minh City is still called Saigon by almost everyone who lives there. It is a modern city by Asian standards. The city’s character remains essentially French — with wide boulevards, colonial villas, and a lively café society — but also resolutely Asian. It has more of a cosmopolitan feel than Hanoi, although much of the old French colonial city is vanishing beneath the rapidly rising skyline and the sheer weight of recent history. Combined with this vivacious street life, the city’s French influences have bred a charm all their own. It’s really interesting when going to Saigon for sightseeing

Mekong River Delta

From the heights of the Tibetan Plateau, the mighty Mekong flows through six countries, giving life and a home to millions of people. Mekong Delta is the southern rice bowl of Vietnam, a fertile area covered with rice fields and winding tributaries of the Mekong River. The Delta is a colorful display of rural life with its lush vegetation, island farms and floating markets. Places of interest in sightseeing the Mekong Delta include My Tho, Vinh Long, Can Tho and Chau Doc.

Phan Thiet

Phan Thiet is along the southeastern coast, known today for its stretch of pristine powder sand, crystal clear waters and spectacular sand dunes. This small village offers little in terms of recreation and dining but the resort properties offer a quiet retreat. Coco Beach, Bamboo Village and the newly built Victoria Phan Thiet, all offer bungalow-style accommodations and the Novotel Ocean Dunes Resort offers a golf course. Phan Thiet is becoming a popular stop for overseas travelers

DaLat
Đà Lạt

The Vietnamese call it City of Eternal Spring because of the cooler, fresher air of this mountainous region. DaLat is nestled in the central highlands and renowned for its tranquil beauty; a favorite of the French during colonial days. the French influence is evident in the hundreds of lovely colonial villas dotted throughout the town. DaLat’s alpine landscape of pine forests, rolling hills and tranquil lakes make it a popular getaway for honeymooners and travelers

Hue

If you are a history buff, or simply love discovering exotic cultures, Hue – Vietnam’s former Royal Capital is definitely on the top list of your travel plan. The city represents the outstanding demonstration of the power of the vanished Vietnamese feudal empire, including a complex of monuments, tombs and pagodas that attract tourists coming from all over the world.

Danang

Danang is an ancient land, closely related with the Sa Huynh cultural traditions. Many imposing, palaces, towers, temples, citadels and ramparts, the vestiges from 1st to 13th are still to be seen in Cham Museum. Danang has other sights interesting attractions as Ba Na Tourist Resort, Ngu Hanh Son (Marble Mountains) as well as the Linh Ung Pagoda, Han River, and My An, Non Nuoc beaches, stretching on dozens of kilometers…

Hoian The World Culture Heritage

Hội An

The beautiful old town of Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an ancient South East Asian trading port that dates back to the 15th and 19th centuries. The architecture and street layout is influenced by a variety of countries that traded there; the Chinese, Dutch, French and Indians. Nowadays, the town is popular with tourists and is a well established stop-off on the ‘South East Asia Backpacker Trail’ and remarkably has turned into a bit of a Mecca for fashion-conscious flashpackers!

Nha Trang

Nha Trang

Offers the widest selection of accommodations of all the seaside areas in Vietnam; it also has some of the best-known beaches and pristine waters. Becoming popular for snorkeling and diving it has a lively atmosphere, many ocean front seafood restaurants and sidewalk cafes. Beautiful examples of the Cham culture can be found in the 10th-century Po Nagar Towers.

Chủ Nhật, 21 tháng 4, 2013

Burma tour: a sleeping beauty awakes

Touring Burma’s temples and villages, Teresa Machan finds the country’s inherent charm a big draw for visitors. 

As I cycled across the plain of Bagan towards temple number 473, I was reminded of one of two reasons why, in the past, I had not been immediately drawn to Burma. Travellers on Asia’s overland trail call it temple fatigue – when the blur of stupas, minarets, gold-leafed deities and all manner of reclining, seated, curly haired and bee-stung-lipped variations on the image of Buddha ceases to have any impact. I had been afflicted a number of times and Burma, more so than any other country in the region, is synonymous with temples.

Yet, here I was climbing centuries-old steps by candlelight, catching my breath at the top and wondering when I’d ever clapped eyes on such a sunset tableau. As dusk seeped into night only the white stucco temples were visible, glinting like multiple moons over the vast plain.

Packed with the remnants of its glory days as an ancient capital and kingdom, Bagan is studded with temples as far as the eye can see (more than 2,000 remain). The next day at sunrise, after only four hours’ sleep on board the river cruiser Road to Mandalay, I hovered in a hot-air balloon over a few hundred more before landing in a perfectly upright basket at the edge of a peanut field.

Marco Polo wrote of “a gilded city, alive with tinkling bells and the swishing sound of monks’ robes”; from our eyrie a few thousand feet up the scene – encompassing acres of Bagan’s famed temple footprint – was no less dramatic. A low-slung wizard’s beard of a mist veiled the fairy-tale temples until the golden disc rose above the horizon – lighting up one stupa after another as if part of a choreographed show. I vowed never again to succumb to temple fatigue.

Burma Monk
The 200-year-old teak U Bein bridge, Amarapura
 
Until recently a visit to Burma was still seen as fairly remarkable. For decades the country’s military junta divided travellers into “yes” and “no” camps, keeping all but a trickle of tourists from its door. But that changed in 2010 following the release from house arrest of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the lifting of the tourism boycott by Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy. It wasn’t until seeing an interview with Suu Kyi at her home in Rangoon, however, that I was convinced.

“Come to Burma with your eyes open,” Suu Kyi had said. “Use your liberty to promote ours.”
The footage was part of the 2011 Brighton Festival that Suu Kyi guest-directed. Over its three-week run I attended lectures, listened to the harrowing story of Burmese exile Zoya Phan, spoke to campaigners from Burma UK and made a paper lotus flower as part of a 2,000-strong installation to represent the 2,100 political prisoners languishing in Burmese jails. When the opportunity came to sail along the Irrawaddy two months later, I accepted.

Straddling five international borders including China in the north and Thailand in the south, kite-shaped Burma is as topographically and ethnically diverse as it is large. Most escorted tours will take in Rangoon, Bagan and the stilt-house villages and floating gardens of Inle Lake, as well as the more frenetic city of Mandalay, where in the late 1800s the fabled King Mindon held court in a magnificent walled, moated palace.

Those with more time might visit the pristine southern beaches on the Andaman Sea or trek to remote villages in the Shan highlands. First impressions, as seen from our transfer bus, the “elephant coach”, a restored American Chevvy fitted with teak seats and hand-carved curtain clasps, was of a country devoid of commercialisation.

Years of international sanctions and self-imposed isolation mean no golden arches, mobile phone signals or brand hoardings. In Rangoon, horn-honking and the pesky motorbikes that blight other Asian cities are banned, and Burma is the only country in Asia not to adopt Western dress. From the mist-cloaked forests of the Irrawaddy river to the beguiling Inle, much of Burma appears frozen in time.

Burma Nuns
Buddhist nuns at prayer
 
From our base at the Governor’s Residence, an elegant teak mansion of a hotel set in tropical gardens and flanked by lotus pools, we criss-crossed the city by trishaw, touring the embassy district, China Town and Bogyoke market. A department store of sorts, the four wings of this former colonial building are stuffed with foodstuffs and curious commodities – sacks of cloves and peppercorns, duck eggs, a peculiar looking shampoo derived from boiled tree bark and sought-after fabrics from the Chin state.

Among the gem and jade dealers, metal workers, wood carvers, butchers and poultry sellers was a man selling quail eggs who politely asked permission to take a photo of us. At the city’s colonial core we admired the crumbling edifices of grand buildings, including the old post office and waterworks – remnants of a prosperous colonial era snuffed out by independence hero General Aung San, before making the obligatory stop at the Strand hotel where black-and-white photos recall the days of Kipling and crumpets.

After a tasty alfresco lunch at Happy Noodle (a local “fast-food” option) we rode the blood and custard Circular Train, which carries an estimated 15,000 people around Rangoon. Commuters eyed us coyly, children waved and an unassuming elderly chap with the thickest bottle-end lenses known to man posed proudly for a photo, only to squint at it afterwards.

Brimming as it is with temples, Burma is a shoes-on, shoes-off experience. At Shwedagon, the city’s show-stopping gilded pagoda, we paddled about in the obligatory barefoot manner on cool marble in the aftermath of a fierce tropical storm. The temple’s bling statistics – 12 tons of gold leaf encrusted with precious gems, outshone only by the Buddha’s wacky neon halo – are mind-boggling, but far more memorable was an extended family that we found huddled at the bottom of the escalator that takes visitors to the temple from the ground floor. With our guide Thet, we took turns ferrying them up.

Burma is mostly rural and from the silvery Irrawaddy, where life is played out along the teak-forested riverbanks, it’s easy to comprehend why a country family might be thwarted by a moving staircase. Our balloon landing had caused a major traffic jam: in his effort to find a peanut-free patch, Bristolian pilot Lee had landed on a scar of a road in farmland at around 7am – rush hour for ox carts.

Burma Rural
A rural scene in Burma
 
“We do take a bit of crop but I avoid it where possible. I’ve become an expert in crop prices!” he said. Worst-case scenario is landing on the river’s south bank: it can take a day to travel back.

There are 5,000 miles of navigable river in Burma but the Irrawaddy is Burma’s lifeblood and the stretch from Bagan to Mandalay takes in a string of ancient capitals. One morning, Road to Mandalay passengers were invited to join in the offering of alms (in this case, sustenance from the ship’s fine kitchen) to a procession of monks at Shwe Kyet Yet village. And just outside Mandalay we visited a nunnery where shaven-headed nuns dressed in the palest of pink robes regarded us with shy amusement before taking an almost childlike delight in showing us their home.

Like temples, monks are ubiquitous in Burma. We learnt that they can ride the local minibuses but not a two-wheel vehicle or an ox cart (which causes cruelty to the animal); yet you may spot monks in front of the television shouting for Chelsea or Manchester United. “Only the enlightened one is perfect,” mused Thet, by way of explanation.

It’s easy to forget that where the “intrepid” rush in, plenty have been before. On board the boat I met Chris Plumbley, who first set off for Burma 40 years ago in a converted Ford Transit from the Isle of Wight bound for Australia via Turkey and Afghanistan. “It was an ex-NHS bus put to tender,” says Chris. “We ran out of money in India and sold the bus in Nepal, using the cash to fly to Rangoon. We stayed for months at a bamboo and rattan guesthouse and the locals were as hospitable then as they are now.”

This time Chris was accompanied by his now-wife Sue, the girl who had waved him and two friends off from the jetty decades ago.

During his recent historic visit to the country, President Obama spoke of “flickers of progress”. Brutalised by politics and scarred by poverty, neglect and repression, Burma is in the Bambi-legged stages of tourism. Yet visitors will struggle to feel as welcome anywhere in the world as they are here and visiting a country on the cusp of change is both a privilege, and thrill.

Huong Viet Travel – Myanmar ToursVietnam visa service

Thứ Sáu, 12 tháng 4, 2013

Travel tips about Myanmar

Myanmar was previously referred to as Burma. Currently, its capital is Naypyidaw and would be the seat of political power. The biggest city in Myanmar is Yangon, this was also the previous funds of Myanmar.
 
Yangon Myanmar
Yangon – Myanmar

Myanmar has been in international news for its military government’s suppression of its population. This nonetheless is purely an internal issue and there have been some developments inside past years. Myanmar is really a predominantly Buddhist region and monks are regarded with excellent respect. Myanmar also has quite fertile agricultural spots that are along rivers. These areas supply food for most from the country.

The federal government has placed some restrictions in the country with reference to wherever tourists can go or not go. These restricted spots nevertheless, are quite remote or looked upon as conflict zones. Despite these restricted areas, significantly of the region is accessible to vacationers and there’s a strong tourism industry in the land. Visitors are asked to join established tours or join tour packages, but are likewise allowed look around the country by themselves.

Many of the destinations in Myanmar are temples and old cities from its rich history. Historically Myanmar was at one time a single of the dominating kingdoms in the region but it is additionally expanded and contracted thanks to military successes, internal strife and foreign invasion. Myanmar was colonized by the British from the 18th century for six decades. This period of colonization brought a lot technological advancement and growth in the nation. Myanmar even supplied oil once in its historical past.

Bagan Myanmar
Bagan – Myanmar
The most well-liked location in Myanmar is Bagan. It can be an ar
cheological spot affected by essentially thousands of temples and pagodas along the Ayeyarwady River. This area allows one to see various designs of temples comparable to the era when they were built. Kengtung is a popular area for trekkers owing to its established trails and gorgeous scenery. Mount Popa is an extinct volcano and is simply accessible to vacationers. One or more of the best known old urban centers is Mrauk U, it was the ancient Rakhine Kingdom‘s capital. 

Myanmar Travel Tours – Huong Viet Travel

Thứ Sáu, 5 tháng 4, 2013

Be first to go to Burma


Welcome to an enchanting land of golden pagodas, velvet shoes and lotus flowers. After decades of darkness and fear, the horizon is full of hope as visitors are being encouraged to explore the treasures of this unique Asian country once more, says Harriet O'Brien. Photographs by Martin Morrell

Early one morning I watched a farmer propelling a small piece of land across a lake. Around him jet-black cormorants and sharp-white egrets fished the still waters. On the misty shores behind, golden pagodas glinted from the tops of forested hills. It was a staggeringly beautiful scene.

It was surreal, too. The farmer was taking his plot to a floating nursery garden where the enterprising locals grow tomatoes, cauliflowers, beans and other crops. Cleverly created out of water hyacinths and silt, these lush little rafts (like island-allotments) are anchored together in a large plantation and tended from narrow longboats.

The serenity of the watery scene before me was shattered as a motorised longboat sped into view. It was filled with Burmese tourists who waved and cheered at me and the farmer. Then they zoomed out of sight. They left a wake of joy that was shortly augmented by another boat of happy, waving Burmese visitors. Like so much else in this extraordinary country, the floating world of Inle Lake was utterly enchanting.

Thứ Năm, 4 tháng 4, 2013

The world’s best wild swims

Little can match the pleasure of taking a dip in a secluded spot. Sliding into a river or striking out for the centre of a lake, it’s impossible not to feel as if you’ve become part of the scene, rather than simply marvelling at it.

Indulge in one of these stunning swims and we promise they’ll make your trip even more memorable. Just remember not to swim alone and to take advice from locals about currents and conditions before stripping down to your bathers.

 

A man dives into a river beneath a giant Roman aqueduct in Provence, France. Photo by David Stubbs / Aurora / Getty Images

1. Pont Du Gard, France

This stunning Roman aqueduct is best viewed while swimming in the shallows in its shadow, where the river is at its widest. The water is crisp and gin clear, the nearby beach perfect for a picnic. Swimming is forbidden directly underneath the arches, where the river narrows and currents swirl.

2. Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Splayed out across southern Vietnam, the Mekong’s muddy outlets offer some truly exhilarating wild swims. Home stay in Vietnam , on a fruit farm on the banks of the river, is ideal. Here you can swim with Tam’s family, who’ll keep you safe and out of the way of submerged trees and fast-flowing water.

3. Lubok Simpon, Malaysia

Just across the river from Taman Negara’s main hub of Kuala Tahan, Lubok Simpon is a delightfully secluded swimming spot nestled in the world’s oldest rainforest. The muddy riverbed will suck at your toes, but once you’re swimming against the current, it’s utterly invigorating. Don’t be tempted to strike out for deeper, turbulent waters on the opposite bank.

4. River Granta, UK

South of Cambridge, the Granta’s wide meanders are ideal for a bracing British swim. Willows, replete with ropes dangling temptingly into the deep central channel, line the far bank. There is a series of swimming spots on the two-mile walk along the Granta from Cambridge to Grantchester. A mile and a half along the towpath through Grantchester Meadows is a small muddy beach with overhanging willows and rope swings, ideal for getting in and out.  Follow in the footsteps of Rupert Brooke and take tea at the gorgeous Orchard Tea Rooms after you’ve been for a cooling dip. The tea rooms are in Grantchester village, signposted from the towpath and a ten-minute walk from the swim spot.

5. Cenote Yokdzonot, Mexico

The deep sinkholes, or cenotes, of Yucatán are essential swimming spots for intrepid travellers. Ease yourself into the silky water of the locally-run Cenote Yokdzonot, a managed swimming spot where locals charge a small fee to take a dip. Try not to think about the seemingly unending depths while you’re dive-bombed by the swallows that nest in the surrounding walls.

Tourists jumping from Tat Kuang Si Waterfall. Photo by Kimberley Coole / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

6. Kuang Si Waterfalls, Laos

Hop on a tuk-tuk in Luang Prabang and make a beeline for the beautiful waterfalls at Kuang Si, with a series of inviting pools that are crying out to be swum in. The crystalline, blue water is deliciously cooling during hot Laos summers. Go later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds and that searing midday heat.

7. Wattego’s Beach, Australia

The surfing paradise of Byron Bay might not seem the ideal spot for an indulgent dip. But sheltered, north-facing Watego’s Beach is the perfect place to cool off during the height of a scorching Aussie summer. The water is far calmer here than at nearby Tallow Beach, although stay close to shore to be on the safe side.

8. Boiling River, Yellowstone National Park, USA

If diving into icy water’s not your scene, then the aptly named Boiling River will warm your cockles. The cold Gardner River merges here with fiery hot springs to form a tepid set of pools that won’t leave you gasping for breath when you sink your shoulders beneath the surface. It’s rocky, so bring swimming shoes if you can.

 

‘The penguins of South Africa’ by Pictrues. CC BY 2.0

9. Boulders, South Africa

Swimming with penguins might seem like something you’d only do in an ultra-thick wetsuit while on an Antarctic adventure. But at Boulders, Cape Town’s best swimming beach, you can get nose-to-nose with the little fellas. Offshore boulders make this a calm, secluded area on an otherwise stormy coastline.

10. Lake Lungern, Switzerland

Alpine lakes are just about the most idyllic places for a summer swim, and few are better than Switzerland’s Lake Lungern. The water is so clean it’s drinkable, so no need to worry if you take a gulp while working on your freestyle. There’s even a water slide and diving board for the big kids in your group too.

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