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Subscribe to the Travel Notes Blog Travel Notes: Travel Notes Blog: January 2010

Big Money Travel Domain Names

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Official Travel Notes Blog

It seems that the dot com bubble is still floating high - despite having gone through a global recession - if you have the right domain name to sell. Or should I say, if someone wants to buy that domain of yours.

While reviewing website submissions to Travel Notes, I clicked on the About Us link of a China tours company.

Apparently, in August, 2009 Beijing ANZ International Travel Service and Xian Yatu Networks Technology paid $200,000 to so-called 'domain king' Rick Schwartz for transfer of the domain ChinaTours.com. Nice money.

This domain purchase seems to be a serious one but since 1997 I have been constantly deleting old links, probably bought by unscrupulous buyers, that now point to web content that has nothing to do with what the domain name implies.

We still get the occasional e-mail from someone wanting to buy one of our domain names but I have never sensed an honourable interest in the purchase. At least no serious money, to really whet my appetite, has ever been put on the table.

What is Serious Money?

Well, in a time when the Domain Name Journal leads with an article titled 'The State of the Industry January 2010: We Asked 16 Domain Experts If We Hit Bottom in 2009 and Will See a Rebound in the New Year' I was interested to see what they had to say to justify such a long title.

Can you believe that Clothes.com sold for $4.9 million in 2008 and that Shopping.de checked out at $2,858,945? That's serious till receipts.

In the second half of 2009, Sedo.com made some of their best domain sales ever – with Fly.com (to Travelzoo) taking off for a reported $1.76 million and Russia.com (purchaser hidden through DomainsByProxy.com and currently parked up at Godaddy.com) just a snip away at $1.5 million.

A quick look at the weekly domain sales report didn't reveal much in the way of any 'travel' domains competing with these sky-high prices; although I did notice that CityHotels.com is currently parked up (with searchmagnified.com links) through Sedo for $40,000. Bargain.

Asia Welcomes 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Official Travel Notes Blog

Do you like showing your photography off to the world? Have you taken a quality picture of New Year celebrations in Asian culture over the last decade? Then the Asia Society would like to see it.

You need to join the Asia Society Flickr Group to enter - before midnight EST on February 21st, 2010.

Taking great pictures of fireworks is not the easiest thing in the world, but thankfully that's not the only images allowed to enter. Nor does the picture have to be taken in Asia.

Whether it's praying, eating, or playing, photos may be of anything related to an Asian celebration of New Year; from preparing for the event with decorations and food, to people actively enjoying the traditional Asian New Year celebrations.

Asia Society.

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Donate Reward Points to Haiti

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Official Travel Notes Blog

You don't need to fly to Haiti to help earthquake victims - if you're not properly qualified, you'll probably get in the way (and be another mouth to feed) - instead, you can put the travelling you have done to good use.

If you have reward points you haven't used (and maybe never will) then give them away to charity. Many travel companies are already getting involved in the Haiti relief efforts and we thank them for that.


Air Canada - Donate Aeroplan Miles to the Red Cross or to Médecins sans Frontières.

Continental Airlines allow transfer to a number of charities but right now it's probably best to donate your OnePass miles to the American Red Cross or AmeriCares.

Delta Airlines - Donate SkyMiles through the SkyWish program.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus donations go to the American Red Cross. Choose from 2,500 to 90,00 miles to donate.

US Airways - Donate your Dividend Miles through the Miles of Hope program.

You can also earn air miles by donating hard cash.

American Airlines - AAdvantage members can earn a one-time award (until February 28th, 2010) of 250 bonus miles for a minimum $50 donation, or 500 bonus miles for a donation of $100 or more to the American Red Cross. Donate!

Spirit Airlines - The first 200,000 people to make a donation of $5 or more to Yele, UNICEF or the American Red Cross - through Spirit Air (until January 17th, 2010) receive 5,000 bonus miles.

Car Hire

Auto Europe - Pledges $5 per reservation booked by any US travel agent, for their clients through March 31st, 2010 (for travel through June of 2010). Auto Europe CEO, Imad Khalidi, vows to personally match the plege.

Cruise Lines

Royal Caribbean - The Independence of the Seas was loaded with badly-needed relief supplies in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for shipping to Labadee, Haiti. The Navigator of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas are also due to arrive on Monday and Tuesday.


Best Western - 12,500 Best Western Reward points helps World Vision provide emergency safe water tablets.

Choice Hotels - Redeem Choice Privileges points. Every 1,000 points is worth another $5 to the American Red Cross.

Drury Hotels - Redeem 15,000 Drury Gold Key Club points for a $50 charitable contribution to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

Hilton International - Every 10,000 HHonors point donation means $25 to the American Red Cross.

Intercontinental Hotels Group - Priority Club Charitable Donations are available in blocks of 10,000 points. Although UNICEF is the official charity partner of InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, you can also donate to the American Red Cross.

Marriott International - The Mariott Hotels in Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic are being used as staging areas for the relief efforts in Haiti and the Marriott Foundation is sending $500,000 to the Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund (audio).

The more Marriott Reward points you offer, the larger the Mariott Cheque to the American Red Cross: 18,000 points for $50; 33,000 points for $100; 60,000 points for $250; and 180,000 points for $1,000. Awesome!

Starwood Hotels and Resorts - Transfer Starpoints to the American Red Cross. Every 4,000 Starpoints is equal to a $50 donation. If you have 16,000 Starpoints doing nothing, that's two hundred dollars.

Wyndham Hotels and Resorts - Wynham Rewards can be redeemed for a Charity Choice gift card: 5,500 points for $25; 10,500 points for $50; and 20,500 points for $100.

If you know of any others, leave a comment, Tweet me on Twitter (@TravelTweet), or Message Me on Facebook.

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How Far Can I Travel

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Official Travel Notes Blog

The other day, while planning a possible cycle adventure around Europe, I was trying to work out how far I could expect to travel each day and how long it would take for me to complete the trip; with one rest day every five.

I couldn't find the right distance calculator for my needs, as most tend to plot straight lines and require you to input the arrival and departure points.

I did manage to plan out the trip, by setting Street View to a 5km scale, and scrolling the map around; noting the places at about one map window distance away from Amsterdam. Continuing the procees for each subsequent day of the journey took a rather long time and is not for the faint of heart.

More about the possible cycle adventure later.

Today I found just the sort of tool I was looking for and just had to share it with you.

How Far Can I Travel
'Discover how far you can travel on land from a fixed point. Specify the start point, then input either how far you can go or your mode of transport with time available. This tool will then show you the range of locations that you can reach in that time'.


To put it to the test, I typed in Amsterdam, selected cycling and estimated 8 hours in the saddle.

There's also an option for speed vs accuracy - I chose 'Medium Accurate (medium speed)'.

Amsterdam to Bruxelles seemed a long way to cycle in a day.

Maybe that's a day's ride for Lance Armstrong but I didn't want to race around with my head down, aerodynamically poised to shave off the most time possible. I wanted to ride more slowly, with my head up; enjoying the sights and the freedom of the road. This thing needed some tweeking.

My initial plan had me cycling from Amsterdam to Den Haag in a day. I figured this would be reasonable and based the rest of the adventure on roughly those sort of distances; depending on what sight-seeing distractions might come up along the way.

To test this again, I needed some points I had cycled before; for real-life, travel-by-bike - complete with ice-creams and picture stops - conditions.

Sopron to Csorna (with a de-tour along Fertő-tó), Csorna to Komarom (rain forced us to take the train from Györ, after spending a few hours in an Internet cafe); Komarom to Esztergom; and Esztergom to Szentendre (after a late start, a visit to the Basilica and a side-trip across the Danube to Vac).

Toggling with the speed and hours I eventually found something that looked about right.

Sopron to Csorna.

Csorna to Komarom.

Komarom to Esztergom.

Esztergom to Szentendre.

To get these results, I chose running (12km) and 6 hours (with medium accurate).

If this is something you've been looking for too, create your own How Far Can I Travel map.

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Helping Haiti

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Official Travel Notes Blog

When I heard news of the earthquake off the coast of Haiti last night, I thought of all the people who became friends during my visit to Hispaniola.

I remember sitting in a little restaurant and writing up my travel notes; long before I even knew about the Internet.

I wrote:

Port-au-Prince is snugly positioned in a horseshoe bay, at the foot of surrounding hills. An island at the mouth of the bay protects the capital from intruding gales, but the wide, treeless main streets do little to shelter the people from the bright light and the tormenting heat of the midday sun.

Ebony pores glistened with sweat in the continual competition for space. Baskets on the floor were continually being pulled aside, or pitches picked up completely, for the through passage of huge, laden barrows, or motor vehicles that should have had no right of way.

Others looking for places to sell, balanced the goods on their heads and stepped through dirty puddles and piles of waste; flicking splash marks up tender calves.

A white face in their midst is a strange occurrence:

"Hey Blanc, where you go? You want something?"

All anybody could want is for a big, fluffy cloud to scud over from the neighbouring mountains, or a gust of wind to swirl around the doorkeeper, Gonâve Island, and ventilate the stinky streets.

Haiti may be one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere, but there is certainly colour and resourcefulness in the lives of the people. Rickety old pick-ups and little lorries have been colourfully transformed into public transport (tap-taps).

Just like people on a crowded street, these vehicles weave in and out: pulling in close to a crowd to pick up and drop off passengers, and pulling out just as swiftly, without ever seeming to collide.

Perhaps there are occasional scrapes, but on the whole, cars seemed in a better condition than in the neighbouring Dominican Republic.

Then there are the evangelical signs on the tap-taps, like those on Filipino jeepneys, praising Dieu and Don Jesus: Jesus Roi des Rois, and Dieu avant tous among the many variants on the theme.

Even in the poorer mountain regions, groups of children could be seen walking to school in clean uniforms. If they succeeded with an education then they were less likely to suffer from the splash stains and constant sweating from the labours of the market streets.

Sandy left his birthplace to study in the United States, and subsequently rose to prominence in the world of engineering.

As well as bearing him three children, his wife also succeeded in business management.

From New York, they moved nearer home to Miami, and twenty years after his initial departure, Sandy returned to his birthplace with his young family.

"I have seen it all," he said, "What more can I do but return home?"

But he would always be grateful for his start in life, and now he was pleased to see a world-wide crackdown on the evil drug trade that threatened to ruin so many young lives.

"If you have the will, you can do anything. At college in the States, not once did I even smoke a cigarette," he offered; condemning those who are so easily swayed by others.

Sandy was into the third month of his six month leave of absence, and if things worked out with his little restaurant, and the political future seemed stable, he would stay.

"They have an American school here, but of course you have to pay! To have a chance today, it is important for my children to have that education," he shrugged. I was the only customer in the restaurant, and my bill would hardly pay for a satchel to carry the books.

The proud father would not have his son pushing a barrow three times his size, or his girls carrying their merchandise on their heads and squatting to trade in the dirt.

They would be the luckier ones, and if another unsavoury regime snapped upon them, he had his American passport and property in the States.

His heart was in Haiti, and even though he was tentatively testing the the shark infested waters with his big toe, the undercurrent of his birth would work strongly to keep him.

However, education had taught him caution, and I wished Sandy well.


It wasn't until first light this morning that we could really see the devastation caused by last night's cruel earthquake and callous after-shocks; where even the Presidential Palace had crumbled to the awesome force of nature.

Embassy of Haiti.

Haiti updates on Twitter.

According to an International Red Cross spokesman, up to 3 million people may have been affected by the earthquake. At least the main airport seems to be working, which will make it easier for relief aid to get to the people who need it.

Helping Haiti

The American Red Cross has pledged an initial $200,000 to assist communities.

CARE is assessing the situation in Haiti.

Direct Relief International is responding to the 7.0-magnitude earthquake and its aftershocks.

Haiti earthquake update from Medecins Sans Frontiers.

International Medical Corps is deploying an Emergency Response Team to Haiti.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has joined its Red Cross partners to support the earthquake victims of Haiti.

International Relief Teams (IRT) is appealing for cash donations.

Operation USA announced that it will send medical aid to Haiti as part of the relief efforts.

Save The Children launches emergency relief aid to assist children and families in Haiti.

Donate to UNICEF
UNICEF is deploying necessary supplies to Jacmel and Port-au-Prince as quickly as possible to assist with recovery efforts.

United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti.

World Vision staff members are assessing the situation and preparing for an emergency response.

World Food Program is mobilising all available resources to bring urgently needed food assistance to thousands of people affected by the devastating earthquake.

The United Nations has also set up a Haiti Response page.

Once the humanitarian needs are met, the International Fund for Animal Welfare will have an Emergency Response team ready to assist the animal victims.

We can also start to look at the smaller organisations in Haiti who could do with our donations: Partners in Health, The Lambi Fund and Yéle - set up by Wyclef Jean (@wyclef).

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Where to Go in 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Official Travel Notes Blog

I've already posted where I'd like to go this year, on Facebook, but what about where you might like to go?

Some people like to travel to major events around the world while others simply must know when the holidays and festivals are - to avoid them!

If you need more travel ideas for 2010, here are some suggestions.

January 2010

Do you like it hot, or cold?

Hot this month is Sydney - where it's summer and the Sydney Festival is on until the 31st (also on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr).

If you're in Sydney, you can also catch the Flickerfest International Short Film Festival. Sydney's first beachside cinema is held at the Bondi Pavilion until the 17th.

There's also Australia Day to enjoy - on the 26th.

If you like it cold, the Jasper in January Festival (15th to 31st) adds a little extra to your entertainment on the slopes.

Good news across the Atlantic is that there's been plenty of snow in The Alps; for those who like to Ski Europe. The World Economic Forum also makes its annual visit to Davos (27th to 31st).

February 2010

Party people love carnival time - officially held 40 days before Easter; this year that's from Saturday, February 13th through to Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), February 16th.

While Rio Carnival (Carnaval in Portuguese) is often regarded as the 'Carnival Capital of the World', Salvador (Carnival in Bahia) and Olinda (near Recife - which also has its own carnival) are other excellent venues to party in Brazil; especially with Brazilians.

I have been to all three and favour Olinda. It's smaller and the historic centre is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. If this is the place for you this year, see A gringo in Olinda (Twitter: @gringoinolinda).

One year I even flew from Recife to Rio; to catch the Champions Parade, on the Saturday after Carnaval. This is a great way to see the winning Samba schools performing in the Sambodromo. And it's cheaper.

Others prefer the São Paulo Carnival or the much smaller, carnival in Porto Seguro.

In southern Brazil, head to the Florianópolis carnival.

This is almost turning into an article about carnival so let's also quickly mention a few other places to celebrate carnival: New Orleans (for the raucous); Mobile, Alabama (where Mardi Gras was first celebrated in the United States); Trinidad and Tobago (jump up and celebrate Mas); Carnival in Venice (hide behind the mask - 6th to 16th); or maybe the Carnaval de Nice (12th to 28th) - on the cooler, at this time of year, Côte d'Azur (so take a sweater).

In German-speaking countries we're talking about 'Fasnacht' and you should be thinking about Cologne (Kölner Karneval), Lucerne (Luzerner Fasnacht) or Basel (Basler Fasnacht - 22nd to 24th).

There will also be plenty of celebrating in Vancouver; where the 2010 Winter Olympic Games will be under way, from February 12th to 28th.

March 2010

Celebrating Chopin's bicentenary. On 1st March, 1810 Frédéric François Chopin was born in the village of Żelazowa Wola, 80km west of Warsaw.

Chopin 2010 will consist of around 2,000 separate events, from concerts and exhibitions to films and theatrical performances - with only 1,200 of them actually taking place in Poland. If you've done Warsaw and Krakow, don't miss Wroclaw.

April 2010

Easter this year falls on Sunday, 4th April.

Favourite festivals of mine are Holy Week in The Philippines and Easter in Antigua (Guatemala).

For Christians, what could be a better than Easter in Jerusalem?

April is also a good time to visit Petra and Eilat, before it gets too hot.

Alternatively, the more adventurous might prefer a trip to Damascus (the Arab Capital of Culture in 2008); already being talked about as the 'next Marrakech'. Check out the Old Vine Hotel - where the website's background music will entice you to make a reservation, or hit the back button.

May 2010

Better City, Better Life is the theme of Expo 2010 - in Shanghai (May 1st to Oct 31st).

If that doesn't appeal, how about a trip to Bavaria? The little village of Oberamergau - 80km south of Munich (München) - is expecting a large audience to their once-in-a-decade staging of the Passion Play (May 15th to Oct 3rd). Also appearing on Facebook and Twitter.

June 2010

In June 2010, it has to be the Soccer Safari in South Africa, or stay at home to watch the 2010 World Cup Finals (11th June to 11th July); unless you don't like football (soccer) in which case, anywhere that doesn't have a television.

July 2010

With the football over, how about some swimming?

Croatia is nice before the school holiday crowd arrives but maybe travel further south, to Montenegro.

August 2010

When it's all hot and sweaty around the Mediterranean it's time to Visit The Oregon Coast.

September 2010

The Greek Islands are still warm in September and Greek Island Hopping is a lot more fun when there's actually space to walk around the ferry's deck and enjoy the views.

October 2010

The Fall Folly Season sees leaf peakers heading for New England, for the colourful sights of nature.

While in southern Europe Harvest Time in Andalucia means plenty of food festivals to get your teeth into. The article is from 2008 but it will whet your appetite.

November 2010

This is the time to be in Colombia; and make sure it's colonial Cartagena - on November 11th. When you pass through Bogota, don't miss the Gold Museum (Museo del Oro).

December 2010

It's hard to plan where to end the year when we've only just started a new one, but perhaps consider Ljubljana; where the Christmas market continues right up to New Year's Eve.

Or you could hang the Travel Notes Calendar on your wall and travel to a different country in Europe every month with photography from Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia and Slovenia.

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