Apr
2

Author:

Comment

[WEBINAR] Sunset Happy Hour LIVE from Costa Rica!

Posted by on April 2, 2020 · Leave a Comment  

Episode #1 Featuring our Costa Rican partner, Tara.

Our first episode was a success! This webinar launches a series where we speak with our guides in-country, in a relaxed environment, to discuss more about how their country is handling the pandemic specifically, and what this has meant for local businesses.

The purpose of this webinar is not to sell you future travel, but simply connect you with those around the world with a different story to tell and a different perspective on what COVID may mean for future travel in the country.

In case you missed it or would like to share with a friend, watch the recording below:

Mar
11

Author:

1 Comment

Why Is Cuba Filled with Classic Cars?

Posted by on March 11, 2020 · 1 Comment  

One of the first things you notice as you enter Havana is the colorful vintage cars that line the streets. The classic car is as much of a Cuban icon as cigars and Che Guevara and thrills tourists and locals. But why does Cuba have so many old cars? Explore the history of Cuba’s vintage car industry and why the old cars in Cuba are so vital to the Cuban culture.

A History of Cars in Cuba

The story of classic cars in Cuba is full of political and historical significance. This makes Cuban classic cars a beautiful addition to the urban landscape of Cuba and an important cultural artifact.

Cuba has never had a car manufacturing industry, so they relied solely on automotive imports to populate the island’s roads. During the Cuban-Spanish-American War, the first car ever imported to Cuba was a La Parisienne from a little-known French manufacturer in 1898. However, after the turn of the century, Cuba’s primary source of cars and parts was the United States.

By 1919, Cuba was the largest Latin American importer of US cars and parts and was among the countries with the highest number of vehicles per capita in the world. The classic Ford Model T was ubiquitous on Cuba’s streets, fondly referred to as fotingo, which means a clunker or jalopy. Even now, any Cuban car that looks a little run down is called a fotingo.

During the first half of the 20th century, Cuba was used as a test track for many American car manufacturers, meaning that cars were often available in Cuba before being available for sale in the US. Companies such as Ford, Chevrolet, Cadillac, and Chrysler shipped their latest models to the US’s southern-most ports, and the cargo would arrive in Havana within a few days. By 1956, there were more than 140,000 cars in Cuba with approximately 90,000 on the streets of Havana.

The 1959 Cuban Revolution and Import Embargo

The 1959 Cuban Revolution and the beginning of the Cold War saw a change in the island’s automotive industry. As old friends became foes, Fidel Castro placed an embargo on the US and foreign imports, which meant that no American cars were exported to the island. The embargo even extended to include car parts, which had serious implications for Cuban car owners.

With no new cars coming into the country and no parts available to make repairs, car owners had the make a choice: Either let their cars rust in the garage or use what parts they had available and make repairs themselves.

Restoration and Innovation

As car owners needed their cars as a means of transportation or to provide for their families, they needed to become mechanics and create innovative ways to keep their cars running. Unfortunately, as the ban on American cars also included American car parts, Cuban locals were forced to make repairs and restorations using parts gleaned from Russian and Chinese vehicles, primarily from the plethora of Ladas, Volgas, and Geelys that were still readily available.

You can see the range of patched-up cars on display throughout the country, often painted vivid colors to hide the panel work. However, this rolling vintage car museum in Cuba today is a reminder of the ingenuity and revolutionary spirit that lives on in the country. 

The Vintage Car Revival

In 2016, Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul Castro, relaxed the need for permission to buy foreign cars and finally lifted the ban on importing American cars and parts. This led to an influx of brand-new cars onto Cuba’s roads.

Many wondered if this would signal the end of Cuba’s classic car industry. While Cubans’ love of vintage cars is ingrained in their culture and makes up a vital part of their tourism industry, there is another reason why you will still see plenty of old cars in Cuba – the cost.

New car imports are still highly regulated, and the pricing makes purchasing a car unrealistic for most Cuban locals. The state still has a monopoly on Cuban car sales, which means prices are high. A Peugeot 508 which typically retails at $29,000, costs a whopping $262,000 in Cuba. With the average Cuban citizen earning around $20 a month, it is unlikely that new imported cars are going to be part of a buying boom.

Take a Ride in a Cuban Classic Car

You can’t visit Cuba’s capital, Havana, without taking a tour in one of the many vividly-colored vintage cars that line the streets. Tourists rush to book rides in classic ‘57 Chevy Bel Air convertibles that cruise slowly through the streets of Havana Vieja and Varadero. Prices for classic car tours are around 25-30 CUC per hour, but the price is worth every penny for the opportunity to experience a slice of authentic Cuban culture.

Many classic car owners happily offer their cars and driving services to hire for tours around the island. One of the most beautiful ways to experience the country is a classic car tour through tobacco growing regions of Pinar del Rio, including Vuelta Abajo, home of the plantation that produces world-famous Bolivar Royal Corona. Make sure to hike some of the most amazing trails you’ll find anywhere in the world.

As of 2019, you can now also rent a classic car for transport around the island. Previously, car owners were prohibited from renting their cars to tourists to drive, and the state had no classic car rental service.

There are a few things to remember when renting a car in Cuba. All car rental companies are government-owned, so you will need to have the appropriate documentation to hire a car. Also, restored classic cars are uncommon and are rented at a higher price than standard cars.

Renting a classic car and driver is a better option for travelers looking for a short tour. They help Cuban car owners to maintain their rides and support the local economy.

The Takeaway

Vintage cars in Cuba play an essential role in supporting the local economy and offer a unique way to explore the magical island. They also provide an informative and safe way to travel around Cuba and see the sights. If you are planning a trip to Cuba, book a trip in one of Cuba’s authentic classic cars because you are guaranteed an unforgettable experience.

Daniel Stauffer is a blogger and devout cigar enthusiast who first developed a love for fine tobacco after receiving a box of cigars from a grateful client. He has continued to refine his palate and explore the art of cigar smoking, gaining valuable experience, which he enjoys sharing with other cigar lovers across the globe.

Image Credit: Images 1 & 4: pixabay.com; Images 2&3, Depositephotos.com

Mar
11

Author:

Comment

8 Things to Do in Thailand with Your Family (from Someone Who Has Lived There)

Posted by on March 11, 2020 · Leave a Comment  

Thailand is one of the top tourist destinations in South East Asia and lures an influx of tourists from all over the world. Synonymous with beautiful beaches and absolutely breathtaking temples, traveling to Thailand will give you the required break from your busy schedule, and visiting with your family will be a cherry on the cake.  Below are 11 things not to miss:

  • Explore the Grand Palace     

The Grand Palace, along with the beautiful buildings and their surroundings, is more than 200 years old and the most popular and recognizable destination in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. Since 1782, the Grand Palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam. For the Thai Kingdom, it is the centre of spirituality. Remember to dress politely when you visit here – you can be denied entry if you are dressed incorrectly. 

  • Elephant Nature Park

The national symbol of Thailand is the elephant – the most respected animal by the people of Thailand. You can find many ways to experience these huge creatures or work with the animals in the country. 

Animal cruelty is an unfortunate and real problem in some of the parts of the country, so you should avoid any centre where the elephants are made to perform tricks. You can volunteer or visit to help the Elephant Retirement Park, which is a rescue and rehabilitation center for elephants. You can also check out this video where we spoke with the Thai mahouts, or elephant caretakers, about their take on ethical elephant tourism.

Image Credit: Traveler experiencing Discover Corps Thailand: Elephants & Islands Expedition
  • Krabi

Put on your slippers, get some food and drinks, and forget about all your problems when you are in Krabi. You can indulge in some amazing activities with your family including kayaking, rock climbing, snorkeling and nature walks. Here the beaches are peaceful, away from the crowds and will take your breath away. Hop on a speedboat and immerse yourself in the serenity of the Chicken Island, Poda Island, Tub Island and the Phra Nang beach. 

  • Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

You can find many floating markets in Thailand, but Damnoen Saduak Floating Marketis the most famous and biggest. You will see boats floating up and down the canals while selling various types of foods and fruits. It will be a different type of experience where you will be able to see how things were several years ago. The market is around 100 km away from Bangkok, so a pretty easy drive. (hint: you can add this on to any Discover Corps Thailand journey as a post-trip extension!)

bangkok volunteer
Visit here for more information about Discover Corps’ Bangkok Post-Trip Extension
  • Island hopping

Island hopping is one of the most wonderful things to do in Thailand, especially for kids. The coastline is over 5,000 miles, and not every part is explored. This will be an unforgettable experience for you, so hop on the longtail boat and travel to as many beaches and islands as you can. Discover Phang Nga Bay and the Andaman Sea of Phuket, white sand beaches, snorkeling on the islands of Ko Phi Phi Lee and Ko Phi Phi Don, cliff jumping, and so much more.

  • Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay is in the north east of Phuket, and an absolutely stunning site. The limestone cliffs sticking vertically out of the beautiful green water is a unique feature of Phang Nga Bay. The two famous spots here are James Bond Island and Koh Pannyi. 

You can enjoy the stunning scenery in peace because there are less tourists than the nearby James Bond and Koh Pannyi, and you’re just one boat trip away from the north Phuket. You will be able to enjoy the best scenery as you soak in the sun – an unforgettable memory for you and your family.

  • Phi Phi Islands

The Phi Phi Islands are one of the most famous and popular islands in Southeast Asia. Around 45-minutes on speedboat and 90 minutes on a ferry boat ride from Phuket, these islands are paradise, made up of two islands – Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh. Phi Phi Don is the larger one which attracts a flock of visitors on its beautiful shores. The nightlife of Phi Phi Don is quite famous which starts at the setting of the sun going on throughout the night, full of young and carefree party lovers, but also a lot to see for families and children (another post-trip extension option!).

Thailand vacation
See Koh Phi Phi Island on Discover Corps’ Thailand: Elephants & Islands Expedition
  • Tour of Bangkok on bicycle

Imagine how it would be to explore a new city on bicycle with your loved ones. Ride through narrow streets and come across the traditional settlements that will enrich your understanding about the culture and traditions of Bangkok. Ride through the busy markets, watch locals pass by, explore ancient temples, and discover other local communities. You can explore the unexplored places of Bangkok.

Thailand is one of the most sought-after places for vacation, and people from every corner of the globe come here to spend their holidays. You’ll never fall short of things to do when you arrive in the ‘land of smiles’. So plan a trip with your family and create long-lasting memories. Bon Voyage!!!

Bipin Baloni is a passionate yogi, yoga teacher and traveler of India. He is currently working with Rishikul Yogshala. The Yoga Alliance affiliated school organizes a number of yoga events, such as yoga teacher training in Indiayoga teacher training in Nepal, yoga workshops, retreats, pranayama training, Ayurveda courses in Kerala and more.

Mar
6

Author:

Comment

[Quiz] Where should you travel on a Vacation with Purpose this Summer?

Posted by on March 6, 2020 · Leave a Comment  

Loading…
Feb
19

Author:

Comment

Ethical Elephant Tourism: An Interview with Thai Mahouts

Posted by on February 19, 2020 · Leave a Comment  

When it comes to the ethical treatment of animals, there are many different layers to consider and therefore many different beliefs that exist. Discover Corps went into the field to learn about the complex question of elephant tourism from those who have been working with the elephants for generations – the mahouts in Thailand. 

In short, we do not support elephant riding in any way, shape, or form. However, we believe that the problem is not so black and white, and in fact, focusing only on elephant riding is doing a disservice to the animals, the travelers seeking to understand them, and the conservationists working to protect them. 

“Now, the biggest problem we face is that in the past, there was plenty of space for the elephants to graze and feed. Now there is a lot less space, and local laws do not allow them to graze on public land [..] so it can be difficult to find them enough food.” – Boon, Head Mahout at the Elephant Nursery 

We believe that travelers need to vote with their dollars by going to truly ethical camps, the mahout tradition needs to be celebrated, governments, companies, and citizens need to prioritize proper care to establish standards, and we must work to restore lost habitat. 

Watch the video below and get to know the mahouts from our Thailand: The Baby Elephant Experience, and write any questions in the comments!

Read More