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Our Etna Experience

Each holiday has at least one big highlight, and while we were in Sicily, one of the highlights was visiting Etna. I admit, it was long overdue – in fact, visiting Sicily was long overdue! I bet not many Maltese people can say that they have not been to Sicily by the age of thirty. The thing is, that I am fascinated with the UK, and I mostly ignored all other countries for a big chunk of my life. It was in 2016 that I started exploring properly and I have not looked back ever since.

We left Etna for our very last day, it being so close to Catania airport. We arrived at around 9:30AM after a two hours drive from where we were staying. The Etna car park, by the cable cars was almost full. It happened to be May the 1st, which is a bank holiday in most countries, so there were a lot of tourists there.

Steffi enjoying Etna, Sicily!

We bought our tickets and made our way to the queue for the cable cars. Once we were at a reasonable height, we queued again for 4×4-style buses. Most of the tourists were laughing hard while we made our way on what we could only describe as a bumpy ride!  It took us to almost to the top of the volcano in no time. It was rather astonishing seeing people walking all the way up from ground level, seeing that Etna is 3,500 meters high up. I bet it takes most of the day going up and then down. We thought it was money well spent as this way we could enjoy walking around and inside the craters for a longer time.

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As you set foot out of the bus, you realise that the temperature changed drastically. From almost 20 degrees to around 2 degrees! Once you get accustomed to the change of weather, you start to embrace the surroundings. The view is breathtaking, the colour of the gravel varies from black to red to yellow. I have never seen so many colours on such a huge stretch of mountain-like land. It was simply amazing being there. No words were enough to describe what we saw, what we felt being so high up, on such a clear day. You could see steam coming out, touching the floor underneath your feet feels warm. You could tell you are walking on top of an active volcano. A bit scary and risky, but it’s an experience I will never forget.

We spent roughly two hours walking and exploring, and around three hours in total including the transport. The souvenir shop comes highly recommended. While we were there we tried several liquors and the famous mandorla wine. We ended up buying some, as well as lava made statues and decor, adding onto the issue we already had since we traveled with just a hand-luggage for a five day long holiday! On the way down to the car-park, there is a restaurant which in our opinion had the best arancini in Sicily. Do give them a try if you feel peckish!

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Seven Incredible Places In Thailand You Just Have To Visit

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Thailand is such an incredibly rich, diverse, and beautiful country. If the food doesn’t make you fall in love with it, the people certainly will. And its history and culture have remained untouched, despite the fact it is one of Asia’s most frequented countries by visitors. If you’re considering a trip to Thailand, or you knew you wanted to visit East Asia, but you couldn’t decide where, let this be all the incentive you need to book your flights to Thailand and have the adventure of the lifetime. Here are seven things you just can’t miss.

  1. The sights of Bangkok

Understandably, the capital city of one of the most beautiful counties in the world is absolutely stunning. Even if you have no interest in a city break, and your holiday is purely for relaxing on a beach or exploring the jungles, don’t miss out on a couple of days in Bangkok. The sights such as the Grand Palace and marketplaces make this a truly unique city, worthy of a day or two of exploration.

  1. Visit the long neck hill tribe villages

The culture of Thailand has remained virtually unchanged for hundreds of years, and this includes some of the tribes in the rainforests and mountains. The hill tribe villages are still known for their beautiful handmade clothes, traditional crafts, and their original look with long necks, elongated by brass bands wrapped around their necks.

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  1. Explore the Chiang Rai White Temple

The stunning temple was built to symbolise Buddha’s purity, but the style does not follow suit of other more traditional styles of Thai architecture. It’s a visually interesting piece of art and place of worship that is an absolute must for anyone staying in Chiang Rai.

  1. See the Bo Sang umbrella village

Near Chiang Mai, the umbrella village features handmade bamboo umbrellas and parasols, made in the traditional way. It is free to watch the women expertly craft these umbrellas, and visitors can buy them to take home as mementos if they wish, but it’s also just a beautiful place to visit and experiencethailand-3Image Credit

  1. Take a boat at the Damnoen Saduak floating market

East Asia is famous for its many styles of floating market, and Thailand is no different. In particularly watery areas of the country, their markets have been this way for hundreds of years, so there’s no plan to change them yet. They’re visually stunning, vibrant, and exciting places to visit, and the street food is exquisite.

  1. Visit Chiang Mai

The city of Chiang Mai is perfect for a few days exploring, or even a while longer. It’s a popular place for people to volunteer in Thailand teaching English and computer skills, as it’s very traditional, but the locals are friendly and welcoming.

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  1. Explore the Ayutthaya National Park

This UNESCO World Heritage site is full of the mystery of the Orient, with incredible archaeological sites from when it used to be the second capital of Siam. Explore the ruined temples, palaces, and Buddha statues, and the iconic overgrown Buddha head at Mahathat Temple. The whole park is awe-inspiring for people of any age.

Hopefully, you’ve got all the reasons you’ll ever need to visit Thailand, because when you’ve been once, you’ll want to return again and again.

 

Stuck For Words: Supporting A Grieving Friend

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The loss of a loved one is one of the hardest things we go through as human beings. You can’t fathom the depth of pain and sadness without experiencing it firsthand. It’s also difficult watching a friend go through a bereavement. It’s natural to feel helpless and to worry about saying the wrong thing. You can’t bring their loved one back, but you can help them through the pain.

Stay In Touch

The important thing is to stay in touch. You may not know what to say, but don’t let that stop you from being present. Your friend is likely to feel hurt if you avoid her. Be honest and explain that you have no words. Tell her that you’re so sorry and that you’re there for her in any way she needs. Take a little token of your friendship, such as flowers or chocolate. This is not to make things better. It’s to show you care.

Don’t Be Afraid Of Tears

Your friend may cry, and that may be painful to watch. But tears are important. They are a way of releasing the painful feelings. Don’t run away and don’t try to make her stop. There are few greater acts of friendship than holding someone else’s pain.

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Practical Things

When someone dies, there are lots of practical things that need to be done. People need to be notified, and funeral preparations need to be made. Often this is overwhelming. Find out if there’s anything you can do to help. It may be little things like making phone calls. Or your friend may need help with sympathy and funeral flowers.

Sometimes asking what the person needs isn’t helpful. They may be inundated with offers and not know what to say. Therefore, suggesting ways in which you could help is an option. Food is always a good place to start. Even at the most difficult times we still need to eat. People will be visiting, and food may need to be provided. Preparing some meals is likely to be welcome.

Avoid Cliches

In difficult situations, it’s easy to reach for cliches. However, where grief is concerned, they are not always well received. If you have just lost someone you care about deeply, you don’t want to hear that they are in a better place. Or, that God only sends you things you can deal with. This is likely to provoke sadness and even anger. Keep it simple. Be honest and truthful. It’s better to acknowledge you don’t know what to say, rather than reaching for a cliche.

Don’t Tell Them What To Do

Everyone grieves differently. There is no right or wrong way of navigating bereavement. Everyone must find their own process. So don’t tell your friend she’s doing it wrong. Don’t tell her the ‘right way’ to do it. Let her experience this for herself and steer her own course.

Like grieving, there’s no right or wrong way to be there for someone. First and foremost, show up. Be honest if you don’t know what to say. Try to be helpful. And then take your cue from your friend. Listen to her and be there, in whatever way she needs you to be.