When it is time for vacation and you go online to research ideas, it often happens that small things can make a big difference in choosing your destination.
Take, for instance, the tiny glowworm. The unusual creature is only about the size of a small mosquito. But when gathered in a large group, the glimmering effect the glowworms create can be worth traversing the globe for.
And you likely will have to traverse a large portion of the globe to experience the glow of the glowworm, unless you happen to live Down Under. That’s where the majority of glowworm habitats are located.
The very best place to go glowworm gazing? That’s inside the appropriately-named Glowworm Cave in Waitomo, New Zealand.
Spot Cool Stuff loves finding good bakeries on our travels. Spontaneously coming across one while exploring a village or city neighborhood can make an ordinary walk special. But some bakeries are special in their own right and worth purposefully seeking out — either for the quality of their baked goods or for their interior design or for the atmosphere of being there or for some combination of all those.
Below is our review of eight such bakeries. We hesitate calling them the “best,” since the world has many bakeries and we’ve only been to a relatively small handful. But each of our selections has something superlative feature that’s well worth a detour if you are traveling nearby.
These days, most airlines are struggling financially. But then, let’s face it, most haven’t done much to endear themselves to their customers, churning out a bland product and then pairing it with a confusing price structure and a level of service that ranges from uninspired to maddeningly inept.
Unfortunately, it is hard for the modern global traveler to avoid commercial aviation service. Which is why Spot Cool Stuff is so thankful that there are at least a handful of cool international airlines. We’d put Virgin Atlantic and Singapore Airlines at the top of that list. Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways have some game too. And soon, their ranks might be joined by a new airline. Or, more accurately, a new old airline: Fiji Airways.
The last time Spot Cool Stuff flew into the international airport in Christchurch, New Zealand there was a big sign in the customs area that read WELCOME TO MIDDLE EARTH.
That was in 2003. The third installment of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy was selling out in theaters worldwide. Word had spread that the filming location of Middle Earth in the three Rings movies — all the outdoor scenes from the volcanic landscape around Mordor to the lush green elven forest — were filmed somewhere in New Zealand. In fact, even the rings used as props in the movies were made in New Zealand†. And suddenly, New Zealand, on the fringe of the planet’s populated masses, became the center of travel for fantasy fiction lovers everywhere.
Then the hype around the movies faded into shadow (as they say). But its power is about to reemerge.
Spot Cool Stuff has a love of vintage travel guidebooks, the older the better. In one our finds, a guidebook to Afghanistan written in the late 1800s, the authors described the Buddha statues around of the town of Bamiyan as an over-crowded tourist trap. Contrast that with the whole of the last three decades, during which absolutely nowhere in Afghanistan could remotely qualify as an “over-crowded tourist trap.” That, sadly, includes the Bamiyan Buddha statues—they were mostly destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.
The point being: Things change. A place that’s uninviting now might become completely pleasant in the future. A great travel destination now could not be so much later.
Spot Cool Stuff recently published a review comparison of the best Bora Bora luxury resorts. As we mentioned in that review, each of the nine resorts would looked at was spectacular in its own way. Each featured amazing views and impeccable service. Each also had nightly rates somewhere between expensive and exorbitant. So what’s a budget traveler to do?
Contrary to image of Bora Bora as a destination only for the well healed, the tropical Pacific island can definitely be enjoyed on the cheap. There are a handful of B&Bs and small family-run pensions where couples can stay for under €100 (or even under €50). Among those, Spot Cool Stuff’s favorite is the wonderful little Sunset Hill Lodge.
Every day around dusk the world’s smallest penguins waddle up on a stretch of coast near Oamaru, New Zealand
Is it possible to dislike penguins? There’s something universally adorable about them. Maybe it’s their waddling. Or their tuxedo outfits. Or how they are portrayed in popular culture, as in the wonderful March of the Penguins documentary.
Most penguin stories, including March, take place in Antarctica. However there are several other places on the planet to see wild penguins. At a few of those you can hop in the water and swim along side these friendly, feathered creatures. Here’s a look at our favorite: