The Best Caribbean Beaches For 2019: The Ultimate List

One of my favorite destinations in the world is the Caribbean with its warm waters, sandy shores, and great cocktails. With so much destruction during Hurricane’s Irma and Maria over a year ago, I am thrilled to report most of the best beaches and waterfront hotels are back in action with quite a few of them better than before. The perfect retreat for millions of tourists worldwide, the Caribbean not only offers up an amazing escape from cold winter climates but also creates memories to last for a lifetime.

Some of my finest memories include floating in the bathtub-warm waters of Aruba, sailing in the British Virgin Islands, deep sea fishing in Nicaragua and countless others. I have included several destinations like Bermuda, Turks & Caicos and the Bahamas that are not in the Caribbean but are an important part of the area, and also feature stunning beaches.  I have become a bit of a beach aficionado having personally visited most of these beaches and am excited to present my favorites for 2019. 


This two-mile sandy beach with soft, powdery white sand also offers up several great bars, restaurants and some amazing resorts. Busier than other beaches in the area but on Anguilla nothing feels crowded. Runners-up include; Maundays Bay, Meads Bay, Rendezvous Bay, Merrywing Bay, and Savannah Bay.

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What’s great about Darkwood Beach is that there’s not a single building on it. It feels like an escape from reality. It’s undeveloped but still easily accessible. Runners-up include; Valley Church Beach, Dickenson Bay, Runaway Bay, Ffrye’s Bay, Crab Hill Bay, and Half Moon Bay.

I have visited this beach for over 15 years, and while it can often be crowded with a mix of East Coast beach lovers and Venezuelans, the sand and water keep me coming back for more. This is a special place that has become the ultimate getaway for so many people. Come as yourself and never be judged.

While not in the Caribbean I had to include this stunning island, owned by a fabulous couple David Hew and his husband Michael King and features one of the most spectacular beaches in the Bahamas. Completely secluded for privacy, this is one of the best retreats in the world with a barrier reef for snorkeling. Runners-up include; Stocking Island, Exumas with the swimming pigs, Old Bight Beach, Cat Island, Old Fort Bay, Nassau, Treasure Cay Beach, Abaco, Sand Dollar Beach, Great Harbour Cay, and Cabbage Beach, Paradise Island.

This is the most famous beach in Barbados and is surrounded by cliffs and lots of soft sand. Runners-up include Bathsheba Beach, Dover Beach, Mullins Beach, and St Peter.

Enjoy the feeling of seclusion on your own patch of perfect beach, while being close to all the happenings of the local village. Take a kayak out to see the sunset over Victoria’s Peak, one of the highest mountains in Belize.

Not in the Caribbean but a major destination for superyachts and wealthy Caribbean island hoppers, the calm water and hidden coves of this stunning beach can sometimes get crowded but you can venture further down the beach for a secluded experience.

I have visited this beach as a cruise ship passenger on multiple occasions, and there is nothing better than drinking from the Soggy Dollar Bar and relaxing with friends on this charming island paradise. Runners-up include Sandy Spit, Loblolly Bay, Devil’s Bay in Virgin Gorda, Prickly Pear, Cane Garden Bay, Smugglers Cove, and Apple Bay in Tortola

The beach measures only 5.5 miles, but its gorgeous clear waters and coral sands have made it one of the top picks by magazines every year.

Located four hours from the capital city, San Jose this is a great beach for more laid back travelers where sloths are a regular part of the scenery. The nearby town gets lively after dark.

This beach is about 2 miles of white sand with turquoise colored water. Guardalavaca is known for its sporting activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, tennis, windsurfing, volleyball, catamaran sailing, and kayaking.

With its clear turquoise water, waving palm trees and white sandy beach, Cas Abao is a true paradise. Located at the northwest coast of Curaçao, the beach is ideal for swimmers with great reefs for snorkeling. Runners-up include Playa Knip, Westpunt, Playa Porto Mari, Klein Curacao, and Groot Knip.

The reward at the end of this hike down a steep cliff to the beach below is a large waterfall crashing on the beach. One of the most memorable beach experiences ever. Runner-up is Batibou Beach.

This spectacular secluded beach is one of the most beautiful in the Dominican Republic and has won many travel awards. The white sand beach stretches about five miles and remains very secluded, far away from any resorts or hotels. Best way to arrive is by ATV to this paradise. Runners-up include Saona Island and Playa Bavaro.

24 of the world’s most amazing bridges

(CNN) — The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco took four years to build, costing $35 million and finally opened in 1937. It has remained one of the engineering world’s most famous poster boys since. But it’s not the only bridge that merits celebration. Here are 23 others (plus San Fran’s Golden Gate) that are worth a look.

1. Golden Gate Bridge: San Francisco, United States

A-list celebrity in the bridge world.Now over 75 years old, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is arguably the most recognizable bridge in the world. While some may not be inspired by the industrial age suspension bridge design, it is undeniable that the San Francisco we know today would not be the same without its skyline being graced by this beauty.

2. Sydney Harbour Bridge: Sydney, Australia

Good to look at, better to climb.Cameron Spencer/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty ImagesNicknamed “The Coat Hanger” by Sydney locals because of its arch-based design, the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened in 1932 and is a focal point of Aussie pride and celebrations.For aspiring bridge climbers, BridgeClimb offers people just that. Every year for New Year’s Eve the bridge itself is used to complement fireworks displays creating various effects like smiley faces and a disco ball.

3. Ponte Vecchio: Florence, Italy

A slice of ancient Italy in modern-day Italy.GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/AFP/Getty ImagesA Medieval bridge over the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio is mainly known for its shops of jewelers, art dealers and souvenir sellers and for being Europe’s oldest stone, closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge.Regardless, the Ponte Vecchio Brige is gorgeous and has a rich history dating back to the time of the Romans. During World War II the bridge was not destroyed by the Nazis — unlike many other bridges in Europe — under an express order from Adolf Hitler.

4. Brooklyn Bridge: New York City, United States

Bagels, bars and Brooklyn Bridge: a New York trifecta.STAN HONDA/AFP/AFP/Getty ImagesCompleted in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. A National Historic Landmark, the Brooklyn Bridge is an iconic feature of New York.

5. Gateshead Millennium Bridge: Gateshead, England

Trying to make up for North England’s weather.ANDREW YATES/AFP/AFP/Getty ImagesThe Gateshead Millennium Bridge is the world’s first and currently only tilting bridge. But the most amazing thing about this pedestrian and biker crossing of the Tyne River is that it appears as if an eye is winking whenever it is raised and lowered.Its innovative and unique design has won loads of awards since Queen Elizabeth officially opened it in 2002. It was lowered into place by Europe’s largest floating crane — Asian Hercules II.

6. Tsing Ma Bridge: Hong Kong, China

Shortcut to a dim sum lunch.Courtesy Johnny Lai/Creative Commons/FlickrHong Kong’s Tsing Ma Bridge is the largest suspension bridge in the world to feature two decks and carry both road and rail traffic.Not only that, but it was subjected to some serious wind tunnel testing as Hong Kong is subject to powerful typhoons. After costing $920 million (HK$7.2 billion), the Tsing Ma Bridge opened in 1997. There are no walkways on the bridge and it features sheltered carriageways on the lower deck when very strong winds prove to be too much for vehicles to safely handle.Related content10 of the world’s longest bridges of various types

7. Akashi-Kaikyo or Pearl Bridge: Kobe-Naruto, Japan

Two kilometers of Japanese efficiencyGYRO PHOTOGRAPHY/amanaimages/CorbisThe Pearl Bridge currently holds the title of “World’s Longest Suspension Bridge” with a span of 1,991 meters. The second longest is China’s Xihoumen Bridge.A modern engineering feat, the Pearl Bridge has remained the world’s longest since 1998. The Pearl Bridge stood a true test of strength even before it opened when it survived the Kobe Earthquake on January 17, 1995.

8. Hangzhou Bay Bridge: Zhejiang, China

Thirty-five kilometers long, each one impressive.Courtesy Frank Tong/Creative Commons/FlickrConnecting the Chinese municipalities of Jiaxing and Ningbo in Zhejiang province, the 35-kilometer-long Hangzhou Bay Bridge is the longest trans-oceanic bridge in the world. More than 600 experts spent nine years designing the Hangzhou Bay Bridge.

9. Nanpu Bridge: Shanghai, China

Not “Bladerunner,” but still as memorable.Courtesy Brian Brake/Creative Commons/FlickrKnown for its funky and innovative spiral approach, Shanghai’s Nanpu Bridge designers came up with the novel idea to save space. When you can’t build out, build up.

10. Tower Bridge: London, England

London’s connection to the 19th century.Paul Gilham/Getty Images Europe/Getty ImagesA combined bascule and suspension bridge in London, England, spanning the River Thames, the Tower Bridge was opened on June 30, 1894 by The Prince of Wales. It is among the top iconic landmarks in a city filled with iconic landmarks.One of the final scenes of the Hollywood blockbuster “Sherlock Holmes” is played out on the bridge in the movie’s climax.

11. Pont du Gard Aqueduct: Gard, France

Showing why Rome wasn’t built in a day.Patrick Aventurier/Getty ImagesNo bridge list is complete without at least one aqueduct constructed by the Roman Empire. Pont du Gard is believed to have been built between 19 BC and 150 AD. It was constructed entirely without the use of mortar and the aqueduct’s stones — weighing up to six tons — were precisely cut to fit perfectly together eliminating the need for mortar.

12. Royal Gorge Bridge: Canon City, Colorado, United States

Indiana Jones’ favorite place to hang out.Courtesy Patrick O’DonnellThe Royal Gorge Bridge is the world’s highest suspension bridge at 359 meters above Arkansas River. Not surprisingly, it attracts a lot of jumpers. But they all pack parachutes.Related contentThe most spectacular footbridges around the world

13. Seri Wawasan Bridge: Putrajaya, Malaysia

Don’t be dazzled — watch the road.Courtesy Syed Abdul Khaliq/Creative Commons/FlickrAn absolutely gorgeous bridge design. This one gets in on beauty points alone.

14. Lupu Bridge: Shanghai, China

The world’s longest steel-arch bridge.LIU JIN/AFP/AFP/Getty ImagesLupu Bridge in Shanghai gets a spot on this list because at 3,900 meters it is the world’s longest steel-arch bridge, and it also provides an amazing vantage point overlooking the old 2010 Shanghai World Expo site.

15. Millau Viaduct: Tran Valley, France

Visually clinical, yet appealingREMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty ImagesThe world’s highest vehicular bridge, the Millau Viaduct traverses land not water, though when the fog rolls in, crossing the Millau can feel like crossing the sky. The bridge’s construction set three world records.

16. Vasco da Gama Bridge: Lisbon, Portugal

Difficult to take a bad photo here.PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/AFP/Getty ImagesThe Vasco da Gama spans the Tagus River near Lisbon, capital of Portugal and was built to ease traffic congestion and provide easier access to the 1998 World Fair along the banks of the Tagus. It isn’t the longest, it isn’t the tallest, but it sure is pretty.

17. Khaju Bridge: Isfahan, Iran

Walks don’t come more romantic than this.Courtesy Ninara/Creative Commons/FlickrRemarkable views, a useful design that regulates the flow of the river and it has lasted (built around 1650). The Khaju Bridge should be on any bridge fanatic’s must-see list.

18. The Wind and Rain Bridge: Sanjian County, China

Art as engineering.Courtesy Anja Disseldorp/Flickr/Creative CommonsThe Wind and Rain Bridge on the Linxi River of Sanjiang County is gorgeous. Built in 1916 to resemble a rainbow, the builders used no nails or rivets but instead dovetailed thousands of pieces of wood.Related content12 spectacular new bridges that break the mold

19. Sunniberg Bridge: Klosters, Switzerland

The Sunniberg Bridge was built in 1998 and won the Outstanding Structure Award in 2001 for its “aesthetically pleasing appearance and innovative design.”

20. Stari Most: Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Proving big is not always best.Courtesy Petr Kadlec/Creative Commons/FlickrA 16th-century bridge in the city of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Sari crosses the river Neretva. The bridge stood for 427 years until it was destroyed in the Bosnian war in 1993. It was later rebuilt and reopened in 2004. It is traditional for the young men of the town to leap from the bridge into the Neretva.

21. Szechenyi Chain Bridge: Budapest, Hungary

Good to look at, great for stunts.ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/AFP/Getty ImagesThe Szechenyi Chain Bridge has loads of character. Opened in 1849, it truly put the “Buda” into the “Pest” as it connected the two sections of the city. In 2001, Hungarian stunt pilot Peter Besenyei flew upside down under the bridge.

22. New Brunswick Hartland Bridge: New Brunswick, Canada

About as cute as a bridge can get.Courtesy Dennis Jarvis/Creative Commons/FlickrThe world’s longest covered bridge might not look like much compared to some of the other mega structures featured here, but covered bridges have a unique charm.Some covered bridges are also only one lane, such as this Hartland Bridge in New Brunswick, Canada, so for those crossing there’s always a certain amount of excitement to be had.

23. The Confederation Bridge: Prince Edward Island, Canada

Not much to see, so no excuse for bad driving.courtesy Cadian TourismSpanning the Abegweit Passage of Northumberland Strait, and linking Prince Edward Island with mainland New Brunswick, Canada, the Confederation Bridge is the longest bridge over ice in the world.It is not dainty, it is strong, imposing, sturdy and muscular. Probably the bridge where we would least like to run out of gas. Since the bridge’s opening in 1997, potato production on Prince Edward Island has increased dramatically.

24. The Helix Bridge: Marina Bay, Singapore

Clever, beautiful and inspiring.Courtesy Urban Redevelopment AuthoritySingapore’s double helix bridge is 280 meters long, made of a special stainless steel, lovingly assembled over two years with great precision. Despite being just two years old is already being touted as an architectural marvel and engineering feat.

Stop Sitting There and Start Boating: Daylight is Burning

I’m sure a lot of you Bay Area folk remember when the BART workers threatened a strike in August 2013. The walkout was avoided, but for an entire day the state of public rail transit across San Francisco was shaky at best.

In that dark hour it was Uber who came to the rescue…well, halfway to the rescue. They actually partnered with a local San Francisco startup called Boatbound to send people off to work on boats across the bay.

Uber never would have been able to orchestrate this singlehandedly: Boatbound was the crucial element that made it all work. Here we are now, almost two years later, and Boatbound is both still kicking and thriving.

In short, Boatbound is the Airbnb for boats. It’s an idea that founder Aaron Hall cooked up thanks to a life spent boating with family and friends.

“We were always out boating, and when we traveled it was something we’d do on vacation too. It was always an integral part of my growing up,” says Hall.

On one of those vacations, in 2012, they tried to rent a boat for the weekend. They walked into an old, clunky marina in North Dallas that was so desolate it didn’t even have a website.

The drive was to get there was long and arduous, and when they finally arrived the last available boat had already been rented out. However, Hall saw hundreds of owned boats just floating in the marina, not being used and not available for rent.

Surely there was a service out there that let people rent these owned boats. Well, long story short, there wasn’t, so Hall built Boatbound.

They initially launched in 2013 and only serviced San Francisco, which highlights the strategic prowess Boatbound showed by teaming up with Uber in 2013. That, paired with the hard work of a dedicated team took Boatbound to South Florida, and ultimately across the rest of the US in 2014.

Hall would say they’ve “exploded”, and I have to agree. I pressed him about what contributed to this massive spike in growth:

“Think about it: nobody goes out on a boat themselves unless they’re a lonely fisherman,” Hall explains. “When one person books on our platform a lot of other people find out about Boatbound while on the actual, rented boat. The opportunity for it to spread like wildfire is unprecedented.”

Currently, Hall and his crew are spending a lot of time with boating events and dry land fun to keep the hype fueled. It’s fascinating: they still haven’t turned on the marketing magic, so to speak, but have over 10,000 boats registered for rental on the platform.

Not only that, the list of people waiting to sign up seems to get bigger every day. There was even one man who rented his boat out eight times in the first week it was listed on Boatbound.

“We can’t activate boats quickly enough. It does take some time to get the boats ready, which is why we’re still picky on markets we launch in,” Hall says. “Though, it’s mainly because there are boats there already waiting for us to activate them before we even arrive.”

Consider what this means for boat owners. Effectively you can offset a sizeable portion of monthly expenses by renting your boat just a few times in a given month.

That’s huge, considering that about 80 percent of boats just float unused over one calendar year. Hall tells me that people who rent their boats on the platform can finally view their crafts as tangible assets and not sinkholes to throw money in.

For all of us who don’t own boats, it’s a steal to get out on the water for about $30 a day. What are you waiting for? Daylight is burning, my friends, and summer is already halfway over. Go have some fun already!

10 Places in Thailand That Backpackers Rarely Visit

Thailand is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations on the planet receiving an estinated 15.9 million tourists in 2010. Perfect marketed images of tuk-tuks, long-tail boats, glimmering temples and glamorous Thai dancers are what the mind conjures up when someone says Thailand.

Living here for two years, I have had the immense pleasure of seeing many different sides of this fascinating country, the hugely celebrated and the unassuming, the popular and the forgotten.

Each place has its unique surprises and my experience makes me cringe when I hear some stuck up backpackers say that Thailand has nothing for them in way of adventure anymore. As someone once said, “only boring people get bored.” Especially in Thailand.

10 Unique Places in Thailand

1. MaeKlong Market, Samut Songkram

MaeKlong Market in the province of Samut Songkram is an unbelievable example of Thailand’s ability to thrive in regardless of circumstances. The market is situated on the train tracks of MaeKlong Railway and eight times a day, seven days a week, the train passes in and out happily.

The train literally goes directly through the middle of the market stalls and over the goods on sale. Rather than relocate a market which had been running for decades in this area, locals adapted superbly so that daily life was not interrupted.

The vendors simply pull back any awning that sticks out too far within centimeters of where the train will pass and usher shoppers to step back. Locals know the exact time each day the train arrives and once it has passed through, the awnings are recoiled and they are back on the tracks laying out their fruit, meat and seafood as if nothing happened.

2. The Forensic Museum, Bangkok

Have you always wanted to see a scrotum with elephantiasis? Er… no, us neither! Bangkok’s forensic museum holds a bizarre collection of everything that is weird, outrageous and just downright freaky about Thailand.

For anyone looking to investigate a very different side of Thailand, look no further… though be warned this place is not for the squeamish or faint of heart!

With macabre interest in death and illness, the museum displays a collection of gruesome photographs of decapitations, deformed feotus’s in glass jars, an exhibition of skulls with bullet wounds through the head and the star attraction, the embalmed body of 1950’s Chinese cannibal, Si Quey. Next to the cabinet read the handwritten words “because he loves to eat human’s organ not because of starving”.

3. Phuket Town

Most people head to Phuket strictly for beaches and all night parties, however, what most people fail to appreciate is Phuket town itself. Dating back to the 16th century, colonial powers had an interest in Phuket’s natural resources, namely its booming tin mining industry.

As a result, the architecture of the town is a mix of Sino-Portuguese shop-house and Sino-Colonial mansion style. Despite it being home to the cheapest digs in town (the famous On-On Hotel was featured on the opening scene’s of the movie, The Beach!) there is a surprising lack of backpackers roaming the town.

Artsy tea-shops and atmospheric jazz bars have now taken residence in the old shop-houses and there are some great (and cheap) Chinese-influenced eating houses. Visitors heading there in October are in for a treat as the Vegetarian Festival takes place with incredible feats of self-flagellation and body piercing.

4. Mae Sot or “Little Burma”

Nicknamed “Little Burma,” due to the presence of over 200,000 Burmese refugees living in the area, the border town of Mae Sot doesn’t really feel like Thailand at all.

Walking around the local market you will see women with a yellow paste, ‘thananka’ bark smeared on their cheeks and men, wearing the traditional Burmese wrap-around skirt, the longyi.

The town is fascinating in the sense that it makes you realize just how complex the Burmese nationality is with ethnic minorities from Karen, Kachin, Mon, Arakanese; each with their own separate customs, cultures, dress and cuisine.

Eat chapatis and dal in the Muslim quarter in the morning for breakfast and then feast on Karen curries in the evening. For backpackers who are considering  visiting what is now called ‘Myanmar,’ Mae Sot is an intriguing taster.

Plus, the bridge over the River Moie has just opened for border runs so the town may well be seeing more backpackers here in the coming months. 

5. Nan Province

The remote province of Nan is a mountainous, forested area that for many years was an autonomous kingdom cut off from the rest of Thailand and the outside world.

The area remains somewat separated from the rest of Thailand in the fact that very few tourists venture here. Home to the largest national park in Thailand, the beautiful Doi Phu Kha National Park, the area has an abundance of impressive limestone caves, karats and waterfalls, not to mention the ancient salt mine village, or ‘Ban Bo Klua’ as it is known in Thai.

The best way to get to Nan province is by motorbike from Chiang Mai on roads which are superb for riding passing through spectacular mountain scenery. The town of Phayao, located on the picturesque Phayao Lake is the perfect stop off point to explore more stunning mountain scenery and nearby hill-tribe villages.

6. The Trang Islands

Just four hours by bus from the tourist hotspot, Krabi, lie the ‘secret’ islands of Trang, a group of 47 separate craggy isles each one blessed with raw, unspoilt beauty.

The area which consists of 120-mile coastline remain untouched by tourism and you will find no fast food restaurants, internet cafes or tacky souvenir shops here. During low season (June-September) the islands are completely deserted and you will have to persuade the local fisherman to take you out from the main port of Trang to the outer islands.

It is quite possible that you will be the only Westerner there as you explore the beautiful white sandy beaches, limestone caves and waterfalls that were recently designated a national parkland.

The accommodation is cheap and very basic but with a location so idyllic, the Trang islands are like Thailand 20 years ago. If it is true escapism you are after, the Trang Islands just may be your adventure playground.

7. The White Temple and the Black House, Chiang Rai

It is true that with such an abundance of noteworthy temples in South East Asia, at times during your trip you may feel guiltily ‘templed out.’ After coming from Thailand’s capital of culture, Chiang Mai with its 300+ temples, the last thing you want to do in Chiang Rai is see another!

Yet, the White Temple just may be different from anything you will have seen before with its eerie concrete hands and ghostly heads surrounding the entrance of the temple and its huge silver tusks reflecting the light as you walk up to the daunting doors.

The temple is like something out of a strange gothic fairy tale and was built by artist ‘Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat’ as a Buddhist offering. Less than 2km from the White Temple, you will find the mysterious ‘Baan Dam’ or the Black House, built interestingly by Kositpipat’s former student, artist Thawan Duchanee.

With an extensive collection of taxidermy, including the entire skeleton of an elephant, the Black House is a bizarre contrast to the pure White Temple. An antagonistic creation by the artist perhaps?

8. Khao Yai National Park and Bat Cave

Every night without fail as the sun begins to set in Eastern Thailand, a thick black cloud spouts from the mouth of an eerie cave on the edge of Khao Yao National Park.

They are thousands upon thousands of ‘wrinkled lipped’ bats who come out to hunt at twilight creating what seems like one giant living organism in a ribbon pattern across the sky.

Just four hours from Bangkok, the park is also home to 67 species of wild mammal including the Asiatic black bear, Asian elephant, gaur gibbon and even tigers! Visitors can walk the many hiking trails in the area to spectacular waterfalls, observation points and even a dinosaur footprint (a four day trek!).

9. Doi Inthanon National Park

It was this time last year when hoards of Thai people raced to the peak of the highest mountain in Thailand (2565 metres) to get their first experience of frost! Whilst English people find this incredulous, the park does have more to offer than its cold winter temperatures.

Riding a motorbike through the park is the best way to explore a landscape that changes with each turn; at times rugged, misty, cold and eerie and then almost mediterranean with lush rolling hills, rhododendron bushes and smiling farmers waving as they plough the fields in the sun.

On the way up the mountain (you can reach the summit by road) there is a Hmong hill-tribe settlement where visitors can stay overnight in a homestead and observe the organic farming practices here which are a Royal Project initiated by the current King of Thailand to stop the hill tribes from growing Opium.

Although the area of Doi Inthanon is well set up for tourists, it is rare to spot backpackers here.

10. Tarutao National Marine Park and the Deep South

Right on the border with Malaysia, Thailand’s deep south is very underdeveloped compared to Krabi and the Gulf islands. Today, it remains an area which tourists are wary of due to continued travel warnings because of the Muslim fighting in the area.

However, this area has more than one surprise up its sleeve, not least the stunning Tarutao National Marine Park, an archipelago of 51 exquisite islands which were the setting for Thailand’s version of the Survivor TV program.

One of the first national marine parks in Thailand, its sparkling beaches, coral reefs and virgin rainforest remain in pristine condition. It is hard to believe that the largest island, Koh Tarutao was once a huge prison with over 10,000 prisoners sent there.

One of the islands here, Koh Lipe has managed to evade park protection and is beginning to develop into a popular resort. Go now before pressure from developers to build more resorts becomes too much! The park is closed May-November.

What you need for an Alpine adventure – written by expert guide Kathy Murphy

Kathy Murphy, IFMGA Guide (she was the second British woman to achieve this status), runs our mountaineering and glacier trekking holidays in the Alps. She guides many of these trips herself and her particular brand of leadership, described variously by clients as ‘highly professional’, ‘fun’ and ‘kick-ass’, makes her a very popular choice. Here she gives a no-nonsense guide to her Alpine essentials for trips which involve carrying your equipment throughout.

1). Comfy boots – stiff enough to hold a crampon well, comfortable enough for long descents back to the valley and warm enough for early starts from high huts. My favourite boot is the La Sportiva Trango Alp GTX. It’s a B2 boot, so it’s got a bit of flex in the front half, as well as good support around the ankle. Worn in a bit to avoid blisters – it does the job well.

2). Ankle gaiters/mini-gaiters – these keep the snow out of my boots and are not as heavy, bulky, hot or as expensive as full-size gaiters. Grasmere DRY Gaiters by Trekmates are my mini-gaiters of choice.

3). Crampons – I use Grivel G10’s with anti-balling plates already fitted. They have the ‘new-matic’ system – a plastic cup at the heel and toe which means they fit any boot – even my ski-mountaineering boots in winter. Plus, the flexible central bar means they’re more comfortable than a rigid crampon and don’t pull on your heel and cause blisters.

You will notice that the first three essentials are all to do with my feet – if my feet aren’t happy then neither am I!

4). Travel sized bits and pieces – these are easily found in the UK and at the airport shops – so a travel-sized toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, sun cream etc. And to go with this – a pack towel – these dry quickly and pack up really small.

5). Drinking water – It’s always important to stay hydrated when in the mountains. Make sure you take a reusable bottle you can fill up along the way!

6). Pack of cards – great for passing the downtime in the huts. It’s sociable and I have a whole selection of card games that anyone can quickly learn and a few tricks up my sleeve! Obviously, 1 pack per group is enough!

7). Rucksack – my new pack for this season is a Millet

Prolighter 32 in the shorter back length womans version. It fits well to my back, close, no fancy frames – when I’m carrying a pack I want the load to be stable against my back, not wobbling several inches away from it. Importantly, it has 2 compression straps on each side which effectively make the pack smaller when it’s not full and are also useful for stashing walking poles or ice axe. It’s also light at around 1kg. Avoid packs with gimmicky features such as back systems which add weight. Why else did I choose it? It’s blue – my favourite colour!

8). Waterproof overtrousers –the clue to these is in the name – they should fit over everything you are already wearing, including your harness! Again, I go for light weight but with a full-length zip that comes up to my hip which means I can put them on over my boots and crampons. When I’m back in the UK I always buy a new pair of Goretex Packlite Overtrousers made by Berghaus.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

SRAM has clearly been busy. Less than two months after launching the new RED eTap AXS group to the world, they’re already onto the next. That of course being the new SRAM Force eTap AXS group. As is often the case, the group is extremely similar to RED, but with some key differences that will be significant to many consumers – particularly when it comes to price.

The newest member of the AXS (access) wireless family, SRAM Force eTap AXS is an electronic drivetrain with wireless shifting and options for either hydraulic disc or mechanical rim brakes. Other than a few very small details, Force is nearly identical in performance to the new RED AXS, with the main differences being materials, construction, and therefore weight. That means that the batteries are the same between the two groups (and older eTap groups as well) which is good news for teams or individuals with multiple bikes. Even the motors and chipsets are the same meaning the shift speed is identical between the two groups. Ultimately, Force ends up about 300g heavier than RED, but it’s also over $1000 less expensive which seems like a worthy trade off.

Force also has a completely different look which comes down to a difference in finishes. While forged aluminum parts can be polished to a beautiful shine, cast pieces can’t be polished – which requires a coat of paint. Overall, the finish on Force is less sophisticated which is where SRAM was able to drop some of the price.


Like RED, Force is able to take advantage of the AXS app and component integration system which allows you to monitor and customize the performance of individual components. From checking each battery’s power level to customizing your shift patterns, updating firmware, and more, Force is joining the way of the app-based world.

Also like RED, this is a completely new group, so other than the mechanical rim brakes, none of the new parts will be compatible with older SRAM components – except of course the new SRAM RED eTap AXS. These two groups are completely interchangeable – which is good news for those who were upset by SRAM’s choice to integrate the power meter and chain ring on RED (but for a good reason, more on that below).

New gearing options just like RED… mostly

Following right along, gearing is also one of the biggest changes for SRAM Force. Yeah, they’ve gone to 12 speed in the rear, but as usual, it’s about more than just adding another gear. The new X-Range gearing ends up wider on both ends while the added cog results in better gear progression. The addition of the 10t cog allows for an increase in gear range without an increase in overall size of the drivetrain package with SRAM pointing out that smaller drivetrains will be lighter, less costly, and simpler overall.

In terms of chainring options, Force will see 48/35 and 46/33t double combinations with the largest 50/37t combination only available in RED. By moving to a 13t jump between chainrings, SRAM says this 20% reduction in jump size results in better shift quality and better front shifting overall.

To keep the overall range, the rear cassettes move to a 10t at the small end, and up to 26, 28, or 33t as the largest cog with 260, 280, and 330% range respectively. Even the smallest cassette at 10-26 offers a wider range than an 11-28t. Moving the range from the front of the bike to the rear should mean you can stay in that current front chainring longer without having to shift. Obviously, if you’re running 1x, wider range in the rear is also a very good thing. The new cassettes also offer more single-tooth jumps between cogs for better shift progression when you’re moving through the gears.

Cassette options

In terms of construction, the XG-1270 cassette uses a Mini-cluster/Pin-Dome configuration with the first four cogs machined from a steel billet, and the remainder of the cassette using their Pin-Dome technology similar to their GX mountain bike cassettes. Looking at the cassette in profile, Pin-Dome makes more sense as you can see the pins that hold all of the steel cogs together after the first four cogs. The largest cog is aluminum which cuts down on weight and allows for a secure connection between the cassette and the freehub body that won’t dig into the new XDR drivers. The Mini-cluster/Pin-Dome cassette ends up about 50g heavier than a comparable RED cassette.

XDR Required

The addition of a 12 speed cassette meant that SRAM had to move to the XDR freehub standard like RED, which is just like XD, just 1.85mm longer. The added width is needed for the road since the largest cogs aren’t nearly as big as those on a MTB cassette and can’t be dished over the spokes. It also now matches up with the width of HG 11 speed freehub bodies for road.

Importantly, you can still run cassettes meant for XD freehubs on XDR freehubs with the addition of a 1.85mm spacer. You can’t however run cassettes meant for XDR freehubs on XD freehubs. SRAM points out that any Zipp wheels post April 2015 (176, 177, Super 9, and Cognition hubs) are XDR ready meaning you can add an XDR freehub. Also, the SRAM 900 hubset has included an XDR drive for awhile now – before you really needed it.

One Rear Derailleur to Rule them All

When it comes to choosing your drivetrain, you can run any cassette with any chainring combination all with the same rear derailleur – 1x or 2x. The new rear derailleur has been optimized to work with all of the cassette options in either chainring configuration and includes larger X-Sync pulleys with steel bearings, and the Orbit fluid damper in place of a mechanical clutch. Note that there is no longer a Cage Lock feature, but the Orbit damper works a bit differently and doesn’t really affect wheel changes. Compared to RED, the Force rear derailleur uses an aluminum derailleur cage instead of carbon, and steel hardware in place of titanium and aluminum.

Front Derailleur is Still There, and Better Than Ever

Up front, the new Force front derailleur is very similar to RED, but it swaps in a stamped steel derailleur cage for the CNC machined aluminum cage on RED. Riders who are pushing larger tires will be happy to hear that the derailleur has been streamlined to offer better tire clearance at the rear as well.

Force gets a Flattop

Completing the gearing is the new FRC-D1 Flattop chain. This new chain style is required for the group with SRAM stating that this chain represents their biggest investment in tooling on their part when it came to the new group. While it did get narrower to fit another cog, there is more to the story as usual. The shape of the chain is purely driven by their strength testing – the top of the chain never rides on a gear, so it can be shaped differently to provide increased strength.

Proportionately, the chain is also narrower to the cog spacing than a comparative 11 speed group which SRAM claims results in a quieter ride overall. The FRC-D1 chain is interchangeable with the SRAM RED chain, with the Force chain using solid pins as the only noticeable difference. Note that Flattop chains require a specific Flattop PowerLock. Also note that you definitely don’t want to run the new chain on 11 speed cassettes (think putting your bike on a direct drive trainer with an 11 speed cassette mounted). Apparently, the new chain will destroy the cassette, which is why companies like Wahoo are quickly working to add XDR driver capabilities to their trainers.

Acronym Glossary

If you haven’t already picked it up from RED, the new SRAM Force group comes with its own lingo, so here’s the breakdown:

  • AXS – Refers to the new digital family of wireless/electronic components that will all work together. Check our AXS overview story for everything you need to know on that. Basically, anything with the AXS logo can communicate with each other.
  • X-Range – The name for this entire new gearing concept.
  • Orbit Chain Management – A new fluid damper system that improves chain retention while still allowing for fast shifting.
  • AXS app – Lets you customize the setup and integrate cross-category components, check riding time, battery level, how many times you’ve shifted, and when you’re due for service.
  • FlatTop – The new, narrower chain that’s also stronger, quieter and more durable. It’s not backwards compatible (nor is any other component), everything here is designed as a system to maximize performance.

SRAM Force Cranks

With the launch of RED AXS, one of the things that seemed to catch everybody’s attention was the decision to integrate the power meter into the chainring. Yes, this means that when the chainring is dead, so is your power meter. But SRAM stands by the design, and here’s why: SRAM RED is meant to be the highest tier group for pro racers and consumers willing to pay top dollar in exchange for the lightest system possible.

The integration of the power meter into the chainring meant that SRAM could add power to the same crankset at a weight penalty of just 36g. It also ends up with a more accurate power reading because you’ve eliminated one of the connections at the spider/chainring interface. SRAM also claims that the new drivetrain offers much longer chainring and component life than previous groups, with field testing showing a whopping 2-4x increase in longevity – so it should take you much longer to wear out those rings.

Is it wasteful to create a one-time use power meter/chainring? Sort of. But that all depends if you take advantage of the SRAM support program where they take your old power meter/chainring back and recycle it while providing a new one to you supposedly at or near the cost of standard chainrings. That integrated power meter/chainring is starting to sound a lot better all of a sudden.

Change your rings without changing your power meter

BUT… what if none of that matters and you simply want to run power on your SRAM AXS crank without an integrated power meter/chainring?

You’re in luck. The Force chainrings and DZero power meter are not one piece, and the Force DZero power meter spider is compatible with SRAM RED crank arms using the same 8 bolt direct mount interface. That means if you buy a SRAM RED AXS crank with power and wear out the chainrings super fast (or just want to upgrade a non-power model), you can purchase a Force power meter spider and the Force AXS asymmetric 107 BCD (same as RED 1x) chainrings to go with it. This also allows for mixing and matching 1x chainrings from the RED group or their aero 1x chainring for TT/Tri bikes.

SRAM Force cranks will be available with or without power meters in 1x or 2x configurations, both of which separate the chainring from the power meter.

Keeping in line with all of the new cranks from SRAM, the Force cranks will include a  DUB spindle option, but they will still offer a GXP version for Trek’s BB90 frames, Pinarellos with Italian threaded BBs, and other frames that require it.

SRAM Force eTap AXS brake/shift levers

At the controls, Force eTap AXS is all about wireless shifting – though not necessarily about hydraulic brakes. For those keeping the rim brakes alive, the Force eTap AXS group will be available in two versions; wireless shifting with mechanical rim brakes, or wireless shifting with hydraulic disc brakes.

The hydraulic option uses their Hydro HC platform specifically developed for eTap which means these brake calipers are different than those found on Force 1. The Force group uses a two piece caliper design with steel hardware, and the same brake pad as RED. Also, the Force brakes are flat mount only. Still running a post mount frame? The RED brakes are available in post mount as well as flat mount.

SRAM’s new Centerline XR (CLX-R) rotors are a thing of beauty and are the same rotors that you’ll find with SRAM Red. The rotors use an aluminum carrier and a steel CenterLine braking surface with rounded edges to be UCI-Compliant.

Rim Brakes Still Stop

The new Force group even includes a new mechanical rim brake if you are retrofitting an older bike or just don’t want to switch to disc. The brakes use a dual pivot design that is updated to fit wider rims and tires (up to 28mm), and include Swissstop Platinum Flash Pro pads for carbon or BHP pads for aluminum rims.

Offering independent reach and contact point adjustment, the levers are nearly identical to RED other than they have just one Blip port rather than two on each shifter. You’ll also find a composite lever blade rather than true carbon fiber which makes a negligible difference in weight. While the derailleurs get their own rechargeable batteries (which are the same as all eTap groups), the levers use a CR2032 coin cell battery housed in the bottom of the lever. Since these simply have to power a single button, the batteries should last quite a while. How long? We aim to find out (maybe) in a long term review.

The AXS app offers the same tuneability with this group, letting you switch the way the buttons and levers work the derailleurs, switch shift modes between regular, compensating and sequential, and even pair with a dropper seatpost or whatever else comes down the pipe.


There’s also a complete 1x TRI HRD group available with hydraulic aero levers for the hydraulic disc brakes and a new, smaller Blip Box. SRAM states that running a 1x drivetrain with a 48t chainring and the 10-33 cassette would give you the same range as a 53/39 with 11-26. That happens to be the most prevalent Ironman gearing combo they see on 11-speed bikes, only now you don’t have a front derailleur to shift, you have a lighter drivetrain, and you still get six 1-tooth gear steps on the cassette.

Availability, pricing, and actual weights

As much as we love knowing about new products ahead of time, it’s much better when you can go out and buy a new product as soon as you read about it. That’s the case with Force eTap AXS – groups are shipping as of today and you’ll find more than 150 different bike models equipped with the group hitting showroom floors. Initially, Force will only be available as a complete groupset, but in a few months you’ll have the ability to purchase individual parts.

In the U.S., complete groups will run from $2,078 to $2,678, well under the price of RED.

We got all of the loose parts we could find on the scale at Road Bike Connection, but because of all the options and things like the fact that the FD and RD didn’t include batteries, SRAM has provided the list of weights above. As mentioned, the group should work out to be about 300g more than SRAM RED eTap AXS.

Cloud seeding: Making rain in desert by a naturalised process

It’s tempting to call them rainmakers, the people who whoosh up into the skies, inject salts into fluffy clouds and fly back down to the ground. Except they’re not rainmakers.

In 2014, there were 193 flights that carried out ‘rain enhancing operations’. And so far in 2015, there have been 20 flights — all out of the Abu Dhabi-Al Ain region.

Cloud seeding in the UAE began in the 1990s. Back then these operations were done at random and it was only in 2001 when some scientific studies began on the subject.

The National Centre for Metrology and Seismology (NCMS) in 2004 started implementing solo projects, as NCMS puts it, “with our own facilities”.

Cost of these operations? They won’t say. But if there’s one thing Ali Al Musallam, Head of the Cloud Seeding Operations Section at NCMS, does empahsise, it is this: “We do not cause rain, we simply enhance it.”

One of the six cloudseed pilots for the six aircrafts deployed for this purpose, Mike — Michael Anstis — says, of the most repetitive, frequent questions people ask is: “Do you really make it rain”?

No. Nobody makes it rain. They do though make it rain (more). Cloud seeding or rain enhancement is one kind of weather modification. (There other kinds: fog dispersal, decrease of lightning, hail suspension)

The other misconceptions that annoy Musallam are layman conspiracy theories. Cloud seeding has nothing to do with climate change, he says. “And no, dust storms are not caused when cloud seeding happens — those are simply variables in the weather”.

 Raindrops keep falling

One cloud contains up to 270 million gallons of water — without being seeded. When they are seeded successfully, there is a 30 per cent increase in rain — whenever it does rain. And that rain then creates water worth $300,000.  

That 30 per cent extra is when the air is free of pollutants, that is a ‘non-turbid atmosphere’. Haze is no good. Because when the air is turbid and polluted, there is a 10-15 per cent chance of success. There’s much cost-effectiveness to think about.

This keenness to increase rain, given the desert realities, cannot be underestimated. In early 2015, a $5 million dollar programme was launched by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs (MoPA) mainly to expand global water security. They’re looking for ways to “enhancing precipitation to increase rainfall in the UAE, as well as other arid and semi-arid areas in the region”.

 How it’s done?

Cloud seeding is done when a cocktail of potassium chloride and sodium chloride is injected in cumulus clouds. Once these are injected with salts, they further fluff up, become heavy and cause some bonus droplets. The principle is the same as when salt spills on your kitchen counter, and overnight it turns into beads of moisture.

According to Sufian Farrah, a senior forecaster at NCMS: “The success rate of cloud seeding, when done in turbid atmosphere, that is when there are pollutants in the air, is a mere 10-15 per cent. In non-turbid conditions, there is up to a 30 per cent increase in rain if clouds are successfully seeded”.

The ingredients of the flare

Potassium chloride and sodium chloride are best to attract moisture. Sometimes up to 7 per cent magnesium is added to the two aforementioned components to enable firing. “Magnesium, though, is not always added as then the composition changes and the molecules turn smaller in size,” says Farrah.

 Rough days at work for pilots

One danger of cloud seeding operations is that the pilots are sent up when the weather is rough, when the clouds are fat and bumpy. The turbulent conditions a commercial pilot would avoid are the very ones that a cloudseeding pilot embraces. Or as pilot Mike says: “We have to fly into the dangerous parts of the sky.”

Forests west of the Cascades will see more fires, bigger fires with climate change

BEACON ROCK STATE PARK, Skamania County — As night fell last Monday in the Columbia River Gorge, the Oregon slopes burned as if carpet-bombed from above. Winds acted like bellows in a hearth to supercharge the flames spread by embers flying from ridge to ridge. Stands of trees that matured over decades — sometimes centuries — were engulfed within minutes.

This Eagle Creek blaze is a dramatic reminder that the forests of Western Oregon and Washington, so often cloaked in snow or drenched by rain, have a cycle of fire and renewal. When conditions are right, they can burn in spectacular fashion just like the more arid landscapes east of the Cascades.

The fires are less frequent than in drier forests, but the burn cycles are not etched in stone. They reflect a climate that scientists forecast to undergo big changes in the decades ahead as global combustion of fossil fuels warms the Earth. In the Pacific Northwest, climate models indicate that average summer temperatures will warm later in this century by 4.7 degrees to 6.5 degrees compared with the last half of the 20th century.

This warming is likely to shorten the burn cycles in the Puget Sound region as well as other parts of Western Washington and Western Oregon.

Those risks likely will include more smoke hanging around Western Washington and Oregon, and more fire threats to west-side communities, where many homeowners have yet to consider removing close-by trees and brush to create defensible spaces should flames threaten their land.

This year, the smoke is the result of fires that have burned around the Pacific Northwest, including more than 732,000 acres in Washington and Oregon. Significant fires have flared west of the Cascades, including the Eagle Creek fire that has burned more than 32,000 acres, and threatened small communities outside of Portland. ADVERTISING

If the models analyzed by the University of Washington are accurate, this Pacific Northwest summer could be a mild preview for the kind of heat we are likely to routinely experience later in the century. The three months that ended in August ranked as the third-hottest Pacific Northwest summer on record. Yet, they fall on the low end of what is forecast in the last half of this century, according to Snover.

That additional heat would make the forests more vulnerable to fire. Two studies cited by the Climate Impacts Group estimate that the average acreage burned in a year west of the Cascades at the end of this century would be double the average burned during the last half of the 20th century.

Big fires in the past

Fire ecologists who study the history of our region note earlier periods of intense fire activity in the west-side forests.

The Olympic Peninsula, for example, had a series of mega-fires that burned more than 1 million acres during a 33-year period in the 1700s, according to research that looked at tree rings and fire scars.

More recently, the September 1902 Yacolt Burn raged across more than 230,000 acres, spreading largely through Western Washington forests north of the Columbia River Gorge. This was a fearsome fire even for residents from Seattle who were hit with what The Seattle Times reported as “great banks of smoke clouds” that drifted over the city, blotted out the sun and “floated through the streets of the city like an awful quiet harbinger of approaching doom.”

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Prolonged summer heat is a key ingredient for such big fire seasons, and the Climate Impacts Group forecasts that predict the 21st-century warming are based on an analysis of more than three dozen climate models with different projections.

Researchers then develop an average annual temperature based on a scenario that assumes aggressive efforts to reduce fossil-fuel emissions. They also include scenarios with the use of petroleum, coal and natural gas continuing roughly at current levels.

The models project that the summer heat will come with less rain, further drying out the forests.

This year a dry, hot August primed west-side forests to burn. Forest Service officials, since 1990, have estimated the moisture content of large dead trees on the ground. By the end of August, those estimates indicated they were potent fuel for fires, according to John Saltenberger, fire weather program manager for the Portland-based Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

“All across the Northwest, they were either at — or exceeding — the lowest values on record, especially on the west side,” Saltenberger said.

Nature’s humbling display

Wildfires don’t happen without a source of ignition. People often provide that first flame, particularly in west-side forests where lightning is less common than east of the Cascades.

Oregon State Police say a 15-year-old boy from Vancouver, Washington, is suspected of starting the Sept. 2 fire in the Columbia River Gorge, but he has not been charged. He allegedly tossed a firework while on a trail along Eagle Creek, a steep side canyon near Bonneville Dam that included old-growth Douglas fir, cedar and other softwoods.

More than 150 hikers were trapped until Sunday, when they could be safely evacuated. The fire blew up Monday afternoon, as temperatures climbed past 90 degrees, humidity dropped and winds from the east roared through the Gorge with gusts as high as 55 mph.

In 16 hours, the fire marched some 12 miles to the west, moving through the heart of one of the most popular hiking areas in the Portland area. People gathered along the Washington side of the river for a ringside seat to an enthralling and humbling display of nature’s forces.

As trees ignited, fiery red avalanches of flames snaked along the Gorge’s steep flanks. Some embers flew north across the Columbia River to Washington, and set off a new fire near the town of Skamania.

“That fire made a historic run. It’s fire behavior we haven’t seen in this area for a long time,” said Jim Trammell, fire-defense chief for Hood River County in Oregon.

In recent days, there has been an outpouring of grief over what was lost, as well as anger at the act that touched off the fire.

As the weather eased, the fire — while far from contained — grew calmer.

During a media tour along the Oregon side of the Gorge, it was possible to take a closer look. You could see how the fire — despite its ferocity — burned unevenly. In some areas, once-green forests turned into patches of dead snags. Elsewhere, the flames laid low and crept along the forest floor.

Scientists remind us that such fires help to bring about new life, and remain an essential part of the forest ecology. Berry plants, for example, will flourish in newly opened areas and provide food for wildlife. Seedlings will emerge.

“Even in the areas of the most intense burn, it is not an end, but a beginning, when you understand the processes that are at work,” said Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist for the Geos Institute, of Ashland, Oregon, and co-author of a book that focuses on the ecological importance of forest fires.

Scientists still are uncertain just how the west-side forests will evolve in a century with more frequent fires.

Some studies predict forests will contain less wood, and thus store less carbon, according to the Climate Impacts Group. That’s largely due to the forecasts that more will burn, as well as greater impacts from disease and insects, according to Snover.

The mix of trees may change.

Some species, such as hemlock and cedar, have thin bark and readily succumb to fire. So they may find themselves in retreat. Other species, such as Douglas fir, have thicker bark and are far more resilient to fire and regenerate in direct sunlight. They are likely to fare better.

‘”I fully expect, with climate change, some shifts in vegetation to occur,” said Jane Kertis, a U.S. Forest Service scientist based in Corvallis, Oregon. “Fire is laying bare the conditions for that to begin.’’

China claims world’s biggest man-made waterfall

A province in southern China known for its stunning natural beauty can now also boast the world’s largest man-made waterfall – but it doesn’t come cheap.

Flowing 108 metres (350 feet) down the glass exterior of the Liebian International Building in Guiyang, capital of Guizhou province, the waterfall is about 3 metres longer than the previous record holder at the Solar City Tower in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.Chinese tourists accused of pinching ‘crown jewels’ from Vladivostok’s glass beach

Built by Ludi Industry Group, the feature uses recycled water from basement storage tanks, which is pushed to the top of the 121-metre-high building by four giant pumps before re-emerging as a cascade from a massive opening on one side.

Once fully occupied, the multi-purpose building will comprise offices, shops and a luxury hotel, company director Cheng Xiaomao said, though the latter has to be completed.

The idea for the waterfall came from company president Zhou Songtao, who said he wanted to promote the city’s green image.SUBSCRIBE TO US China Trade WarGet updates direct to your inboxBy registering for these newsletters you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy

“Guiyang is a city of mountains, and with many trees, just like a forest. He wanted to create a feeling of water and greenery, even when you are surrounded by skyscrapers,” Cheng said.From Africa to Europe, dragon boat races are spreading across the world

Although the waterfall was completed about two years ago, it has only been turned on six times, with the latest occasion being for half an hour on Sunday to mark the Guiyang International Marathon.

Nevertheless, people had already begun to consider the building a local landmark and were using it as a place to go for a walk or to socialise, Cheng said.

Once fully occupied, the multi-purpose building will comprise offices, shops and a luxury hotel. Photo: ImaginechinaShare:

One of the reasons the waterfall does not appear more often is the operating cost. While the water comes free, the price of powering the pumps is about 800 yuan (US$117) an hour, Cheng said.

While some internet users questioned whether the extravagant design was a waste of money, others were full of compliments.

“The scene is very impressive. You seldom see a waterfall in a city,” said a woman in a video published on the Pear Video website this week.

“It looks very soothing on a hot summer day. The idea is very creative,” said another.

One social media user was undecided, however.

“A price must be paid for an artificial spectacle, especially a large one like this. Whether it’s a waste of money or worth more than the 800 yuan an hour is for the company to calculate.”

North Coast Night Lights: Houda Beach Cave

The Milky Way rises from the horizon near the glow of the setting crescent moon outside of this hidden Houda Beach cave. Camel Rock’s silhouette is large on the horizon beside the glow of the setting crescent moon. Humboldt County, California. September 13, 2018.

It was a low tide, a low moon, the cave and the Milky Way — long had I waited for this combination to come together. And when it did, somehow, I was there. All summer I’d watched the tides, waiting for a tide low enough for me to get to the cave safely sometime before midnight (hey, I get tired). But the idea had slipped from the forefront for a time and I hadn’t been watching the tides when the bug to go out hit me and I called my brother Seth for company on a photographic outing.

Near the cave’s entrance, Mars peeks over the edge as two rocks frame the Milky Way.

Checking the tide, I saw that it would be fairly low right after the crescent moon set. I decided on Houda Beach, anticipating that some interesting rocks would be exposed. I hadn’t realized that the tide would be low enough to reach the cave until we arrived, but it was. Not only that, the Milky Way was lined up outside of it, framed in the entrance, along with the silhouette of Camel Rock near the setting moon. I’d wanted this photo for months but only when I forgot to plan it did it come about. It’s interesting how that works. And I realized then that even if low tides had allowed me nighttime access to the cave during the summer months, the Milky Way would have been out of view to the left. It had to be this night. And I was there. I’m grateful for these opportunities.

My brother and I watched the crescent moon set before taking the Milky Way photos. In gathering enough light to illuminate the interior and see the stars this well, the moon’s crescent shape became blown out in the highlights.

Leaving the cave, we were alerted by sirens behind us and turning found a large fire burning farther north up Scenic Drive, illuminating the entire area and throwing a great smoke plume across the waters. According to reports I read later, it was a vegetation fire. We watched the lights of first responders approaching it and it seemed to us by the diminished glow that they quickly had it under control.

At one point while photographing, my brother and I played with our light beams beneath the cosmos, careful not to cross the streams. We tried one take on this, and by luck our beams formed a little house over the setting moon and Camel Rock.