The Underrated States In The U.S That You Should Visit

The United States of America is massive. While it’s only the third biggest country in the world, the sheer amount of densely populated areas makes it feel bigger than anywhere else. Every state has its unique culture, people, and places to visit. Landscapes can vary from greenery to deserts. Whichever state you’re in, there are plenty of things to discover. It’s a particularly great destination for travelers- since there are so many unique places to see. New York, California, and Florida are some of the most-visited locations in the world for tourists. Although there are ways to avoid the tourist traps, you may want to venture further. Sometimes you can get much more out of your visits by taking in some of the lesser-known gems.

With 50 states to check out, there are plenty you may not know much about but will learn to love. Whether you’re looking for beaches, history or nightlife, there’s a state for you. Every single one has something to offer, even those which aren’t known as tourist spots. Here are some of the fantastic Underrated States of U.S you should consider visiting.


Image Source @Wikimedia

In the Midwest lies the underrated state of Missouri. It’s one of the most diverse states for geography and culture. You can get a really unique taste of America here. You may want to visit its largest city, Kansas City, which confusingly belongs to Missouri rather than Kansas. It’s a fantastic place for music lovers. It hosts many world-famous jazz clubs and even the American Jazz Museum. There’s also plenty on offer for art and history buffs. You may want to check out the National World War I Museum and Memorial or the Arabia Steamboat Museum.

A lot of the state’s charm comes from its great outdoors. There are many hiking trails which let you take in the fascinating hills, mountains, and scenery of Missouri. If you want to try some great cheese and wine, you could even take The Hermann Wine Trail. It’s one of the popular features in the state’s famous wine country.

St. Louis is another great place to check out. The Citygarden has plenty of unique sculptures and water features. It’s perfect for a relaxed stroll. Sports fans may want to visit Busch Stadium- the home of the Cardinals. There are also landmarks such as the Gateway Arch and City Museum.

North Carolina

Image Source @ Wikimedia

Beach lovers in the United States usually hit the southern state of Florida or the west coast of California. Many people tend to overlook North Carolina, which has some of the finest beaches on offer. For example, you might want to visit the Outer Banks. It’s a narrow strip of islands and peninsulas hosting some incredible sands and great activities. You can try out some water sports with kayaking, kite-boarding, and surfing rentals. It also has local festivals for everything from bird watching to beer tasting.

There’s also a lot to see in the main part of North Carolina. It contains some lively college towns such as Asheville and Durham- famously the home of Duke University. These are fantastic spots for those who love bars and clubs. For something more relaxed, you could visit Asheville’s top art galleries. It’s known as one of the best US cities for lovers of art, so there’s a lot to see here. You could also venture to Raleigh, which has some delicious local cuisine as well as a range of interesting shops and museums.


Image Source @ Wikimedia

Michigan has all sorts on offer, whether you want the lively city experience or some relaxing scenery. There are many beach towns set up around Lake Michigan. You can go here to sail, fish or just enjoy a laid-back holiday. One of the best tourist spots in the state is Mackinac Island. It’s a small island resort with great restaurants and fascinating historical sites. There’s also a ton of fudge, as the islanders claim to have perfected the art of making it.You may want to visit the city of Ann Arbor for some great entertainment. It’s known for its nightlife, with some unique bars, beer gardens, and live venues. It also has the Michigan Theater and plenty of museums you may want to check out.

Sports fans will also feel right at home in Michigan. It’s the home of many sports teams, such as the Lions, Tigers, and the Red Wings. There are plenty of stadiums and ice rinks to check out. You could even watch some of the highly competitive college games. It’s also worth visiting Detroit. Although the city gets a bad rap for its crime rate, it has some fascinating history and culture. It’s also the home of many creative leaders who have a lot of nice things to say about it.


Image Source @ Wikimedia

Just south of New York, Pennsylvania might just be the most exciting place to visit. It has lively cities such as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and the residents have plenty of local pride! You might want to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It has over 240,000 pieces to see, as well as some interesting tours and events to check out. The main attraction for many people, though, is the steps outside. These stairs were famously used in the training montage in the classic film Rocky. Tourists often record themselves replicating it! You can also see the Rocky statue.

While in Philadelphia, you should also try the local cuisine they’re so proud of. You may have heard of a Philly Cheesesteak before, and maybe even tried one. But nothing beats the original taste you’ll get in a Philadelphia-made one. There are also great places for Chinese food, Italian cuisine, and seafood. You may also want to visit the historic town of Gettysburg. It hosts some interesting sites, such as the Gettysburg National Military Park and many museums. You can also get a tour of the home and farm of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States. It’s the perfect spot for history buffs. There’s also a lot to see for nature lovers. Pennsylvania plays host to 121 state parks which make for a great day out. You may want to see the Valley Forge National Historic Park, which contains historical buildings and museums. You could also venture to the Bald Eagle State Park, which has 5,900 acres for hiking, picnicking, and camping.


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The Underrated States In The U.S That You Should Visit

Tips For an Epic Family Skiing Adventure

If you’re bored of beaches and want to do something different, why not consider a family skiing holiday? Packed full of adventure and mind-blowing sights of snow topped mountains, it’s not something you’ll forget in a hurry. With the cold seasons quickly approaching, a stunning winter wonderland could be just what you need to finish 2016 in style and make it a winter you’ll never forget. If you’re planning on a family skiing adventure, here are a few tips to bear in mind!

Photo @ Pexels

Get The Right Insurance

Skiing holidays require different travel insurance than your average family vacation. That’s because due to the nature of them, they come with more risks. Make sure you choose something that covers you for everything. You don’t want to end up out of pocket if you do end up in the unfortunate situation of needing to make a claim. You need a specialist cover, designed to protect you both on and off the slopes. This will include standard travel insurance that protects your luggage against theft or loss, delays, and cancellations too.

Decide On Your Destination and Accommodation

Different destinations around the world will be best suited to different months of the year. So do your research to find out where is most likely to have snow in the month you want to visit. Next, you’ll need to find out the best place to stay. When traveling with a family, you’ll need suitable accommodation. Something that’s close by to the slopes is ideal, and if you want to dine or go shopping, then you’re best choosing something with good routes to the nearby village. For example, Meribel in France is located in the village but is also close to France’s huge Trois Vallées ski area. A quick search will show where to stay in Meribel village depending on what you’re after. France remains the most popular European winter destination and for a good reason. Canada, Austria, and Switzerland are also options worth considering. The US has a ton of great skiing destinations to look into as well.

Get Kitted Up

When you’re out on the snowy mountains, it’s going to be cold- extremely so. Making sure you’re wrapped up warm (especially when it comes to children) is essential. If you don’t want to invest in all new clothing items to use, many places allow you to hire them so that’s something to look into. Especially for children, as even if you plan on going skiing every year, they’re likely to have grown out of everything before you get a chance to go again. This site has more information about what you should bring.

Pre-Book What You Can

If you’re booking skiing or snowboard lessons, excursions or anything else, have it done ahead of time. This saves you from standing around waiting for tickets, or having to make phone calls or chase things up while you’re away. These details will just help your family trip run much more smoothly.

Have you been skiing with the family before? Is it something you’d consider for your next vacation?


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Tips For an Epic Family Skiing Adventure

Child Sex Trade in Cambodia : An Ugly Truth

“This post contains excerpts from my upcoming book – OUR BROKEN STEPS”

Some call it thrill and some call it necessity while others say it is a social menace. A multi-billion dollar industry in itself, Sex tourism is a topic that has been and will always be strongly discussed especially with some countries legalizing prostitution while others completely banning it. In some underdeveloped countries where prostitution is banned, the laws are not strong enough to keep a check on the sex trade activities which results in an open unhindered market of sex tourism in those countries. While there will always be strong debates on the topic of prostitution – legalized or not – generating some extreme polarizing opinions, there can be no denying the fact that Sex Tourism has created two of the ugliest forms of human abuse – Child Sex Trade and Human Trafficking.

The dark underbelly of human trafficking thrives on the plight of poor families in underdeveloped provinces and countries. These families who are looking to make a living or pay off debts knowingly and unknowingly send off their young women – and men in some cases –  to shady traders in exchange of money. Those young women end up in brothels, nightclubs, bars, massage parlors and organized prostitution mostly across popular tourist destinations. This menace of human trafficking also leads to a more grave and inhuman exploitation of Child Sex Trade. Abandoned kids from the streets and those who have been sold off by poor families, are among the millions of innocent children who are victims of sexual exploitation across the world. Cambodia is among the most popular and top visited countries in the world when it comes to tourism. However, this country also has a sadistic reputation of being a haven for pedophiles. Among the millions of tourists who throng to Cambodia every year, there are thousands of sex tourists who engage in sexual activities with kids and minors. There have been several reported incidents of kids as young as 6 years of age being involved in the sex trade. I myself have witnessed such a disgusting incident during my trip to Cambodia last year which would later prove to be a turning point in my life.


When you are in Cambodia for the first time, you’ll notice some of the most significant billboards and hoardings that read – Save our girls, Save our children. Before my trip to Cambodia, I had read about the menace of child prostitution that plagues the country. Reading about it made me feel sad and sorry and I hoped that things would be better than before over there. Reading/hearing about issues and watching those issues unfurl in-front of our own eyes is vastly different. Some places, experiences or even a sight of something has the potential to change our lives for good – that moment, when we discover a new direction and meaning to our lives. I had that moment of mine as I was walking down the Ochheuteal beach at Sihanoukville on a Sunday afternoon.


Poverty, hunger, desperation and greed makes people do unimaginable things, but I wonder what can possibly justify giving away one’s own child in exchange for money. Having read about child trafficking on various online forums and having decent awareness on how it works, I was shocked to see this happen openly, considering the fact that there are supposedly strict laws against child prostitution. Yes, I saw it all happen in a matter of 6-7 minutes – a 60 something old foreigner, a local tattooed guy (read Pimp), a bunch of dollars exchanging hands and amid all this an innocent, confused-looking child not more than 6-7 years old, with no idea that her childhood was going to be taken away from her. All this happening out in the open in-spite of 115 foreign tourists being arrested in Cambodia for crimes related to child sex over the past 8-9 years. Where is the law? Where is the fear? Where is the morality?


I was aware that Cambodia has the dubious reputation for being a heaven for pedophiles and watching it all happen out there, it didn’t just disgust me, it shook my entire notion of the world I live in. Thousands of innocent kids across the country are being pushed into the flesh trade and pervert pedophiles(locals and foreigners) continue to make hay. Yes, there are a lot of organizations that are trying to raise awareness and fight this menace but is that enough? No. Even if people consider the choice to get involved in sexual activities with professional escorts while traveling as an individual discretion, there is absolutely no excuse for sexual exploitation of children under any circumstances. Besides long-term health problems, sexually abused child victims also suffer from irreversible and permanent emotional trauma that can be very difficult to overcome. Not just restricted to countries in Asia, child sex trade is a growing menace across countries in North and South America and as well as the African continent. Although weak law enforcement, deplorable living conditions, poverty and corruption has allowed this child sex trade to exist in countries like Cambodia, sex tourists hailing from different parts of the world are among the major offenders for child sex trade and there are no two ways about that fact.


I have lived in a world which I now realize has been make-believe and selfish to the core. People are more interested in counting the number of “likes” on their Facebook profile pictures rather than talk or even think about the real issues. Countries fighting each other over a few pieces of rocks in the sea. Religions clashing with each other on who has the more superior God. Majority of the world is oblivious to the basic needs of others and content in living in their own “safe” space while innocents continue to suffer elsewhere. As somebody said “It took 4 years and 3 million dead Cambodians for any nation to come forward and help us“, I wonder how many more children would have to sacrifice their childhood for somebody to wake up from the dead slumber. Those few minutes on that beach still haunt me and in a way I wish they continue to haunt me because the image of those particular moments are shaping up my changed life.

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Child Sex Trade in Cambodia : An Ugly Truth

Similan Islands – Tranquil Hidden Gems in Thailand

There are many reasons why I love Phuket and keep going back there. Be it the relaxed pace of life there or the cohort amalgamation of people from all over the world looking to have a time of their lives. This “Pearl of Andaman” is an excellent take-off point or a gateway to several beautiful islands scattered across the Andaman sea.The Similan Islands is one such place that is often overlooked by visitors who mostly head to the much publicized Phi-Phi islands instead.

Islands in Thailand
View from the top of Similan Island

About the Similan Islands

The Similan Islands is a cluster of eleven islands that are actually part of the Mu Ko Similan National Park, located off the coast of Phang Nga bay. The waters around these islands are home to a plethora of diverse marine ecosystem which provides some excellent diving and snorkeling spots. However, three of the eleven islands are off-limits to tourists as they are entirely functional for the marine life protection and preservation initiative of the national park. These islands were the first Thai territories to get hit during the disastrous 2004 Tsunami resulting in extensive damage to the underwater life which left the place with damaged corals and displaced species. Dedicated efforts are being made now to conserve and protect the reefs which shelter thousands of sea turtles, manta rays and the occasional sharks.

Similan Islands
Pristine blue waters around Similan Islands

It was my love for beaches, islands, the sea and the urge to go places that are not the most popular that led me to visit these islands. A 90 minute boat ride from Khao Lak took us to a cove that was brimming with nature at its most honest and serene best – under the sea and on the land. Snorkeling in the clear waters alongside the stunning variety of marine species, some amazingly beautiful coral reefs and a couple of curious sea turtles, I did not want to stop.

Similan Island
Coast of Similan Island 9

These islands are absolutely devoid of the usual rapid development activities and have hardly any modern amenities to mention. Filled with forests and surrounded with turquoise waters all around, the beaches here are probably the most pristine I have seen in Thailand till now. Beautiful pieces of sea stones and corals wash ashore with every wave that hits the beach. Inland, the forests are thick, green and humid with a few harmless monkeys jumping around. I had a friendly encounter with one of the thousands of hairy-legged crabs that crawl all over the island.

Beaches of Thailand
White sand beaches of Similan Islands


On the island, there is a “Hill” which is actually a formation of huge rock boulders piled up on one another. The summit of this hill is an excellent viewpoint that provides stunning views of the island and miles across the surrounding ocean. However, the climb to the top can be quite rough and physically exhausting as one would need to go through several steep narrow passages between the rocks. There were quite a few people who took that climb as I realized it was worth all the effort once I reached to the top.

Islands of Thailand
Beautiful view of the island cove from the summit of the hill
Islands of Thailand
View of the ocean from the summit of the hill at Similan Island

These islands are entirely managed by the national park authorities with the sole purpose of sustaining and protecting the marine ecosystem. Visitors to these islands are always provided with special guidelines on responsible tourism before setting foot on the shores or venturing under water. There is a constant effort to keep these islands safe, clean and away from the commercialization that has happened to Phi Phi over the years. This is visible from the availability of accommodation which are limited to camping tents and basic bungalows by the sea which are also provided by the national park management.

Similan camping

How to get there and back

Tour agencies from Khao Lak operate fast boats to these islands everyday. You can choose for the day trip that departs at 9 AM and returns by 5 PM or the overnight camping trip which departs at 9 AM and returns the next morning. Camping on this quiet island can be fun and peaceful at the same time. The Fantastic Similan Travel group are well-known for their outstanding service with responsible and efficient staff. Visit for more info on their available trips.


I found the below two websites providing the best information on the Similan Islands. Various aspects of the place like the history, wildlife and accommodation process are available on these sites.

Similan Islands



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Similan Islands – Tranquil Hidden Gems in Thailand

Cambodia : The Scars of Khmer Rouge – A Survivor Shares His Harrowing Story

“I had a small happy family. I was a school teacher in Phnom Penh when it started. My two kids were too young to go to school then. One day some people with guns and machetes came in to our building and ordered us to move out as they were evacuating the city to save us from American bombs. I did not want to leave my home but they threatened to burn my house and kill us all if we don’t obey their orders. For days we walked further away from Phnom Penh towards the villages in North. I saw many old people dying of exhaustion, fever or heat stroke. Me and my wife carried my kids when they got tired but we kept on walking. At night we slept on the road and on many occasions I had to beg for water, so did the others. Some of us were beaten up when we said we want to go back to our homes.”


One of the perks of solo travel is that you meet up with a lot of locals who are as curious about you as you are about them. In Siem Reap, I chatted up with a friendly waiter Sang, who was quite inquisitive about tourists visiting Cambodia. I was more than happy talking to this nice bloke and asking about the city, Angkor, Cambodian culture, food and the Khmer Rouge. Little did I know that this would be the start of a life-changing journey and become one of the reasons I would recommend Cambodia to travelers out there.

The thing about talking to Cambodian people about the Khmer Rouge is that almost all Cambodians above 40 years of age have gone through the bloody times of the Khmer Rouge(1975-1979). They have been through and survived one of the worst times in the history of human civilization. So, you do feel a bit apprehensive while bringing up that topic with the locals. Hence, I was a bit hesitant when Sang , sensing my honest enthusiasm on the local history and especially after I told him that I would be travelling to Sihanoukville the day after, offered me to arrange two meetup – one of those would be with his very distant uncle who is a survivor from the civil war days. After much thought I said okay.

Sang met me on 8th August at Sihanoukville and we would have to travel to a village near Kampot which was quite near. On the way, he told me all the stories about his village and his family while we were travelling along the oh-so-beautiful countryside. But during the entire 30-40 minutes of the journey to his uncle’s place all I was thinking was I needed to be conscious and respectful of the man.

After we got down from the tuk-tuk, we walked through a village I was greeted by curious kids and onlookers. We walked further for another 10 minutes through a rice paddy field and Sang says “We are here”, pointing to a small weary-looking hut.


After we entered the hut, Sang greets an old man with Sampaeh – a Cambodian way of greeting. After a couple of minutes the man looked at me and with a smile on his face says “Welcome! Sang told me about you”, in proper English. “Are you a reporter?”, he asked and I said “No sir, I am just a traveler here”. He says “Okay, I don’t like talking to reporters. It is no good for people like me now”, while handing me a glass of water.I looked around the room and I could sense that the man lives a very secluded life. A few books in English and Khmer lying on his bed, a makeshift wooden chair, a very small trunk that I would guess contained all his belongings and a small stove with few utensils lying around.

As we sat down, I looked around the room and I could see a wall with several pictures of a woman, two kids and two other men. “That is my wife and children, and my two brothers”, he said with a hushed sad demeanor in his voice. “They were taken. They were killed by those butchers. They killed my whole family, my babies.”, he said. I looked at him as he spoke and I could see glimpses of the toll life has taken on him. There was a deep sense of pain and loss in his eyes; a piercing gaze that told a thousand stories.

“How old were you then? In 1975”, I asked him. “I was 33 and my two sons were 3 and 4 years old… You know till today I do not understand their motives, the Khmer Rouge fighters”, his voice getting a stern tone when he said that. “They said they wanted to protect us from American bombs but we were forced to walk miles to the north. They put up all of us in camps where they made us do farming all day. After three days, they took away my wife and kids along with the family members of many other people like me. That was the last time I saw them”, he continued.


I personally don’t know the entire history of the Khmer Rouge, except that it was a dark time that plunged the entire nation into poverty, distress, famine and irreparable personal damage. The seclusion from the foreign world, discarding the developing times and imposing extreme socio-economic sanctions on their own people, descending to the measures of mass Genocide were some of the insane actions of the Khmer Rouge.

“Did you ever get to know what happened to your family?”, I asked him. After a long pondering pause he says, “Every day I begged to those men to let me know if my family is safe and every time they would beat me up. We worked for 12-16 hours on the rice fields, sometimes without any food or water. Months went by and I hoped to hear about my family someday. One day a few men from my camp were loaded onto a truck and taken away someplace that you now know as The Killing Fields. That is when I finally gave up all hopes of seeing my family alive. When I heard stories on the Killing Fields, about how innocent men, women and children were murdered there, I assumed the same had happened to my family…They killed children. After some days, I got to hear from new people coming in to the camp that thousands of women and children, who were taken away from their homes and camps elsewhere, were tortured and executed in those Killing Fields. That is the last time I ever cried in my life. I was broken after that and a broken man has nothing else to express, not even pain and tears”.

I spent the next hour listening to the horrific stories of his time in the labor camps where life was no less than hell. At such times you feel speechless when you are confronted with the harsh truth that everybody is so oblivious of. “It took 4 years and 3 million dead Cambodians for any nation to come forward and help us”, his most haunting statement from the entire conversation. At complete loss of words I said “I am sorry. I am sorry that this happened to you”. Inside, I was filled with disgust and guilt. The disgust of knowing what humans are capable of doing to each other and the guilt of spending my entire life in a make-believe-perfect-all-is-well world.


Listening to his stories, getting a live account from a deadly civil war survivor, it gave this journey of mine a new meaning as when I took this trip to Cambodia, I wasn’t ready for this. Suddenly I could realize the existence of scars in each and every aspect of this country. I could see it from his expressionless stoic eyes, the rust-filled huts across the villages, the innocent eyes of a 4-year-old child and the bullet holes in the walls of Angkor Wat. I said goodbye to him and Sang as I headed out back towards Sihanoukville with a wish to get immersed in the harsh and ugly reality rather than float up in the realms of fake perfections.



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Cambodia : The Scars of Khmer Rouge – A Survivor Shares His Harrowing Story