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Troubled spots still great travel destinations

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In the week or two after Labour Day, travel-agency bookings are a bit slow, as families send their children off to school and people get back to a more traditional post-summer pattern at work.

Like the calm before the storm, calls will soon be flooding in for future travel. Should there be an early cold spell, it will get even busier.

But questions about countries that have recently experienced instability make up much of today's column.

Question: I understand the beaches of Thailand are very beautiful.

Are there quality resorts to choose from, and what are the circumstances now that there is military rule in the country?

Answer: Thailand's beach are the best of the best. A recent survey suggested there are more hotels along Thailand's vast expanse of beaches than along the beaches of both the United States and Mexico.

Thailand has 1,250 beachfront hotels and resorts, the U.S. has 1,016, and Mexico has 943. Spain follows at 736.

Thailand brags its Samui Island beach has 270 properties, compared with the 250 resorts along the Mayan Riviera and 194 on the Greek island of Crete.

So far, there does not seem to be anything along Thailand's beaches that should be seen as concerning.

Nevertheless, tourism has dropped off by more than 10 per cent since the military takeover. But officials are still bullish about the future, having seen tourist visitations go up by nearly 90 per cent over the past five years in spite of unrest and protests.

I have visited the beaches of Thailand, and will be doing so again this winter while on a cruise that will be stopping in Phuket.

Thailand's beaches are among the best in the world. For friendly people, exceptional cuisine and reasonable prices, you just can't beat this country.

Q: I always wanted to visit Tunisia because of the weather and the historical and archeological digs available there.

Since the much-publicized unrest in the country, I have been reluctant to go. Are there tours that are still operating?

A: Like Thailand, Tunisia has experienced unrest in its quest for democracy and freedom.

Tunisia is a fascinating country. It is beautiful and tranquil. Along with its history of Hannibal, the great leader whose armies fought their way over mountains on elephants to achieve their victories, it is a storehouse of architecture, museums and archeological reclamations. Visitors feel transported back in time as they relive the exploits of Tunisia's people in its many important places of past glories.

There are a number of quality tours being offered. One I think is worth looking at is put on by an established and reputable company, Exotic Tours. It lets you travel in a 4x4 vehicle with a private driver and English-speaking guide through Tunis, Carthage, Said, Hammamet and more. Most nights are spent in four-star hotel properties. For one night, to enhance the experience, you can stay in a Berber tent.

When I visited the country a few years ago, one of my best memories was that of being entertained by exceptional musicians in an underground cave, with stalagmites and stalactites all around us.

The music careened off the rock walls, creating a stereo sound equipment simply cannot duplicate.

Forward your travel questions to Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found on Read Ron's travel blog at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 30, 2014 E5

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