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As I was looking for content for this edition, I decided to explore Casterbridge in White River Mpumalanga.

Was I surprised and impressed with everything they had to offer! Staying in the Lowveld for most of my life I couldn’t imagine why I didn’t do this years ago! Then I wondered, how many others are there like me? Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre is an exceptional lifestyle destination with serene gardens, unusual independent shops a boutique hotel and even fitness centre.

They got a huge variety of shops, something for everyone from Coffee Shops and Restaurants to vintage cars, and everything in between.

Sabie Valley Coffee Shop and Roastery

Start your journey with COFFEE

Tim Buckland, owner of Sabie Valley Coffee, and his wife Kim are your hosts. This friendly couple’s passion for coffee is catching, one cannot help but listen to every word they say, their knowledge of these precious beans is astonishing and they are more than happy to share that knowledge and expertise with their clients.

As you enter the shop the welcoming aroma of freshly brewed coffee welcomes you. In the shop, they got a variety of coffee gadgets from years ago to the latest on the market. Add one of their mouth-watering homemade dishes to your experience and you will have something to talk about for years to come.

Valley Spices

Maybe you need the perfect spices to turn your next Biryani into a masterpiece

Valley Spice is a hidden gem of exotic, Indian and Middle Eastern spices. They stock a wide range of difficult to source food ingredients and hand mix spices to your taste.

ROTTCHER WINERIES AND DISTILLERY

Wine or Gin tasting anyone?

Rottcher Wineries and Distillery, which has been a landmark of the Lowveld for the past 50 years, is well worth a visit.

At this cellar, unique alcoholic orange beverages are fermented in the old fashioned way. Pop in and come and taste the “Pride of the Lowveld” – their version of dessert wines, Sherries and ports.

The Distillery produces several citrus based products

– Their very own version of Limoncello Liqueur.
– Rottcher Slowveld Mampoer
– The first citrus based gins in the world! – Slowveld Gins

SHAUTANY CHOCOLATES

“FOR THE LOVE OF CHOCOLATE”

Shautany Chocolatiers reminds one of the sweet shops you went into as a child where you pointed at the glass jars and said, “I’ll have that one please”. Glass display cabinets abound with locally handcrafted Belgian and Swiss chocolates, while shelves are laden with pure cocoa chocolate bars and exquisite gifts. The ultimate chocolate fantasy begins…

They encourage a new way to love chocolate that is as appealing as appreciating the traditions of fine wines and coffees. The seduction of chocolate on all human senses is irresistible. This ceremony of chocolate tasting is enhanced by a casual, easy, ambience of intimate excitement.

Shautany is the new chocolate culture: sexy, nostalgic, and forever an object of fantasy for children and grown up children.

ANTIQUES AND ARTIFACTS

If history and classic cars fancy your interest, this is the place for you

The charming owner, Angie Bunyard welcomes you with her friendly warm smile and when she is not around the equally charming Marilyn stands in for her.   Their love and knowledge of History and Antiques are remarkable.

In this unique ‘destination‘, nestled in the Vintage Car Museum, a treasure trove of artistic fusion of funk & functional, past & present pieces creatively combined into bespoke genres by Angie.

The collection comprises of a superb assortment of antiques, fabulous ‘jewellery’ items for décor processes and personal homes, general collectables, historical memorabilia, books, artworks, porcelain, mirrors, carvings, imported French wares combined with traditional African artefacts, stone works, carvings and more. An exciting mixture of traditionalism and innovation, indeed something for everyone.

The delightful owner, Angie Bunyard with her boundless energy has the exceptional ability to point one in the exact direction to find ‘what you never knew you were looking for’.

Creative Union

An eclectic mix of function and design – from repair and restoration of vintage/antique clocks and lighters, custom lighting to furniture design and manufacture.

Vintage Car Museum

The White River History & Motor Museum is home to a large collection of perfectly restored vintage motor cars, tractors and bikes.

Here automobile enthusiasts can see a wide variety of vintage vehicles, including the Willys-Overland, the Swift and the celebrated Model T Ford, the 1929 Austin Seven, various MGs and the 1936 Jaguar SS100, amongst others

A must see for petrol heads visiting Casterbridge.

If these are not enough to keep you busy for a day, they also got an Art Gallery, a Second-Hand Bookshop, a Spa, a Cinema and many more interesting shops.

End the perfect day out with a scrumptious lunch at one of the restaurants in Casterbridge.

A Hotel with a view – Piggs Peak Hotel and Casino Swaziland

The Piggs Peak Hotel & Casino is located in the mountainous Kingdom of Swaziland, a country with unique flora and fauna and a distinctive and interesting cultural heritage. The hotel is situated in a beautiful and secluded pine forest and it meets the diverse needs of nature lovers, sports enthusiasts, casino guests and night owls. Each day has many activities or none, whichever you prefer.  Situated just 31km from the South African border on the northern side

Piggs Peak Hotel & Casino in Swaziland provides everything for everyone, from a top class restaurant, luxury bedrooms and a cosy casino to excellent sporting facilities. The hotel is perfect for a romantic honeymoon, a relaxing weekend or a family holiday. Its secluded location also makes it an ideal out-of-town conference destination.  Piggs Peak Hotel & Casino offers a choice of 103 luxury rooms, including 14 suites and 89 comfortable bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, tea/coffee stations, telephones and satellite TV. All rooms have spectacular views from their individual balconies.

The hotel offers a 24-hour room service, arts and crafts boutique, a children’s playground, jumping castle, an indoors life-size chess facility and a babysitting service. For business people, secretarial services are available on request.

Conferences at this Hotel are hosted in 3 well-equipped conference and meeting rooms that are air-conditioned. For smaller gatherings, there is a board room accommodating 10 plus people. There are 4 conference rooms accommodating between 20 and 65 people which can be combined to seat a maximum of 216 guests.

For an experience of a different kind, enjoy a relaxing drink in one of the hotel’s three bars. Gamble in the Casino, where punters have a choice of several gaming tables with a mix of Blackjack, Roulette, Punto Banco, as well as slot machines. Stroll around the beautiful grounds and discover two tennis courts, a gymnasium, two air-conditioned squash courts, a swimming pool, a sauna, a bowling green and a mini golf course. Numerous scenic walking and hiking trails exist in the surrounding forest, which is home to a variety of bird life and indigenous flora and fauna. The hotel is close to tourist attractions like the Phophonyane Waterfall, the Maguga Dam and Sibebe Rock, the second largest single rock face in the world. Local glass and candle factories are worth a visit to search for a perfect Swazi memento.

When visiting Swaziland, if one is a non-local, one needs to have a valid international passport. Check with your travel agent to ensure you have all the correct travel documents to travel to Swaziland. A road tax is payable at all Swaziland borders upon entering Swaziland (at the moment the road tax amount is R50.00 – June 2017). Once in Swaziland it is possible to make international phone calls, the international code for Swaziland is +268, there is also e-mail centres and internet cafes located in Mbabane (Swaziland’s Capital) and Manzini. Travelling in Swaziland can be done via the railway lines, roads, buses and minibuses, roads are in excellent condition but be on the lookout for speed bumps near all the populated areas.

Tel: (+268) 2437 8800
Fax: (+268) 2431 3382 / 3415

Email: res@piggspeakhotelandcasino.co.sz
gm@piggspeakhotelandcasino.co.sz

Author: Ina Stevens

“One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble, not much between despair and ecstasy.    One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble, can’t be too careful with your company…” Do you still remember these lyrics from the popular song?’

Thailand is most renowned for its GoGo bars, golden temples and tropical beaches… Phuket, Pattaya and Kho Samui are synonymous with white sand, palm trees, cocktails, and its adventurous and sun-seeking tourists. Once you start to peel back the layers, an array of wonders unfolds that reveal the true essence of this awe-inspiring eastern gem of Asia.

Travelling to Thailand’s northern capital offers an escape from the whirlwind pace of life in the southern part of the country. A leisurely stroll through the back streets reveals a city that is still firmly Thai in its essence, atmosphere, and attitude. Chiang Mai is blissfully calm and laid-back. This is the place to relax after the chaos of Bangkok where you can recharge your batteries in the forested foothills and local villages in search of its mysterious longneck inhabitants.

Visiting the Karen Long Neck village in Thailand offers one of the most exotic experiences on the planet. The mystery and beauty of the brass rings used as caricatural jewellery are something one needs to experience for yourself, as the narratives in books do not do justice to this practice. While it may seem that the Karen women have unusually long necks, these traditional brass rings actually force their shoulders and rib cages downwards, making their necks appear longer. These rings, which they also wear around their shins and arms, are made from solid pieces of metal and are therefore quite heavy. Each time a woman adds a ring to her neck, she gets a new piece that coils around her neck. During our visit, many of the women wore more than 25 rings around their necks! The rings are not only worn for aesthetics but serve a practical, more traditional, purpose as well. In the early days of the Long Necks, the practice of the brass rings had the objective of protecting them against wild-tiger attacks. Walking through the village you will see many women busy weaving, creating beautiful scarfs and garments to sell. The men still work the land and travel by ox-cart which, in itself, was a treasured experience of a long-forgotten era. Life in the village is content and relaxed.

The main occupation of these Thai hill tribes is farming. In fact, they have preserved their way of life for the past thousand years and things have changed very little. Of course, this different and unique way of life has considerable appeal for inquisitive travelers who love to experience cultures worlds apart from their own. Heck – that’s the reason why most people want to travel, isn’t it?  The road less traveled presents an opportunity to open the treasure chest of unforgettable life experiences, making new discoveries that are destined for very few.

Many people visit Thailand to see the elephants. Farmers have been using these gentle giants for centuries to assist them with hard labour. We took the opportunity to visit an elephant sanctuary; it must be one of the very few places on earth where you can watch an elephant painting itself on canvas while its handler keeps the brush in its trunk steady! An elephant painting an elephant! After lunch, we also did some bamboo rafting on a slow-flowing river through the lush tropical jungle of the Chiang Mai countryside. Vegetation and trees border the riverbank and the roots of the huge trees reach deep into the water, making it seem as if the branches are trying to scoop up a few drops. All this provided a magical backdrop to the experience.

A few kilometres south-east of Chiang Mai, local artisans produce the world-famous Sa Paper umbrellas. You can watch the whole process during which these artists meticulously craft the paper fans and umbrellas by hand. From making the bamboo struts and covering them with paper to putting them out to dry before they are hand-painted. The artists at the handicraft center, who skillfully decorate the umbrellas, are always willing to paint a variety of beautiful designs on any items that you bring to them (I had my small handbag painted). They traveling a design for you and add a name or date. Even very complicated scenic designs can be painted on your object right in front of you within minutes. They are truly masters of their trade.

There are a staggering 40,717 Buddhist temples in Thailand and 33,902 of them are still in use today. They are without a doubt the most beautiful and impressive structures you are ever likely to see. Luckily there was still time left to visit one of Thailand’s most sacred golden temples… Gleaming like a star from the heights is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This temple, situated in the mountains, is one of the most historically and spiritually significant places in Thailand and, as such, large numbers of Thais and foreigners alike come to experience the special magic of this holy place. It is decorated in a blanket of golden leaf, the sweet aromas of incense and lotus blossoms fold snug around you like an invisible cloud, creating a magical sense of calm, peace and tranquillity

We decided on the less straining option of travelling by lift to the top. However, we braced ourselves and descended via the 306-step staircase flanked by magnificent mosaic serpents! A little girl with a charming smile, and dressed in traditional attire, posed ever so sweetly for a photo, but the moment my husband snapped the pic she stretched out her hands in a begging gesture and, with a tiny firm voice, she said, “You must give me money!” This quickly became our catch phrase at every shop where we wanted to buy something. “Dad you must give me money,” I would say, with a sweet and innocent smile on my face…

Thailand is such a diverse and interesting destination that each and every visit is sure to provide you with new places to discover and fresh adventures. From its street food, that includes a huge variety of fried insects, to its majestic Golden Kinnaree Restaurant, the biggest in Asia that can seat 4 000 guests with ease. Then there are the ice bars where not only the floors, walls, and seats are completely constructed from ice, but even the glass you drink from! Their floating markets and exotic orchid gardens are also something to behold.  From the King’s Grand Palace to crossing the famous bridge over the river Kwai – The death railway, a haunted relic from WWll. You can also explore sites such the ancient ruins in a tuk-tuk. Snorkelling in its turquoise waters and sipping from coconuts are all in a day’s work. Get swept away by the pulsating nightlife of Patpong, Bangkok’s infamous red-light district with its numerous massage parlours on every corner. The list is never-ending!

But that is a story for another day…

In 2011 the Sudwala Caves became the first venue in Mpumalanga to offer a Garra Rufa Fish Spa.  The spa is scenically situated out of doors, with a panoramic view of the valley below.

These tiny fish are known for their habit of gently nibbling away at and feasting on dead skin – and only dead skin. For centuries, people with psoriasis and other skin disorders have visited outdoor hot springs near Kangal, Turkey, where the Garra Rufa live and breed. Sudwala gets their fish from Singapore. Once they have consumed dead areas of the skin, healthy skin is free to re-grow.

As a bonus, in the process, acupuncture points on the soles of the feet are stimulated, and blood circulation improved.  The spa invites visitors to spoil themselves in a foot spa with a difference, allowing these unique little fish to nibble gently at tired feet to revitalise them and leave them feeling just gorgeous, while the guest enjoys stunning views of the valley

The water in the Sudwala Spa fish baths is constantly filtered through bio-filters, and UHF rays are used to kill any bacteria in the water. Customers are also required to wash their feet in an antiseptic bath prior to dipping them into the fish bath.

I treated myself to a few hours at the spa recently, I go there as often as I can to revive my feet and to enjoy the tranquillity of the spa.  Next time you visit the Lowveld, why not try something different?

I can ensure you, you will have an experience of a lifetime.

T: 083 446 0228 / 079 205 1688 | E: info@sudwalacaves.co.za | W: www.sudwalacaves.com