Travel

International Living Postcards—your daily escape

Posted on March 23, 2011. Filed under: Travel |


How Many Caribbean Bargains Did Dan Find in Belize?

Dear International Living Reader,

It’s official—Belize is one of the easiest places to retire (according to a recent issue of International Living magazine). It’s English-speaking, has a low cost of living, and no taxes. And it’s in the Caribbean.

In fact, it’s probably the last place where you can still get affordable Caribbean real estate.

Dan Prescher, back from a research trip to Belize’s coast and islands, shares what he discovered below.

Len Galvin

Managing Editor, IL Postcards

P.S. Belize is a country we cover regularly here in the Postcards and in our monthly print publication. Recently, for instance, we ran a piece in the magazine from a woman who’s living full-time on the island of Ambergris Caye. You can read her story – and lots more in-depth Belize coverage – as a subscriber to International Living. Grab a no risk subscription, here.

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Caribbean Paradise: The Easiest Country in Central America
By Dan Prescher

Belize is one politically stable little Central American country that makes it easy – whether you’re looking for an escape a few months a year or a full-time getaway.

It’s easy to enjoy yourself here. With miles of tropical coastline, the second-longest barrier reef on earth, some of the best diving and snorkeling on the planet, lush forests and mountains, immense natural preserves, vast river and cave systems, and a wealth of important Maya archeological sites, there is always something to do in Belize.

The fact that it’s affordable only sweetens the deal.

On the island of Ambergris Caye, for instance, an air-conditioned, two-bedroom, one-bathroom 900-square-foot house near the main village of San Pedro costs just $135,000. A mile and a half south of the village at Royal Palm Villas, one-bedroom ocean-side condos with 24-hour security, pool, and air-conditioning list for $149,000.

(For the sake of comparison: You’ll pay more than $800,000 for a fairly average condo in Bermuda…and more than $600,000 for something similar in St. John on the U.S. Virgin Islands. )

Formerly British Honduras, Belize is a true Caribbean paradise. And it offers several important pluses for anybody looking to ease into a move abroad.

First, English is the national language. You’ll be talking to store keepers, real estate agents, taxi drivers, bank tellers, and waiters in a language you already understand. Even more importantly, any contract you enter into if you decide to rent a place or purchase a home will be written in English, which just simplifies your life.

Second, the Belize dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar at two-to-one, and the U.S. dollar is commonly accepted in Belize. That means no tricky currency conversions to deal with.

Third, the tax situation in Belize is easy to manage. No taxes on foreign-derived income. No capital gains tax. No corporate tax. No inheritance tax. Simple.

Fourth, the population of Belize is a little over 300,000. That’s not the population of the largest city in Belize… that’s the entire country. And Belize is only 180 miles long and 68 miles wide. What that means is that it’s easy to find the people, offices and resources you need to get things done.

Fifth, Belize has its Qualified Retirement Program, and you don’t have to be retired to take advantage of it. If you’re at least 45 years old and have a monthly income of at least $2,000 from a pension or annuity (including Social Security), you can qualify. This allows you to bring all your personal goods to Belize tax-free.

Editor’s note: Dan Prescher has been writing for International Living since 2001, when he and his wife, Suzan Haskins, left Omaha,Nebraska in search of adventure and warmer climes. Today they travel frequently to Belize and beyond but spend part of the year based in Merida, Mexico and part in Cotacachi, Ecuador.

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Buddha Comes to Aldergrove, B.C.

Posted on August 12, 2010. Filed under: Travel | Tags: |


by Margot B

Click on photos to enlarge

Jade Buddha

The Jade Buddha for Universal Peace was unveiled in the courtyard of Aldergrove’s Hoa Nghiem Monastery at 2623 – 272 Street on Sunday as part of its ongoing world tour that began last year in Vietnam.. Aldergrove is expecting many thousands to view the Buddha this summer at their new temple for display until Aug. 15. Vuu said that the Jade Buddha’s visit coincides with the dedication of the new temple and that, “other religious leaders will be invited — Catholics, Muslims, everyone — to pray with us for universal peace”. The Jade Buddha tour has already attracted millions of pilgrims.

Buddha

Green said the statue’s time at Aldergrove’s monastery is particularly important, as it is the only stop on its current tour in B.C., the province in which it originated. This location is the former Aldergrove United Church, which the Hoa Nghiem Temple purchased in December, the same month it was put up for sale. The new owners took possession of the 500-person capacity facility on July 1. The United Church congregation numbers have dwindled over the years but intend to find a new, smaller sanctuary for their services in this community. Hoa Nghiem spokesman, Tony Vuu, told The Star newspaper they will be selling their current location in Burnaby because, “Aldergrove is a better location for us. We have more Vietnamese farmers and farm workers in the valley”.

After its stay in Aldergrove, the jade Buddha is headed to Seattle and then to California and will visit more American cities in 2011, then travel to Europe. Green said ‘I think it will tour for another five or six years at least’, ‘By then it will really fulfill Lama Zopa’s vision of illuminating the world’ — and ends  when it is placed at  Great Stupa of Universal Compassion near Bendigo, Australia .

Jade Buddha in Hoa Nghiem Monastery Courtyard

Jade Buddha for Universal Peace

The four-tonne statue, 2.7 metres in height, valued at approximately $5 million, is the largest Buddha carved from gemstone quality jade in the world, a gemstone named  ‘Polar Pride’. It was carved from the largest single piece of translucent nephrite jade ever found.  It was discovered by a south Surrey mining company, South Surrey’s Jade West Company, in northern B.C., in 2000 and purchased by an American benefactor in 2003,  carved in Thailand.  The carving work was done  by Thai and Australian craftsmen, and took nearly five years to complete. It was commissioned by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

The design is based on the Buddha inside the Mahabodhi Stupa in Bodh Gaya in India, and was chosen because it is recognized by more Buddhists than any other design. It was completed in December 2008 and  blessed by Venerable Krubar Boon Chon Yamsunkhvaro in an event attended by l00,000 people on the Thailand-Cambodian border. It then toured Vietnam for three months in March 2009, travelling throughout Australia for half a year, and consecrated in Australia in December 2009 by the Dalai Lama. It spent most of 2010 touring the U.S.

In the first year of its travels around the world, over 4.5 million people have come to see it, said Ian Green, chairman and director of The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion in Australia, which commissioned the statue and organizes its touring.

“Many in the West don’t know much about Buddhism other than they see Brad Pitt with the Dalai Lama. We don’t have a dogma; we just want to help people practice to live their lives better, to meditate, so everyone feels the same as we do, and that is happier”.

Lama Zopa said the tour “will illuminate the world and bring inconceivable peace and happiness and help prevent the destruction that is happening in so much in the world, including war”.

Margot, Buddhist Temple, August 13, 2011

Buddhist Temple

Aldergrove, B.C., Canada
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The Turks & Caicos Islands

Posted on July 30, 2010. Filed under: Travel |


What to Do in The Caicos

Enjoy the natural beauty of the Turks and Caicos Islands with forty islands and cays in the chain, eight of which are inhabited year round,  their beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters, an amazing wilderness above and below the water with a year round perfect climate,  easy access by air in less than 90 minutes from Miami. Explore  coral reefs, and sandy cays.

Mountain bike along scenic coastal tracks. Go scuba diving. Take dive trips, dive breath-taking walls, snorkel spectacular reefs, Kayak through tranquil mangrove channels. Charter a boat, go on award winning eco-adventures, take fishing trips, either deep sea, reef fishing or bonefishing.

Sightseeing is popular; take a day excursion to Middle Caicos, which houses the largest above ground caves in all of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos. At Mudjin Harbour the huge limestone caves feature stalactites, stalagmites, bats, owls and salt lakes that link up with the sea.

Mudjin Harbour has a half-moon cave and a picturesque beach that juts out from the land and links up with an offshore Cay.  There also the remains of huge Lucayan Indian settlements, one containing a Lucayan ball court, the only one in the Lucayan islands. Artifacts recovered suggest that they were used either as shelter or sacred places. Middle Caicos also contains ruins of Loyalist plantations. A Frigate Bird colony resides on a cay just offshore and a blue hole just offshore in shallow water features an abundant variety of marine life. The island’s Northwest Point is a combination of beautiful inlets, marshes, mangroves and in land ponds which serve as a haven for birdlife.

Constant easterly breezes keep life comfortable and rarely you would need a light sweater at night. Just a few restaurants require ‘proper attire’, which would include a shirt with collar and pants (trousers) for the men. High speed Internet is provided on island by LIME and by WIV.

The islands depend upon rainfall or desalinated water produced by reverse osmosis for the supply so please be consevative in its use. While it is safe to drink, some visitors may prefer to drink bottled water.

To prevent the loss of cash, jewellery and identification take simple precautions and do not leave valuables in plain sight, unattended, in your automobile or on the beach. Lock your hotel, condo or villa doors and do not leave accessible louvered windows open. Use the hotel safe for storage of valuables.

Spend time with the local people, and learn about the wildlife, geography, and history of the Turks.

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What to do in the Turks-Caicos Islands and Middle Caicos

Posted on July 27, 2010. Filed under: Travel |


Enjoy the natural beauty of the Turks and Caicos Islands with forty islands and cays in the chain, eight of which are inhabited year round –  their beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters –  an amazing wilderness above and below the water with a year-round perfect climate and  easy access by air in less than 90 minutes from Miami.

Explore  coral reefs, and sandy cays. Mountain bike along scenic coastal tracks. Go scuba diving. Take dive trips, dive breath-taking walls, snorkel spectacular reefs, Kayak through tranquil mangrove channels. Charter a boat, go on award winning eco-adventures, take fishing trips, either deep sea, reef fishing or bonefishing,

Sightseeing is popular. Take a day excursion to Middle Caicos, which houses the largest above ground caves in all of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos.

Spend time with the local people, and learn about the wildlife, geography, and history of the Turks.

Constant easterly breezes keep life comfortable and rarely you would need a light sweater at night. Just a few restaurants require ‘proper attire’, which would include a shirt with collar and pants (trousers) for the men. High- speed Internet is provided on island by LIME and by WIV.

The islands depend upon rainfall or desalinated water produced by reverse osmosis for the supply so please be conservative in its use. While it is safe to drink, some visitors may prefer to drink bottled water.

To prevent the loss of cash, jewellery and identification take simple precautions and do not leave valuables in plain sight, unattended, in your automobile or on the beach. Lock your hotel, condo or villa doors and do not leave accessible louvered windows open. Use the hotel safe for storage of valuables.

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