Pistol practice, whitewater rafting and jumping (in a safety harness) from a 10-m tower: once, you had to join the marines to find this much adventure in one place. Now all you need do is visit Thailand, where the military-keen to improve its public image-is winding up the barbed wire and putting out the welcome mat. Activities from rock climbing to Thai boxing and archery to survival courses are on offer to the public at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, in Nakhon Nayok province; the Special Forces Command, in Lop Buri; and the 21st Infantry Regiment Queen's Guard base, in Chon Buri. Bookings are essential; for more details, contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
From Queen Victoria's celebration at the end of the Crimean War to Prince Charles' 50th birthday in 1998, the ballroom at Buckingham Palace has been used by Britain's royal family for nearly 150 years. Now, for the first time, the palace's largest room-40 m x 20 m, and 15 m from its crimson-carpeted floor to its chandelier-hung ceiling-is being included in annual summertime tours of the Palace's 19 staterooms (when the royal family traditionally vacation at their Scottish residence, Balmoral). The palace is open daily from Aug. 6 to Oct. 1: admission is $17 for adults, $8 ages 5-16. For information and to book, see www.royalresidences.com.
Despite fast food, instant communications and labor-saving devices, we often seem to have less spare time, not more. In an effort to "rediscover time" and recapture the rhythms of life in a simpler age, 33 Italian towns -including Orvieto, Positano and Urbino-have formed an association of "Slow Cities," vowing to preserve local landscapes, culture and traditions, and promote the joys of quiet, reflective living.
To display the movement's snail logo, cities must meet a range of requirements, from banning car alarms to setting up centers where visitors can sample traditional foods. For a full list of Slow Cities, see www.slowfood.com.
Vacationers may balk at the obstacles they must overcome to get to their rooms at Out 'n' About Treesort: the bed and breakfast in Takilma, in southwest Oregon, consists of 14 treehouses, entered by ladders and bridges. Six are available for overnight stays-including the Treezebo (combination treehouse/gazebo), which sits 11 m above the ground; and the Schoolhouse Suite, which sleeps four and has a bathroom with cast-iron tub, a kitchenette and a loft. For those who'd rather use ropes to get to their rooms, there are tree-climbing lessons, as well as arts courses, riding and "fish identification" outings to the Illinois River. For information, see