Travel Adventures

Travel adventures

Date the Girl who Travels

As a single female who loves travel, I am in total support of this new article published by stephabroad.com who responds to the negative aspects of female travelers.

http://stephabroad.com/date-girl-travels/

I love this quote…

“Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.”

For those who want to explore and have a curious mind, travel is exciting and full of adventure. Getting off the beaten track opens your mind to so many different and new experiences, people, cultures, and food. Sometimes getting lost have letting the unexpected happen can be one of the best experiences of your life.

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Not all experiences when traveling overseas are positive ones. You’re going to get exhausted and be sleep deprived from transits and jet lag. You’ll get ripped off in countries where you don’t understand the language and also buy more souvenirs than you really need.

However without the experiences you can write off with your ‘Oh well, I’m a tourist, shit happens’ card as an excuse you wouldn’t have all those other stories to tell.

Also, not all people are welcoming to foreigners and you might see one of the signs below whilst visiting a different country.  You’ve been warned now.

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Anyway, at the end of the day it all comes down to how we deal with the situation. We’re all going to have good and bad days. To travel well I think you’ve got to be flexible and sometimes open minded about things that happen along the way.

I’m going to slowly continue to update my Travel Adventures section of my blog with destinations I have visited. There’s a few to really catch up on!

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There’s a link below to all the other photos Murad Osmann has taken with his girlfriend, Russian Journalist Natalia Zakharova!. Gorgeous!!!

Feature image source: Photographer Murad Osmann

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24 hours later…

…I will be in Taiwan for the very first time!

I am currently extremely sleep deprived, sitting in Singapore’s Changi Airport transit lounge in Terminal 3 waiting out a 7 hour transit through to Hong Kong.

I was fortunate enough to receive a $40 voucher to spend at Changi Airport for flying with Singapore Airlines, which I have used towards the Airport Lounge.

Writing this is a real struggle. I have another 5 hour wait in Hong Kong airport, so maybe you’ll see more photos later on.

Hopefully I will be able to see the Butterfly enclosure here come to life in the morning. They however have a beautiful Koi fish pond. Singapore is such an amazing airport. 🙂

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Jet-lagged

Hello! It has been one whole month since I last updated this blog. I made my way to Singapore, across China and have now returned home to Melbourne, Australia via Singapore. My bank account is now a lot poorer, but have come back richer in experiences. (This is really the least of my problems!)

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It has been one epic journey with so many stories to tell. I contemplated beginning my story at the end, just because all my memories are so much fresher towards the end of the journey. I didn’t get much of a chance to journal or keep notes on my tablet, just because I spent most of my energy concentrating on getting from point A to point B and resting as much as I could in between.

It was definitely a good break from social media. However to be completely honest, it wasn’t a clean break. I purchased a prepaid sim card with data at the start of the trip, so I could still Instagram 😀 The main reason for this was that my family wanted to keep in touch with me throughout the journey, as I was traveling solo and did not have any friends with me on this trip. It was great making new friends!

Facebook and Twitter were the two social media platforms that were completely blocked. However if you had a VPN (virtual private network) you could get around “China Big Brother” and get some juicy updates on what exactly has been going on in the outside world.

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So I’ve decided that I should start the journey from the start. Here’s a quick run down of my travel, arriving in Singapore for my Cousin’s Wedding, which was such a beautiful occasion and memorable experience.

My ‘solo’ tour travel tour with Gadventures then started soon after in Beijing, where we visited The Great Wall of China followed by free time for a couple of days, which I spent with my Cousin and the Art District 798 because I loved it so much. I also had my wallet stolen on Day 3, which was a great inconvenience. However I wasn’t too worried as I discovered my wallet was missing soon after it happened and was able to cancel my credit card right away.

It was then some epic 16 hour train ride to Shanghai. Riding on the slow sleeper trains for the first time was such a crazy experience. However we were really over sleeper trains by the end of the trip. Shanghai at least had a decent hotel and we didn’t have that much time to spend here. We just admired the unique city skyline, which includes the famous Bund Tower and went out for a night clubbing.

Next Stop – Xi’An. One of the most beautiful cities I have been to in China. Here I visited the Terracotta Warriors, the famous Bell and Drum towers and the Great Goose Pagoda. I also managed to make friends with some locals who took me out for a night at one of the popular clubs in Xi’an called Muse. Epic time. I loved Xi’An.

Xi’an also has a well established Muslim community. We happened to be in town for the Muslim festival called Eid Al-Fitr. I visited Muslim quarter on the day of Eid Al-Fitr and was confronted by the slaughtering of Cows and Goats Halal style to celebrate the end of Ramadan. This was one eye opening experience!

After Xi’an came the Three Gorges River Cruise. We had a terrible journey getting to the boat, which included a coach ride with another Chinese tour group. The good thing was we got to stop in Chong Qing – Hotpot capital, which was great for food experiences.

Onto Yang Shuo, which is a town near by to Guilin. By this point, I was coming down with a case of viral gastro. I was also really poor and out of funds. I made an emergency withdrawal of 1000 yuan, which was just enough to see me through to the end of Mainland China. If there’s anywhere you want to be sick, it would be in Yang Shuo. It’s a beautiful city in China.

After Yang Shuo, we spent 18 hours on the train to get ourselves into Hong Kong. The feeling of civilized people was most welcomed. People don’t push you, they line up, the city is clean and kids don’t shit in the street, people don’t spit everywhere. FREEDOM.

Hong Kong was full of adventure, including getting kicked out of a Pub Crawl, meeting awesome people at the Yes Inn Causeway Bay, partying down in Central and Wan Chai and a beautiful day trip to Lamma Island for some beach action.

From Hong Kong, I traveled to Singapore and ended up spending one extra night there due to mechanical problems with the aircraft. This was one of the best things that could have happened, as I was already running late for my flight (or so I thought because I never received the updates about the cancellation)

In the end I was put up for the night in the Riverview Hotel with buffet Dinner, Breakfast and Lunch included. It was so good to relax because by this time I had come down with a very bad Flu. I also went shopping crazy and was seriously overweight. However Jetstar was able to check in excess luggage and provide meals and entertainment for my flight home for no extra costs. Jetstar, you rock!

So, that’s the summary. More updates to come! Stay tuned. Have a great weekend everyone! 4am – I’m ready for bed!!!
Lil xx

G-Adventure to China

I’m gearing up for my G Adventure tour around China and really it can’t come soon enough!!! I just need to get a Visa and my taxes done. Damn taxes.

So because my cousin is getting married in October, I decided to book my tickets, leaving a month of travel to choose whatever I so wished to do with it. Jetstar was having a sale, so it made me decide quite quickly which dates to book.

So there was a lot of Umm-ing and Ahh-ing about where I should go visit. I first of all put all my friends up on the world map. I thought of visiting Shanghai, Japan and maybe even Taiwan.

Then my thoughts turned to London, Switzerland and some other parts of Europe. But then in the end, I got an awesome hook up through my friend Nat at G Adventures who was able to get me a bit of a discount and fit me into the very last spot on a 18 day tour around China.

GAdventure caters for travelers aged 18-30 year olds. I really wanted to do a good mix of sight seeing, some stuff off the beaten track and a little bit of partying. Not too much, not like a crazy Contiki tour. GAdventures seemed like the perfect solution to my need for wanting to travel alone, but not alone. If you get what I mean.

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So I’m REALLY excited about this trip. I’ll be going to all the places I’ve been wanting to go to across China. I’ve been to China when I was 15 years old, which is more than 10 years ago. So things will have really changed. Unfortunately my Mandarin is still very limited and I get my left and right’s mixed up still.

Can’t wait!

Can’t Wait!!!

Can’t Wait!!!!!

If you have any tips on places that I must try/eat – please post a comment!

My brain is still on holidays

It was kind of funny, when I mentioned I was going on holiday, there were a few odd people who asked me “So are you going snowboarding in Japan?”

No, because it is Summer in Japan and it is so hot! The temperature was around 34-37 degrees. But I couldn’t complain. I was on holidays! Instead, I eventually stopped going out during the day.

To survive the summer heat, one of my best investments was a fan bought from Diaso (100 Yen Store) which is a multi-level (I think 7 levels) store that sells probably everything you can think of for 100 Yen (about $1.25 AUD). Similar to the $2 shop, but better. We totally get ripped off at $2.80 here.

It also helps that there are drink vending machines all over the place. You don’t have to look far to find your next cold beverage. There are some interesting drinks. The Salty Watermelon drink was talked about a lot, so I had to try it. Tastes like watermelon, just not very sweet.

After my visits to Nagoya, Gifu, Toyota & Koyasan I stayed in Osaka for the rest of my trip. I didn’t care about staying in a nice hotel, so I found the Osaka Namba Guesthouse. As I was traveling alone, hostels & backpackers are usually a good place to meet new people. (But this didn’t happen cos French guys only speak French…and my French is limited to…Bonjour?)

The place was comfortable and in a great location. There were just 3 private rooms. I had Wifi, fridge, T.V and air-conditioning, plus didn’t have to share my room with anybody. Plus I didn’t have to go out and look for a laundromat. For 2700 Yen ($33 a night), it was a pretty good deal.

The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan was a really great way to escape the heat. This aquarium is the biggest aquarium in the world, and I found it very impressive. There were so many different species of animals and underwater life. The aquarium spirals naturally down level by level, circling the main attraction – the Whale shark.

I sat there for hours, watching all the different types of fish swim around. Especially the large school of fish that twisted and turned, creating different shapes. It was really hard to capture on camera.

It made me think about when we were young we use to say…
“When I grow up I want to be a Marine Biologist.” (Because every girl loved dolphins) And then the girl in me picks up a soft toy as I exit through the gift shop. It squeaks.

As the temperatures start to cool down in the evenings, I make a visit to Osaka Castle at sunset, which is quite stunning.

There was a Kendo & Karate practice session happening in a nearby building in the park.

Night time is a good time to visit to the Tsutenkaku Tower to see the city lights of Osaka.

Osaka is FOOD city. NOM NOM NOM! It’s a little hard to get around not knowing any Japanese. But there are plenty of places with pictures menu’s or plastic model replica’s of the food on the menu for you to point, smile and nod at.

I still get confused when using the vending machine system at ‘fast food’ diners in Japan. As I clearly had no idea and the staff kindly tried to help me also by pointing and smiling at the machine. The system is otherwise quite efficient.

Famous foods in Osaka are Takoyaki (Octopus Balls)

Okonomiyaki (A pancake of noodles mixed with egg, flour and ingredients of your choice)

It is also very fun to drink Sake & SoChu at Izakaya bars and try a variety of skewers grilled on the charcoal BBQ. Delicious! This is my favourite!

The Japanese are very adventurous with food. I even tried raw chicken at one of the Izakaya bars. My mum was not impressed.

I think I was pretty lucky to find fun and friendly people at the bars in Osaka. It was a no brainer to try choose bars with English influences, as it was my best bet to find someone who spoke some English. I had a great time at The Dublin Bay Bar where I met some friendly local Japanese people.

As I was missing home, I also dropped into Coolabah, an Australian owned bar. It was footy season, so the bar was buzzing with Footy conversation as the Hawks vs Geelong game had just ended. I’m not crazy about football, but it’s a slice of Australia in Japan 🙂

So i returned to freezing cold Melbourne with a loaded suitcase filled with new clothes, chocolate, lollies, and souvenirs and my heart filled with great memories 😀 xx

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My timing for my stay in Japan was just perfectly aligned with the celebrations of the Summer. Guys and girls dress up in gorgeous yukata (浴衣), which is a casual summer style kimono. This creates a very traditional-like atmosphere, buzzing with excitement and the sounds of wooden clogs tick-tocking along the pavements.

The main event starts at 7pm when the sunsets. At dusk the first few fireworks are launched and puffs of coloured smoke can be seen. I thought to myself, what a waste of fireworks! The show is just getting started. As the night continues, more fireworks shoot into the night sky, each one better than the last. Food stalls sell all sorts of yummy delicious foods such as hotdogs, deep fried chicken, salted cucumber on sticks.

The fireworks display last for 2 hours. I was completely amazed and also felt so fortunate enough to see the fireworks display in both Gifu and Toyota City.

Fireworks in Gifu

Fireworks in Toyota

With the weekend over, it was now time to continue on my journey to Mt Koya (Koyasan) where I would be staying at a traditional Ryokan. This time I took the Bullet Train from Nagoya to Osaka which only took 1 hour.

From Osaka, the journey to Koyasan is still another 2-3 hours. As the train moves further away from the city, the scenery becomes more lush, green and finally large mountains appear. The scenery is just beautiful.

Little towns are hidden in amongst the mountains, all easily accessible by train. I am heading up to the very top, which requires transport up the steep slope by cable car.

I arrive, just in time for the 5pm check in at the Shojoshin-in. Very few Ryokans have English speaking staff and I booked this room through this useful website. After a full day of travel, I am very much relieved to be shown the room I will be staying at tonight.

I settle in and observe how peaceful and quite this area is. I am then interrupted by the sound of the telephone to inform me to come down to the dining area as it is now dinner time!

I am shown to a private tatami room by a very cheerful and happy man. He seems more excited about dinner than I am. I am presented with an array of many little dishes. The meal is completely vegetarian and includes Soya beans, Soups, Tempura, variety of vegetables, pickles and fresh fruit. This is accompanied with green tea and rice.

After a delicious and very filling meal, I decide to take a walk around the area. The Ryokan has many beautifully kept gardens, creating a calm, peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. It is not long until it is dark again, so I kept my walk brief before heading back to try get some sleep to prepare for the 6am Ceremony.

Unfortunately I hardly slept a wink. The ‘peaceful’ sound of water trickling in the garden made me go to the toilet about 8 or 9 times throughout the night. It was probably about 5am by the time I was completely exhausted and started to fall asleep.

By 5.50am, a bell rings to notify all guests that the 6am ceremony is about to commence. This is compulsory as a guest of the Ryokan, so I drag myself down to the prayer room.

Two monks conduct the ceremony. This consists of continuous chanting and timely ringing of bells and cymbals for about 45 minutes. After the ceremony it is straight to breakfast. Again vegetarian consisting of Miso soup, Soya Beans, small serve of vegetable and a tofu like cake. Accompanied with tea and rice.

After breakfast, I check out and prepare myself for a long day of walking. At 9am in the morning, it is already very hot, but I pushed myself to cover the entire area and view all the World Heritage listed temples and sites. It was a very rewarding experience.

Completely exhausted by 2pm, I head back to Osaka Namba, where I plan to be based for the rest of my trip. I am looking forward to getting some much needed sleep and my left eye is constantly twitching. xx

A new chapter

I woke up earlier than usual this morning. Even earlier than the roosters that start crowing at the crack of dawn. It’s warm and pleasant in the mornings. By the time it reaches midday, the sun is high in the sky and the weather is hot and humid. Not the time of day you would want to be walking around. Today is my last day in Malaysia.

My trip has been filled with eating wonderful local food and visiting relatives. I am very grateful that had this opportunity to travel with my parents. I would otherwise be staying in Kuala Lumpur and sticking to only what I know. Char Kuay Teow, Satay & Nasi Lemak with Teh Tarik.

In Malaysia, people talk a lot about food because there are so many different types of local foods and most towns have a claim to fame to a certain dish. Malaysian food is inspired by Malay, Indian and Chinese influences. The only thing you need to have a is a strong stomach to handle the hawker food stalls. It’s better not to know what goes on in the kitchen.

I have been trying to avoid beef and pork, as they are both highly acidic foods. However some Auntie’s do not understand my “I only want little meat” policy. The general response is “You turn Muslim now?” ~ it’s a joke. 😀

Food highlights from my trip this visit:

Sitiawan – famous for steamed fish head. (Massive Grouper caught in Pangkor Island) Also famous for ‘Gong Peah’ – A round shaped biscuit with sweet pastry and savoury meat filling, slightly tough and chewy, baked using charcoal coals.

Bidor – famous for duck herb soup.
Malaysian ‘kway’ sweet cakes are also good in Bidor.

Klang – famous for ‘Bak Kut Teh’. A beef herb soup served with deep fried pastry. ‘Yau char kway’

Penang – This is where we buy ‘Heong Bang’ – a crispy flakey pastry biscuit, usually with sweet layer of filling on the inside. Also ‘Tau sar piah’ – a small biscuit ball with flakey pastry mung bean filling.

There is nothing better than drinking fresh coconut water straight from the coconut. Also, when I visit Malaysia Durian is a must! It’s a love it or hate it kind of fruit. Stinky like when someone eats a dim sim, but it tastes so good!!! Most places will have a ‘NO DURIAN’ policy around S.E Asia because the scent is so strong.

As my trip to Malaysia comes to an end I will surely miss the good times I have had. Staying at my grandparents place (who have both now passed on) has brought back many nostalgic memories from over the times I have visited Malaysia since I was a little girl.

I definitely could not live day-to-day life in this fashion and have had to ‘rough it out’ for a little while. As with every time I visit, I have to get use to using the bucket style showers (the initial splash is the worst), squat toilets and frogs jumping on my feet while I brush my teeth. (Terrifying!)

The smell of chicken shit on a hot day is repulsive, as is the open drain system that runs through out Malaysia that makes me frequently dry-wretch. Stray dogs and cats are frequently roaming the streets. If you’re lucky you’ll get to see some Monkey’s at Teluk Butik beach. Birds nest is also big business in Malaysia and you can see them flying around specially built buildings to collect their spit.

My number one tip is to always remember to bring packet tissue with where ever you go. Hand sanitizer is also handy.

It has been a good 10 day trip. I hope that I will be able to find my own way back ‘home’ as I get older 🙂

Internet is slow, so pictures will come later.