Beer and Brewery tour – in addition to all the beers you’ll get to taste and cool breweries you’ll get to see, it’s also a sightseeing trip, as you’re driving around New York to visit 5 different breweries. We spent a week in New York in 2014, when I’d just met my boyfriend, and you can say that I wasn’t that into beer at the time. Everything I know about beer I’ve learned from him. In between the brewery stops, I looked out the window and enjoyed the sightseeing part of the trip, while my boyfriend took part in a beer quiz and won a few beer glasses.
Bring some snacks and find a bench in Central Park or a different park. Say hi to a few squirrels and watch the daily life in New York go by. A running club (or something like that) enjoyed a workout in the park when we were there. Loads of training outfits. We were about to enjoy the Beer and Brewery tour and drink more calories than we dared to count, but I guess we burned a few calories by watching them work out. At least I would like to think we did..
Walk across Brooklyn Bridge. This was such an amazing experience and one of the highlights of our trip. It helped that the weather was excellent as well..
Sit down on a bench in Brooklyn Bridge Park and watch the amazing sunset. We sat there for a couple of hours and watched the colors of the sky change into amazing combinations of yellow and orange.
Instead of spending several dollars on the boat to the Statue Of Liberty, jump on the free ferry to Staten Island, and you’ll have an amazing view of her from the ferry. A little wind in your hair doesn’t hurt either. I loved standing in the back of the boat as we went past her.
Try to get tickets to your favorite Broadway musical. We had such a great fun at the Rock of Ages show. And my boyfriend got really excited when it turned out that we could buy jelly shots! I didn’t like them though, which made him even happier. It was an amazing show! Such great artists! We ended up watching the Rock of Ages movie when we got home (starring Tom Cruise).
Visit Top of the Rocks (at the top of the Rockefeller Center) instead of Empire State Building. The view is amazing. We ended up buying a ticket where we could visit twice – once during daytime, and also at night. I loved the view more at daytime though. That might have had something to do with the weather. It was raining, and the top deck was closed.
My boyfriend is a beer enthusiast, which made us search for cool bars to visit. We visited The Pony Bar. A really cool place. It might be an idea to download the Untappd app (a social beer app) in advance – loads of great beers to try.
If you’re into standup, visit the Gotham Comedy Club.
Have you been to New York? Please leave a comment!
This is an A to Z safari guide with important information, which animals you can expect to see, and other safari tips.
- Afraid? It can be scary to be close to wild animals. I trusted our safari guide, and didn’t feel scared. However, make sure to let the safari guide know if you’re scared. He’ll then move further away from the herd or explain to you about how to read different signs from the animals.
- Adapter? Check if you need to bring a travel adapter or if you can borrow one at the camp.
- Buffaloes look like huge cows to me. I think they have the cutest faces though! We were lucky and saw a huge buffalo herd walking down to a water hole to drink. And we were able to watch them drink, quite close by.
- Birds can also be seen, but we weren’t that impressed by them, since we were on safari for the big animals.
- Boring to sit in a safari vehicle for hours? No, not at all. It’s really exciting to drive around, not knowing what we’ll see next.
- Bonfire dinners were an excellent way to relax after a long day of game drives and adventures.
- Binoculars is very useful to really study an animal or see something far away.
- Check list? Yes, it might be a good idea to write a check list for your safari trip. Often you’re far away from stores or supermarkets, which makes it more important to remember everything you need. We had the option to buy a few things in the camp, but don’t expect to have that option.
- Colored clothes? It might be a good idea to bring neutral colored clothes. And safari is not a place to be fashionable. You’re there for the adventure, not to look pretty.
- Camouflaged clothes? It’s not a good idea to use military colored clothes on safari – in many places only the military are allowed to use that type of clothes. You might even be arrested for it!
- Camera is important. If you have a great zoom to your camera – bring it with you! GoPro might also be a good idea.
- Charging options? We had to charge our cell phones and cameras in the main building. It wasn’t a problem – we charged our stuff when we had breakfast or dinner.
- Dead animals can be sad to see, but that’s how nature works. You can end up seeing a kill happen or a dead animal being a delicious meal to other animals.
- Elephants are beautiful animals. I totally fell in love with them. They are so amazing! We had a close encounter with an elephant during one of our game drives. We ended up being really close to a solo male elephant who wanted to show us that he was the boss!
- Expectations – It’s easy to have expectations in advance of which animals you hope and think you’re going to see. But these are wild animals. There’s never any guarantees. You just need to appreciate the animals that you actually get to see.
- Freezing easily? Remember to bring wool clothes if you’re on safari during the winter months. It can get really cold, especially in the morning.
- Food was not allowed to bring to the tents because of the animals. We didn’t starve though. A snack in the morning, breakfast, lunch and dinner were served. Excellent food every day!
- Flashlight can come in handy when you’re walking to your tent in the dark after dinner. Or if you’re wondering if a spider is visiting your tent..
- Giraffes are so cool! And tall! We managed to take some great shots of giraffes in the sunset on our first game drive.
- Hippopotamuses were the most boring animal that my travel group saw during our safari days. I guess we thought they were a bit plain. And they hide under water – you often only see their heads.
- Hyenas are cooler. We only saw a few – when we enjoyed an outside bonfire dinner one evening.
- Hand baggage on your long-haul flight? It might be a good idea to pack some clothes in your hand baggage, especially if you’re transferring to a domestic flight as well. It’s not easy to enjoy a safari trip if the airline forget your bag somewhere along the way..
- Hats/caps – either a safari hat or a cap is useful when you’re driving around on dusty roads. It protects from the sun as well, which is a bonus.
- Impala is a beautiful antelope. We saw a lot of them during our game drives.
- Jacket? Yes, make sure to bring a jacket if you’re traveling during the winter months. I actually bought a new jacket just before we traveled, but I decided not to bring it. Did I regret it? Oh, yes I did, every day. I ended up borrowing a wool sweater that my boyfriend was smart enough to bring with him.
- Kudu is also an African antelope that you’ll see a lot of.
- Leopards are amazing animals. We enjoyed an evening game drive just hours after we arrived at the safari camp. And we saw a leopard! They said that it was quite rare to see a leopard, which made us really appreciate it. It was a surreal moment to see the leopard laying there annoyed by a fly.
- Lions are scary, but so beautiful. We saw male lion a bit later in our safari experience. A fellow safari group had a flat tire and had to stop, only meters away from the lion. I would have been so scared!
- Layering – It’s smart to use layers of clothes when you’re on safari from early morning. That makes it easier to remove clothes when the temperature is rising as soon as the sun goes up.
- Morning person? We were woken up at 5:30 AM and had to be ready for our morning game drive at 6 AM.
- Mosquitoes can be annoying. Bring a spray or other mosquito protection.
- Night time can be scary. It’s pitch dark, and we were not allowed to walk around alone after dark. We knew that there were animals out there – we could almost feel them standing there, ready to attack us. But they didn’t and we were always safe.
- Open car – you’re driving around in an open car, which is cold in the winter and cooling in the summer. It makes it easy to see the animals, but might be a bit scary if you’re close to a herd of elephants or buffaloes. I loved it, and felt quite safe. I trusted our safari guide, who I knew had loads of experience.
- Packing tips might be useful for new safari travelers. I’ll make sure to add a blog post with packing tips later. We went on safari in July/August which is winter time in South Africa.
- Power bank – if you don’t have access to power outlets where you are, bring a couple of charged power banks.
- Quitting in the middle of a game drive is not possible. Don’t stand up in the car, don’t make loud noises, and don’t panic.
- Rhinos look really cool. South Africa has both white and black rhinos. Don’t let the name confuse you – they’re both grey. We saw a few rhinos, but they got scared when they saw our car. We managed to take a few nice photos of them anyway.
- Sleep? Yes, I actually slept really well. We enjoyed long days with two game drives and a late dinner, which made me so tired. I fell asleep as soon as I laid my head down on my pillow. And I didn’t wake up until our ranger knocked on our tent wall at 5:30 AM.
- Safety rules are important to follow when you go on a safari trip. Pay close attention to what the safari guides say!
- Sunglasses are important. It’s not easy to spot the animals when the brightness of the sun is blocking your view.
- Sun screen/block must be remembered as well. Especially for the summer months.
- Small bag – can come in handy when you need a few essentials with you on the game drives.
- Tracker – you’ll sometimes have a tracker with you on game drives. He will read animal tracks, look at feces and find other signs of animals being nearby.
- Tented camp accommodation might be different from what we’re used to. It’s so fun to wake up to a herd of buffaloes running outside the tents, wondering if they’ll run over you. And a bit scary as well. It actually happened with us one morning. My boyfriend woke up by the noise. I was in a sleeping coma and didn’t quite understand what happened.
- Umbrellas? No, they will scare the animals. Bring a poncho and a hat or similar instead, especially if you’re there during the wet season (October-April).
- Visiting your neighbors in the darkness was not allowed in our camp. We had to be walked by our safari guide for safety reasons. He always carried a large flashlight and a rifle.
- Wild dogs were difficult to find. We enjoyed a bonus game drive for a couple of hours in the morning of our last day at the safari camp. We didn’t see anyone, though.
- Walkie talkie – the rangers carry a Walkie Talkie to communicate with their colleagues. When someone spot animals, they let everyone else know.
- You might also see a wilderbeast – or gnu as it’s also called.
- Xtra luggage? (I know, a bad one. But trying to find something that starts with a X is difficult). Remember to check the baggage policy of the airlines. And check with the safari camp as well. Some prefer backpacks over suitcases.
- Yolo – you only live once (I know, another bad one). Enjoy the safari experience, and try to relax. Trust the safari guide and his skill of reading the animals. He won’t put you in any danger on purpose. He’ll read the signals of the animals and remove you from the situation if an animal feels aggressive or nervous.
- Zebras may not be as exciting as other animals, but it’s different when you see them in the wild and up close. Zebras are cool. But are they white with black stripes or black with white stripes?
I hope you’ve enjoyed my little safari from A to Z guide.
Have you been on safari? If yes, please link to your blog and I’ll make sure to read it.
Hong Kong is an amazing city! I’ll write a detailed travel guide later. First, I’ll dedicate a post to 10 cool things to do in Hong Kong.
1. Star Ferry
Star Ferry crosses Victoria Harbor, from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon, and is the coolest way to get from one side to the other. It’s a short trip, but I loved everything about it. It was so fun to enjoy the view over Victoria Harbor with wind in my hair!
How to get there?
From Central MTR exit A, walk along Man Jiy Street to central Ferry Pier 7.
Or from Tsim Sha Tsui MTR exit L6, walk to the Clock Tower along Salisbury Road.
2. Big Bus Tour
I just love these bus sightseeing tours. It’s a great way to get to know the city before you’re out on your own. It’s also great to have tickets to a few attractions included in the ticket. We bought a 2-day pass and didn’t regret it one bit. The Big Bus Tour Hong Kong includes 3 different routes.
- Red route – Hong Kong Island
- Blue route – Kowloon
- Green route – Stanley/Aberdeen
- Sampan-ride in Aberdeen (boat trip)
- Star Ferry
- The Peak Tram or Sky 100 Observation Deck
3. The Peak and The Peak Tram
This is a tourist trap, but the best tourist trap ever. It’s so fun to sit in a crowded little tram up the hill with a worry or two. Will the breaks hold? Is this really safe? Of course, everything was perfectly safe. We stood in line for a short while (we had access to a faster line due to the ticket that was included in the Big Bus Tour. We still had to book a ticket to the observation deck though). We were lucky and got there just before the biggest crowds did. We had room to walk around and take a few photos. The view was a bit smoggy, but it was still a nice view! We expected it to be windy, but it really wasn’t.
How to get there?
Use the Big Bus to get there (you can use both the red and green route).
Or take the MTR to Central (walk to ground level, take a right and walk up Garden Road. This is an excellent PDF explanation of how to get there.
You can also jump on bus 15C from Central Pier 8.
4. Central to Mid-levels Escalator
This collection of escalators up the hill from Central to Mid-levels was made to get workers faster and easier to and from work. That means that the escalator goes downwards in the morning and upwards in the afternoon. Quite clever actually.
How to get there?
Either see the explanation in this link, or choose exit C on Central MTR Station and follow the signs.
We had never been to Disneyland before and were so excited! And the park didn’t disappoint! We were there during low season, and didn’t need to stand in line for long. The park is so cool, but some attractions were cooler than others.
- Jungle River Cruise – a very energetic lady told a story while the boat lead us into the “jungle”. It was so fun! I laughed from start to finish.
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic – a cool 3D concert movie.
- Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars – a roller coaster that suddenly started to go backwards. Really cool!
- Festival of The Lion King – from the musical. Really worth seeing!
- A fun attraction (which I don’t remember the name of) was a magnet car ride through an art history.
How to get there?
MTR to Sunny Bay Station and transfer to the Disneyland Resort Line.
6. From bar to bar in Lan Kwai Fong
We had a late flight home and decided to enjoy some last day drinks at Lan Kwai Fong, the popular nightlife hot spot not far from Central. I’m sure everyone will find something they like, as the area has over 90 restaurants and bars. I really recommend this area, for an evening drink after a long day of sightseeing or as a relaxing break in the middle of the day as well. And of course, if you’re up for a party you’ll have loads of cool bars to choose from!
How to get there?
MTR to Central, exit D2 and up D’Aguilar Street.
7. Big Buddha
Walk up 268 steps to get to the Big Buddha. A relaxing and nice break from the city life.
8. Tai O Fishing Village
A fisher village famous for its fisher culture, house on stilts, sea food and atmosphere. Read this post to get more info about Tai O.
How to get to Big Buddha and Tai O?
If you’re feeling adventurous and are not afraid of heights, take the Ngong Ping Cable Cars to Ngong Ping Village.
We took the MTR to Tung Chung Station, exit B, and jumped on the local bus number 23 from Tung Chung Town Center to Ngong Ping Village. It took about 45 minutes and you can pay by using your Octopus Card.
After the Big Buddha visit, we took a walk through the cozy Ngong Ping Village. We jumped on bus number 21 down the mountains again and to Tai O, and bus number 11 back to Tung Chung Town Center again.
Read more about Tai O Fishing Village here.
9. Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade
Take a walk along the promenade and enjoy the view of Hong Kong skyline.
How to get there?
The easiest is to take the Star Ferry to Kowloon. The promenade starts at the Star Ferry Pier.
Or you can take the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui Station, exit E. Walk towards Salisbury Road, take a right, walk through the tunnel beside the YWCA to Hong Kong Cultural Center, and walk to the Star Ferry Pier.
10. Sampan boat trip in Aberdeen
A fisher village with a lovely harbor. The contrast of the skyscrapers skyline to the fisher boats is just amazing. We only traveled here because it was a Big Bus green line stop. If you have the time you can visit the floating restaurant, Jumbo Kingdom. You actually need to take a boat to get there. We didn’t go, and enjoyed the Sampan boat trip instead. The boat took us through the many rows of fisher boats, and also around the Jumbo Kingdom. It was so fun!
How to get there?
Either the Big Bus green line or MTR to Wong Chuk Hang Station. Exit B, and walk 5-6 minutes to Shum Wan Pier.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my list of 10 cool things to do in Hong Kong. Please leave a comment if you disagree or want to add something to the list.
I’ve been to wonderful Albania on vacation twice. My first Albania experience was in 2015. My boyfriend had been there once before and wanted me to fall in love with the country, just as he did after his first visit. I actually loved it so much that we went back this summer. We spent two lovely weeks in Saranda, the coastal city not far from Corfu.
Introduction to Albania
Albania was led by the dictator Enver Hoxha until 1985. He made it illegal for everyone to leave the country. He actually isolated himself and his fellow residents from the outside world. What really shows his fear for his neighbours is the number of bunkers that were built. Over 750000 concrete bunkers were built, many of them well hidden in the scenery. When we enjoyed a sightseeing trip to Hoxhas birth city Gjirokaster, we were asked to count the number of bunkers that we saw in the hillside. We couldn’t see more than a few.
How many bunkers do you see?
Even though he had strict rules for the country he led, he also did a lot of good things. Due to the high illiteracy rates when he took the power, he made it compulsory for everyone between 12 and 40 to go to school. And the illiteracy rates decreased from 80–85 % to 30 % in 1950 and down to the same level as the rest of the West in 1985.
Albania is gaining in popularity, and tourism is growing each year. The beautiful coastal city Saranda, in the southern part of Albania, has become a tourist destination, end even Albanians choose Saranda for their holiday.
What can you expect when you travel to Saranda? You’ll find a long public beach, that reaches from one end of the city center to the other. A promenade with restaurants and souvenir shops along the beach is the meeting place for both locals and tourists. Especially in the evenings. The Albanian kitchen has influences from both the Italian and Greek cuisine. And do remember to try the seafood. Fresh fish every day is a luxury, and it’s so tasty!
If you enjoy culture in addition to sun and relaxation, visit Butrint, which is on the UNESCO world heritage list. There’s so much to see and do, and you won’t be bored. I promise!
An airport will be built in Saranda, hopefully within the next few years. Until that, you’ll need to fly to Corfu and jump on a hydrofoil boat from Corfu Port to Saranda. It only takes about 40 minutes, but the seasonal flights often arrive in the middle of the night, which means that there will be some waiting. Of course, it’s totally worth it when you finally arrive in beautiful Saranda. You can also fly to Greece (Parga is only a couple of hours drive from Saranda)
The beautiful view from the port in Saranda. This photo is taken this year, but I still remember my first time looking at this view two years ago.
Travel tip 1:
Kerkyra Airport in Corfu has now opened a cafe directly above the check-in area. It’s a great waiting spot before your taxi ride down to the Port.
Travel tip 2:
If your boat ticket isn’t booked in advance, ask the taxi driver to drive to the ticket office. It’s located a mile or so from the Port.
You’ll see the ticket office to the right on this photo (behind the white car)
Travel tip 3:
You don’t need to start stressing by carrying your luggage into the boat yourself. The employees do that for you. They also carry them out from the boat when you arrive. Just walk outside and enjoy the sun while you’re waiting for your luggage.
Just arrived in Saranda – everyone is waiting for their luggage.
Travel tip 4:
A good idea can be to buy a couple of bottles of water in Corfu before you board the boat (there’s a cafe across the road from the ticket office). Also, have your sunglasses and sunscreen nearby. You’ll need to go through passport control and customs when you enter Albania. The line can be a bit long and can stretch outside the building.
Travel tip 5:
If you find a taxi driver that you’re pleased with, ask for his card. The hotel and also restaurants can call the driver for you. Very convenient when you’re struggling with explaining where you are.
The city public beach area has been upgraded a bit since we were there two years ago. You’ll find several beach clubs as well, some of them connected to different hotels. The city beach is popular, and you need yo pay a small amount for the sun beds and umbrellas.
Travel tip 6:
Bring your own or buy bathing shoes. The city beach is a pebble beach, which means that it can be a bit painful to walk on if you’re not used to it. I myself is more relaxed when I wear bathing shoes. You will find sea urchins a few places as well, so be careful.
In the evenings you’ll find both locals and tourists relaxing in the lovely summer temperature along the beach promenade. Several stalls that sell almost everything appear everywhere, and everyone is looking for a spot on the ledge along the promenade to sit and look at the city life. Remember to buy an ice cream. There are loads of interesting flavours. One is called “Facebook” and has a sweet, almost tutti frutti flavour to it. Saranda has over 300 sun days a year, which makes it tempting to travel there, especially when you’re from the west coast of Norway as I am (it has rained almost every day since June.. )
Travel tip 7:
Contact Artin Rrapai at Scandinavian Tourist Center. He can fix almost everything. From interesting sightseeing trips to apartment rentals and car rentals.
So, what can you do in the Saranda area?
The city is on the UNESCO world heritage list. Enver Hoxha was born here, and you can pay a small entrance fee to access his home and see how he lived. You can also walk up the steep road to Gjirokaster Fortress , where you’ll have a nice view over the city. You can also pay an entrance fee to access a military museum.
Travel tip 8:
Bring a hat and sun screen and drink loads of water. The temperature is often about 40 degrees Celcius.
And this can happen if you try to film in this heat (my poor camera overheated..):
Syri i Kalter/Blue Eye
Blue Eye, or Syri i Kalter as it’s called in Albanian, is a natural water source where the water is approximately 10 degrees Celsius all year around. The water is totally clear, and you’ll see that the colors change in perfect harmony with the sun. What’s given it its name is where the water bubbles a bit and creates a dark, blue color. The contrast makes it look like an eye. It might be tempting to jump in to cool down, but it can be a cold experience. We tried to dip our toes in the water, but quickly regretted it. The area around is also lovely. You can sit down to enjoy a cooling drink while you look at the beautiful surroundings of the Blue Eye.
Does it look tempting to jump in?
Butrint is on the UNESCO world heritage site, and is really worth a visit. The ruins are a part of a large national park. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, instead of writing too much. But here’s an article from Lonely Planet for those of you that are interested in more information.
Travel tip 9:
Visit Butrint either in the morning or in the afternoon, both because it’s really hot during the day, and because it can be really busy during high season.
Ksamil is a small village, about 15km from Saranda. This is a lovely area with beautiful sand beaches, blue sea and loads of great restaurants. There are several areas to choose from, which is great, because it can be really crowded here. It’s a popular area for both the locals and the tourists, especially for those with children.
Travel tip 10:
Ask the taxi driver to drive you to the Abiori Restaurant to get to this beautiful place (and if available, try to get a spot on the deck. Amazing view, more wind, and less crowded):
Travel tip 11:
Try the local bus to Ksamil and Butrint. This is a cheap way to travel, but the bus is used by both locals and tourists – expect a packed bus. There aren’t a lot of bus stops. That means that you can stand almost everywhere along the route, and the bus will stop. If you want to make sure that you get your own seat, jump onto the bus from the start of the route (The Nene Theresa Square). This page has more information about the bus.
Travel tip 12:
Check with the hotel if they accept credit card payment. If not, ask if they prefer Euros or Lek. If they prefer Euro: withdraw cash from an ATM in Corfu before arrival in Saranda. Only Raffeisen Bank had Euros in their ATM when we were there, but it was empty the next time we tried. If they prefer Lek: remember that staying in a hotel for 7 days at 70EUR will be approximately 65000 Lek – a lot of bills to carry around. It’s therefore best to pay by credit card or Euros.
The albanian kitchen is inspired from the Italian and Greek kitchen. If you love pizza or pasta, there are loads of restaurants for you. Fish and seafood are also found everywhere. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from along the beach promenade. But you might have to try and fail a couple of times before you find your favorites. “Fast food” restaurants can be found everywhere along the promenade. They serve gyros in pita, kebabs and barbecue food. The price is good and it tastes great, especially at lunch or when you don’t need a full dinner.
Our favorite restaurant, Demi, has the best view over Saranda. They serve everything from meats to fish and pasta. And they have an excellent brownie dessert (which sometimes looks more than a chocolate fondant than a brownie). A few photos from Demi below:
A good two course dinner at Demi with water and local beer for drinks is approximately 4500LEK for 2 persons (1EUR is approximately 135LEK and 5EUR is approximately 670LEK)
A soda is about 150LEK, local beer about 200LEK, water about 100LEK and a taxi ride to Ksamil about 1500LEK.
A standard lunch can be everything from 1000LEK for 2 persons to 2000LEK, depending on what you’re ordering. And a standard dinner for 2 persons between 2000LEK and 4000LEK.
Saranda has become on of our favourite holiday destinations, and we’ll definitely be back.
Tourist information: http://www.sarandaweb.com/
Info about the boat from Corfu: https://ionianseaways.com/
Have you been to Albania before? Did you enjoy it as much as we did? Please leave a comment.
There’s something magical by seeing animals in their natural surroundings. Where they can run around and be who they’re intended to be. One of my best travel experiences was a safari trip to South Africa one year ago. We spent four amazing days in Shindzela Tented Camp in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve, which is a part of the Kruger National Park.
First, I’ll dedicate a post to The Big Five, which we were lucky to see during our four safari days.
Just tanning in the winter sun.
This fly is really annoying me!
Just making sure that you keep a safe distance from me and my herd before I join them.
Enjoying a stroll by the water with my bird friend on my back.
We’re a bit skinny in the winter time. Looking forward to the spring!
Enjoying the evening sun!
I need to keep my paws clean!
We also saw a lot of other animals. I’ll dedicate a blog post to them later.
Have you been on safari? Did you see the Big Five? I would really appreciate a comment.
I love to be creative. And it can sometimes lead to really cool things. Like starting this blog. Or winning a competition. And that was exactly what happened in 2013. I won a global interchange competition hosted by the company that I work for. The task was to apply for a fake job position by doing something creative. We had the option to choose from several job positions and different countries. I’ve always wanted to travel to China. Both because my biggest dream is to visit Giant Pandas outside of a Zoo, and because I’ve always been fascinated by the culture. The decision of applying to the fake job position of a Panda Keeper in Shanghai was therefore easy to make. I applied for the competition by making a photo book that told the story of how I met my Panda teddy bear, and how he was always by my side. I’m not going to lie, I had a hope of visiting a Panda bear or two during my weeks in China. I guess I should have read that Shanghai Zoo only has a few Pandas. Not that I am such a zoo fan either, but that’s a different story.
I travelled to Shanghai in the beginning of September 2013, and was going to be there for 4 weeks. I travelled on my own, and didn’t know anyone. Since this trip was arranged by the company that I work for, I was picked up at the airport and had a contact person for the duration of my stay.
I encountered a few problems when I started planning for the trip. What should I pack? I had never packed for a 4 week long trip before, and had no idea what to pack. I’m a huge planner and love writing lists and preparing for everything. But I didn’t know where to start.
Organised chaos. I really wish that I had better packing skills back then.
What I thought before I travelled:
- I’ve packed enough clothes
- 30 degrees celcius is not that hot when I get used to it
- My suitcase is big enough.
And it turned out that:
- I didn’t pack enough clothes, and I packed the wrong clothes.
- 30 degrees and high humidity levels IS hot!
- My suitcase was not big enough. It’s a miracle that it didn’t burst during the flight back home. I even had a huge handbag and a bag with me.
What I should have brought:
- More shoes. Both sandals and sneakers.
- Summer dresses
- More tops and t-shirts
- A hat or a bandana
I spent the days at our office in Shanghai (09-18) and had the evenings and Weekends to use for sightseeing and exploring. It was an amazing month, and I got to experience a lot. At the same time very different from my everyday life here in Norway.
The differences were:
- Work hours from 09 to 18 with 1 hour lunch
- Everyone spent their lunch hour outside of the office or had leftovers from the dinners the day before that they enjoyed in the open plan office (the office sometimes smelled like a food court).
- The consequences for turning up late at the office were bigger than I’m used to. Which made the elevator crowded like crazy the last 5 minutes before 9AM.
- The respect my colleagues had for each other was admiring. In an open plan office of about 100 persons, the noise levels were low, and everyone whispered when they talked to a colleague.
What I learned?
- The air in Shanghai can be smoggy, but the photos turned out nice, and it didn’t bug me.
- High humidity is a pain in the ass. I don’t like to sweat.
- The oily food made me feel a bit nauseated in the beginning. But I got used to it after a week or so.
- I should have worked out. To eat dinner for lunch and dinner in the evening does something to the weight.. And I sometimes ate dinner in the morning as well.
- When it rains, people jump out from nowhere to sell you umbrellas. I wish they did that at home as well.
- I’ll never get tired of seeing city views from tall skyscrapers (I visited 3)
- I felt safe in Shanghai, even when I walked around alone.
- I spoke English everyday for a whole month which made me think in English and dream in English after a while..
- I was really homesick at the end of my trip.
- It’s really not that scary to travel alone.
- To stay at the same hotel for a month can be really boring.
- I’m not good at bargaining. When I visited a “fake market” I choked. I just had to walk out of there (after bying a few souvenirs. I guess I ended up paying double the price).
- To use a cellphone to take photos is not a good idea.
- I should have paid for an additional bag instead of destroying the suitcase that I had with me.
- I’m more controlled by consequences of my actions than I was when I was younger. A colleague took for granted that I should sit on the back of his el-bike for a couple of miles. Instead we ended up walking. It took longer, but better safe than sorry!
Do you want to know more about my Shanghai month? Please leave a comment.
My first travel experience to Asia was in 2012. It was a work related trip to Delhi and Agra. We were only there for a few days, and got to see a lot on short amount of time. We used a whole day to travel to Agra and Taj Mahal.
Due to pollution, big buses are not allowed to drive close to the Taj Mahal. Which meant that we had to park our bus a few miles from the entrance. A mini bus was ready to bring us closer to the entrance area.
We were told to leave our belongings in the bus, due to the security checks at Taj Mahal. We didn’t have that much time, and wanted to use it as best we could. We were also told to leave our cellphones behind, as they would have made us stuck in the security check for longer. I only brought a bit of money, my camera and a water bottle. It was a really hot day. It’s weird how naked you feel when you leave your handbag with wallet and cellphone behind.
Taj Mahal has four identical sides. I don’t have a sense of place at all. Not a good combination. I was already lost from the start. I just followed the people I traveled with. The area around Taj Mahal is huge, with gardens and large buildings.
We started our Taj Mahal experience by having a minor photo shoot at the Diana-bench. It was a bit embarrassing. This is a popular bench, and people stand in line to be taken photos of there. Which meant that there were loads of people watching our little photo shoot. We were a group of 10 or so, which meant that it took some time as well.
And then it was finally time to experience the inside of Taj Mahal. We had to walk up a set of stairs before we came up to the entrance area. The lines were long! There were one line for Indian people and a different one for tourists. A lot of people wanted to experience Taj Mahal at the same time as us. We were almost pushed inside by armed guards, and we had to walk in line through the different rooms. I’m always fast and efficient, sometimes too efficient. I just take it all in at once and don’t need to use a lot of time in the same place. I automatically thought that my travel group did the same as me. Just walked through. Crowds confuse me. And stress me. I guess I should learn that I don’t need to be in such a hurry all the time. The guards that were rushing people along by screaming stressed me out. I just kept walking, and suddenly lost the others. I stopped for a while, but didn’t see anyone. I didn’t know if I they were behind me or in front of me. I didn’t have my watch, and I didn’t know how long I’d been standing there for. I just kept walking, and suddenly I was outside again. I lined up against a wall and started waiting for the others. I waited… and waited.. and waited… I felt like I had been there for hours, and no-one came. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a clue of where I was. Was I near the entrance area? We hadn’t agreed on a meeting spot. Not that I had found it on my own anyway. Several crazy thoughts appeared. I imagined loads of different scenarios. Did they walk past me without me noticing them? I didn’t have a clue of what to do. The bus was far away, and I didn’t think I knew the way either. So I walked down from the main floor and decided to wait for them there. I hoped that they would see me eventually. I’m a huge over-thinker, and imagined all sorts of crazy stuff. What if I can’t find the way back? What if they just left without me? What if I’m stuck here forever?
I guess I looked misplaced and confused, and I actually stumbled and scratched my foot at some point. I was a bit scared after a while, and was only minutes away from starting to cry. I had never felt that alone in the world before as I did when I stood there and hoped for the others to find me.
I guess I hadn’t found the way with a map either. Just a fun little illustration – I’m not good at drawing.
Suddenly I finally heard someone calling my name. I almost jumped up and down of happiness! My travel group were still on the main floor, and had used more time inside than me. I should of course have relaxed more. And I need to remember to stay with my travel group and not just start walking around on my own.
I can stress sometimes and be too fast and efficient. And I over-think everything. Always. If I had waited inside for a while longer, they would have found me earlier. But, it has become a fun story, and a nice little crazy memory!
Do some of you have a fun story to tell from your travel experiences? Write your story as a comment, and I’ll post 3 of them.
I’ve always been fascinated by Asia. It wasn’t until I started working in a travel agency that I got to visit an Asian country for the first time. It was such an adventure that I couldn’t wait for the next time.
A couple of years ago I sat at work on a more quiet day searching for great flight deals. I found a great deal to Tokyo and my boyfriend and I decided to go for it. We booked flights and accommodation and waited for that special day in November 2015 to arrive. We were so excited! I had searched for things to do and had a preliminary itinerary ready. I often hear that I should be more spontaneous and just go with the flow. That might be easy in a smaller city. We actually found out that we should have planned a more detailed itinerary. I guess we underestimated the distances a bit. And yes, it can be fun to just walk and see where the road takes you. We like to do both. To have a itinerary and have time to go with the flow as well.
I’ll write a more detailed travel guide later. In the meantime, this is how our Tokyo trip turned out:
We arrived quite late in the afternoon, but wanted to go out and explore! We stayed in the Ueno area, which was great. The Airport Express train took us directly to Ueno, and we only had a 5 min walk to the hotel (I had already “walked” the way from the train station to the hotel on Google Maps, and I knew exactly where to go – prepared much?).
I have a couple of regrets on things that we didn’t have time to explore or didn’t dare to try. We traveled to Akihabara when we were tired from the flight, and we didn’t have much energy. Akihabara is noisy! Neon signs everywhere, traffic and loads of people everywhere. We walked through a couple of arcades, but were not prepared for the noise levels! The electronic shops were everywhere, and I’m sure we would have found great deals if we had the energy to stick around. Maid Cafe’s and Cat Cafe’s can also be found in Akihabara. We decided to go back to the hotel quite early and hoped we had the time to explore Akihabara some more before we went home.
What we learned:
- Sometimes it’s useful to plan what to do, instead of just going with the flow and walking around. We didn’t know where to go, and didn’t have a plan.
- The city is huge – sometimes you need to walk quite far to find what you’ve planned to see. Don’t underestimate the distances.
We walked across Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba, and loved it. I just love the view from bridges, and can take hundreds of photos of the same view. It’s not until I get home that I realize that a couple of photos would have been enough.
If you’re expecting a bridge like Brooklyn Bridge NY, you’re in for a surprise. This bridge is noisy and the traffic is intense. But it’s possible to use a walkway next to the cars (with a fence – you’re perfectly safe, and the walkway closes at night when it gets dark). The walkway wasn’t easy to find, but it was such a great experience!
And the view is amazing!
I guess we looked a bit lost towards the end of the walkway. A nice lady (who also was kind enough to take a picture of us with my camera) ran after us when we went the wrong way. And she guided us to where we were supposed to go. What a service!
After our walk across Rainbow Bridge, we sat down in the park next to Odaiba Beach and enjoyed the sun and the view.
Odaiba is a man made island and is a popular shopping and entertainment district.
We walked to Decks – a shopping mall with restaurants and indoor theme parks. You’ll find a Madame Tussauds as well. I guess kids would be entertained for hours in the theme parks, but we didn’t do much. We just walked around and found a nice restaurant. Afterwards we sat down on a bench and enjoyed the view of Tokyo Harbour and Rainbow Bridge. You’ll also find a Statue of Liberty in Odaiba!
Are we in New York? No, we’re still in Tokyo. She’s been standing there since 2000.
We decided to visit Madame Tussauds. We had a great time. It was a small display of famous characters – quite expensive for 15 minutes of fun.
Beautiful view in the evening!
What we learned:
- We loved waiting for the sun to set, even though it took a while. It might have been a good idea to bring a cardigan though.
A cold and rainy day. We didn’t quite know what to do and decided to go for a walk in Ueno Park. And since I love Pandas, we decided to visit Ueno Zoo as well. Unfortunately it looked like several animals were stressed from their environment, which sucked. I’ve therefore decided not to add any animal photos.
What we learned:
- Always have a backup plan for rainy days.
The weirdest and funniest experience of our Tokyo trip was definitely the show at the Robot Restaurant. Colors, noise and robot characters everywhere. It wasn’t a normal restaurant. Together with your ticket you could also order a sushi plate. And they sold beer and popcorn. But we decided to eat at a different restaurant before the show.
We tried Okonomiyaki! We didn’t exactly know what we were ordering, but it was fun! And tasted good as well. It looked like an advanced omelette but had loads of flavors. We only tried it once and needed help to cook it. The other guests cooked their own. It was a really cool place!
I decided not to add photos from the show itself. It’s so unique. It’s just something you need to experience. The photos and video below are from the waiting area before we were guided down to the basement for the show.
What we learned:
- We should have googled to find more theme restaurants. It was so fun!
We spent our fourth day shopping and walking around in Harajuku/Shibuya. We weren’t too interested in shopping though. And we really wanted to visit an owl cafe, but we ended up feeling sad for the poor owl that the cafe staff brought out in the streets to advertise for the cafe.. So we decided to skip it..
What we learned:
- We should have spent more time in Harajuku and Takeshita Street. That was a fun district! Next time we’ll try some street food as well!
We were amazed by the crowds at the Shibuya crossing. It was a cool experience to join the locals trying to cross the road without stumbling or bumping into someone.
I’ve enjoyed city views from several tall buildings in my life, and I don’t seem to get tired of it. Skytree was therefore a sure thing when we made our itinerary. When we decided to visit Skytree, we didn’t expect that everyone else wanted to do that too. We bought our tickets in the ticket counter (almost no waiting time at all) and were told to go next door to queue up for the elevators. If we knew that it would take one hour of waiting time (with a queue system that almost looked like a “Snake”-screen on my old Nokia), we might have skipped it. Or delayed it until later in the day. We spent about 15-20 minutes walking around and taking photos before we decided that it was enough. Was it worth it? Yes, for me it was.
What we learned:
- Expect to stand in line for a while when visiting tourist attractions (quite obvious..)
- It might be a good idea to visit the busiest attractions either early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
We took a walk down Nakamise Dori, a long market street that leads to Sensoji Temple.
We had planned to enjoy a boat trip from Asakusa to Odaiba, but it got cancelled due to wind. We decided to still go to Odaiba to enjoy the sunset over Tokyo Harbor.
We decided to pay Tokyo Tower a visit. I guess we judged the tower by its color and didn’t stick around for longer than it took to take a few photos. The tower is actually taller than the Eiffel Tower. I kind of regret it now that I’ve read more about it.
We also wanted to see the Imperial Palace and the park that surrounds it. It was such a huge park area and not much to do. I guess we could have skipped it, but I managed to take some nice shots of the buildings and the park area.
The action can sometimes find you when you visit a big city like Tokyo. During our lunch, several police cars and fire brigades appeared, and crowds gathered around to see what had happened. The street filled up with people within a couple of minutes. We didn’t see what exactly had happened, but a fire truck pulled up and raised its ladder, and the firefighters ran around.
We spent the evening in the Ueno area, shopping our last souvenirs and eating a not so nice dinner at TGI Fridays.
I’ll write a more detailed travel guide later, with a lot more information about what to see and do.
Have you been to Tokyo? What did you see and do? Please leave a comment. I’d love to read about your Tokyo experiences.
My boyfriend and I spent a week in Hong Kong this March. I totally fell in love with the city. The skyscrapers, the crowds, the metro system – I loved everything about Hong Kong. Even the humidity! I’ll write a travel guide later. I’ll dedicate this blog post to the fantastic Tai O Fishing Village.
When I googled like crazy to find cool things to do in Hong Kong, Tai O Fishing Village really caught my eye. I just couldn’t wait to go there. The more I read about it, the more I wanted to go.
It’s located on Lantau Island, not far from the Big Buddha. It’s therefore perfect to combine a visit to both Big Buddha and Tai O.
Travel tip: Spend a whole day here. We decided to visit the Big Buddha first, and jumped on a local bus to visit Tai O Fishing Village afterwards.
It’s really a fascinating little village. I fell in love with the colorful stilt houses, even though some of them looked unsafe. That just added to its charm, and I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like to live there. Tai O Fishing Village has survived from typhoons, floods and fires during the years.
The Tanka people live here, a fisher folk community. The houses are built on stilts to keep the houses safe from tidal flats. You can walk around the village, due to the houses being interconnected. The people still living here are making a living by selling fresh and dried seafood which they sell at the Tai O Market. The locals still use the market, and the tourists love it too. We didn’t try the seafood – I was too busy taking photos of this picturesque village. I just loved walking around the narrow streets and even loved the smell of fish. It set a special atmosphere, which just added to the experience. Due to the many young people moving out of the village, it’s in danger of dying out. Nowadays, the tourists keep the village alive more than the fishing industry does.
Travel tip: Say yes when the locals ask if you want to take a boat trip. It’s so worth it! It takes about 20-30 minutes, and you really get to see the village. You might also see Chinese Pink Dolphins.
We didn’t have a plan, we just walked around for as long as we wanted. Since we combined a visit to Tai O with a visit to Big Buddha, we tired out after a couple of hours of walking. But, if you’re interested in spending a few more hours in Tai O, visit this link.
How to get to Tai O:
The easiest way is to take the MTR to Tung Chung station, walk out exit B towards the Tung Chung Bus Station. Hop on bus number 11 which takes about 50-60min, and pay by using an Octopus card.
Or you can hop on bus number 23 to Ngong Ping Village to visit Big Buddha and then bus number 21 from Ngong Ping Village to Tai O. When you’re going back to Tung Chung Station, hop on bus number 11.
If you’re feeling adventurous and are not afraid of heights, take the Ngong Ping Cable Cars to Ngong Ping Village. Unfortunately, the cable cars were closed for maintenance when we visited Hong Kong in March.
Have you been to Tai O and Hong Kong? I would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment.
I’m in the process of starting a travel blog. I know that there are a lot of great travel blogs out there. I just hope there’s room for me too. I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time now. What’s holding me back? My over-thinking of course. Am I good enough? Will I write interesting posts? Am I too plain? Or simply just boring? I guess I won’t find out unless I try.
As a Norwegian, I’m used to thinking that I’m not good enough. That when there’s someone better than me out there, why should I even try to raise my voice? It’s stupid, I know. Luckily, I’ve decided to just go for it. To start a journey and see where it takes me.
Who am I? I’m 35 years of age, I live in beautiful Norway, and I just love to travel. I’ve worked in the travel industry for over 9 years now. I’ve been lucky enough to travel a bit through work, and started to travel more leisurely when I met my boyfriend 3 years ago. I wish that I was more adventurous when I was younger. That I understood that traveling was an investment. It’s of course expensive to travel, but when you think about what you get out of it, it’s actually not that expensive. What else do you purchase in life that will give you as much as traveling does? I just wish that more people would travel. It’s not the same to watch the world go by on television or internet from the comfort of your couch. Just go out there. Experience the world. Get to know people. It’s easy to sit at home and criticize everyone that doesn’t think as you do, that looks different or that lives differently than you do. But you don’t know their story. You don’t know how they’ve lived, what they’ve experienced. Think how much you’ll learn about yourself and your own life when you learn more about how the world really works.
Tai O Fishing Village, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
I’ll write about my travel experiences, both new and old. I’ll write “how to’s” and travel tips, travel guides and top things to do in different cities. I’ll dedicate blog posts to my favorite photos, favorite cities and favorite views. I’ll of course dedicate a few blog posts to the beautiful Norwegian scenery as well! Hopefully I’ll be able to inspire a few of you to travel more. I always travel on a budget, and I always plan my trips well. Hopefully my structured way of traveling will give a few of you some tips. I don’t travel to obscure destinations (at least not yet), so I guess I’m a bit “mainstream” when it comes to my destination choices. I don’t have children yet, so I guess my intended readers will be couples, friends or solo travelers. I hope to include a few guest posts as well.
I hope a few of you want to join me on my travel blog yourney.
Beautiful Ksamil, Albania