Before writing this post I did my research to see if
others had similar items on their lists. I found one article that highlighted
some of the ‘avoid-items’ I have listed but this article was met with a million
and one comments saying the writer was an idiot. Apparently it’s obvious what
NOT to take, and any traveller would know that. However, there are some
beginners out there, and even some of the most experienced nomads have their
backpacks full of crap, I included. This post is more aimed for the
less-experienced, haven’t been travelling out of their pockets for three years
kinda person. Also, it is more aimed for a traveller on the go, rather than my
backpacking life where I get lazy and live somewhere for six months at a time. So
here is my list of ten items you should avoid on your travels. Please feel free
to state the obvious, but hey, no gypsy nomad backpacker is perfect.
1. Photos – you won’t forget what your boyfriend, mum, dog looks like so no need for photos. You’ll look like an idiot sticking these up for two nights at a time in every hostel you stay in, and no doubt you have a phone with photos on, or you have a memory? Leave the photos you printed off during your lunch break at home, I’m sure your dog won’t be upset.
2. Heels – or just more than 2/3 pairs of shoes. This is mainly a girl error, but I’m no judge. They’re bulky, they’re heavy and no one else will be wearing them. Plus you’ll be able to last much longer at that grungy club in Eastern Europe without them.
3. Laptop – people who take laptops travelling really annoy me. Guilty guilty, I did take mine, but I stayed in the same place for four month periods and I bought a ridiculously light travel netbook and sold my previous one. I’ve seen friends take MACs on three day trips. They’re expensive, you probably won’t be insured for the full amount of the laptop, and they’re heavy! Leave it out; most hostels have free computers and WIFI anyway.
4. Hair-dryer – hostels will have them, if not then man up, you’re probably in a hot country where sweating even more isn’t ideal.
5. The whole of the pharmacy – take your basics, pain killers, plasters, malaria tablets, voila. I’ve got a friend who could give the Doctor’s surgery a run for its money. You can buy emergency stuff in other countries, even if can’t understand the packaging its better than trying to find your malaria tablets if you’re rummaging round a first aid kit with every tablet under the sun.
6. Another memory card/or even worse, another camera – my dad once took two cameras on holiday in case the memory of the first camera got full… this is clearly a dad error rather than a traveller error, but lessons can be learned from this man. Don’t take another memory card, if yours gets full then take a memory stick, or even better put your memory card in a hostel computer and email all the photos to yourself, that way they will never be lost.
7. One too many books – two words, book exchange. Obviously put, books are heavy and space consuming. Take a few cheap paperbacks and then swap them with a book exchange that most hostels have. Your Kindle is too expensive and too annoying to charge along with your phone, camera and IPod. Leave it out.
8. Shower gel – just use shampoo. As a guilty skin-care, hair-care freak, I already know the amount of crap girls (and guys arguably) can take with them travelling. So I have now learnt to ditch the shower gel and just use shampoo, it does exactly the same thing. Worried about using all your precious, expensive special lightening, blonde, anti-frizz shampoo? Then use the shower gel which is provided in most hostels.
9. Food – you don’t need much food. Take a snack for the journey then grab anything else on the way. Half the fun of travelling to other countries is to see their versions of chocolate bars. Also, avoid taking any ‘home’ food, if you’re living in a place for a while and you get desperate for a jar of marmite, then get it shipped over, postage can be surprisingly cheap these days.
10. Guidebooks – heavy, bulky. Admittedly a travel book has saved my neck a few times, but that’s more of a lesson of preparation than knowing what to take. These books can often limit your travels as they recommend the most touristy of places, which will be highlighted in your hostel or in the city anyway. Research the ‘need to knows’ before you go then these books won’t even be missed.
Just like any self-confessed fatty I love food. I
love to travel and try new foods but as a vegetarian it can be a bit
challenging, but I’ve still found several ways to remain far away from my
bikini body. So take a look at my favourite foods from around the world, and
learn just how to be a greedy bitch in style.
1. Gelato – Venice
I spent a few days in Venice during the summer of 2010 and I can easily say I spent most of time eating gelato. I’m not a massive fan of icecream in general but this pure heavenly dessert was enough to convert me. The gelato in Venice is widely available on little corners, with local venders using the finest ingredients. Try a variety of fruity flavours, chocolate types or my personal favourites of coffee and caramel. It’s the smoothest, creamiest ‘icecream’ you’ll ever try and it’s pretty cheap for this Italian destination.
2. Brie and red onion chutney sandwich – Haworth
I think everyone is a bit bias towards their own country’s food; it reminds you of home, family and comfort. Even though the UK has a bad reputation when it comes to food, I think the grub here is pretty fantastic, hence why I’m putting this beast of a sandwich at number 2. The home of this sandwich is Haworth, which is a small town in Yorkshire full of cobbled streets and home to the Bronte sisters. Towns like this in the UK tend to have a great selection of pubs, tea houses or rustic style cafes, which serve good homemade British food. The sandwich in this town I ate back in 2008 over the Christmas period, as there is a candlelight procession in Haworth during December. This was arguably the best sandwich I’ve ever tasted and every bite was a like a morsel of Christmas, winter and Yorkshire all in one. It sounds cheesy (no pun intended) but this sandwich proves to me that the UK does have good food, and that we take care and attention with good ingredients, and rustic country style dining.
3. Happy pizza - Phnom Penh
Happy pizza? How can a pizza be happy? Well this pizza certainly can. When dining in Phnom Penh we found a restaurant recommended in one of our travel books called the Happy Pizza Place. Basically this restaurant will ask if you want your pizza ‘happy’ (free of charge) and you’ll be delighted by the ‘types’ of ingredients that come available to you. Those mushrooms you ordered may not be what you first thought, and those herbs aren’t just basil… Take a few friends to this place and later watch them laugh their heads off while convincing you they’ve lost their arm, because this is what happened in my experience.
4. Raclette - The French Alps
A ski trip isn’t a ski trip without some kind of obese cheese feast. Both times that I have been to the French Alps skiing I have experienced raclette, which if you aren’t sure, is half a cheese (a huge cheese) grilled on your table, and you scrape the top layer off and eat with a selection of vegetables, breads and meats. Both times my friends and I have failed to finish the mass of cheese which is available to us, but my God it’s a hell of a meal and a trip to The Alps isn’t complete without it.
5. Mezze board – Kavos
Kavos isn’t the most Greek of the Greek islands in terms of authentic food, real Greek cuisine and the finest ingredients, but still the right foods are there. I went on an 18-30s holiday with two of my friends in 2011 and I’ve got to say one of the best bits of the holiday was the mezze board we ate on our last day. That might not say much for the holiday, mainly because we aren’t really the let’s get orange and party with topless guys until 6am kind of people, but still. Our mezze board consisted of olives, hummus, feta, pitta, sun dried tomatoes, olive oil, tzatziki and aubergine. Heaven. Eating real Greek food in glorious weather whilst overlooking the ocean, life could’ve been worse.
Kansai is a big area in
central Japan and a tourist hotspot. It homes two of the most popular Japanese
cities, Kyoto and Osaka, but there is also plenty to see outside of these two
hubs, check out some of the towns more off the tourist beaten track.
Nara was on my ‘To Do List’ when I first came to Japan, and having now been a few times I still highly recommend it. Nara is a former capital of Japan and worth at least a few days of your time. The large town is knee-deep in history, culture and Japanese tradition, and it has grass, something which Kyoto and Osaka lack. Nara has a lot of wild deer roaming around, which is a reason worth visiting the city alone. The area is also home to many historical sights and many claims to fame including the largest Buddha in Japan (and one of the largest in the world), and also the largest wooden building in the world.
The Buddha (in Tōdai-ji) is worth vising, and can often be crowded more foreign and Japanese tourists alike, but other places worth checking out as well are Kōfuku-ji and Himuro Shrine. However, I would argue that the reason to visit Nara is simply for its nature. I’d recommend roaming Nara in good weather, preferable either in the sakura or maple-leaf viewing season, where you can wander the many parks and forests and be lucky enough to be among wild deer. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during October you can experience some kind of deer festival where the deer are wrestled to the ground to have their antlers trimmed. Sounds a bit vicious but it’s a common day out in the autumn season.
Minō is a beautiful small town just north of Osaka which is famous for its waterfall, and a good place to visit during the autumn where you can see the maple leaves at their finest. The town prides itself in nature and beauty, and the famous maples, so much so that they deep fry and bread the leaves and then coat them in pepper or sugar. They can be a bit greasy but it’s a once in a life time opportunity to eat fried leaves...
Another key reason to explore Minō is to watch wild monkeys roam around the park and forest. I’m yet to see a monkey dip into the waterfall, but you might be lucky enough.
Kobe is famous for its good quality beef, but as a vegetarian I can easily say you should visit this city for other reasons as well. Kobe is often underestimated as a city to visit in the Kansai area but I think it has a lot to offer. The city can be seen from many different angles in terms of what it provides. For example, you can explore the cosmopolitan harbour area which is very modern and chic, or you venture into the more Japanese section in the centre of the city with small streets and lots of neon bars. Or, what I would mostly recommend is to take a cable car or hike to the top of Kobe and see great nature and fantastic views of the city. Visit during the winter and you can see great starlit views from the very top of the mountain.
I love beer. I love whiskey. I seem to love anything that will blur my vision, waste my money and make me forget everything as well as my dignity. Here is the post that may only matter when you are deciding where to travel next, a post about alcohol and where the hell to find it. Amongst my travels I am always swayed to a place if there is a brewery or some kind of alcohol filled tour, therefore welcome to my tipsy post about where the alcohol brands are around the world, the tours they give and essentially how the locals get drunk and what on.
Dublin needs no introduction on the alcohol front. Famous for Guinness and Jameson, Dublin is definitely a place to visit to try the local poison. I feel ashamed to say I’ve never been into the Guinness Storehouse, due to my friend’s preferred plans at the time, but we did take a trip to The Old Jameson Distillery. Sweet honeyed whiskey and a place I would recommend. At €14 a ticket you get the typical tour and about three shots of free samples at the end, which you can sample with a choice of ginger, soda and the sort. I liked the distillery; it had a very warm and homey feel to it which can often be lacked in factory tours. Also they host a nice restaurant and café at the entrance where you could buy a variety of Jameson mixed cocktails/hot drinks, however even though the Dublin factory used to be one of the main for the distilling, it is no longer in use and is only used for the tours. Nevertheless, if you have the time, take a wonder over there at least for the Jameson hot chocolate at the entrance of the distillery which is to die for.
You certainly don’t need me to tell you how to enjoy the frolics and frivolities of this city, but if you happen to be interested then I’d recommend going to the Heineken Experience. €16-€18 a ticket gets you a similar tour to The Old Jameson Distillery, which includes a look around the factory which is still in production, and two half pints of Heineken at the end of your tour. On a two day trip to Amsterdam I and my friends went here and we had a good time. There are other great things to do in this city but this Dutch drink is pretty fantastic, so I’d recommend taking a trip round the factory of this well-known Dutch brand.
There are some great beers in Japan, and even better when they are free. Just outside of my former home, Osaka, there is Asahi Beer Suita, which homes one of the main breweries for the famous Japanese beer. Me and my friend turned up, and we were supposed to have a reservation, which I’m still not sure how you make happen, but anyway we wriggled our way in and we got given a thirty minute FREE tour of the running factory and FREE three half pints of beer at the end. FREE. It was cheaper to go here for a tour then go to a normal bar for one drink. Also you could choose between the beers at the end. The perfect tour all in all, thanks Asahi!
I went to the Champagne region when I was about five years old, so I can’t remember too much but I know I want to go back. From what I can remember me and my family drove to different vineyards and bought different bottles of wine. We got to sample wine at each vineyard, and obviously the driver limited themselves. Also, I believe the champagne was quite cheap compared to what you pay in a supermarket in the UK. Upon doing my research there are tours within the region so that you can try different champagnes without worrying about driving, therefore the perfect tour.
The more alcohol filled places I will go to, the more I will add. Cheers!
When looking at some
African or Middle Eastern countries, I can then say Japan is pretty normal and
not a great deal different from the UK. It’s a civil society and everything is
pretty accessible and not hard to come by. They have everything which I use in the UK, that I use to lead my typical daily life, for example, banks, supermarkets,
great transport, good housing with great utilities, and fantastic friendly people
to top it off. However, Japan is a pretty crazy country, but in a good sense.
It’s a little bit strange and extremely quirky. Here are some of the things
which appear very different to me, they might seem minute but it’s all part of
the novelty of Japan and the Japanese way of life.
Dogs – there a lot of tiny dogs in Japan, most of them in outfits, most of them carted around in prams… I once trekked up a mountain with my friend. It was a struggle for us to climb, then at the top we saw an old couple both with prams, with dogs in them. This wouldn’t exactly happen in the Yorkshire Moors.
Toilets – you can go to one restaurant and it’s a squat style toilet. You go next door to another restaurant and the toilet seat will open as you walk toward it, birds will tweet as you sit down (so no-one can hear what you’re doing…) and then as you get up the toilet flushes and the lids closes for you.
Bars – a bar with just five seats isn’t strange at all. What’s even more normal in Japan is going down a strange alley which looks like a row of flats, taking a rickety lift to a random floor then going to one of the flat doors and it’s a bar. Also, they have a lot of ‘all you can drink bars’ which to any westerner is heaven! However, they are usually time limited, so for me it’s more of a challenge of how much I can drink in the allocated time.
Technology/internet/ATMs – for one of the most technological advanced countries in the world, the country actually isn’t that advanced. I work in a school where we use chalk and a blackboard, and where only two or three computers have internet. Wi-Fi is limited all over Japan; you can only use it if you use one of Japan’s mobile networks, and if you have an appropriate phone. Most ATM’s stop working past 10pm for many banks, so if you’re stuck in the middle of the city and its past 10pm and you’ve used all your money on booze, well then you’re walking home my friend.
Novelty noises – my rice cooker plays a delightful tune when the rice has cooked. Ambulances with speaker phones say “excuse me, please move out of the way.” Often at train stations there will be speakers playing bird tweets so it seems many birds are delightfully singing nearby.
Vending machines – they are more vending machines in Japan than they are people in Australia. There are beer vending machines which a five year old could use, however for cigarette vending machines you need some kind of chip which is available to anyone 20+.
Host boys – in the bigger cities, such as Osaka where I lived, you will find host boys on a night looking for female customers. Host boys are basically a kind of escort, they get young women to come to their bars and drink with them. I once watched a documentary where some girls can spend over £1000 at these bars just to drink with these men. The host boys wear silk suits, have the craziest hair and look very feminine; plus they’re pretty interesting to watch on a Saturday evening.
Working culture – even the Japanese know their working culture is pretty crazy. An average day for the average Japanese worker can be twelve or more hours, five (sometimes) six days a week. Then they tend to go for drinks with their colleagues after work. In the past (it’s calmed down a bit now) if the worker didn’t go out for drinks with his colleagues he was showing a lack of respect, and he would tend not to advance in the company. Also, the Japanese don’t have many paid holidays (perhaps 8 days a year), but most of them don’t take their holidays anyway as they will fall behind in their work.
Pachinko – pachinko parlours are big amusement arcades found all over Japan, from the biggest cities to the smallest countryside village. Rows upon rows of some kind of amusement game, where people can gamble crazy amounts of money. It’s quite confusing when you go in one, and it’s strange to see a spotty teenage boy playing a game with an elderly housewife, then an average business man next to them playing the same thing. They are very loud, very smoky, and very strange, plus you don’t even win money at the end.
Anime – there isn’t anything crazy about anime, which is a style of Japanese cartoon and comic, but it’s crazy when you see anime pornography… on the doors of pachinko parlours and many magazines in convenience stores you will see adult magazines but with anime characters. So basically, it's a drawn girl with huge breasts and a tiny thong. This is really strange to me. Also, I heard in Japanese pornography, everything is blurred out. So, the male and female ‘parts’ are blurred out to the audience. It kind of questions the whole point of watching it in the first place.
Safety – Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. I know there isn’t anything crazy about this, but at first glance it can seem strange. People leave their keys in their car, unlocked and unattended whilst they go for a day at work. I now go running in the darkest alleys, middle of the night, with my iPod in and I still couldn’t feel safer. I’ve heard the police aren’t fantastic in Japan, just because there isn’t any crime. If you lose your purse, it will most likely be handed in, plus you could leave your bag unattended for a day, and you could go back and it will still be there in one piece.
Foreigners – if you’re a foreigner in Japan you are definitely an outsider. I live in one of the biggest cities in Japan, with a lot of other foreigners, and yet I get stared at a ridiculous amount. I am fairly tall (in Japanese standards) and I have blonde hair and blue eyes, but so do a lot of other foreigners, but yet you will get starred at. I’ve had people follow me around with their cameras/phones; people stop walking in surprise and just stare as I walk past. At first it’s quite the novelty to be classed as some kind of exotic being, but after a while it becomes very annoying and intimidating. Just be aware, that even if you live here for many years and even if you speak fluent Japanese, you may get stared at and be seen as a foreigner.
Photobooths – in the main cities in Japan you’ll find an array of photobooths which are donned by giggling Japanese girls. These photobooths are what I class as very Japanese. They are cute, they are kitsch, they incorporate anime, and they are dramatic. Take a look at the cover photo of this blog to see what I mean.
Japan is a great country and it has the friendliest and most polite people I have ever met, but it certainly does take some getting used to. I do love this country and its charm, and it certainly is one of the quirkiest, strangest places I have ever been.