30 by 30 – What a ride!

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Well folks, pop the bottles, get out the streamers – it’s official (ok it was official about six months ago) I’ve done it – I’ve travelled to 30 different countries before my 30th birthday!!

When I set the goal five years ago it was in part a pipe dream and in part a way to continually give myself a goal to work towards that was purely fun related, not health, not career – just fun.

And shit I’ve had so much fun achieving it along the way. From seeing great sites like the Taj Mahal or Eiffel tower to being extreme like paragliding in Austria and… and… ok who am I kidding I’m NOT extreme.

Anyway it’s been amazing, and it’s not over… not by a long shot.

So what’s next? What’s my next goal, my next plan? I’m taking suggestions. Seriously – I want you to help me decide what I should do next… Do I double it before I’m 40? Aim to see all countries in the world? I’m game.

Anyway as you ponder, scroll down for my final list of 30 countries in alphabetical order. Looking at each name brings back so many exceptional memories and I’m itching to make some more.

30 by 30

(My world scratch map – the gold countries I haven’t been to… it’s on my wall and I look at it longingly everyday)

 

1 America 16 Lichtenstein
2 Australia 17 Malaysia
3 Austria 18 Mexico
4 Cambodia 19 Monaco
5 China 20 Montenegro
6 Croatia 21 Netherlands
7 England 22 Scotland
8 France 23 Singapore
9 Germany 24 Spain
10 Greece 25 Switzerland
11 India 26 Thailand
12 Ireland 27 Turkey
13 Italy 28 UAE (Dubai)
14 Fiji 29 Vatican
15 Japan 30 Vietnam

Pilgrim without a plan

Travel targets header PWAP

To say I’ve been M.I.A on the blog front is an understatement – it’s been months since I posted… not ok.

Why have I made you all suffer through my radio silence? Missing out on the brilliance that is my writing? I can put it down to one thing – lack of travel depression… LTD for short.

The LTD struggle has been real – worse than ever before. And the reason is this: I’m a pilgrim without a plan.

I landed back in NZ after achieving my 30 by 30 plan with nothing new on the horizon… just a mortgage to pay and a 9 to 5 job.

Not knowing what I’m doing next, where or when I’m going has been a beating to my soul… But let’s be honest, as far as problems go, this is as first world as it gets, so I’m packing away my LTD and getting back on the keyboard to give you guys more tips and tales from my pilgrimages. You’re welcome.

Stay tuned over the coming weeks as I will have a celebratory article about reaching my initial 30 by 30 plan… I WILL come up with a new plan… maybe with your help and I have some crazy tales from Malaysia and India to share with you. There are terror threats, Malaysia Airlines flights and human poo. You want to read this stuff.

Taj

(Oh and here’s a tease of some of the cool stuff I got to see in India – more about this soon)

Nha Trang – Take a moment from the madness

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Have you ever been to a really intense party and you’re having a great time but you just need a break? With people everywhere, a range of scents permeating your nostrils and so much to take in you just need a moment to yourself? Nha Trang is that moment at the party that is Vietnam.

Nha trang 1

This beach side town is your quintessential resort town; the main road is littered with imposing hotels, every store is geared towards tourists and there is sweet bugger all to do except lie on the beach and drink cocktails.

Now that sounds great, and it is, but it’s not my kind of place. I find these sorts of places offensive as a traveller, I don’t know why but I do. Somewhat adding insult to my self imposed injury there are direct flights from Russia to Nha Trang (a throw back from some friendly communist agreement)… as such the place is littered with Russians. This isn’t at all a bad thing but the Vietnamese subsequently speak to you in Russian and all the signs are in Russian. For me this just detracted from the charms I’d come to know and love in Vietnam.

Anyway rant over, thanks for listening. Let’s move on. I shall tell you a little more about the things you can do here to keep yourself entertained should you get bored of sunning and drinking.

Planning your pilgrimage:


 Vinpearl Land

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I introduce you to the kingpin of theme parks… the godfather, the absolute master. Vinpearl land.

What makes Vinpearl Land so special? It’s a whole freaking island dedicated to amusement/entertainment. Not only that to get there you take the longest sea cable car in the world, so the party starts before you arrive.

On the island you’ll find an amusement park with a whole host of rides, a water park spreading over 50,000m2, an aquarium, shows, food and if you’re bored (???!) a shopping street.

I actually dislike ‘rides’ with a passion, the need to scare myself shitless left me many years ago, however this place must be seen to be believed.

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100 Egg Mud Bath

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This place is surprising, different and well… down right strange. But 100% worth a visit.

Basically it’s a spa resort. It has a range of pools at different temperatures and then these wacky egg shaped ‘pools’ spread across the hillside. You hire said egg, they fill it with mud and you soak in it. It was all shades of filthy gloriousness – super relaxing and supposedly good for the skin. Win-win.

We didn’t actually hang out there too long after our mud bath as we got there so late however the property is spread over 17 hectares and I assume it would be well worth exploring.


Louisiane Brew House

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Ok so you’ve cleaned the mud out of places that mud should never be and now you need a drink… head to the Louisiane Brewhouse.

It’s right on the beach (with loungers on the sand during the day), it serves a huge range of beers (obviously… brewhouse…) and food and is quite the bustling spot.

I like to be a little more at one with the locals so it’s not my first port of call for a bevvy, however I would suggest grabbing a beer and a snack (I do seem to remember some ridiculously huge deserts) there at least once during the course of your trip.


Drink cocktails on the beach

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Finally, and as mentioned at the start, the main thing to do in Nha Trang is sit on the beach and drink.

So I shall leave you with this photo. Could be you on that deck chair, with that cocktail. Think about it 🙂

A journey through Vietnam – One Building at a time

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I’m no architect, in fact I generally struggle putting together flat pack furniture… stupid instructions that do more harm than good. But for some reason I’m infatuated with buildings when I go travelling. I think it’s because they explain more about the history of a country than perhaps anything else.

So join me now as I take you on a journey through Vietnam one building at a time…


Hanoi

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Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum in Hoi An…

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Ho Chi Minh’s Residence 

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Run down building
These sort of sites aren’t uncommon in Nam

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Room with a view
These homes overlook an American bomber jet shot down and left in this lake

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Electricity, Nam Styles
Waiting for a power company to sort power to your house can take forever… why not just DIY power like they do in Nam?

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Shopping Centre
French Quarter Hanoi… Rather different from some of those earlier pics and pic below!

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Markets and multi-coloured building
I truly don’t know if it’s my photography or the building that is on the piss

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The signs of development
Hi-rise buildings are becoming a normal site in the north


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Japanese Bridge 

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The beautiful riverside

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Vibrant colours of Hoi An

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Traditional temple

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Incredible mix of cultures can be seen in the architecture of Hoi An

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Curb side supermarket – too easy!


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Like any resort town Nha Trang has a main strip littered with hotels

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Ho Chi MinhIMG_2796

Modern meets old world, check out the differences in buildings in this pic!

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My favourite building in Ho Chi Minh – the People’s Committee Building

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Followed closely by the Municipal Theatre

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Third world?? 

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The Independence Palace, the site where the war ended in 1975

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Notre-Dame Basilica

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The most boss post office around!

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And Ho Chi Minh from above


I hope you got something out of our little journey, if not, well I had a good time taking you on it, so at least I’m a winner!

Till next time pilgrims 🙂

Vietnam – Where your traveller dollar counts

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“We love tourists. Tourism in Vietnam stopped my dad from hitting my mum.”

This is a direct quote from a tour guide in the beautiful city of Hoi An, Vietnam. In two sentences this young girl depicts not only the suffering endured, but the perpetual spirit of the Vietnamese. They’ve borne hundreds of years of hardship, yet they have this welcoming openness that really does make Vietnam a fantastic place for travellers and “tourists” alike.

Vietnam Flag

I read somewhere that Vietnam is a place “whose greatest charms lie in its everyday, unexpected curiosities just as much as in the more renowned tourist attractions,” and it couldn’t be closer to the truth. From the moment you touch down you can’t help but be caught up in all that is great in Vietnam.

Sure you should visit the “must-sees” – the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, the War Remnants Museum and Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh. But your memories of Vietnam will be made, as cliché as it sounds, getting yourself lost on the manic streets.

What makes the entire experience better is that every time you sit to eat, enjoy a beer or take part in a tour you are helping the Vietnamese (like our guide in Hoi An) provide for their families, taking away the stresses that once plagued and devastated families.

So there you have it people – what better reason to travel, spend and drink!

Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll be writing about the main centres of Nam – Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh etc. so tune in for my tips. For now though, here’s some important intel for someone going anywhere in Vietnam.

Planning your pilgrimage:


What to pack:

eating√  Always carry tissues – there will be more than one reason you need these

√  Hand sanitiser.

√  Diastop:If you don’t eat on a curbside from a local vendor while you’re in Vietnam you’ve done it all wrong. This can wreak havoc with your guts but it’s worth it, so just go prepared.

√  US Dollars – this is good for most things in Vietnam, and you will pay your hotel in USD, there are plenty of HSBC or ANZ bank machines around Vietnam to get money out. Get the maximum out (around two million dong), it sounds like loads, but you’ll get through it.


BYO nerves of steal:

traffic

√  Everything you’ve heard about the traffic in Nam is true.

√  Best tip when walking, take it slowly across the road. It goes against your better logic, but trust me, slow and steady wins the race as motorists will go around you, they can’t plan for you if you’re running.

√  If you’re on the roads for a tour or whatever be warned, they pass each other three abreast, they pass on blind corners, they pass when a truck is coming towards you. It’s horrifying – but somehow they make it through. Tip: Close your eyes if you’re a nervous passenger.


Practice your hand signals:

The Vietnamese are great at communicating even if you have no common language, get ready to sign your way to buying food or reaching a destination.


The people are excellent

People

Tourism is fairly new to Vietnam, so in my opinion the place and the people still find the whole thing a novelty. As such while people are always selling you something, they’re not as annoying as vendors in say Thailand for example.

I actually enjoyed every encounter with the Vietnamese, I found them incredibly accommodating, willing to help and willing to have a laugh.


Don’t be afraid to barter

Selling stuff

Like any markets around the world the first price they offer is not the last. So do barter – you’ll know if you’ve pushed them too low.

Interestingly we learned from a friend who travels there regularly that the people running the stores don’t necessarily own them, so they get a cut of the profit made off you. SO if you ask them what their lowest price is then offer to give them personally a little something on top of it (do it with a bit of a wink, but not too creepy) you’ll usually get a better deal.


What “motorbike” really means

MotorbikeThere are loads of men (particularly in Nha Trang, and some in Ho Chi Minh) that will yell out “motorbike, motorbike” to you. They are NOT trying to rent you a motorbike, they are trying to sell you drugs. Be careful.


There are some starting tips, there’s plenty more where that came from so keep checking back to Pilgrim With a Plan for great stories and intel! 🙂

 

 

Buildings of Italy

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Buildings aren’t always the number one choice for holiday photos. Maybe it’s because it’s hard to get a really good selfie with a building… who knows.

Fortunately for all of us I’m not one to take a selfie, I am however one for a good building photo, especially in Italy.

The array of buildings in Italy most certainly contribute to the countries charm, and they vary greatly depending on which part of the country you are in.

So as a gift for your eyes I’ve collated some of my fave building shots. You’re welcome…

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Mykonos – Where the early bird doesn’t catch the worm

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Mykonos streetYou know the saying ‘the early bird catches the worm’? I take that saying very seriously. I’m up before the sun; cleaning, going to the gym, being productive, on the flip side by 3pm you might as well put a fork in me, cause I’m done.

When holidaying in Mykonos however my early rising nature was null and void… no one else is up early and nothing is happening. In fact if you’re up too early in Mykonos you’re the Island Idiot as the fun doesn’t begin until late, very late… and there’s no room for tiredness.

So to help you avoid any timing issues here are my tips on how to spend a day on Mykonos.

 

Planning your pilgrimage:


Morning:

Mykonos Pool√ Wake up around 10.30am, or basically just before they stop serving breakfast at your hotel.

√ Get yourself a plate of delicious fruit, maybe a croissant and a nice refreshing juice. Enjoy.

√ Move the three steps from the breakfast area to the pool and have a rest. All that eating is tiring.

√ Once the food has digested, jump in the pool and cool off. You’ll already be hot as hell.


Midday:

Mykonos food

 

√ If you’re hungover head into town and get a Souvlaki with hot chips in the pita. It’s goddam delicious and is the most popular Greek street food, well known for curing any ailments you may have as a result of last nights drinking.

√ Take a boat to Paradise Beach.

 

Mykonos beach√ Get a cocktail from the beach bar, you’ll have worked up a thirst by now, then find yourself a lounger.

√ Relax and soak up some rays.

√ Get another drink.

√ Swim in the ocean.

√ Relax.

 


Evening:

Mykonos drinking√ Back at your hotel, don’t rush. Put your feet up, have a sleep if you must. The evening activities don’t start till 8pm, 9pm even. Be careful not to get on the wines too early though, unless you’re a seasoned drinker there is no way you’ll be able to keep up unless you have a break now.

√ At say 8.30pm or 9pm head into town and find a restaurant that tickles your fancy.

√ Have a long dinner. Really long. Three courses sort of scenario, with carafes of wine of course.

Mykonos drinking 2√ Hit the town. There are an abundance of bars and clubs on Mykonos and quite often there will be a dance party on too. Just ask around and see what’s happening.

√ Pretty much every bar will offer you a free drink to get you inside. You can be a dick and use the free drinks then not stay, but then you’re a dick. Don’t be a dick.

√ It’s quite normal to buy an entire bottle of spirits in Mykonos and then buy mixers to go with it. Do that. Not by yourself, that’s silly, but you know, with friends.

√ Once in the club with your bottle of whatever just drink and dance, drink and dance, drink and dance till they close the doors or the sun comes up…

Then simply repeat from the top again!

Not a bad way to spend a day in my books! Enjoy 🙂


 

Planning Pilgrimages – Some Top tips

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Wanderlust got too much? Need to get on a plane asap? I don’t blame you – best decision you’ll ever make in my rather bias opinion!

But once you know where you want to go then where do you start?

Great question! Here are some tips based on how I plan my pilgrimages.

Planning your pilgrimage:


sites to use and avoid√   I always start with a visit to TripAdvisor. That site is your one stop shop for information, but as per my previous post about reviewers, take every piece of advice on there with a grain of salt… some people just like to moan.

√   For accommodation I’m a booking.com girl through and through. However when you find a hotel you like for the price you like just check the hotels own website – sometimes they have even better deals!

√   For flights I used to use webjet.com, however they don’t list ALL airlines so I’ve started using farecompare.com instead.

For the most accurate result go to your search engine of choice (eg. Google) and type in where you want to fly in and to, it will give you all the options for that route. From there (and yep it’s annoying) compare the airlines through their own websites. It’s truly the only way you get a legitimate comparison. 


 

timing is everything

 

√   Check if there are any big events happening in the area you are visiting, and if you aren’t going to that event maybe book for another time as events mean less accommodation available and at higher prices.

√   Also obviously consider weather/political situation etc.. If there’s a cyclone warning and a political coup it’s probably best to avoid right?

 

 


do a practice run

 

√   I always do at least one round of fake bookings – seeing if I can get flights on the right days, accommodation on the right days etc., then I go back and book.

√   It helps to see if any of your flights/tours are going to mess up the rest of your plans.

√   Just ensure you write down/bookmark your bookings so you remember what you did.

 


pre travel must dos

 

√  Vaccinations and Visas are your two main ‘pre-travel must-dos’ – nothing worse than turning up somewhere and you don’t have the right documentation for a visa, or you get sick as hell!

√   Will you need vaccinations? Check here: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel

√   Will you need visas? Check here: https://www.visahq.com/visas.php

 


documents and dull stuff

 

√   Having all travel details on hand is hugely important when on the road. If you get in a cab and you can’t speak the same language being able to show the driver where you want to go is priceless. You also of course need to know where and when you need to be places.

√   I’m going to do a blog on travel apps that will help you with document control… however I actually kick it old school and (you guessed it) rock a good old fashioned spreadsheet… In there I put flight times/reference numbers/hotel address, contact number etc.. I even put on there all the things I want to do in each town/area… meaning all info is in one place.

If you want a copy of my spreadsheet I’d be happy to share. Just go to the contact me section and give me your email addy 🙂


So there are some of my top tips buf  if you have any please do share!

Happy travelling 🙂

 

Life’s a beach

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√  Sun beaming down on you till your skin turns red.

√  Sand getting in between your toes… and in other crevasses.

√  Hair wet and cascading down your back… into a knotty mess.

That’s when you know life’s a beach – and goddam isn’t it great.

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit more than my fair share of beaches. Living on an island I am privy to loads of amazing spots and over the years I’ve travelled to outstanding ocean shores.

So for your viewing pleasure I’ve compiled photos from beaches around the world. Here they are in alphabetical order, basically because I couldn’t pick my favourites 🙂

Amalfi, Italy

Amalfi, Italy

Blenheim 2

Blenheim, New Zealand

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

Cathedral Cove2

Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

Croatia

Croatia

Croatia2

Croatia

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Fiji

Fiji

Fiji2

Fiji

Gallipoli

Gallipoli, Turkey

Hahei

Hahei, New Zealand

Halong Bay

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Hvar

Hvar, Croatia

Kaikoura

Kaikoura, New Zealand

Koh Samui

Koh Samui, Thailand

Thailand

Koh Tao, Thailand

Maraetai 2

Maraetai, New Zealand

Maraetai

Maraetai, New Zealand

Mission Bay

Mission Bay, New Zealand

Montenegro 2

Montenegro

Montenegro

Montenegro

Nha Trang

Nha Trang, Vietnam

North Shore Auckland

North Shore Auckland, New Zealand

Northland

Northland (Coopers Beach) New Zealand

Omaha nz

Omaha, New Zealand

Positano

Positano, Italy

Queenstown

Queenstown, New Zealand

Rangitoto

Rangitoto, New Zealand

Rangitoto2

Rangitoto, New Zealand

Siem Reap

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Sorrento

Sorrento, Italy

Sounds nz

South Island (Malborough Sounds), New Zealand

Tokyo

Tokyo, Japan

Waiheke

Waiheke, New Zealand

Waiheke2

Waiheke, New Zealand

West coast nz

West Coast, New Zealand

Relax it’s Fiji time

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I have a problem with how the word “busy” is used as a status symbol now. A friend asks “how’s work”, “oh so busy”, you pass a colleague in the corridor “how’s your day?”, “crazy busy”. It’s like the word ‘busy’ reflects your importance in the world.

Well let me tell you folks, if you want to go one place where you won’t hear the word busy… Fiji is for you.

In fact the most common phrase you’ll hear in Fiji means the polar opposite of busy… “Fiji Time”

Fiji time (as explained by our taxi driver) means things never happen on time because they are in fact too busy… too busy being lazy that is. Words from the driver not me.

For example: the airport is under construction, apparently due to be finished 18 months ago. I’d say it has 18 months to go. “haha” says our driver “yes it’s on Fiji Time”.

So if you want a break from “busy”, Fiji is for you.

Fiji beach

     me fiji

Fiji

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Planning your Pilgrimage:


What to expect?

Nothing is on time: “Fiji Time” means nothing is on time, no point getting annoyed, just embrace the slower pace of life.

Fiji homes

 

Poverty: If you dare to indulge in more than just your resort and venture out on the main island you will see that the standard of living is low. Perhaps I’m ignorant but it surprised me how some Fijians live.

 

 

 

Fiji dancing

 

 

Happiness: Remember money ain’t everything, every Fijian I came in contact with was happy and extremely helpful – the level of service there is second to none.

 

 


Where on the Island to stay?

Denarau: Agh the tourist mecca that is Denarau, it’s ok I guess if you like loads of restaurants, a small shopping mall and resorts. However promise me that if you stay here you will explore outside Denarau as it’s not an accurate representation of the island.

Club Fiji

Nadi: the town centre of Nadi is more ‘raw’ and a not really walking distance to any resorts. However there are great beaches and resorts to choose from.

We stayed at Club Fiji, it was basically the cheapest resort we could find that had bungalows on the beach – a must do for us in Fiji. I would recommend it as the price you pay for what you get is fine. The service is fine, the activities are great (free snorkeling trips) and it’s right on the beach. We paid approximately $130 a night for two people.

SuvaSuva: This is the land of industry/business hub of Fiji. It’s also a three hour drive from Nadi. Now I won’t say “don’t bother” going out there, as the drive there is both interesting (as you drive past villages) and beautiful (as the road follows the coast). However there’s not a heck of a lot to attract you to the town.

If you do go there stay at the Grand Pacific Hotel – it’s absolutely incredible (as seen above).

Outer Islands: Now here’s something I have no knowledge of, however from all accounts you must get to an outer island when in Fiji, we didn’t have time but it’s on my to-do list.


What to do?

Me relaxing

 

Nothing: It’s a tropical island. Relax.

Take a book (or 10): The standard holiday day while visiting Fiji entails, waking whenever you want, going for breakfast at your resort, showering (if you must), then finding a hammock/lounger and reading. Move only for toilet stops and food.

 

Fiji snorkelling

Snorkelling: Of course there is much more to do in Fiji than lay around. We went snorkelling by a reef (of which there are many to choose from) and it was incredible, a plethora of multi coloured fish, unafraid of your presence.

In addition to snorkelling you can jump out of planes, ride horses, do an array of water sports and much more. So if your bum gets sore from overuse fear not, there is plenty to do.

 


What to eat?

KokodaKokoda: Basically it’s marinated raw fish in coconut cream and I could eat it on the daily. It’s fresh, delicious and won’t make you fat. Winning combo.

Curry: Also ensure you purchase at least one curry on the Island (I’d recommend fish or goat), not only because the curry is delicious but it also comes with loads of tasty add ons such as poppadom and tamarind dipping sauce. It’s a feast of epic proportions and yes probably could add on the pounds for you, but it’s worth it!


 

Now I was only in Fiji for three days so I know there is more to see/do and experience. If anyone has any other tips on Fiji I’d love to hear from you – leave a comment below or click here to drop me an email or click here to leave a comment on my Facebook page! 🙂