Shocking and Spectacular – Visit Hanoi

Hanoi header

It’s hot, it kinda smells like burning and fish and there are bugs… lots of them.

To say Hanoi is a shock to the senses would be an understatement… but to say it’s one of the most intriguing and fantastic places I have ever visited would not do it justice.

Hanoi has a unique charm which really comes down to the fact that’s it’s the only place I’ve visited that travellers do as locals do. You sit next to a local for dinner, you buy goods from the same stores, you walk the same streets.

Adding to its appeal is the fact it’s the cheapest place I’ve ever visited. Beers are 20c and dinner is $5. You can live like a king on a backpackers budget.

So go on – embrace the madness.

Planning your Pilgrimage:


 Crossing the road

crossing the road

I covered this in my last article about Vietnam, but it’s worth mentioning again.

When crossing the road SLOW AND STEADY wins the race. Don’t run across the road, literally step out and walk calmly, the thousands of scooter riders will go around you, even if it doesn’t look like it.


Eat/Drink

Eamon eating

in the wall cooking

 

Eat and drink at side of the road establishments. Yep the places with kids stools, plastic tables and no roof.

Please do this.

Yes the hole in the wall oven looks ominous, sure you’re never 100% sure what it is you’re eating, but the flavours are a treat for your tastebuds and it’s such an awesome experience. Trust me, you’ll have your best meals at these places.

 

 


Bia Hoi

happy local

Bia hoiI’ve mentioned the price of beer, and yes it’s ridiculously cheap, but moreover drinking beer on the side of an intersection is the best way to spend an evening in Hanoi. It’s hugely entertaining as you watch locals weave around each other on scooters, narrowly avoiding collision.

There are tiny beer selling ‘establishments’ on nearly every corner – our favourite was a jewellery store by day, then by night they wheeled out the keg, set up the stools and wam bam thank you mam it became a bar!


Stay

In the Old Quarter.

Specifically I’d like to recommend the Cinnamon Hotel chain (they have hotels in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh). A first class experience on a backpackers budget. Super cheap but offer beautiful rooms, amazing service and free massages!


Visit

Ho Chi Minhs Mausoleum (where an embalmed Uncle Ho lays)

mosuleum

√  Go super early in the morning as it gets really busy but in fairness the line moves quickly

√  Side notes:

  • He’s sent back to Russia to be tidied up for two months each year, so make sure it’s not when you’re there.
  • You have to cover up knees and shoulders to go in

Huu Tiep Lake and the Downed B-52

B52√  Huu Tiep Lake and the Downed B-52

  • OK this is a nightmare to find but well worth it once you do.
  • It’s an America bomber planed that was shot down during the war and now sits in a lake in a suburb of Vietnam basically.
  • They say the address is: Ngo 55, Hoang Hoa Tham, Hanoi, Vietnam, but try asking locals or getting a cab there…
  • It is walking distance from Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Explore the Old Quarter

me carrying goods

old town shopping√  Really take it all in. Get lost. Turn corners, take narrow side ally ways.

√  It’s a crazy place with loads going on, and each street is sectioned into a ‘theme’ so there’s home goods street, sunglasses street, children’s toys street and even party decorations street!


Walk around Hoàn Kiếm lake

lake

√  Located right by the Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem is a great place to go for a walk for three reasons:

1) There’s a pedestrian only track so you aren’t afraid of being hit by a bike.

2) It’s very relaxing and calm, the polar opposite of the rest of Hanoi.

3) There are always cool things happening at the lake, brides getting wedding photos, Vietnamese practicing Tai Chi.


 

So there you have it – Hanoi in 800 words or less. It really does deserve your time and your tourist dollar – go get lost in the mayhem.

Planning Pilgrimages – Some Top tips

started header

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

beaches header

 

√  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

fiji time header

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

 IMG_5423

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! 🙂

1 Year and 3 Countries to go

30by30header1

Well here we are folks, I’m about to mark my 29th birthday giving me one year to complete my goal of visiting 30 countries by the time I’m 30.

I have some plans in the pipeline to achieve this, but I won’t spoil the surprise – just keep tuned in to Pilgrim With A Plan to see where I end up.

In the mean time I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane, looking at my snaps from all the countries I’ve visited thus far and for your enjoyment I’ve included fun fact about each country.

My Pilgrimages so far:


1

America

America

The United States National Anthem is the only anthem in the world that doesn’t have the name of the country in it.

Pic: My mumma, sister and I at Disneyland, every 7-year-olds dream!!

2

IMG_5308

Australia

If you visited one new beach in Australia every day, it would take over 27 years to see them all.

Pic: Yes that’s me as a child holding a Koala… I know cute right?

3

Austria

Austria

The sewing machine was invented in 1818 by an Austrian.

 

4

Cambodia

Cambodia

The birth rate in Cambodia is three times higher than the death rate.

 

5

China

China

The number one hobby in China is stamp collecting.

 

6

Croatia

Croatia

The necktie was invented in Croatia.

 

7

England

England

The English drink more tea per capita than any other country in the world.

8

Fiji beach

Fiji

Fiji has 28 airports, but only four of them have paved runways.

 

9

France

France

France is the most visited country in the world.

 

10

Germany

Germany

Gummy bears were invented by a German.

 

11

Greece

Greece

Greece has one of the lowest divorce rates in the EU.

 

12

 Ireland

Ireland

Dublin boasts one pub for every 100 people.

13

Italy

Italy

The famous children’s story,  Pinocchio,  was written by an Italian.

 

14

Japan

Japan

Sometimes the trains are so crowded railway staff are employed to cram passengers inside.

 

15

LichtensteinThe entire country of Liechtenstein can be rented for $70,000 a day. Snoop Dogg tried to do it once for a music video – but he didn’t give them enough notice.

16

MexicoChihuahua dogs get their name from a Mexican state.

17

monaco

Monaco

Monaco has more policemen per person than any other country in the world. Crime is not a problem.

 

18

Montenegro

Montenegro

According to studies Montenegro is fast emerging as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world today.

 

19

Amsterdam

Netherlands

70% of the world’s bacon comes from Netherlands.

 

20

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland includes over 790 islands. These include groups called Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides.

 

21

Spain

Spain

Spain produces 44% of the world’s olive oil.

 

22

Switzerland

Switzerland

In Switzerland, it is illegal to keep just one guinea pig. You got to have them in pairs.

 

23

Thailand

Thailand

One-tenth of all animal species on Earth live in Thailand.

 

24

Turkey

Turkey

The Turkish introduced coffee into Europe.

25

Dubai

UAE (Dubai)

There are ATMs in Dubai that dispense gold bars.

 

26

Vatican

Vatican

The Vatican has its own mail system – with its own Post Office and stamps and many Romans use its services since it is much quicker than the routine Italian postal system.

 

27

Vietnam

Vietnam

Vietnam is the largest exporter of cashews in the world, and the second largest exporter of rice.

 

 

There you have it – don’t say I never teach you anything!

If you want to keep up to date with my adventures subscribe (form on the right of every page), or follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Rome – Where fun once prevailed

Rome header

Health and Safety policies are ruining fun. There, I said it.

Kids games like bull rush are being cut from the school yard as little Billy hurt himself that one time. Hand rails create barriers between travellers and sites because some fool with a camera leaned to far over and fell in…

Rome ItalyMaybe this is why I like Rome, you find yourself imagining a time when fun prevailed over Health and Safety concerns. When the Colosseum was flooded with water to allow battleships to fight. Agh the good old days.

But seriously I love Rome, it’s history, it’s cobbled streets, it’s bustling Piazza’s… all helping you look past the fact you have to weave around every man and his SLR and dodge street performers vying for your tourist dollars.

ANYWHO ‘When In Rome’ there’s plenty to do, here are my top tips.

Planning your pilgrimage:


The Colosseum
Colosseum

√  Numero uno stop for me – love this place.

√  Go super super early or really late in the day – queues for this place can get out of control.

√  Grab the audio guide at the front desk, it’s so interesting listening to all the things that went on here (including dwarf fights and of course battleships).

 


Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio 

Monumento     √  Located on the Piazza Venezia – a short walk from The Colosseum.

√  Made entirely out of marble the outside of the building is certainly worth a look.

√  More importantly though pay to get the lift to the top of the building – the panoramic views of the city are unforgettable .

 


Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain     √  Want to ensure you return to Rome someday? Or want to find love? You have to go to Trevi Fountain.

√  Legend has it that you should throw three coins into the fountain. The first coin guarantees your return to Rome, the second will ensure a new romance, and the third will ensure marriage.

√  Hmmm two parts have worked for me, maybe I need to go back and throw that third coin.

√  Despite all that it’s magnificent in size and design – a must see.

 

 


The Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

√  A little further on from the Trevi Fountain are the Spanish Steps.

√  I enjoy getting something to eat and just sitting on the steps, people watching. There’s always so much going on.

 

 

 


The Vatican

The Vatican     √  Want to add another country to your list? The Vatican is for you. That’s right, technically the Vatican is a country in it’s own right.

√  Of course there are plenty more reasons to visit. The Vatican is eerily holy, with mummies of popes in the basement. There’s the awe inspiring St Peter’s Basilica and then there is the Sistine Chapel and it’s famous Michelangelo painted roof. The guy spent four years on scaffolding painting that bad boy – and I’m glad he did, it’s just… wow, go check it out.

√  Go EARLY –Don’t even brush your hair, just go. You can wait for up to 2 hours to get in here! The earlier the shorter the queue.


Villa Borghese Gardens

View from Gardens

 

     √  While charming and historic, Rome is also chaotic, I recommend heading up the Spanish steps into the Villa Borghese Gardens and just taking a walk, it’s serene and calming, two adjectives I would not apply to the rest of Rome.

 

 


Other helpful bits:

Busy Rome     √  Stay: by the Rome Termini Train station, it’s an easy walk from there to the major attractions and trains to other major Italian cities and the airport go from here.

√  Eat: If the restaurant displays photos of the food, don’t eat there. It’s a tourist trap – the food will be inauthentic.

√  Prepare: For the millions of people. Rome is a bustling place and it can be overwhelming, so plan your time and be prepared for queues.


 

Capri – Living the dream

capri header

Some days in life are just significantly better than others. For me, going to Capri was one of those days.

With the clear blue waters of the Med underneath you and coastal Italian landscape around you it really does feel like a dream. Even more so now as I write about this from my 40 sq/m apartment in Auckland. Sigh.

Capri from above      Capri looking up

So what is it about this island that makes it so dreamlike…

  • Maybe it’s that it’s a play ground for the rich and famous, so for a moment you can walk around feeling a little more well-to-do than you really are.
  • Maybe it’s the Italian homes perched into the sides of mountains with gardens of colours cascading down the mountains.
  • Maybe (and my bet is on this) it’s because it is singularly the most beautiful place to just walk. Imagine if Miranda Kerr and Ryan Gosling created a baby… that’s the level of beauty this island holds. It is literally the cobbled pathways, arches, views of the med as far as the eye can see, and colour, endless colour from the flowers, from the buildings, from the food.

I’m getting goosys just writing this, Capri is for me the pinnacle of sensory delight and I will never forget how the heat of the sun felt as I lost myself taking in the sight, or the smell of fresh ocean air mixed with a bloody good cabonara, or the moment of longing when I had to leave.

Capri1       Capri flowers

Long sigh. Get there now and send me a postcard would you?

Planning your Pilgrimage:


 How to get to Capri:

Getting to Capri

√  I hired a boat and driver from Sorrento with a group of my travel buddies – this was an awesome option as your trip is customisable, you leave when you want and come back when you want, stopping on the way… you guessed it – where you want.

√  If you don’t have a group to go with, don’t fret, there are plenty of other day tours you can book, just google or ask your friendly hotel people.


To blue grotto or not to blue grotto… that is the question:

The blue grotto is a “must-do” around the Island because of it’s beautiful blue water in a ‘majestic’ cave… However I didn’t blue grotto and here’s why;

√  They charge you an exorbitant amount to go in there.

√  Once they’ve got their cash you can only go in for a matter of minutes.

√  It’s so overrun with tourists that your small time spent in there is swarmed by others.


Watch out for:

√  Sanitary pads in the water – not joking. The cruise ships (illegally??) dump their waste into the ocean, my med dip on the way to the island was short lived in fear of being hit by floating crap (literally).


To do:

Walk capri

√  Once on the island my suggestion is to just walk. Literally follow your nose and get lost. Every path is gorgeous, every look out point will have you struggling to tear yourself away.

So it’s as simple as that. No tours necessary, pop your guidebook away. Just walk.

 

 


So off you go, give your senses a present and enjoy all that is great about Capri.

Travel makes me fun – Driving the dunes in Dubai

dubai header

My favourite part of travelling is you can reinvent yourself. Take being ‘extreme’ for example. I’m not extreme, I don’t even go on roller coaster rides for gods sake. Travelling Nic? She’s extreme.

And driving the dunes in Dubai, well that is extreme.

cars on sand

 

What the shit are you on about you may ask? Well take a 4-wheel drive vehicle, a driver who gets kicks out of seeing you shit yourself, and massive sand dunes. Add sliding sideways, and speeding down said dunes and you have yourself an extreme night in Dubai.

And it’s wicked.

 

As for the rest of Dubai, It’s got the tallest building in the world, it’s the most expensive city in the Middle East and cops drive around in Lamborghini’s.

It’s a place to go to be reminded how little cash you actually have.

Dubai Lambodubai from above 2

Planning your pilgrimage:


 Safari tour (Driving the Dunes):

belly dancerRiding a Camel Dubai

√  I went on the Sundowner tour with Arabian Safari Dubai http://www.arabiansafaridubai.com/desertsafari.html

√  The tour is super tourist tacky but SO fun. They take you way out into the desert and on the way out is when you get to drive the dunes. It is intense, kind of scary but really safe (all vehicles have roll cages) so just embrace it.

√  Once at the location you get to ride a camel, smoke sheisha, eat great local cuisine, watch a belly dancer and get henna. It’s excellent.

√  They were professional, on time and even did my airport transfer as part of the package.


Burj Khalifa:

Burj 1 Dubai from above

 

√  Tallest building in Dubai – a must do just to see the extent of the development in Dubai.


Light shows:

Dubai Light Show 1 IMG_1089

In a place of opulence it shouldn’t be surprising that there are two light shows you should check out.

√  The first is at the Dubai mall and they have water shooting up, lights flashing, all to music. Beyond impressive.

√  Also worth a look is the light show at Wafi Mall. They project images on the exterior walls of the mall, when I was there it was all wild animal related. Completely bizarre – completely worth seeing.


Shopping:

mall1

icerink in mall    snowplanet in mall

√  Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates are must do’s – even if you don’t want to shop, they are worth a look (think ice-skating rinks and snow parks in the mall).


Atlantis the Palm:

Atlantis 1Atlantis 2

Atlantis 3

 

√  This place is cool, it has the best Aquarium I’ve ever been to (and I don’t give a shit about fish).

√  It also has an amazing swimming area with rivers/pools etc. – I’d just got a tattoo so I couldn’t swim (IDIOT) but if I go back I’m getting in that water, god knows you need to in that heat.

 


Red Bus Tour:

√  I’m in two minds as whether to recommend this… on one hand it’s a great way to see a lot of Dubai, on the other hand they literally ONLY point out malls and buildings as that’s all there is to point out in Dubai – your choice here.


Remember:

√  Dubai has strict laws about the sale of alcohol – so don’t be surprised if you cant buy a drink at a restaurant.

√  As a woman you should dress modestly. They are fairly accepting of other cultures however try to cover up as best you can.


 

Now is a great time to visit Dubai, there is so much happening there and there’s a real buzz in the air. Happy travels 🙂

 

Solo Travel – You CAN do it!

pilgrim with a plan, travel

You’re “alone”, without a significant other, a single female – a cardinal sin or question of your normality of course. Meanwhile your friends are married, having babies or have a sterling career they can’t momentarily eradicate themselves from. But you want to travel. Do you sit by and work your way through the travel shelves in the library, or do you add some stamps to your passport?

Go with the latter.

Two years ago I took a trip through the Amalfi Coast, Istanbul, Croatia and Dubai all sans travel companion and guess what? I wasn’t robbed, poisoned or harmed in any way. Instead I returned with new friends from around the world, amazing memories and a killer tan (hugely important of course).

IMG_0652
IMG_2367

 

Before flying off into the sunset I heard endless horror stories about women travelling by themselves (which have probably put you off to date)… I would lay a bet that 80% of those stories are just that, stories, yarns passed on through the ages just to be told to you when you say “I want to see the world”.

The last statement is not being flippant and I’m certainly not detracting from the fact that bad things do happen to women travelling by themselves. What I’m telling you is that it’s not a reason to avoid travel.

I have five quick tips that helped me get home with my limbs and luggage, I hope they help you…

 

 

Planning your pilgrimage:


Travelling solo - positivity and paranoia

 

Employ a balanced mix of positivity and paranoia

If you think “awesome I’m in *fill the blank* – it’s going to be a good day, but I’m going to hold on tight to my handbag” then you’re on the right track.

 

 


 

solo travel - understand the culture

Understand the expectations of a women in the country you are visiting. It may go against what you believe to be your rights, but it’s in your best interests.

On a brutally hot day in Istanbul it seemed like torture to cover up, I chose not to. Have you ever wondered what a piece of steak feels like when dangled in front of hungry wolves? Lesson learned.

 


solo travel - pick tours wisely

 

This translates into research, research, research! I used Intrepid Travel around the Amalfi Coast (they are popular for single women) and chose a Croatian sailing tour at the start of the season (before the party kids take over), both resulted in me spending my holiday with complete strangers come good mates.

 


solo travel - don't look like a tourist

 

Don’t carry a monster camera around your neck or wave money about as you get it out of a bank machine – basically don’t dangle the bait if you don’t want the piranhas to bite.

 

 


solo travel - learn a bit of the language

 

Finally (and this is a general traveller rule of thumb) learn hello and thank you in the local dialect – it gives you a platform to appear to be a polite traveller rather than an arrogant tourist.

 

 


So there you have it ladies, go forth, get those stamps in your passport and enjoy.

Camping, a Cathedral & Card Games – my kiwi getaway

easter header

I’m not going to lie… I hate camping. I know it’s very un-Kiwi of me – we are meant to be at one with nature and enjoy ‘roughing it’. Pfft.

Camping in its truest form is uncomfortable. Airbeds never stay as plump as they look on the box, tents turn from igloo to sauna quicker than you can swat away bugs and well, doing my morning ablutions in shared facilities is shit (excuse the pun).

HOWEVER when friends invited us to join them at Hahei, arguably one of New Zealand’s best beaches, and venture to Cathedral Cove, an iconic New Zealand spot neither of us had experienced, our hate for camping was clouded by promises of sites unseen.

Fortunately these sites exceeded expectations and while I remain staunch in saying camping is a rubbish activity, we had a great time. Here’s how you can too.

 Planning your pilgrimage:


 Hahei

Hahei   √  Located around two hours south-east of Auckland, it really is paradise.

√   The ocean is so clear (as it’s a Marine Reserve) that you can see the bottom even when you can’t touch the bottom.

√   It has everything you need (pub/cafe/ice-cream store) while still being a genuine rustic beach town.

 


Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove  √   Seen in pretty much every tourist’s photo album from their trip to NZ, Cathedral Cove is one of those spots that needs to be seen to be believed.

√   The cave that tunnels through from one bay to the other is what the people come for. It’s huge, it’s unique and it is unsurprisingly the venue of choice for many couples exchanging vows.

√   You can’t get to Cathedral Cove by car – you have to walk (opinions vary on the difficulty of this) or hire a kayak, or take a boat… I’d had one or two wine’s (ok one or two bottles of wine) the night before so we took the boat from Hahei at $25 a head return, not a bad way to go and saves over exerting yourself.

Cathedral Cove     Cathedral Cove


 What else

IMG_4792  √   Hahei is located in a very central Coromandel position.

√   Make sure you stop on the coastal road in and enjoy the expansive views of New Zealand’s native bush colliding in a very picturesque way with the ocean… your fam at home will be jealous as and you’ll get heaps of Instagram likes for these pics!

√   The Hahei turn off is shared by Hot Water beach – where you take a shovel, dig yourself a hole in the sand and sit in well… hot water.

√ Other surrounding beaches include Whitianga, Pauanui, Whangamata and Tairua.


Camping

Hahei Camping

√   Unless you’re Bear Grylls – get your glamp on (glamp = glamorous camping).

√   This means heading out and investing in the following:

– A multi-room tent

– A double layered airbed

– Gazebo

– Camping cupboard

– Camping cookware (Tupperware plates etc.)

– Cards; to keep your mind off how uncomfortable you are/to make your drinking games more entertaining.

That’s a good start anyway…  My real advice would be don’t invest in any of the following and just hire a hotel room or bach (aka holiday home)… but that would be un-Kiwi of me.

Good luck.