Rio de Janeiro
I’ve seen a lot of waterfalls in my time but I must admit that the Iguaçu Falls is one of the most impressive. To fully appreciate the falls you have to see them from both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides. You can also opt for a slightly expensive (but worth it) helicopter flight over the falls to see them from the sky. Of course I had to see them from both land and air and I won’t lie, I was like an excited kid at Christmas time when we went up in the air.
On the Brazilian side you can take the Trilha das Cataratas which is a beautiful trail through rainforest with amazing views of the falls. The path leads you to the Devil’s Throat of the falls where you can walk along a metal boardwalk to see the waterfalls up close. Unfortunately for us it started to rain halfway through our walk and we got absolutely drenched! Of course once we had finished sightseeing the rain cleared up and the sun came out – typical. Still a spectacular site despite the rain though.
On the Argentinian side there are multiple walks you can take through the park that will get you up close to the falls. On this side you can opt to take a boat trip that will take you really up close and personal to the falls aswell! Of course this was an option that stood out to me but prepared to get absolutely drenched!
I won’t lie, I had no idea that San Carlos de Bariloche is the chocolate capital of Argentina and what’s better is that we just so happened to be there during Easter!! It is famous for producing the most purest handcrafted chocolates in the country and I have even personally taste tested copious amounts to make sure this statement is true.
My first stop on my 6 month adventure was Rio de Janeiro and I was nervous. This was my first big solo trip and I had no idea what to expect or what I had gotten myself into.
I got in late to Rio and somehow navigated myself to my hotel via taxi. I looked a hot mess and was wearing long pants and jacket with hiking boots in 40° heat. Of course I got some funny looks from the staff at my hotel and I’m pretty sure I even saw some hide back laughter. However, after travelling for over 24hrs you kind of don’t care anymore.
The next day I looked a tad better and had a walking tour with a local guide. We started with catching a local bus to the top of Santa Teresa. Santa Teresa is set on a hill and has beautiful views overlooking Rio. We got off at the top and wondered the cobblestone streets down. I love Santa Teresa as it has beautiful old mansions and colourful walls with graffiti art. It’s home to many artists and bohemians and has some awesome restaurants and bars to check out too (definitely my kind of place anyway).
As we made our way down we learnt about the history of the tram that was used to get up Santa Teresa, however there was a deadly derailment back in 2011 where a few people died. The driver was deemed a hero as he stayed on the tram to try and stop it but died trying. The community has been in support of getting the tram back which seems to be a slow process. If you wonder around you will most likely see stickers of the tram on cars or buildings in support.
We kept heading down until we got to the top of the Escadaria Selarón. If you get a chance you have to see this famous staircase as it is quite beautiful. The Chilean artist Selarón started tiling this staircase (over 200 steps) and people from around the world would send him tiles from their countries to use so make sure you try and spot some from your own country!
Afterwards we made our way to Santa Marta favela. Favelas are like shanty towns or slums and are not for everyone to visit. The government has been working with favelas to try and clean them up and make them safer. The Santa Marta favela is now drug free and they have been buying paint for the community to paint the outside of their homes to make them more appealing. It was definitely interesting though and they have some amazing views from the top. Just make sure you go with a guide where the funds go back into the community. This favela was also part of the setting for the film clip “They Don’t Care About Us” by Michael Jackson and you will find a statue dedicated to him here as well.
During our walking tour I had hit it off with another solo female traveller and after the tour we ended the day at Copocanaba beach, drinking Caprihanas and eating some local food. As we sat there talking, drinking and watching the sunset all my worries about Rio disappeared and I think that’s when my love affair with the city started.
The next day I had a lazy start to the morning and eventually dragged myself out of the hotel and into 41° heat to make my way down to the Uruguaiana markets to find some cheap carnaval costumes! These markets are crazy and I’m not sure if it was because of Carnaval or if they were usually like this. There are stalls galore and it’s like a little maze. These markets were packed with people, music playing in every direction and you could smell different types of food cooking everywhere. These markets are also very local, I only saw a handful of tourists here and everything was so cheap so check them out! Eventually I found some cheap tattoos, fairy wings and some false eye lashes to wear for the week.
Rio Carnaval is essentially made up of various different bloco’s (street parties) and then of course you have the Sambadrome where the various different samba schools perform and show off their costumes and elaborate floats. Bloco’s are where the most fun is at though and they are free. Just search for the schedule to see which ones appeal to you the most and then rock up. They are held at different locations and times and each has a certain theme. During Carnaval though you will see a lot of people in costumes for a few days so make sure you dress up and join in the festivities!!
As you can imagine I went to a lot of different bloco’s and even just walked out of a restaurant once and found myself in one that just started. Make sure you are sensible though and don’t take any big bags. There are a lot of pickpocketers and I only took a small bag that I kept at my front but when I could I just tucked money in my bra and didn’t take anything else. I never felt unsafe at any of the bloco’s I went to apart from when I was in Lapa where there were a few dodgy alleyways and seedy looking places. Plus I had read pickpocketers were like magicians in Lapa!
Ladies (and gents) I feel like this would not be a true post if I didn’t mention the fact that the men here during Carnaval are hawt! Expect to see lots of shirtless men with muscles (possibly in tutus or dresses but still)! They are a tad too friendly and will often stop you for a cheeky kiss or just to chat but don’t take offence as they are respectful if you say no.
Of course my trip to Rio wouldn’t be complete without a tourist trip up to Sugar Loaf mountain and Christ the Redeemer statue.
Overall though my time in Rio was absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to go back!!! Sadly it’s time to move on for the next part of my adventure.
I have been dreaming of going to Carnaval in Rio since I was a teenager and finally this year that dream had come true! It has been so surreal to think that after seeing pictures of Carnaval for so long that I was finally physically in the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro waiting for the parade to start. Of course we didn’t exactly have the smoothest of starts to the parade.
We took the metro from where we were staying to near the Sambadrome and walked the rest of the way. On the way there the wind started to pick up and then of course torrential rain started so we sought out shelter under some buildings until the rain eased a little bit. Eventually we made our way to the Sambadrome and to our section and waited undercover until the parades started all the while hoping that the rain would stop soon…. of course it didn’t and then the thunder and lightening started and we knew we were in for a really good night!
The first samba school parade still went on regardless of the rain and even the rain couldn’t dampen the spirit of the crowd. The crowds were decked out in ponchos and umbrellas all the while dancing and singing in the rain which was contagious. Even though you were soaking wet and looked miserable your hips couldn’t help but move to the music and before you knew it you were dancing and signing a song you don’t know the words to.
Words or pictures can’t describe the atmosphere in the Sambadrome and the parades and floats were just amazing! If you are in sector 13 you can easily pick up some of the costumes as well as the dancers just leave costumes lying around everywhere in this area after they finish.
Somehow I managed to stay until the last parade which started about 5.30am so I had been awake for over 24hrs by the time I got home but it was well and truly worth it! Walking back to the metro the streets were filled with discarded costumes, music and dancers were out getting food and celebrating. Even though the sun was rising, it seemed like the party kept going outside of the Sambadrome.
It’s quite easy for people to tell you to follow your dreams, go chase that rainbow and be happy; however sometimes life isn’t that easy…
Sometimes we aren’t sure what those dreams are, sometimes your dreams get pushed to the side as more important things come up and sometimes we just give up on them altogether.
For me, I had no idea what my dreams were. I was working a normal job to get by with no real passion or direction and I realized it was time to work out what I wanted to do in life. I started off by thinking about what career I could pursue, what study I could do to help me climb the corporate ladder etc and then it hit me. Here I am thinking about ways to make money and become successful but that was not something that I was passionate about. So, I started thinking outside the box and started to bring unrealistic choices into the equation. That’s when I realized that the only thing that I was truly passionate about was travel.
At first I laughed at myself and dismissed the thought, however I had unintentionally planted a seed and over the next couple of weeks I started to think more seriously about this passion of mine. I mean yes, I live and breathe travel, it’s the only thing that brings a sparkle to my eye and something that I could talk about for hours on end but it’s just an interest, a hobby…or was it?
The more I started reading travel blogs and talking to like minded people the more passionate I became and the more I realized that travelling is my one passion in life and my dream. I feel like now I have purpose and I no longer work just to get by but I work towards my dream of travelling and every little thing that I do is another stepping stone towards making my dreams come true. For the time being, I’m happy working to save up for my next adventure until one day I can fully pursue my dream.
Of course, not everyone’s dream is going to be travelling as well, we all have our own dreams that we should pursue and let’s face it following our dreams is hard work. We need to be determined, passionate, work our way around obstacles and of course never give up.
Some people will think you are crazy and your dreams are unrealistic but don’t let them discourage you. Cherish your dreams, watch them grow and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone as following your dreams takes a lot of courage and I take my hat off to anyone who does. Sometimes you need to start doing things in life that makes you happy because in the end we won’t remember all those times we worked a job we didn’t like, we will remember all the things we wished we had of done. So, follow your passions, follow your dreams and make them into a reality.
Now the question is: are you following your dreams?
I am starting to see a lot of travel video blogs around and of course It’s making me quite intrigued.
I’m wondering who out there has done a travel video blog or even what your thoughts are on them? Do you prefer reading through a blog with photos or watching a video? Personally I could go either way, I’m finding if they are good videos they inspire me a lot more as you really get a feel of the country and the people first hand but I also find you miss out on some key tips and experiences so I would lean towards a short written blog with a travel video. What are your thoughts?
Anyone who has done a travel video blog, what do you use to edit it all and is it time consuming?
I’m really curious so please share all of your thoughts or experiences 🙂
After an amazing time in Inle Lake it was time to move on. It was an early start to the Heho airport which was an experience in itself but we made it to Yangon in one piece and onto a bus for our 4hr journey to the village at the base of Mt. Kyaiktiyo.
From here you can either choose to walk up the mountain to the The Golden Rock (from the base to the top it will be about a 3day trek) or you can jump into an open air truck at the base which they pack with locals and foreigners (there is a small price). The 3 day trek was awfully tempting, however we opted for the truck. The seats are uncomfortable and not built for badonkadonks (aka big bums like mine) and some trucks have back rests that act as handles and others don’t. You will also enjoy the journey with someone’s knee digging into your bum, but when you get going, being uncomfortable seems like a good price to pay compared to walking. The hills are quite steep and at moments it feels like the truck will loose steam and just roll backwards but it perseveres. The truck ride takes about 45mins – 1hr to get from the base to the top as it’s only a one way street they do have to stop at designated stops to let other trucks pass that are coming in the opposite direction. The trucks also only seem to run during the day which is understandable as I can imagine it being quite dangerous driving at night. Once you get to the top you will have to pay a foreigner fee and then it’s about a 20min walk to the actual site. Again, as it’s a sacred site, once you reach the two giant lions guarding the entrance you will have to walk the rest of the way barefoot but it’s all tiled and the walk itself isn’t that strenuous.
I tell you what, after the crazy day to get here, plane, bus, truck, feet… it was definitely worth it! I can’t even describe the atmosphere as it’s something you have to experience. There are some spots where only men can enter and then of course men can purchase some gold leaf to place on the rock after walking over the ‘abyss’, again, no girls allowed.
If you do visit, I’d recommend you go for sunset and battle your way through the foreigners to find yourself a nice spot to view the sun setting behind the rock. Of course, you won’t be able to get back down if you go for sunset so make sure you book some accommodation and stay the night (why not?). We stayed at the Golden Rock Hotel and I recommend it to anyone! It was about a 30min walk from the golden rock down steep hill (make sure to bring a torch) but it was definitely not what we were expecting. The staff here were amazing and so friendly and helpful and the rooms were really nice and comfortable. It was probably one of the best hotels we have stayed in since arriving in Myanmar.
If you have got time, definitely try and make your way to the Golden Rock. The view on the way up and at the top is breathtaking and just to experience the whole atmosphere was amazing.
Our time in Kalaw was short but it was time to move on to our next destination: Inle Lake. We spent the afternoon exploring our new home by weaving our way through the bazaar and getting lost in the back streets until we found an Italian restaurant – The Golden Kite. If you have a hankering for Italian food and carbs than this is the place you want to find!
The next day we started early for a full day on the lake. Again, it wasn’t what I was expecting at all but this seems to be the charm that is Myanmar, it will just keep surprising you.
We got into our long boats that looked like they might sink just with my weight and took off. We had 3 boats in total with 4 to each boat and they were all decked out with chairs, blankets, umbrellas and a bottle of water each. If you leave for the lake early in the morning, I’d recommend you take at the very least a jumper with you as we found it very cold and it’s about 45mims until you reach the ‘main hub’. If you are staying on the lake this will obviously be different.
Our first stop was to the markets (of course). This is quite an amazing place to stop at as there are a lot of souviner stalls but as you battle your way through the crowds you will also see it’s a place for the locals as well. Off to the side you can see locals selling freshly caught fish which are still jumping around on the paper and as you keep going you will see fresh fruit and vegetables being sold. It’s also a great photo opportunity with the amount of boats that are tied up around these markets.
The next few stops were to some workshops where you could see the process of making certain items and then purchase the products in their store. These places are mainly set up for tourists but still worth a visit I think as their processes are quite interesting to watch. We visited the lotus leaf weaving, blacksmith, cigar rolling and a silversmith.
After lunch we visited a pagoda and then on to my much anticipated stop – the long neck women or Kayan people.
We weaved our way through little canals and even had floating merchants latch themselves onto our boat to sell their wares and made our way to what I thought was the village of this tribe only to be disappointed. There were 4 long neck ladies here, 2 older women and 2 young girls. 3 were sitting outside on seats where you just took photos of them and there was one older lady inside weaving. They were just on display for tourists to take photos of them. They seemed very happy though but it was definitely not what I was expecting at all. I later found out that there aren’t many left that continue with this practice as the young girls want to go to school and don’t want to wear the gold rings.
We finished the day off by making our way through the floating gardens and watched farmers tend to their crops from their boats. Be sure to pick up some biscuits for the seagulls too. You will have a good laugh as they follow your boat while you feed them.
On our way back in the open lake we even got a chance to see the Intha fishermen who have a distinctive one-legged rowing technique. The fishermen stand holding a long paddle in one hand and wrap one leg around the paddle to row. This frees up their other hand to be able to cast their large conical net in shallow waters. This is quite a draw for Inle Lake and the fishermen love to pose for tourists by doing some acrobatics for the cameras. If you are a lover of photography I would definitely recommend staying on the lake itself so you can see the fishermen early in the morning on calm waters before the tourists start rolling in.
After an amazing day on the lake the next day we decided to treated ourselves to a sleep in and a bit of luxury for the day. We hired a mega tuk tuk to take us to the Hot Springs which was about half an hour away from our hotel. We opted for the easy way but you can hire bicycles and cycle there as it’s only 10km away. However, we didn’t quite anticipate the bumpy road that laid ahead so I’m not sure if it would have been worse on a bicycle or better.
The hot springs are man made and they have the option of a public pool which is one pool and both locals and foreigners can enter but it’s split into female and male sections for 5,000 kyat or they have the private option which has 3 smaller pools of varying temperatures, showers, deck chairs, private bar where only foreigners can enter and you can have both males and females in there for 9,000 kyat. We obviously went for the latter partially because we had a mixed group but mainly because of the luxury the private springs held! After traveling for a couple of weeks these springs were heaven! Cocktails brought to us by the pools, a bit of sunbathing and chilling out with a book was exactly what we needed!
We could stay there forever but alas we had a winery to visit! We jumped back into our mega tuk tuk and headed to the Red Mountain Estate Winery. If you ever find yourself in Inle Lake, I would definitely recommend you immerse yourself in this winery. The food here was delicious and the wine was just as good if not better and at $10 US a bottle how could you not pass up visiting this place? After a few glasses of wine under our belts and a couple of bottles for the road we made our way back to our hotel but not before a pit stop to the local roller skating rink. Yes, you read that right, we stopped at a roller skating rink and a few of us put on some skates and skated around with the local kids. Of course the local kids all thought it was hilarious watching three tourists fall on their bums and grab for the poles while they skated circles around us! But it was a great end to our time in Inle Lake!
Our adventure in Myanmar is almost coming to an end but check out the next post about the Golden Rock