Category Archives: Personal

Iguaçu Falls // Brazilian & Argentinian sides

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.

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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.

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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!

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Easter in Bariloche!

    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.


    Bariloche comes alive during Easter with their Chocolate Festival. 
    The festival goes for a few days and there are various things to see and do leading up to Easter Sunday. There are markets, a concert and even a massive chocolate bar (over 100m long) that you can help devour with the rest of the crowd. You can even go for a wander through the city streets that are filled with the aromas of chocolate. You will easily find chocolate shops galore where you can feed your chocolate addiction and stock up like there is no tomorrow! 
     
       

      

      

      

      

       

     

    On Easter Sunday morning the town centre was packed with locals and vistitors eagerly awaiting the highlight of the festival – a giant Chocolate Easter egg! That’s right, there is a giant chocolate Easter egg in the town centre that has been made by chocolatiers especially for this festival. The egg (claimed to be the worlds largest handmade chocolate Easter egg) was made out of 8,000kg of chocolate and stood 8.5m high and  6 feet across… My eyes may have been bigger than my stomach. 

       

      

     

    The crowd counted down to the official cracking of the egg by the mayor and then the deconstruction of the egg started shortly after. Slowly you can watch pieces of the chocolate egg fall off and you start to see that there are people inside pushing the chocolate panels out.

       

     

      
    As the chocolate falls, the pieces are cut up by chefs and freely handed out to the eagerly waiting crowd. Be warned though, there is a line that seems to go on forever so get in early to get your chocolate fix. 
     
      
    If you are a lover of chocolate than Bariloche should at the top of your list of places to visit as you will well and truly get your fix! 

    Even Wonder Woman has her bad days

    I’m flying high above the ocean and watching rainbows flicker through the clouds in the afternoon sun while my mind takes a lazy stroll through my hazy memories of the past few months.
     I have been planning my big 6 month solo adventure through South and Central America for a while and now it is finally happening. My bum is on a plane seat and yet it still doesn’t feel like this is happening. I have spent the last few months on an emotional roller coaster ride stressing about this trip and worried about absolutely everything.  I won’t lie, there are things I would have done differently and things I probably shouldn’t have wasted my money on. I could have saved more and I’m sure I could have packed lighter! I’ve also had people that made me doubt what I’m doing and made me loose confidence in myself. I’m still not even sure if what I’m doing is right. But then along with the criticism I will have a small number of people say how much they admire me and how courageous I am on embarking on such a trip and in those moments of kind words I feel reassured that what I am doing is pretty awesome as silly as that might seem.
    As the hours got closer things became harder, instead of months left it’s weeks left and then days and hours (and typical me, I had left everything to the last minute). Leading up to leaving, I have experienced insane lows but also some good highs. I know this will be worth all the blood, sweet and meltdowns once my feet touch foreign land but in the meantime I just have to keep convincing myself that everything is going to be okay.
    My mind then wanders to what I could have done without and small things I missed and then occasionally my mind treats me with a flash of what’s in stall for me after this god awful long flight.
    Soon all the what if’s won’t matter anyway because my mind will be too occupied with the adventure I will be on and all the stress will be a distant memory.
    I will hit the ground running and there will be no turning back.
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    Are you following your dreams?

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    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?

    Myanmar: The Golden Rock

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Myanmar: Inle Lake

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

     

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    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!

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    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!

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    Our adventure in Myanmar is almost coming to an end but check out the next post about the Golden Rock

    Myanmar: Mandalay

    It was time to move on from Bagan, starting with a 6am ferry ride to Mandalay. Again, this was not a short journey but 11hours on a smooth sailing ferry sure beats that train ride! With nothing else to do but read, I decided to start on the cheap book I bought – George Orwell, Burmese Days. I have been meaning to read this book for ages and it just seemed fitting to read it while in Myanmar. The reason I bring this up is that I would like to point out that George Orwell seemed to have documented some Burmese twerking! So look at that, it seems twerking has been around for quite some time…

    Anyway…

    The first thing you will notice about Mandalay is the gold tips of all the pagodas and monasteries as you arrive. We docked and had to jump over a couple of boats to get to shore and battle our way through a mix of merchants and taxi drivers to get to our bus that awaited us to take us to our hotel.

    Our first full day in Mandalay we jammed it packed full of the top things to do starting with the Mahamuni Buddha Temple which is located southwest of Mandalay. While here male devotees can opt to place gold leaf on the statue of Buddha for a small price but females are not allowed to do this.

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    Our next stop was to the Monastery which was a bit of a weird experience. We arrived at 10.30am not sure what to expect and it was an absolute tourist mecca. The monks were all sitting down eating while tourists with their massive cameras took photos of them. I suppose I found it weird mainly because of the amount of tourists there just watching monks eat and the monks just kind of accepted it. I know I wouldn’t like people taking photos of me eating – but while in Myanmar I suppose…

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    Next it was on to the U-Bein Bridge. Now I would actually recommend coming here for sunrise. We saw it during the day but we (or rather I) was quite determined to come here for sunrise so I got a little group together for the next day. We got into our seatless truck and braced the cold for our 40min truck ride to the bridge. The sunrise itself was quite amazing but coupled with monks walking over the bridge and the locals setting up their shops and starting their day it was quite an unforgettable morning.

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    We had a few quick stops at some workshops (gold leaf, silk weaving and wood carving) before we stopped for lunch.

    After some old fashioned western food and cocktails we were ready to go again! Our next stop was at the Mandalay Palace. Once you have paid your foreigner fee you can enter into the Palace grounds. There is a short drive through the mini city that is within the palace gates before you reach the temples where you can take photos. It’s worth a stop just to walk right around and go up the tower for some nice views of Mandalay. You can even have a bit of a nap on the grass under the shade but we were on a tight schedule so our nap had to wait!

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    We were off to the Kuthodaw Pagoda which holds the worlds biggest book and it’s not exactly what you are thinking (ie: just some big book on a pedestal). It’s actually written on stone and each page is kept in its own little housing. I would recommend stopping here as it’s quite incredible to see this.

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    Our second last stop was to the Shwenandaw Monastry which is built entirely of teak. It’s not an active Monastry just a tourist stop and if you have your Mandalay card you can show it here otherwise there is a foreigner fee.

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    The last stop for the day was to Mandalay Hill to watch the sun set over Mandalay. There is also a beautiful pagoda up here with markets along the stairs. To avoid all of the tourists, I’d recommend heading down the stairs to the next little bit of the pagoda and away from the main one. We got to sit on seats in peace without people pushing us to take photos and we got to take it all in.

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    I must admit, it seems like we jammed a lot of sight seeing in but it just shows that you can do it.

    Stay posted for our time in Kalaw!

    Myanmar: Bagan

    We finished off our last day in Yangon with an amazing Burmese buffet for lunch and prepared ourselves for the 19hr train journey to Bagan that awaited us. Being typical Westeners we stocked up on enough food to feed a small army as the concept of being hungry for a few hours scared us.

    We boarded our Upper Class carriage which consisted of somewhat comfortable seats that turned into uncomfortable beds, no air conditioning and a metal toilet with a wet floor and prepared ourselves for a 19hr journey fearing that the train would come off the tracks at any point with its constant swaying. We did however see some amazing countryside and you will be happy to know that we arrived in Bagan a little smelly and tired but safe nonetheless.

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    We caught a bus to our guest house accommodation with no idea what lay ahead and immediately set on a trek to Taung Kalat Temple which is on top of a volcano plug. By this stage we all thought that was pretty cool, until we were told we had to walk up the volcano plug to the top barefoot. To us, we were thinking we would have to walk barefoot on some hot gravel path in the sun to get to the top… but it all became clear when we got there. There are 777 steps that lead to the top and it’s all undercover. As it is considered a sacred site you do the hike without your shoes but don’t worry because the tiles feel nice on your feet. There are some steep vertical stairs and some random big ones (to get the exact 777 steps) but it’s quite doable. There are a lot of monkeys on these steps as well so be careful because they seem to like shiny cold things (aka coke cans) so they will cling on you or jump on you but just push them off (hopefully I haven’t scared anyone off! There were only two incidences on our round trip). This is definitely worth the trip and the hike up. The view from the top is amazing and you can see Mount Popa (the volcano) not too far away.

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    After a beautiful lunch and some relaxation at the Mount Popa Mountain Resort (yes we treated our stinky selves to a nice lunch) we ended the day by visiting one of the temples and watch the sun set over this ancient land.

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    You can opt to do a hot air balloon ride over Bagan for sunrise (which is exactly what we did the next day). These flights are only available from October to March and will set you back $320 US but it is definitely worth it. Bagan is home to 3,000 ancient temples and when you are flying over them you can see just how true this is. It’s quite a magical experience to say the least.

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    After our balloon ride we grabbed a bicycle and started on a tour around some ancient temples but with a stop at the Nyaung U markets first. These markets are probably one of the more crazier markets I have visited in Myanmar. As soon as our bums left the bicycle seats we had ladies putting Thanaka on our faces and trying to get us to buy things. As you make your way through this bustling market, people will follow you all around the markets trying to sell you items and they don’t give up easily!

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    After our market experience, where we all seemed to have left with at least one item, we made our way on our bicycles through the ancient temples before stopping for lunch. If you ever make your way to Myanmar make sure Bagan is on your list of cities to see. There is something magical and relaxing about cycling through an ancient city and having all these ancient temples pass you by. Just make sure you end your day by finding a nice quiet temple to watch the sunset over.

    I also recommend you to buy your lacquerware in Bagan. Head to one of the many family run workshops to buy the good quality items. The ones you buy in the markets are of poor quality and will crack easily, whereas if you go to a workshop in Bagan they are made of the highest quality and can take months to produce a finished product as it is all naturally made.

    However you choose to spend your time in Bagan, I can assure you it will be a city that stays with you forever.

    For once, I fear, I can not describe a place. It feels like words are just not enough to describe the untouched beauty that is Myanmar. I’m not even talking about sweeping country sides as I haven’t even left Yangon yet, but I’m talking more so about the people. The beauty in their traditional dress with thanaka on their cheeks, the beauty in monks walking around, the beauty in their kindness and helpfulness and simplicity, the beauty in the innocence of couples sneaking a quick kiss behind umbrellas by the lake. No picture or words can capture that, yet I feel like that’s what makes Myanmar so special. I think I will leave the sightseeing information for a separate post…

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    Myanmar: A country to amaze

    I’m not going to lie, I wanted to visit this ancient country before tourism got the better of it. I did get a lot of mixed reactions when I told people I was travelling here and I was usually greeted with a polite smile followed by ‘Where is Myanmar?’ or ‘I have never heard of it before’.
    Something about visiting a place that not many people have been to excites me… but it also scares me a little too. There isn’t a lot of information to go by, you can’t get travel tips off friends or family and you rely a lot on what other people post on the internet and I will admit there are a lot of mixed reviews and tips out there. But then again what would life be like without a little mystery right?

    I really had no idea what to expect from this country, I had been to Asia before but this was quite different. I started to freak myself out by reading smart traveller and stories about Myanmar. The fact that there had been bombings in the two touristy cities and old land mines everywhere started to get me worried leading up to my departure date. However on the day I was due to leave, all worries left me and I was as calm as anything… must be a good sign right?

    After a fair few flight delays, lack of sleep, and my body clock totally out of whack (despite it only being a small time difference) we finally arrived at our starting city of Yangon. Immediately I had a good feeling about this place. Straight away the people seemed quite friendly and the city itself didn’t seem as chaotic as I thought it would. The traffic is quite civilised and the city seems quite clean(even the more slum areas), then as you are driving from the airport you are all of a sudden hit with beautiful glimmers of gold from buildings and pagodas as if teasing you with a taste of what was yet to come. Yep, at that moment I was glad I had decided to come here.

    Stay posted for blogs to follow to give you some inspiration, hints and tips for travelling through Myanmar and of course photos!