Darwin, Australia

Darwin is the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory and a former frontier outpost. It’s also a gateway to massive Kakadu National Park. I would recommend joining a tour to cover the Northern Territory, I joined a Topdeck tour allowing me to make friends, not have to worry about plans and especially driving on endless roads (lots of dead kangaroos along the way, you may also spot snakes and crocodiles as I did). Here is what we got up to:

  1. Mindil Beach and markets, be sure to go during sunset!20180506_181135
  2. Crocosaurus Cove on Mitchell Street (main street with the mall, hostels, restaurants, Coles and pubs). Up-close wildlife exhibits with reptiles, turtles & a saltwater crocodile in a viewing cage. You can also pay more for the ‘cage of death’, an unclose encounter with crocodiles! Or enjoy a free photoshoot with various reptiles, and a paid photoshoot with baby crocodiles.
  3. Darwin Waterfront, wave pool and open air cinema with more fancy restaurants along the waterfront.
  4. Litchfield National Park: Wangi Falls, Termite Mounds, Florence Falls, Buley Rock holes.
  5. Katherine: Edith Falls, Katherine Gorge boat tour and Katherine Hot Springs.
  6. Kakadu National Park: Aboriginal rock art at Anbangbang, Yellow Water Billabong Boat Tour and Sunset at Ubirr (best one in my opinion).

Adelaide, Australia

Adelaide is South Australia’s cosmopolitan coastal capital. Its ring of parkland on the River Torrens is home to renowned museums such as the Art Gallery of South Australia, displaying expansive collections including noted Indigenous art, and the South Australian Museum, devoted to natural history. Below is my list of things you can do/visit in Adelaide or from Adelaide:

  1. Central Market: Opened in 1869, this gourmet haunt has 80+ vendors selling organic fruit, premium meats & more.
  2. Rundle Street for shopping
  3. Handley Street for the pubs, clubs and bars
  4. Adelaide Oval, world famous cricket ground
  5. Stroll along River Torrens or grab a free bike and cycle around the river. You will pass Adelaide festival centre, Convention Centre, Torrens River Weir, Torrens Bridge, Golf course, Light statue, Adelaide Oval and St Peter’s Cathedral.
  6. Norther Terrace for the art gallery, State Library, Museum, Migration Museum, Adelaide University, War Memorials, Parliament House and Botanic Gardens.
  7. Adelaide Zoo
  8. Adelaide Hills (vineyards)
  9. Mount Lofty view point (you can hike there too)20180521_102944
  10. Port Noarlunga
  11. Barossa Valley and Handorf
  12. Melba Chocolate Factory: Melba’s Chocolate Factory is a ‘working’ tourism factory in a heritage listed complex 40 minutes from Adelaide, South Australia; in the picturesque township of Woodside in the Adelaide Hills. https://www.melbaschocolates.com.au
  13. Berenberg Jam farm and the world’s largest rocking horse: Beerenberg Farm is an Australian producer of jams, condiments, sauces and dressings, located in Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia.
  14. Horseshoe Bay sunrise
  15. Maslins Nude Beach
  16. Glenelg (direct train from the city centre) – you can spot Dolphins here too.
  17. Victor Harbour where you can also camel ride
  18. Cleland Conservation Park where you can hold a koala or feed a wombat
  19. Day trip to Kangaroo Island with a tour so you will cover: Seal Bay, Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (Koala Walk), Flinders Chase National Park, Remarkable Rocks, Cape du Couedic Lighthouse and Admirals Arch. This day will start around 6:30am and you won’t be back in your Adelaide accommodation till 10:30pm!
  20. Boomer Beach good for body surfing
  21. Flinders Ranges: The Flinders Ranges are the largest mountain range in South Australia, which starts about 200 km north of Adelaide. The discontinuous ranges stretch for over 430 km from Port Pirie to Lake Callabonna.
  22. Port Lincoln: a city on the Eyre Peninsula, in South Australia. It’s known for its fishing industry and seafood. Axel Stenross Maritime Museum details historic seafaring, with old vessels and a blacksmith’s shop. Nearby, mostly surrounded by water, rugged Lincoln National Park is home to rare flora and fauna. At the edge of the city, Winter Hill Lookout has views of Port Lincoln, plus surrounding islands and coves.
  23. Lake Torrens: Lake Torrens is a normally ephemeral salt lake in central South Australia. After extreme rainfall events, the lake can flow out through the Pirie-Torrens Corridor to the Spencer Gulf.
  24. Lake Eyre: officially known as Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre, contains the lowest natural point in Australia, at approximately 15 m below sea level, and, on the rare occasions that it fills, is the largest lake in Australia covering 9,500 km²

Shanghai, China

Shanghai is a global financial centre and transport hub in China, with the world’s busiest container port. It is buzzing with life and here are my top recommendations as a tourist:

  1. Yu Yuan (Yu Garden) is a really big area with traditional looking buildings, temples, tea houses and of course, a garden. You will find constant rows of shops and street food too, so make sure you come with an empty stomach!

     

  2. The Bund and Nanjing Road can be done together as they are within walking distance. The Bund is where you’ll get great views of the Shanghai’s financial district and it’s tall towers such as the Oriental Pearl TV tower. Nanjing road is full of bright lights and your common shops, but the atmosphere is particularly great at night.
  3. Qi Pu Lu is where you can find several buildings filled with market style shops which is particularly useful to get a bunch of cheap stuff or very good quality fake branded goods. The branded goods are not always laid out but trust me, someone will approach you to bring you to secret stores and rooms (I felt safe, but would never go alone so go with your gut feeling).
  4. Tian Zi Fang – known for its artsy area with bars, cafes, crafts shops, design studio, galleries and boutiques. It is also known for old Shikumen houses (stone-framed-door houses). Consider trying ‘Smoky Cookie’, where they use liquid nitrogen so you can have a bit of fun blowing smoke through your mouth or nose from the cookie!
  5. Qi Bao Water Village – there are many water villages but this is the closest one if you don’t have much time. They have maintained their traditional buildings and are known for rivers running through the village. Another place filled with narrow alleys of shops and street food, as well as museums which are also great to visit to learn more about Chinese history and culture.
  6. Visit a Speakeasy Bar – Speak Low is ranked one of the best bars in Shanghai, having placed #15 The World’s 50 Best Bars Awards 2016. Slide behind the secret bookshelf of a cocktail supply store and find a speakeasy bar with wood panels, jazz music and well-dressed bartenders. 2/F & 3/F, 579 Fuxing Zhong Lu (near Ruijin Er Lu) 复兴中路579号 (近瑞金二路).
    IMG-20180403-WA0113
  7. Hai Di Lao Hotpot. Literally the best hotpot because of the incredible service. You can expect to queue for at least one hour, but while you wait, they provide free snacks, drinks, origami paper, games, massage chairs and even manicures. I suggest you opt for the VIP room (you have an extra $130 RMB) but get a personal waiter who will take good care of you e.g. give you bibs, hair ties, zip lock bags for your phone, refill your drinks, organise the food for you etc.

    Extra tips: Download we chat because whatsapp won’t work in China. Download baidu maps because Google maps won’t work in China. It would help if you or your friend had a China bank account because a lot of things are paid through we-chat, which requires a local bank account. We-chat gives you access to their bicycles, their version of uber and many shops prefer to run cashless! I suppose this system doesn’t make it tourist friendly, but it makes sense that we move towards a cashless society.

Singapore

Singapore is a global financial center with a tropical climate and multicultural population. If I were to ask my Singaporean friends what they would recommend, they are all very proud of their food and hawker food centres! Hawker centres (also known as food courts) are down-to-earth culinary destinations where you can find a wide variety of local dishes, from Chicken Rice, Fried Kway Teow, Hokkien Mee, Bak Kut Teh, Satay, Laksa, and Chilli Crab to the vegetarian Yong Tau Fu dish. So be ready to eat a lot when you visit and be blown away by how cheap the food is. I find all hawker centres foods are just as good, so best to ask a Singaporean which one they would recommend.

Apart from that, here are my other top recommendations:

  1. A very easy night time walk to see Singapore’s prettiest skyline: Walk from Clark Quay (restaurants and clubs) to the MCI Rainbow Building (nice photo spot) to Fullerton hotel (beautiful bridge and hotel, you can also use this hotel as a short cut to the bay front). You will see Boat Quay across the river along the way as well as City Hall on your side of the river footpath. Once you reach the bay front,  you can do a circular loop where you’ll see the Merlion, random art sculptures along the way, Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay, Helix Bridge, Lotus looking Art and Science building, tall office buildings, Louis Vuitton and the Ferris Wheel. I was lucky to have also caught a temporary Carnival. You can definitely repeat this during the day but be aware that Singapore is really HOT!

  2. Haji lane (hipster, soho like alley with live music and bars) and Zam Zam restaurant for famous murtabak (stuffed pancake with egg, onion and a meat of your choice)
  3. Visit Katong to see typical Peranakan style houses and why not try a typical Singaporean breakfast (Kaya toast dipped in soft boiled egg)
  4. CHIJMES is a historic building complex in Singapore, which began life as a Catholic convent. It is now used for weddings and many restaurants have opened up. You can even do yoga in the courtyard.
  5. Sentosa Island – the happiest island ever. You have Universal Studios and a lot of other activities such as flow boarding. Be sure to give yourself at least 3 days to enjoy everything on this man made beach island.
  6. Orchard Road is known for shopping if you’re into malls that follow one after another.

Les Gets, France

Les Gets is part of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France. I came here for a week long of skiing and snowboarding! I’ve come to realise that it’s better to ski in the Alps and snowboard in Asia just because of what the majority of people prefer doing. So I switched to skiing after the first 4 days 🙂

I got a ski pass that allowed access to Morzine which is the Swiss Alps – (https://en.lesgets.com/i-want/glisse/ski-map.html) and rented my gear from Berthet sports down at Les Gets Village right in front of the ski lifts.

My recommendations:

  1. Visit Les Gets Village and ski the area. Sometimes you can get lucky and they have various stalls, shows, ice sculpture and live music in the village, especially at night. If you get a super clear day, you can also see Mont Blanc from La Rosta or Le Ranfolly.
  2. Visit Morzine Village and ski the area. Moraine is lower down so the village may sometimes look more dull as the buildings are green and brown rather than covered with snow. They have a really fun ‘zoo’ path with animal sculptures and all the French names hanging. IMG-20180223-WA0035
  3. Try Tartiflette – a dish from Savoy in the Alps. It is made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons and onions20180222_120310
  4. There are free buses or little trains that take you across Les Gets village to Mont Chery where you can also ski for the day. The lifts here are super old, so I wasn’t very keen but it’s still different slopes for the day.
  5. Take a walk at the Les Dereches Parc Morzine to see Shetland ponies! You can even ride them if you’d like.

 

Solo Travelling: My reflection

Pros

  • People are more willing to help you
  • Easier to ask for help and favours
  • Do what you want, when you want
  • People are more likely to approach and include you
  • More likely to YOLO things and be able to change plans last minute without having to consult anyone or consider anyone else
  • Save money, you naturally feel the need to be like all backpackers and live on a tight budget
  • Learn to be independent, get used to eating along, get stronger from carrying own stuff and being more aware of what to bring in future
  • Figure things out yourself if something goes wrong
  • More likely to squeeze in to get a space e.g. buses, shows
  • Get out of comfort zone, challenge
  • Time to reflect
  • Increase compassion and care as you meet people from everywhere
  • Learn to stand up for yourself
  • Face your weaknesses
  • Teachers you to streamline your life, packing little and living simply
  • You’re never truly alone
  • The world will no longer be as scary as you think
  • Learn to trust your gut instincts
  • Makes you more spontaneous
  • Walk loads
  • Collect memories and photos instead of things

Cons

  • I definitely kept on wanting to tell someone about what I was doing, what I encountered, my feelings, my upcoming plans etc. So I guess it’s not purely traveling solo if I’m always texting, insta storying?
  • Unable to stay out too long when it’s dark. Potentially affecting the joy of watching sunset peacefully
  • Always have to be SO alert and awake
  • Major dress down, act poor, pretend I’m just a student
  • Have to take the cheaper transport option as you can’t split cab fares if in a large group. Public transport takes a lot longer and have set times
  • Hostel room = potentially messy, crowded, upper bunk, people snoring
  • Lonely! You also feel scared
  • Not as safe, therefore limited places, countries you can visit
  • Can’t discuss options to rationalise
  • No one to watch your back or help you with simple things e.g. a zip or fluff in your hair
  • Some activities are more fun with more people
  • Overtime if you have to do all the planning, it can get tiring. No one to share out the work load

Tips for first time solo travellers:

  • Towel x2 (activities outside)
  • Ear plugs
  • Torch
  • Learn to read a map
  • Be willing to speak to people
  • Avoid eye contact with dodgy looking people and groups
  • Always be around other people and stay on main roads
  • Find out about student/youth discounts
  • Cough candy
  • Pre-book at least your first hostel, don’t assume you can’t just roll up especially during peak season
  • Consider travelling during low season if you want a more quiet trip and better service
  • Your hostel will have a locker so don’t worry about sleeping with your valuables
  • Bug spray
  • Sunblock and shades
  • Always pick up a map of the area, learn to rely on that rather than Google maps especially to get away from tech
  • Don’t hitch hike alone
  • Pack light, it can get tiring if your bag is heavy
  • Water bottle

 

Bath, United Kingdom

Bath is a town set in the rolling countryside of southwest England, known for its natural hot springs and 18th-century Georgian architecture. Honey-coloured Bath stone has been used extensively in the town’s architecture. Here are my recommended places to visit:

  1. Roman Baths and Pump house – The Roman Baths complex is a site of historical interest in the English city of Bath. The house is a well-preserved Roman site for public bathing. The Roman Baths themselves are below the modern street level.
  2. Bath Abbey – The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul
  3. The Royal Crescent and Victoria Park – The Royal Crescent is a row of 30 terraced houses laid out in a sweeping crescent with a park near by. No. 1 Royal Crescent is also a museum if you wish to see the interior. 20180307_12485120180307_12595420180307_130144
  4. Parade Gardens and Pulteney Bridge – You can catch a great view of Pulteney Bridge from the Parade Gardens as well as opposite the Gardens, so why not walk a short circular loop. Designed by Robert Adam in a Palladian style, the bridge is exceptional in having shops built across its full span on both sides.
  5. Sally Lunn’s for their buns – Bath’s oldest house (c.1483), home of the famous Sally Lunn Bun (a semi-sweet bread) and tearoom. I tried the salt beef and cinnamon bun.
  6. Jane Austen Centre and Regency Tea Room – Small museum chronicling the life and times of the famous writer, Jane Austen, plus Regency tearoom.20180307_142052

Seville, Spain

Seville is the capital of southern Spain’s Andalusia region. I actually did a day trip from Algarve, Portugal but would have loved to spend longer here to admire its architecture for longer. All the main sites are extremely walkable from one another but it is definitely a lot of walking.

Here are my top recommendations:

  1. Plaza de Espana and Parque Maria Luisa just opposite Plaza de Espana which will then get you to the Museum of archeology and  Museum of art and tradition

  2. Seville Cathedral and La Giralda (The bell-tower right next-door to the Cathedral). There are horse drawn carriages everywhere! You could probably take them to visit all the main sites if you are tired of walking
  3. Triana neighbourhood opposite the old city, and a view of of both sides from Isabel bridge including Torre Del Oro, a tower along the river
  4. Metropol Parasol – incredibly unique design! You can go up and they give you a free postcode and drink as part of the entrance fee
  5. Maestranza bull ring 20180209_112237
  6. Alcazar Castle – the queue was so long so I had to give this a miss, but I’m sure it would have been beautiful

Extra note: Have paella of course!

Faro and Lagos, Portugal

Faro and Lagos are part of The Algarve, with Faro being the capital and where the airport is. You can see Faro in half a day so feel free to explore the rest of the Algarve, in particular Lagos which was beautiful! To get to Lagos, it would be best to pre-book a shuttle from transfer ( I used Greenbus costing 25euros, you can probably find something cheaper as I didn’t realise I needed to book in advance). This will save you time because if you wanted to take a public train or bus, you would first have to get to Faro city centre to then wait for specific set times and public transport stops at more places. A bus from the airport to the train station cost about 2euros and the train to Lagos costs 7.50euros or 5.50euros for students.

Here are my top recommendations:

  1. Walk around Lagos within the old town walls which is a tiny area so you can easily do in a few hours. There is a church, the fortress, a unique male statue and on a Saturday, the fresh fruit market is fantastic for cheap and good fruits. Spot all the art work too!
  2. Walk along the boardwalk, using the footbridge to see the Marina and Meia Praia beach. Consider taking a boat tour which departs from the boardwalk to see the caves, or kayak tour which departs from the fortress. 20180208_113555
  3. Walk from Praia Da Batata beach all the way to the light house to see sun set. You will pass by Praia do Pinhao, Praia Dona ana, Praia do Camila and Praia grande as you follow the walking path, stopping by each beach as you wish.
  4. Surf in Praia Porto De Mos known for good waves
  5. Take a day trip to Sagres, the extreme southwest of continental Europe (7.50euros return bus ticket from Lagos bus centre) and use the Tuk Tuk Sagres service which is 100% electric, therefore you won’t smell awful fumes and you’ll easily access all the main tourist spots rather than the usual huge tourist coaches. The Tuk Tuk shop is just outside the only tourist information centre in Sagres (18 euros for 1 person but the price decreases the more people there are, up to 5 people). The 2h tour will take you to Baleeira Harbour, see a view of Mareta Beach, Tonal Beach and Belich Beach, visit St. Vincent Cape (lighthouse), visit a fishing harbour and you can either return to the starting point or be dropped off at Belich Fortress to enter and explore at you’re own leisure. You’ll learn how fisherman catch all sorts of seafood!
  6. Faro is extremely walkable, especially with its designated pedestrian only shopping area, and the small old town still surrounded by a wall. Consider visiting the chapel of bones if you are interested in seeing a cathedral known for a wall of skeletons (I didn’t do this). I did enjoy taking photos of the beautifully designed and colourful doors around the city.

    Extra note: Make sure you have a nata or two! 20180211_091229

Caribbean Cruise

12 days 7 islands. Trip of a lifetime and friendships made on the cruise that will last a lifetime.

Here is what I did and saw:

Bahamas (Great Stirrup Cay) – A private island, beautiful beach and clear waters!

Gustavia, St Barts – try a yellow submarine tour, climb the look out point and admire the famous red roof houses. 

Fort de France Martinique – Visit it’s Sacra Coeur church, Balata Gardens and Historic Clement’s Plantation. Beautiful exotic plants to be seen! 26165961_10155887818902159_5868280088007234142_n

St. George’s Grenada – Join the ‘Spice of our lives’ tour where you learn about different natural ingredients and see how they dry out cocoa 

Bridgetown Barbados – Join the ‘Best of Barbados’ tour which brings you to a beautiful coast and an old church. 

Castries St. Lucia – MY FAVOURITE TOUR! Join the ‘Land and Sea to Soufriere’ tour which includes a catamaran ride. You’ll visit a beautiful estate, learning more about cocoa once again and go around the island with stunning views. 

St. John’s Antigua – Visit Nelson’s dockyard (try their bakery there too), Fort Frederick and make sure you visit a beach. They have 365 beaches! One for each day of the year.26814426_10157412252538849_8470381849237825640_n 

On the cruise:
Art class, cooking class, shows every night, tennis, table tennis, golf, mini golf, shuffle board, baggo beans, casino, pool, spa, gym, sauna, games room, croquet, jogging track, unlimited food. 4 speciality restaurants: Jacques, Polo Grill, Toscana and Red Ginger, my favourite being Red Ginger. 

 

Plenty of sunsets ❤26734345_10157412203148849_5257656953017185719_n