4 Wonderful Experiences to Try

Once upon a time, holidays tended to consist of going somewhere hot, eating something (more or less) exotic and then tanning for as long as possible. But, as welcome as relaxation is, today’s travellers (rightly) demand more varied affairs, balancing indulgence with adventure, and comfort with exploration. And this opening up of what a vacation can and should be has also meant that wildly different regions now welcome tourists to take in experiences only known to locals even a generation ago. And so, we present here a handful of exclusive destinations to give even the seasoned traveller something new to look forward to.

Mt. Fuji, Japan

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  1. A cherry blossom tour of Japan

The cherry blossom season is definitely the right time of the year to visit Japan – this is when the country’s already breathtaking natural beauty is raised to another level. Whether you’re exploring the urban delights of Tokyo and Osaka, the natural splendour of Mount Fuji, or the historical charms of Kyoto, each location on your itinerary will be enhanced by the cherry blossoms spreading all around. The Japanese celebrate this time of year with ‘Hanami’ (flower viewing) parties – where friends and families gather together underneath the blossoms to enjoy each other’s company and appreciate the natural spectacle all around them.

 

pine trees on mountain with white snow during daytime

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2. Heli-skiing around the globe

A world away from the cosmic dance of celestial bodies – but still very, very high up – the technological adventure that is heli-skiing is gaining in popularity every year. For the uninitiated, this involves a helicopter transporting skiers to mountain spots inaccessible (or at least impractical) from the ground. This not only means pristine ski-ways in soft snow but also much less crowded slopes. Canada and the US lead the way, with multiple operators in British Columbia and Alaska, but there are also opportunities in Switzerland (naturally), New Zealand and Japan.

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3. The timeless ruins of Bagan

While Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat have been on the tourist trail for some time now, another awe-inspiring archaeological wonder – in Myanmar – has somehow stayed off the map, despite its comparable scale and grandeur. The more than two thousand superbly preserved Buddhist temples in this historical complex are surrounded by the ruins of more than double that again. Many of these are almost a thousand years old – countless otherworldly pagodas rising through the trees. Best of all, until tourism fully catches up with Bagan, the site can be experienced without the kind of crowds that can distract from the ancient architecture.

aerial photo of city highway surrounded by high-rise buildings

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4. The future today, in Dubai

From the remains of a lost empire to a marvel that’s still under construction – the global city of Dubai offers an incredible vision of the world-to-come. Especially well-suited to family holidays, the futuristic landscape offers up landmark skyscrapers boasting the world’s fastest lifts, and a shopping mall containing 1200 shops (making it, yes, the world’s largest) but also a floor-to-ceiling aquarium with 30,000 fish. Truly, this is a place built for superlatives – from the magical islands reclaimed from the sea to fountains which spout higher than the London Eye.

Pros and Cons of Travelling Solo

Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa

Traveling alone can be very daunting for most people and I do agree that it is not the easiest thing to do. I have been traveling solo most of the time and have learnt a couple of things through my travels. You always end up meeting lots of people while traveling alone, and I have often enjoyed a big collection of fun temporary friends throughout my trips.

Traveling solo has its pros and cons — and for me, the pros far outweigh the cons and here are some of the pros.

  • When you’re on your own, you’re independent and in control of the when and where of your travels.
  • You can travel at your own pace, spend as much time as you want browsing through shops or sitting at a cafe enjoying a cappuccino and a good book. You can spend hours in an art museum or at the market getting to know the people of the city.
  • You can do the things that interest you and dont have to come to a compromise with your travel partner.
  • You’ll meet a lot of people as you’re seen as more approachable because you are sitting there all alone. If you stay in hostels, you’ll have a built-in family and there will always be someone who would like to join you.
  • You can eat where and when you like and nobody is going to make you feel guilty about having chocolate mouse for dinner.
  • Another benefit is that your mistakes are your own, and your triumphs all the more exciting. There’s no worrying that your insistence on trekking all the way across town to a museum that was closed ruined your partner’s day; it’s your own day to salvage or chalk up to a learning experience
  •  A lovely advantage is that you can splurge where and on what you want. You can spent the afternoon looking for the perfect souveneir or bag in the market and not feel as if somebody is willing you to hurry up.
  • You don’t have to wait for your partner to pack up, which while traveling with my mom I learned can take quite a while.
  • There is no need to negotiate when to call it a day or feel guilty about wanting to take a midday nap.
  • Traveling on your own allows you to be more present, absorb your surroundings and indulge in the new culture without distractions.
  • Solo travel is intensely personal. You end up discovering more about yourself at the same time as you’re discovering more about the country your traveling through.
  • Traveling on your own is fun, challenging, vivid, and exhilarating. Realizing that you have what it takes to be your own guide is a thrill known only to solo travelers.

Of course, there are downsides to traveling alone and everything is not always roses and sunshine.

  • When you’re on your own, you don’t have a built-in dining companion. I usually spend my meals dividing my attention between my food and my book. I have found that good book,or even just postcards to write or your travel journal to jot in – are all legitimate activities at a bar or restaurant if you get to feeling a little bored/lonely/exposed, so carry one of them with you at all times.
  • You’ve got no one to send ahead while you wait in line, or stand in line while you go to the bathroom. Believe me that can be torture.
  • You have to figure out the bus schedule and train times on your own and this way end up at some very strange places.
  • There is nobody to help you when things go wrong or someone other than yourself to blame for taking the wrong bus or train.
  • Traveling by yourself is usually more expensive as you have to pay a single supplement in hotels. The supplement can range anywhere from 25 to 100 percent of the trip cost, meaning that you could end up paying twice as much as someone traveling with a partner.
  • Other things become cheaper too when you’re splitting costs, such as groceries, guidebooks, taxis, storage lockers, and more.
  • In much of the world, solo travellers – and single people in general – are seen as strange, even a bit unfortunate.
  • Sometimes, especially in more hospitable and foreigner-fascinated cultures like Egypt and Turkey, I’ve found the attention I got as a solo traveller to be a little intense. I had to learn how to say “no, thank you” in the local language, as well as “absolutely not” – plus the local nonverbal gesture for no, which was often more effective than both.
  • You are on hardly any of your holiday photos unless you ask a stranger to please take a photos of you. So definitely get a camera with a time delay setting as that way you at least have a couple of photos with you on them.

I can imagine what you’re thinking. You’ll be lonely, isolated, it’s dangerous, and only the young Birkenstock types travel by themselves. Think again.   If I can travel solo, anyone can. I’ve never been lonely, bored or felt threatened. Traveling solo is not necessarily more dangerous than going to the movies and dinner by yourself in your home town.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Temporary Tulips in Moscow

Winters in Moscow are harsh and very long, but knowing that they are only temporary makes them bearable. You know Winter is over as soon as the first tulips start appearing all over the city.

I love how the city explodes in colour after the long cold winter!

All the parks and flower beds all over the city is covered in bright tulips come spring time!! These tulips are also just temporary and would soon be replaced by other flowers.

Janaline bought a flat and is turning it into a home!

I always though that buying a house was something I would do way in the future, when I am old and ready to settle. But the need for a place of my own, a little nest where I can relax, create and feel at home, came up sooner than that.

I had been moving around from country to country for the past decade, every time I would live in a new place with new people. This was always very exciting but I suddenly reached a point where I wanted my own place. A place I could decorate the way I wanted. A place to make cosy, a hideaway from the world where I could start my new art journey.

Janaline bought a flat and is turning it into a home!
My very first piece of furniture that I bought for my home!!

Buying my first home was one of the biggest emotional and financial steps that I have ever taken. I heard that when you buy a home, you should know you’re going to stay for a minimum of five to seven years. This alone was already a huge stresspoint for me as I have  never stayed in one place for more than a year or two at max.

I didn’t really have a specific place in mind of where we wanted to live. I searched all around Cape Towns and had to rule out certain areas as ‘no-go’ zones as if they were a contaminated area in an apocalyptic movie. Others became ‘would-love-to’ but ‘can’t-afford’ areas.

I found a lovely 2 bedroom flat about 8 minutes drive from the beautiful Bouberg beach. It is in a small security complex with a balcony overlooking a small park. As soon as I walked in I thought: “I could live here!”. So I knew I had to buy the place. I had a second look, but had actually made up my mind already that I wanted to live here.

I was physically sick after I signed the forms and paid the deposit for my own house. But after that I couldn’t wait to move in. The only thought that went through my head at that stage was: “This is MY PLACE and I could do whatever I wanted!!”

Before I had even unpacked my belongings, I had chosen what colours I wanted to paint my home. I spent my first couple of weeks in my place painting every wall, and even the kitchen cabinets.

I didn’t stop there, next, I bought some barstools for my Kitchen which I painted in bright colours to match the kitchen drawers.

I have realized that if there is something in my place that can be painted, it will be painted. My bookshelf has been painted twice now since I moved in, my chest and even my lamp has also changed colours.

Even my fridge did not escape as I painted it with black chalkboard paint! It is the best place to write down my shopping list or flat wish-lists on.

New homebuyers make mistakes when buying their first place, as I learnt the hard way. Within the first month I had to replace my geyser and my oven broke in month three but I am taking it all as part of being a homeowner.

I love having my own place and enjoy living here!

Would you ride an elephant in Bali?

Riding an elephant in Bali
I got to ride an elephant in Bali

Everyone wants to ride an elephant when they travel to Asia. Including me. Unfortunately it was only afterwards that I learned the disturbing truth about this popular activity. All I thought about was how incredible it would be to sit atop a massive 9 foot tall, 4 ton beast while lumbering through the rivers and jungle of Bali. I couldn’t wait to get a photo of me riding on top of a massive elephant!

Riding an elephant in Bali
Riding an elephant in Bali

I did some research on the elephant park just outside of Ubud in Bali and it mentioned that the animals had been rescued from areas in Sumatra where many elephants were forced to work in harsh conditions. In my naiveté, I was convinced that they had it much better toting around tourists all day in Bali. So, without a second thought, I booked a tour to experience the elephants.

Riding an elephant in Bali
After a lot of convincing I got of the chair and sat on the elephant itself

Once there, I was appointed the baby elephant to ride on. Even though it was a baby, it was huge once I got to stand next to it. I climbed onto a large chair like saddle that was strapped around the elephant’s belly and joined the line of elephants already carrying their squealing tourists. I handed my camera to the guide who then took photos of me on this little fellow as we walked through the dense jungle.

An elephant’s gait is not smooth and the entire ride felt like I was slowly being shaken up. The ride was uncomfortable, to say the least, and I was left wondering if there was any reason to ride an elephant other than just to say you had. Which really isn’t a good reason to do much of anything.

However there’s a dark side to elephant tourism that I was not aware of.

These animals had to be extensively trained to become docile ride givers and performers. I don’t know about the training methods used at the park I visited, but the training is often peppered with horrific abuse. While elephants are able to carry a significant amount of weight, the total load of the saddle, guide, and two or more passengers can easily overburden the beautiful animal. The weight, combined with the hours they are forced to cart people around, is often detrimental to the elephant’s physical and mental well being.

Riding an elephant in Bali
My elephant adventure is done.

Have you ever done anything while travelling that you regretted later on?

 

Wordless Wednesday: Bali rice paddies

Beautiful rice paddies of Bali
Beautiful rice paddies of Bali

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Seoul, a glimpse into the heart of South Korea

Gyeongbokgung palace
Im at Gyeongbokgung palace in Seoul

During January ’08 I taught English at a winter camp in South Korea. The school was in the South so I only got to explore Seoul for a weekend. My month in South-Korea was very interesting and definitely a culture shock but not a place I would like to live in for too long. I was offered a longer contract after my winter camp finished but I declined ads I was hungry. Yes, I was hungry as I don’t much like the spicy food of South Korea.

Visiting Seoul was a great way to get to know a bit more about the culture of this interesting country. The city bus tour is a great way to see the city and everything it has to offer but in the winter everything closes after 3 pm so maybe exploring during the summer would be more rewarding.

The main tourist attraction is Gyeongbokgung palace. It is the biggest palace in Seoul, and reminded me of the early years of Korean dynasties that I have read about or seen in movies. Most of the buildings had been reconstructed after the Japanese destroyed nearly all 330 buildings. The 48-columned pavilion still give you an idea of how it must have looked once.

It was very cold outside and all the ponds were frozen over. The grounds of the palace is barren in the winter but it was so beautiful! Unfortunately it seems like each palace or temple in South Korea looks like the previous one you just saw and it is quite hard to distinguish them from each other.

The only obvious thing that stood out about Changdeokgung palace which was its big gardens stretching throughout the palace. This palace is on the World Heritage site and took me along Seoul’s oldest stone bridge, the mansion of Naksonjae and the wonderful secret gardens of Biwon.

I only had 24 hours to explore Seoul and think that there are a lot more to see and experience. Which places would you recommend for my next visit?

Wordless Wednesday: Tokyo night

Some photos depicting the busy and bright night life of  Shinjuku in Tokyo!

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday: Views from Table Mountain

Views from Table Mountain
View of Cape Town, South-Africa from Table Mountain

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Why you should visit Butterfly World

The Cape Region in South-Africa never stops to amaze me with all it has to offer. On our way to one of the many great wine farms for an afternoon of wine tasting we first stopped at the Butterfly World Tropical Garden. It is one of the many unique attractions the Western Cape Winelands has to offer and consists of a tropical garden in a 1000  square meter green house.

 

From the moment you walk through the Tropical Garden door you are surrounded by hundreds of  exotic butterflies and other tropical creatures. There is a different colourful butterfly around each corner and I am sure it would take a couple of days to photograph them all. I don’t know what kinds of butterflies there are but they are beautiful.

 

Butterflies are, apart from high temperature and humidity levels, also dependent on the amount of sunlight present. Some days which are overcast and cold may prevent the butterflies from being as active as on a sunny day.  We were here on a particularly hot and sunny day so the butterflies were very active and it was quite difficult at times to get a photo of them sitting still.

 

There is even a breeding part where we got to watch as some of these beautiful butterflies crawled out of their cocoons and came into the world. Butterfly World Tropical Garden imports 300 butterfly pupae per week all year round. All different tropical species. I would have loved to watch for a while longer but it is quite humid inside these gardens and after a while the sweat was dripping down me and I just wanted a cool breeze and loads of ice water.

 

To get away from the humidity I would recommend investigating the other interesting animal displays in less humid rooms.

 

Throwback Thursday: The Socialist Sculpture Park in Moscow

Moscow has countless churches all over the city, but not all of them are open to the public
I love exploring the small churches dotted all over the city. Moscow has countless churches all over the city, but not all of them are open to the public

I explored the Tretyakov gallery area a couple of times during the first sunny weeks of May 2012. It was lovely just getting out of the small flat  after the long harsh winter, and spending some time outside in the sunshine.

As I walked through the numerous side streets of this district I eventually reached the Moscow River. The whole of Moscow is filled with countless of beautiful old buildings and small churches hidden between them. I don’t know what this church is named , as I couldnt find it on the map, but it was lovely inside and smelled of incense and rose oil. I love that most of the churches are filled with icons and candles, makes it feel very mystical inside.

Close to this little church I came across the Socialist sculpture park. I didn’t realize you had to pay to enter the park so I just walked in and it must have looked as if I belonged because nobody stopped me. It was only on my second visit here that I was stopped and made to pay the entrance fee. Luckily for me I had my head phones in and didn’t say a word as I handed over my money so the lady took me for a Russian and I ended up paying half of what foreigners pay to enter.

The Park was established by the City of Moscow in 1992 and currently displays over 700 sculptures that had been brought here from all over the city when they tried to get rid of all the communist statues.

The Socialist sculpture park.
Almost all the statues are name-less

In October 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, smaller socialist realism statues of Soviet leaders and unidentifiable workers and peasants were removed from their pedestals, hauled to the park and left in their fallen form. The park became a big statue dumping ground.

Most of themse starues were turned upright later, although they were all missing their original pedestals and some were broken beyond repair.

The Socialist sculpture park.
The park is filled with sculptures that have nothing to do with politics

In 1995, Muzeon added a World War II section – these sculptures, of the same socialist realism vintage, were never displayed in open air before then. In 1998 the park acquired 300 sculptures of victims of communist rule made by Evgeny Chubarov, and was installed as a single group.

I think the most stunning of these fallen statues is a bust of Stalin (whose nose has been broken off). There are a couple of statues of Lenin and some Soviet emblems. The saddest part is that they have a whole section that is filled with the heads of statues that were destroyed while being moved here.

The Socialist sculpture park.
Some forgotten revolutionary

I don’t understand how they classify what statues are communist as there are even statues of fairy tales here. I also couldn’t believe it when I found a patch where statues of t animals were displayed, never thought animals were communists.

The Socialist sculpture park.
Huge sculptures found at the exit of the park

This park is right next to the Moscow River and I love just sitting here with a book or just to walk around whenever I have the time.

The Socialist sculpture park.
Make across this sculpture as I was already leaving the park

Exploring South Africa’s oldest colonial building

I took my family on the hop on hop off red bus tour of Cape Town and one of the main stops was the Castle Of Good Hope. I actually live just down the street from the Castle, a star or pentagonal  shaped fort built in the 17th century here in Cape Town, South Africa. Its position, although unremarkable today, indicates the original position of the shoreline, which, thanks to land reclamation, has been extensively changed. It’s strange to think that the original entrance to the fort had to be moved due to the waves that sometimes pounded against its doors!

The main entrance to the Castle still bears many reminders of the nearly one and a half centuries of Dutch presence in the Cape. Sections of the moat, which previously formed part of the defence system of the Castle, were rebuilt in 1992 and it adds to the authentic castle atmosphere.

Built by Jan van Riebeeck and the Dutch East India Company, the building was completed in 1679. The Castle of Good Hope is now the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa. The building’s 18th-century décor has been restored and it now functions as a popular museum. 

Castle Of Good Hope
The Castle Of Good Hope

At 11am we joined the first free Castle tour of the day. Not only did we get to see the castle but we also learnt a lot about its history and what went on here years ago.

During the tour the guide took us for a walk atop the battlement. The Castle was planned from a central point with five bastions, named after the main titles of Willem, the Prince of Orange. The Western bastion was named Leerdam, followed in clockwise order by Buuren, Catzenellenbogen, Nassau and Oranje. From the battlement we had a phenomenal 360 degree view over Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, Lion’s Head, the towers of the city centre and the other districts in the east.

The tour lasted just about 30 minutes leading us through all the main features of the Castle.

Castle Of Good Hope
A look at Table Mountain from the castle battlements

The Dolphin Pool, today is a recreation after the original had been demolished by the British.

 

The tour took us into places the public wouldn’t ordinarily be allowed to visit including the old prison cells and the gunpowder store room underneath one of the bastions. We even got to go into the torture chamber where confessions would be drawn from men whether they were innocent or guilty.

The fortress was once the centre of civilian, political and military life. Today the Castle of Good Hope is seat of the military in the Cape and hosts three museums, including: Castle Military Museum, Iziko Hope Gallery and William Fehr Collection, in which rooms are historically decorated with furniture, paintings and accessories of the 17th to 19th century.

The fortress housed a church, bakery, various workshops, living quarters, shops, and cells, among other facilities. They say the yellow paint on the walls was originally chosen because it lessened the effect of heat and the sun. It didnt do much to cool us down on this hot and sunny day, except when you were inside the cool building.

After the tour there was enough time to stroll around, take photos and to visit one of the museums before we continued our red bus tour.

Castle Of Good Hope
The main Castle building

I must admit that the tour should be a priority for anyone looking for a fun and well informed venture around the castle. The Castle of Good Hope is not just for history lovers or military fans but also for families, tourists and locals a perfect excursion, a Cape Town must!

10 Tips for Dining Solo while Travelling

Views from Table Mountain
Me standing on Table Mountain!

Eating alone isn’t so bad. The thought of eating alone is sometimes terrifying especially for solo travelers. What will people think and how can I eat out without someone to talk to or share a bottle of wine with? Throughout my years of travelling I have learnt a couple of different ways to overcome what for many travelers is the most unpleasant aspect of going it alone.

  1. Chat with the service people. Waiters and waitresses are some of the best sources to find out about the local city you are exploring. And it feels good when someone greets you with a smile the next time you go there, it helps make you feel a bit at home in a foreign country.
  2. A lot of guides include a section on the “Singles Scene” in many cities; you might not be out to meet someone special, but this should offer some options for socialing nonetheless.

 3. Cafe and outdoor dining is some of the most attractive places for single travelers. Sitting alone with a book in a cafe isn’t as unusual as a table for one at a fancy restaurant and its a great place to sit and people watch.

4. Choose a counter seat or a seat at the bar. Here you usually end up talking to the barman or to the other single diners who end up sitting at the counter.

5. Go to a restaurant that has booths, which offer more privacy. This way you can have a booth all to yourself where you can hide with a good book and your hot chocolate.

 

6. You might be tempted to live on fast food, just to avoid awkward restaurant situations. Don’t. In fact, fancy establishments are fantastic places to dine alone. Waiters are happy to help solo diners who smile and say, “I made a special trip just to eat here. What do you recommend?”

7. Bring reading materials. If you start to feel uneasy sitting alone and staring down at your food, you can crack open a book, whip out your Kindle or read a magazine. One hint: The more high-minded your pursuit appears, the more likely folks are either to ignore you, or to become intrigued and maybe say hello. If you sit there studying the local city guide you will be surprised how easily other travellers will come up to you and offer some advice.

8. If you don’t want to endure yet another meal alone, use room service. It’s often no more expensive than local restaurants and you can watch a movie while enjoying your dinner.

9. Eat well. Just because you’re alone and on the run doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take time for sit-down meals. Enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee or a decadent dessert in one of the beautiful cafe’s of the city.

10. Seek out an ex-pat bar where you can hang out and speak your native tongue with some fellow expatriates and travelers. Here you will always be able to find a fellow solo traveller to share a meal with.

Do you have any other tips you would like to add?

Wordless Wednesday: Ma Africa

‘Ma Africa’ by South African artist Angus van Zyl Taylor.

Nestled at the foot of the mountain after which it is named, Saronsberg Wine Estate has a very unique collection of South-African art.

 

Surviving My 3 Motorbike Accidents in Ho Chi Minh City

Motorbike Accidents in Ho Chi Minh City
Traffic in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City is filled with skyscrapers, ancient temples, motorbikes, people on bicycles and more motorbikes. While living in Ho Chi Minh I got myself a canary yellow 1969 super cup motorbike, which I named Buttercup. It couldn’t go faster than 60km per hour but in a city as crowded as Ho Chi Minh City I rarely needed to go faster. The streets are overcrowded with motorbikes, piled with up to 5 people each fighting for way with taxis and even trucks. The streets look like organized chaos with motorbike drivers talking on cell phones, not abiding traffic signals, and not even driving in the same direction as the traffic flow.

The up side of crawling at a snails pace along these crowded streets was that when I got into my first accident I wasn’t actually hurt too bad.

Motorbike Accidents in Ho Chi Minh City
Motorbikes everywhere you look!

My first accident happened while going down the hill towards the house where I lived. As I am driving along another motorbike sped past me and turned left. As he turned left he swiped the front tire of my bike, throwing me of balance. Sending me skidding along the tar road to the bottom of the hill. Luckily I was wearing a helmet but it was summer so I had shorts on and ended up with bad road rash on my leg.

My next “accident” had a driver riding into me sideways and hitting my foot, actually ripping my big toe nail half way out. Like a trooper I tried to clean it but just trying to touch my toe had me in tears. So I gave up and drove over to the hospital which was only a block away from where I lived. It took the hospital staff a while to locate a doctor who could speak or understand English as it was a local hospital. But within half an hour they had found a doctor who gave my toe one look and shook his head.

Motorbike Accidents in Ho Chi Minh City
Driving in Vietnam is a skill on its own

Doctor: Do you have pain tablet?

Me: No, why?

Doctor: That is sorry, bring next time.

Me: Okay?!?

Here I was hoping there wouldn’t be a next time, and still not getting why he asked me this.

Motorbike Accidents in Ho Chi Minh City
I was going to try and clean this myself….

As I got onto the bed in the ward he called three nurses over and they grabbed my arms and legs. It then dawned on me that the public hospitals in Vietnam don’t supply any pain killers and that this was going to hurt.

Doctor: Try and keep still, this will hurt.

Me: I have great pain killers at home, maybe I should come back later!?

The doctor only smiled at me and the nurses tightened their grip on me. Knowing that it was going to hurt just made it worse. As he poured salt water over the open wound I nearly peed my pants. I actually tried to twist my toe away and if the nurses weren’t holding my legs down I am sure that I would have kicked the Doctor.

Me: I think its clean now. I will just go now, please! I am going to die here is what went through my mind at that moment.

Doctor:  Ready, Now try not to cry.

He actually continued to clean the open wound with alcohol, wiping it clean and cutting the toe nail a bit. Okay, I admit, at this point the tears were flowing freely, thinking that losing the toe would have hurt less than this.

Thinking the worst was over I nearly had a heart attack as he pushed the nail back down on the open wound and bandaged it up.

At this point I was swearing at the doctor, cursing him and everyone around me. Trying to kick  my way out of the nurses grip. Luckily I don’t think any of the staff or doctors could understand Afrikaans, as I screamed out curses I didn’t even know that I knew.

Doctor: Its finished. Come back Wednesday so I can clean it.

Me: Okay!?Thinking that there is no way I am coming back here again.

Motorbike Accidents in Ho Chi Minh City
Traffic is crazy!

My last accident took me back to that same hospital and the same little Vietnamese Doctor. I was on my way to the market, minding my own business at the traffic light when the truck behind me didn’t stop in time and came charging into and over me. As he came to a halt I was stuck underneath the truck, not able to move. My helmet took a hell of a hit and actually cracked right trough. Don’t want to think what my head would have looked like without a helmet on.

In the fall, my petrol tank cap came off and as I lay there I had petrol pouring down my leg. There I lay, screaming at everyone with cigarettes to back of, as I could just see this ending badly with me in flames while being trapped under the truck. It took the bystanders quite a while to get the truck driver to reverse a bit so that they could pull me out. There were no sparks and I got out without much hassle.

Motorbike Accidents in Ho Chi Minh City
Ready to go even before the light goes green

Luckily my motorbike was only scratched a bit and I was only missing some skin from my ankle.

Motorbike Accidents in Ho Chi Minh City
Didnt look too bad….

Some of the bystanders helped me get back onto my bike and started it for me so that I could drive myself to the hospital and get my foot cleaned. I was at least prepared this time round and took a couple of painkillers before I even arrived at the hospital.

After cleaning and bandaging my foot the Doctor even gave me a compliment.

Doctor: You did not cry this time!

Me: Thanks?!?!

 

They say you should do something brave at least once a year. I think driving a motorbike in Vietnam covered me for a couple of years worth of brave things.

Motorbike Accidents in Ho Chi Minh City
Proof that they do load their motorbikes with up to 5 people…..

What’s your brave thing for the year so far?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh – Spring in Japan

The Freshness of Spring creates the perfect atmosphere for rejuvenation and well-being. Seeds sprout, flowers bloom, and the sun warms the earth. There is definitely a sense of renewal and new life all around. The appearance of the Cherry blossoms in Japan bring with it an energy of change and something new. The fragrance of the fresh blossoms drift throughout the city of Tokyo and fill the parks and nearly every open space in the city.

The Cherry blossoms of Japan is the perfect reminder that spring brings with it new life. Suddenly the city of Tokyo is filled with life again and everywhere you look people are walking around appreciating the beautiful blossoms. Even a bit of rain can not dampen the high spirits of people in this city as spring takes over and chases away the last remnants of winter. People travel from all over the world to come and look at these beautiful blossoms and there is no way that the sight of these blossom lanes can disappoint anybody. 

New to The Daily Post? Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, you’re invited to get involved in our Weekly Photo Challenge to help you meet your blogging goals and give you another way to take part in Post a Day / Post a Week. Everyone is welcome to participate, even if your blog isn’t about photography.

5 Things that make Babylonstoren Enchanting

Cant wait to explore Babylonstoren
Cant wait to explore Babylonstoren

A perfect summers day is spending a couple of hours walking through the extensive gardens or Babylonstoren and ending it with a delicious winetasting session or with lunch at the Babylonstoren glasshouse. Babylonstoren is a Cape Dutch farm in the Western Cape with vineyards and orchards surrounded by the beautiful mountains of the Drakenstein Valley. The Babylonstoren garden is at the heart of this wine farm. It was inspired by the Company Gardens of the Cape, where for centuries ships would replenish with sweet water, vegetables and fruit at the halfway station between Europe and Asia.

This formal garden spanning eight acres has numerous things that make it a unique and enchanting place to explore.

Planning our route at the Farm restaurant
Planning our route at the Farm restaurant
  1. Every one of over 300 varieties of plants in the garden is edible and it is grown as biologically as they can. A huge variety of fruit, vegetables and herbs grow in formal beds, bordered by fruit trees and intersected by walkways, each of which has a distinctive character.  (In the soft stone fruit orchard the paths are paved with peach pips.) The garden is divided into fifteen clusters spanning vegetable areas, berries, bees, indigenous plants and even includes a prickly pear maze. They actually harvest the fruit and vegetable year round for use in the farm restaurant.  You can go and pick your own salad and then enjoy a meal in the Babylonstoren restaurant. We had the most delicious fresh fruit juice at the Babylon glass house halfway through our garden walk.
Exploring the vegetable area of Babylonstoren
Exploring the vegetable area of Babylonstoren

 

Me standing in the middle of the vegetable garden!
Me standing in the middle of the vegetable garden!
  1. I loved the little hidden aspects of the garden like the meditation space and it has fragrant herb lawns for you to walk barefoot across. There are bee hives, not only to produce honey, but also to get the bees to pollinate the flowers.  This garden has a very calming aspect on the senses.
  1. They draw water from the Berg River 10 km away via gravity, using flood irrigation for the citrus trees as it has been done for 300 years, for example, as one would in Spain and in the Middle East.  
Babylponstoren using flood irrigation
Babylponstoren using flood irrigation
  1. The puff adder walkway that snakes through the Babylonstoren garden. Meandering 70 meters along a stream, the snake-like structure was created
    specifically for a collection of the famous indigenous lilies of the region known as ‘clivias’, which flower during spring in September. It is constructed from an army of balau slats on steel frames, swelling and constricting just like its namesake, slithering through wild olive and eucalyptus trees. This ‘puff adder’ eliminates about 40% of sunlight but allows a free flow of air creating ideal conditions for clivias to thrive in. 
Babylponstoren puff adder walkway
Babylponstoren puff adder walkway
  1. Apart from nourishment, the garden is also aesthetically pleasing, with 49 rose pillars, big timber structures with climbing roses, providing shade. As you wander around you smell indigenous herb gardens as well the blossoms and flowers from whatever may be in bloom at that time in the season.
Pergolas of climbing roses
Pergolas of climbing roses

The best way to end a visit to this beautiful place is with a wine tasting……

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Depth of Mist at Dawn

Misty Sea Point (
Driving along with my little red car named Ruby Bug!

Living in Cape Town I am surrounded by some o the most beautiful places in South Africa and slowly I am exploring them and getting to know the area. I live in a small bachelors flat in the heart of the city, the perfect base for weekend adventures along the West Coast. And the perfect excuse to go driving around the area. This weekphoto challenge is depth.….during my misty/ fog filled adventure I never knew what lay around the next corner or what I will encounter once the fog lifts. The depth beyond the mist w\as unthinkable. 

Misty Sea Point (
What a beautiful misty and eerie scenery

I am still getting used to the weather conditions around Cape Town, where one moment the wind will be blowing you away and the next an eerie silence will fall and the mist will take over.

Misty Sea Point (
The winding roads of Cape Town covered in mist

The mist here in Cape Town creeps over the mountain on winter mornings and slowly covers the city, making it look and feel like a ghost town this early in the morning. Not the best conditions to drive these winding paths of Cape Town but luckily there weren’t a lot of cars on the road this early in the morning. I think the people of the area probably know how difficult it is to drive in this thick mist and stay clear of the roads. Next time I will also stay indoors rather than tempting fate by driving along a road I can hardly see.

Newbie cruise on the MSC Opera

Newbie cruise on the MSC Opera
Newbie cruise on the MSC Opera
Newbie cruise on the MSC Opera
Boarding the MSC Opera

Along with all the other  newbie’s at Pentravel where I work we got to go on a 5 day cruise from Cape Town to Walvis Bay and back on the MSC Opera.  It was a cruise educational to give us first hand knowledge of cruising and the products we sell. It is always easier to sell a holiday once you have been on it yourself and for a lot of newbie’s this was their first time on a cruise ship. 

As we got to the harbour that morning it was already hot and the lines for people boarding stretched all the way along the parking lot. As this was an educational we were treated to priority boarding and didn’t have to stand in line for 3 hours. From now on I would always recommend people pay a bit extra and get priority boarding as standing in that long line, in the sun for up to 3 or 4 hours can not be fun.

 

Newbie cruise on the MSC Opera
Looking out over Cape Town from atop the MSC Opera
Newbie cruise on the MSC Opera
The Harbour

As soon as we boarded I went exploring the big ship. Walking around did bring back loads of memories of me working on a cruise ship years ago and it felt strange being on here as a passenger and not as part of the crew.

Newbie cruise on the MSC Opera
Exploring the upper decks of the cruise ship

MSC Opera is a cruise ship built in 2004 and served as the flagship of the company until MSC Musica entered service in 2006. She can accommodate 2,055 passengers in 856 cabins, and host a crew complement of approximately 740.

A cruise ship is a huge floating hotel and entertainment centre all in one. The MSC Opera has a beautiful swimming pool on the upper deck and even 2 heated Jacuzzi’s. Heading up I even found a mini golf course out on the deck. If it wasn’t so windy I would have loved to try it out but unfortunately it was quite windy throughout our whole cruise.

Inside there is even a game centre, gym, spa, casino and a club where we had quite a few cocktails in the evenings. The MSC Opera cruise ship is certainly classic, grand, opulent with a true sense of grandeur and spaciousness.

Displaying the hallmark Italian style found on all of MSC Cruises’ stately ships, the public areas are enhanced by a sweeping marble reception area and magnificent open spaces with glass walls in order to best exploit the fabulous ocean views.

As the afternoon came along a mist rolled in from Table Mountain and as we cruised out of the harbour you couldn’t even see more than a meter into the mist. I do love my Stephen King books so I couldn’t help but think of his book the Mist as the white surrounded us.

Newbie cruise on the MSC Opera
Newbie cruise on the MSC Opera starts….

Cruising is definitely not for everyone and some of the newbies spent the whole cruise in their small cabins sea sick and said that it even took them a day or two after debarkation to feel 100% normal again. So definitely take some motion/sea sickness tablets with, just in case as it could make or break your cruise.

Throughout the cruise we had a lot of team activities and got to know our co-workers a lot better. But we also had a lot of free time which we would have loved to spend on deck at the swimming pool but unfortunately the weather was bad. It was windy and cold throughout the cruise so I hid in various lounges with my book.

Newbie cruise on the MSC Opera
Home sweet home!
Newbie cruise on the MSC Opera
Cape Town and Table mountain comes into sight

As we cruised back into Cape Town we had lovely clear weather and got some beautiful views of the city and of Table Mountain.

Newbie cruise on the MSC Opera
Cruising back into Cape Town

Wordless Wdnesday: Smell the Flowers

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday.

Practical Travel safety tips for Women traveling alone

Every year, thousands of women, young and old, travel to on their own and come home safe and sound. You can, too, by using the same good judgment you use at home. Begin with caution and figure out as you travel what feels right to you. Create conditions that are likely to turn out in your favor, and you’ll have a safer, smoother, more enjoyable trip.

Here are some tips for safe and pleasant travels that I have picked up through the years:

  1. Use street smarts.  Be self-reliant and well prepared, so that you don’t need to depend on someone unless you want to. Always carry cash, a map, a guidebook, and a phrase book with you. Walk purposefully with your head up, look like you know where you’re going. If you get lost in an unfriendly neighborhood, be savvy about whom you ask for help; seek out another woman or a family, or go into a store or restaurant to ask for directions or to study your map. When you use cash machines, withdraw cash during the day on a busy street, not at night when it’s dark with too few people around.
  1. Be proactive about public transportation.  Before you leave a city, consider visiting the train or bus station you’re going to leave from, so you’ll know where it is, how long it takes to reach it, if it feels safe, and what services it has. If you’re leaving late at night, cafes, including busy Internet cafes with long hours, are a safe and productive place to wait. When taking the train, avoid sleeping in empty compartments. You’re safer sharing a compartment with a family.
  1. Research prices.  Know how long it takes and how much it costs to get from the airport to your hotel or to the city center. Solo travelers are more likely to be “taken for a ride,” so ask the taxi driver how much it will cost before you leave. If it’s considerably different from what you know to be true, take a different cab.
  2. Follow your insticts.  Be your own best counsel; if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Without a companion to watch your back, you are more vulnerable to criminals and scam artists, so you have to have your wits about you.
  1. Learn how to deal with foreign men.  In small towns, men are often more likely to speak English than women. If you never talk to men, you could miss out on a chance to learn about the country. So, by all means, talk to men. Just choose the man and choose the setting. Be aware that sometimes, when you smile and look a man in the eyes, it’s often considered an invitation. Wear dark sunglasses and you can stare all you want. Dress modestly to minimize attention from men. Take your cue from what the local women wear. Try to stay with a group when exploring, and avoid walking alone at night, particularly in unlit areas with few people around. Don’t be overly polite if you’re bothered by someone; it’s important to create boundaries to protect yourself. Use facial expressions, body language, and a loud firm voice to fend off any unwanted attention. If a man comes too close, say “no” firmly and loudly in the local language. That’s usually all it takes.
  1. Stay visible.  Keep to open and public places, especially at night. While returning to your hotel or hostel at night walk briskly and make sure you aren’t being followed. If you feel like you’re being followed or hassled, trust your instincts. Don’t worry about overreacting or seeming foolish. Start screaming and acting crazy if the situation warrants it. Or head to the nearest hotel ask the hotelier to call you a cab to take you to your own hotel, hostel, or B&B.
  1. Lie a little.  Not only can you invent your own persona or history, but you can also make your life easier with little white lies. When asking directions, don’t let on that you are alone: “Can you direct me to the museum? I have to meet a friend.” Wear a real or fake wedding ring. While travelling through Bali I had honeymoon henna on my hands which stopped people from harassing me everywhere. Remember, there’s no need to tell people that you’re traveling alone, or whether you’re actually married or single. Lie unhesitatingly. You’re traveling with your husband. He’s waiting for you at the hotel.
  1. Avoid appearing like a tourist.  Ditch the “I Love NY” t-shirt and dress like the locals so that you can blend in. Don’t draw attention to yourself by wearing flashy clothes or jewelry, you don’t want to stand out in a strange country. Don’t walk around with your face in a guidebook. Study your map or book while sitting at a cafe or restaurant not out on the street
  1. Stay in contact.  Leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend or family member at home, and stay in touch regularly via phone or e-mail. This way at least someone knows where you are or should be and can send out a search party if they havent heard from you in a while.10. Go with the flow. Unless you’re fluent in the language, accept the fact that you won’t always know what’s going on.
  2. Just in case, carry pepper spray. And don’t be scared to use it!!

By using common sense, making good decisions, and above all else, having confidence in yourself and your ability to travel on your own, you’ll be rewarded with rich experiences — and great stories to tell your friends.

Do you have any travel safety tips to add?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadowed at sunset

As the sun sets over the ocean it casts earie shadows over the beach and its surroundings. 

Low-light photography can be difficult to get right, but sometimes the absence of light can make for a compelling, dramatic photograph. Experimenting with shadows can be a fun and rewarding way to push yourself to try something new with your camera and your surroundings.

Shadows at sunset
As the sun sets over the ocean it casts shadown over Cape Town

Shadows can also add depth and drama to an otherwise ordinary image.

Shadows at sunset
Such a beautiful way to end the day here in Cape Town

Wordless Wednesday: Tree of the waiting husbands

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday