You know what they say about the new year right? New year, new you New travels!
And so on that slightly cheesy note, I am excited to announce my first trip of 2016! Starting in Jan next year, we are off to Asia! Again! I know what you’re thinking, you should probably go somewhere else that’s NOT Asia right? Wrong! Sticky rice is calling and I must answer.
So what’s the damn plan already? First we are off to the Philippines to soak up the stunning endless coastline that makes up the thousands of islands Filipinos call home. After a quick stop in Singapore for Chinese New Years, we are going to Myanmar(!!) and then of course, a stop in Thailandfor some sweet, sweet street food.
This trip is slightly different in that I will be taking a group tour for the time I spend in Myanmar. These words seem to conjure up negative feelings among most younger travellers but I am on a mission to prove otherwise! Although slightly more painful on the wallet then solo budget travel, group tours can be great if you are short on time. I have a tiny TWO WEEKS in which to experience as much of Myanmar as possible and after much thought I have come to the conclusion that there is no way in hell this probably will be difficult to do myself.
The tour I have chosen is “Best of Myanmar” by Intrepid Travel. I have travelled with Intrepid before on there”Discover Lombok” trip and I can honestly say that it was incredible. Intrepid are great in that they can take you to places that I would never of found myself and without the hassle. In my entire time on m last tour with them, my favorite thing was that not once did I feel that I was travelling on a guided tour, only that I was travelling with a group of old friends.
Check out the tour below:
Photo courtesy of Intrepid Travel.
Variety is the spice of life and so I will still be travelling solo for the rest of the trip (I would love to do more of these trips but my poor credit card wouldn’t survive). I am especially looking forward to the home stay at the community lodge. Authentic homestays are hard to find in Myanmar as the government puts strict controls on anything tourism related so it will be interesting to see how this homestay stacks up in the way of authenticity.
Have any of you stayed at a really good (or really bad) homestay before? Let me know in the comments below, I would love to hear about them!
Most valuable lesson learnt: You can have too much of a good thing.
Most delicious: Banh Mi, Vietnam.
The time I was most scared: Facing my fears and crawling through a nest of spiders to escape a cave, Thailand.
The moment I will never forget: Playing jump rope with a group of local children in a village in Southern Laos.
I can’t believe another year has passed already, how time flies. This year has been most notable in the complete and utter failure of me to keep up with this blog. Due to the complete lack of decent internet in many of the places I was staying for the first half of this year and the resulting dust that has gathered on this page in the last six months, I apologize profusely.
It is almost the new year however, so I will make it my New Years resolution to keep on top of this damn thing. For any (?) readers out there, I promise an exciting year of articles, new travel plans and probably a fair bit of rambles.
Until next time,
Photo courtesy of National Geographic; Photograph by Cynthia Dial.
Did you know that Fiji has over 300 islands? Unless you have booked an all-inclusive resort stay then this can make it difficult to decide where to stay and what to do, especially when you only have a week or two. It took me AGES to decide where to go and what to see when I recently visited Fiji, hopefully this post will make the decision a bit easier for you.
The main island of Fiji is Viti Levu. This is by far the most touristy area of Fiji, and is home to many resort areas such as Denerau. This is a great place to base yourself if you have limited time in Fiji, as you can easily travel around the main island (it is possible to circumnavigate the entire island by car in one day) and organise island hopping trips to the nearby Mamanucas and Yasawa islands.
Nadi (pronnouced NAN-DI) is the largest city in Fiji. It is also the home of Fiji’s largest international airport and as you will most likely fly in here, it makes sense to start of your journey from here aswell. When choosing accommodation, there is a strip of hostels located on a beach around 20 minutes from the airport. These can range from as little as $10 a night and are generally of a good standard. My favourite is Bamboo Hostel, which offers free airport pickups as well as a laid back friendly atmosphere and relatively cheap food and drink including free kava in the evenings. Smuggler’s cove and Aquarius are also good. There are also shops around here if you wish to purchase any food, which can be quite expensive – it is easy to spend more on dinner then on a nights accommodation. From here it is easy to explore Nadi Town.
You can do this by bus or join a tour from your hostel. This is a great place to buy souvenirs, enjoy a cheap meal and just to get a quick taste of urban life in Fiji. From Nadi, you can either head inland to explore the rest of the island, which can be easily done on a day trip, or leave for the islands around Fiji. Make sure you check out the Sigatoka sand dunes for some epic sandboardingand take a tour of Lomawai Village to learn about village life in FIji. Nadi is also the best place to check out Natadola Beach, which is arguably the best beach on the main island and holds the well deserved title of the 6th best beach in the entire world.
The Coral coast is known for its beautiful beaches and snorkelling. I spent a few days here and to be honest, was a but disappointed. It was nice and is home to some good resorts but if you are like me and need a bit more, I would only spend a day or two here at the most. Don’t get me wrong, the Coral Coast is beautiful, but compared to the rest of Fiji seems a bit lacking in comparison.
If you are interested in adventure, make sure to check out Pacific Harbour. This is a great place to base yourself if you are interested in diving as it is close to some great diving spots.
If diving is not your thing, take the Uprising Trek which can be organized from most resorts in the area. This is a trek through Fijian Jungle and plantations, taking you through some stunning scenery and ends waterfalls, where you can cool off after you trek. Make sure to wear good shoes and bring water and swimwear, as you will be clambering up rocks and sliding down waterfalls along the way. This is a great trek for the not-so-hardcore trekkers among us, and makes for an easy trek. The journey takes around 1 hour each way.
Accommodation wise, I stayed at Uprising Resort, which was great. Located on a beautiful beach and with super friendly staff. Highly recommended.
Suva is the capital city of Fiji and an interesting place to explore. It also gives an interesting insight into the era of colonial rule by the British, and it worthwhile to check out the various historical buildings like the Government House that have been left behind.
Don’t miss the markets, Fiji Museum and a the ridiculously cheap Village Six Cinemas. Accommodation here is a bit more expensive then Nadi but it is worthwhile taking a few days to explore. You can reach Suva by bus from Nadi for a few dollars or pay a bit more and take a tourist shuttle.
Northern Viti Levu
North of Suva, one of my favourite places was Nasautoka Village. Here you can organize a stay in the village for cheap which gives you a real insight into the lives of those still living in the Northern villages, which still hold strong to their traditions. You will be formally welcomed into the village by he chief and his family by a welcoming kava ceremony, this is a real experience and is very different to the kava “ceremonies” that you will see in hostels and resorts. The kava here is not from powder, but from the freshly ground root, as a result has a much nicer taste. It was such a special (if slightly nerve-wracking) experience to be welcomed in this way and was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.
The women of the village also cook delicious Fijian style food which you must try. Everything is grown from scratch (except the ketchup, which Fijians seem to love) and is a very humbling experience. Here you can also try Billibilli rafting, where you ride homemade bamboo rafts down river while trying not to sink. It is more relaxing than it sounds.
The Sabeto Valley Hot Pools are great and not far from Nadi. Here you can bathe in volcanic mud and enjoy a relaxing soak in the thermally heated hot pools. This is located in a beautifully scenic valley in the middle of nowhere and is very relaxing indeed.
All these locations can be easily reached by local bus (cheapest) or shuttle, and if all else fails, you can easily find a taxi.
That’s all for now, I’ll be back soon with PART TWO where I will go through the various islands around Fiji and help you to decide where you should stay.
Favourite country visited: Netherlands or Indonesia.
Favourite food eaten overseas: Sambal, Indonesia.
Best activity (Cultural): Desert Safari, Dubai.
Best activity (Natural): Hiking the Routeburn track, New Zealand.
Best drinking spot: Dam Square, Amsterdam on New Years Eve.
Scariest experience: Snorkelling trip gone wrong off the coast Nusa Lembongan, Bali.
Most special moment: Playing ukulele and singing with the resort staff in Fiji.
First of all, let me start by wishing you all a happy new years. 2014 was an absolutely life changing year for me. It was the year I finally discovered what I want to do, and has set in motion my greatest adventure yet; the rest of my life. It has opened my eyes to the possibility that I can be whoever I want to be, go wherever I want to go and do whatever I want. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
It was the year I gathered the courage to start FreyaGoesTravelling, my blog/vlog series documenting my travels and hopefully inspiring a new generation of travellers to realise that they too can follow their dreams. I have been so happy with the way that this has been growing and by the fellow travellers and bloggers that I have had the chance to meet and chat with. It has been a bumpy road, with may moments where I thought about giving it up and there was a lot of trial and error when it came to filming and editing my videos.. But it was worth it! FreyaGoesTravelling is finally coming together and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
It was the year I dropped out of University to pursue my dreams. It seemed like such a hard decision at the time but as I look back I feel like I was crazy to even consider myself able to live a 9-5 lifestyle. I am currently studying travel and tourism but am leaning towards the idea of teaching English with my eye on a teaching internship in China… but more on that later.
The arrival of 2015 brings with it the promise of some amazing new adventures. Starting in April this year (Hay, I gotta pay for this travel somehow) I will be leaving for 3 months in South East Asia. I will be visiting Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. I’m not going to even touch on this now as it will mean pages of excited rambling. HOLY CRAP I”M SO EXCITED. Ok, enough.
Later in the year, I have plans for either:
A) 2 month trip through India and Nepal and then moving to England semi-permanently..
B) 6 month TEFL teaching internship in China possibly followed by A.
All in all, 2015 looks to bring some EPIC adventures for me, as well as a heap of stuff soon to be uploaded on to my blog and/or Youtube channel. I can’t wait to share this with you and wish you all the very best for your new year.
As always, Happy travels!
Featured Image: Star walkers by Paul Kline (Flikr)
Join me as I explore the amazing town of Ubud, Bali.
Hanging with monkeys in Ubud Monkey Forest and checking out Goa Gajah and Gunung Kawi Temples, some of the best in Bali. I also get a chance to sample the famous Kopi Luwak coffee, pooped out fresh just for me. Oh yeah and I got to ride a freaking elephant!
Ever been to Bali? Let me know your favourite things to do in the comments below!
**Disclaimer: Please make sure to do your research on any place offering elephant rides as the animals can be mistreated or stolen from the wild to be ridden by tourists. I made sure I thoroughly researched the sanctuary and made sure the animals were in good conditions before I did this. Travel responsibly ^.^
Music by “The Balinese Bambu music (Volume 4)” and from the “Javanese Gamelan Orchestra – Suling Degung”.
I do not own the rights to this music
Flights are usually the most expensive part of any trip, so it makes sense to learn how get the most bang for your buck. The cost of any flight can hugely vary depending on a variety of factors, including when you buy your tickets, the airline you choose, the destination you fly to, luggage allowance… the list goes on. What many people don’t know is there is a variety of ways you can dramatically lower the cost of your flights, for those willing to make a few sacrifices
1) Choose budget airlines
This is by far the easiest way to save big when travelling overseas. Airline such as Jetstar (NZ and Australia) and Ryanair (Europe) offer flights at a fraction of a cost of a standard airline. The service level is much simpler and make sure to be prepared for some delays, but choosing a budget airline gives you the opportunity to only play for what you want. Skipping out on in flight entertainment (I still buy this on long flights), reduced baggage allowance and taking snacks instead of paying for (usually crappy) in-flight meals can save you hundreds.
2) Say goodbye to checked in luggage
This may seem crazy at first, but it really is amazing how much you can fit into a carry-on bag, especially if you choose the right bag. Some bags (such as the Kathmandu litehaul) are specifically designed to the maximum dimensions of most budget airlines. Although you must carefully consider weight limits (usually around 7-10kgs), it is easily achievable to pack everything you need in one bag for up to a years’ worth of travel. Of course, you will need to buy standard size toiletries when you arrive, but this is in no way as expensive as paying an extra $70 for checked in luggage. It also makes travelling (especially backpacking) much easier as you don’t have to carry around all your stuff, and makes checking in and out of an airport a breeze.
3) Book ridiculously early
By planning ahead on your flights you can make big savings. The internet generally has a varied opinion on when to book but as a general rule, the earlier the better. The closer to the date you fly, the more expensive the flight. A flight will usually have a certain number of seats allocated for cheap fares, and these usually sell out well in advance so keep an eye on early bird sales. I have booked flights as early as 8 months in advance and have got much cheaper fares as a result. This strategy requires a bit of forethought, and organization but pays off.
4) Use travel agents for booking with non-budget airlines
Although self-booking is generally seen as the cheaper option nowadays, it is important not to overlook booking with your travel agent so save on flights.as they usually have access to special agency only deals that can be cheaper than the online fares offered directly from the airline. There is usually only a limited number of these seats per flight and varies from season to season but when comparing flights online don’t discount this
5) Travel off-peak
The time of year you choose to fly will have a huge impact on the price of your airfare. Try and travel in low or shoulder seasons. Trying to book at these times you will find that the average price takes a huge jump. Travelling off-peak can sometimes be nicer as there are less tourists around and local prices will be cheaper, as well as shorter queues. Try visiting Italy in early November or South East Asia in April to get a taste of the country without the tourists.
6) Pick destinations that are close to where you live
The world is a big place and no matter where you call home, there will always be somewhere within a few hours flight away that can make for an awesome trip. For me, living in New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Australia and South East Asia are all reasonably close to me, so I usually prioritize these countries when planning a getaway simply because of the amount of money it will save me. When In in England, I would change this to Europe and maybe Northern Africa. When I visit America, I will be heading straight for Canada, or Central or Southern America. These places can be startling different to where you live and it is amazing how different the world is and how much there is to explore, so why not start with the closer ones?
7) Pick long layovers
Flights with long layovers are generally cheaper but to many people, a 12 hour layover sounds like a nightmare. For me, it is a chance to explore a new country and a challenge to see and do as much as I can before I have to return to the airport. With a bit of careful planning (don’t miss your flight!) you can swap 12 hours of boredom for 12 hours of exploring. This is not for the faint hearted and you need to be wholly committed to your mad dash around a city, you will most likely be tired, hungry and irritable so make sure to down a few coffees and get to it! Many airports have easy and cheap shuttles or express trains that can take you directly into the city centre. Even better, your luggage will usually not have to be checked out as it will be going direct to your location (double-check this as it may vary).
8) Know your sale dates and book on them
Most airlines will have sales or special events where you can get a hold of cheap fares. Make sure you have a working knowledge of when these sales are and who has the better deal. You won’t have to look far, they are usually plastered all over the internet TV and travel agencies windows. A great example of this is Air New Zealand which holds a weekly reverse auction where prices slowly decrease for a set period of time untill they are snapped up by the first bidder. The longer you wait, the cheaper the deal but the more likely that someone else will get to it first. I used this to get my flights to Fiji for $320 return, less than half of what they are currently on sale for. heck you local airline to see if they do something similar and don’t be afraid to impulse buy.
9) Fly into the main transport hubs and travel overland to your destination
You can save massively by choosing the airport you fly into. Heading to Paris? Try flying into London and taking the Eurostar across the channel. Planning a trip to South East Asia? Pick Bangkok or Singapore as your start and end points. This can be a great opportunity to explore a new country that you might not think to go to, and who knows, you could end up loving it!
10) Leave early and come home late
Nobody wants to leave to the airport at 4am or arrive in a new city late at night. Unfortunately, cheaper flights usually involve just this. So grit your teeth, down a coffee of two and get out of bed already!
Do you have any tips for cheap flights? I would love to know so share them in the comments below or just say hi.
Ever wanted to just book a plane to a random country and just go?
Thanks to Air New Zealand: “Grabaseat reverse auctions“, that’s exactly what I’m doing. For those of you reading from overseas, these are weekly flight auctions where the price of a flight slowly decreases over a period of time, and the first person to accept the offer can claim the cheap flight. The catch is that the flights usually leave the following week, perfect for the young (or young at heart) and fancy-free.
This Friday, I leave for Fiji. Even though the Pacific Islands are very close to New Zealand, I have not yet visited. I thought of Fiji as a mecca for overpriced resorts, lounging around on the beach and not much else. Oh how I was wrong. After a bit of research, I found a country bursting with culture, forests, food and adventure. It seems there is so much more to Fiji then what you find in the travel brochures and I determined to experience this version of Fiji – the real Fiji.
Of course there will be beaches, and from the looks of it some of the most beautiful in the world. I will definitely do my fair share of sitting around, spending too much money over indulging in every way possible. But I will also be exploring rainforests, shopping at local markets and visiting villages and schools.
After much research I have decided that the best way to achieve this (on a student budget nonetheless) was to join up with a Feejee Experiences Group tour. Say what you like about group tours, but they really are great for fitting a great deal into a limited timeframe. I chose the “Lei Low tour“, 6 days/5 nights, a perfect fit with my week in Fiji. This tour circles the main island of Viti Levu and includes a trip to the famous Beachcomber Island. It’s a mix of culture, adventure and of course, beaches.
Ever since I can remember, I have always been fascinated with the world. I would spend every spare moment with my head buried deep in books trying to uncover its secrets. I wanted to know all I could about everything, science, history, literature, everything.
As I grew older I realised that this was not possible. I would never know everything, and even worse, was slowly being forced to trim down what I would ever be able to know. I was told that one day I would need to choose what I was going to do. I would switch from career day to day, and found that I would still be doing this as an adult, throughout my university studies. Eventually, I chose science, I think as a reflection for my thirst for knowledge. I had successfully been funneled into my chosen career path and had now committed to 3 years of study to get my career started. It was never enough however, and I would find myself caught between periods of obsessive study followed by long periods of absence and depression as I realised that I could never know all that I wanted to know.
This all changed when I went on a 2 month trip to Europe. I discovered here that I learnt more in 2 months then I had learnt through my entire university study to date. Not just about science, I had learnt about culture, architecture, food, religion, people, language, history, geography and much, much more. It took me back to the time when I was a child, endlessly rifling through piles of books. I knew know that I did not want to be a scientist, I wanted to be a traveller.
For some, this may be enough. Some people may be perfectly happy with choosing a career and sticking to it, and this is perfectly fine. For me, and many other travellers, it is not. We roam the globe looking for something more. Something that cannot be learnt from a textbook or off the internet. Travel is not just taking a holiday. It is a form of self-improvement, whether this be mentally, spiritually, emotionally or physically. You will find yourself tested in every way and will come out the other side a better person. Out of the many people I have met on my travels, I have never met one who I have not enjoyed every second being around. They are all happy, something that is painfully absent from much of our daily life.
Of course, every adventure has to come to an end, but it is these lessons that you learn which you take back with you and use to benefit not only your life but the lives of others. Set yourself a goal and set off on adventure. It may be as a one off, or may become your life. Either way, you will come back knowing more, about the world, and about yourself.
"It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – JRR Tolkien