Travel Spotter

Seeing the sites, One spot at a time

Cave Ins

I love visiting caves but have realised I love big open caves with awesome lighting, as opposed to small ‘crawl in’ style spelunking adventures. Claustrophobia? Lack of interest in belly crawling? Lazy traveller? Pea brain that likes pretty colours? Whatever…. big bright caves are for me.

Just recently went to the Ngilgi caves in Western Australia, super awesome but feel that it was the artificial coloured lighting made them look ‘super awesome’. The cave torch experience is something different, but you can’t beat blue lights on stalactites and stalagmites.

rb25 rb26

Other memorable cave moments :

Natural Bridge, Queensland, Australia

Wieliczka Salt Mines, Poland

Dau Go Cave, Halong Bay, Vietnam

Dark cave tour - Batu Caves Malaysia

Burial Caves, Sabah, Borneo

Waitomo Caves, New Zealand

 

Happy Spelunking!

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London Days

For someone who has visited London twice and lived there for 9 months, I have hardly any travel photos. It seems I have lots of photos of me and other people (including some random strangers) and many are from some crazy night out in the West End or (god forbid) the Shebu Walkie.

It wasn’t till after my 9 month living-working-in-London-travel-round-Europe phase that I really started to get into photography and take photos for a different purpose than simply catching me standing dorkily or derangedly in front of the famous monuments of the world.

So this is a selection of my very limited photo collection of (selfie-free) shots of England’s capital and one of my favourite cities in the world – London. It was hard not to like it when you live in Notting Hill around the corner from Portobello Markets and Sienna Miller (true story). The food scene in London is amazing, with heaps of cusines on offer, so many neighbourhoods to explore (eg: shops to seek!)

I have some great memories of my time in London, seeing as I was fortunate to live there at a time with 10 other friends. Oh the good old days.

Places I love in London: Notting Hill (obviously!), Brick Lane  (had my first real Indian food experience and have never looked back), Spitafields Markets, Greenwich, Kensington Palace, Oxford St for High Street shopping, West End and the many many theatres, Camden for the funky markets, Hyde Park for serious green time, Pall Mall and the Palace to say hi to Liz, Knightsbridge and Harrods, Portobello Rd Markets, The amazing museums on the river, National Gallery, Picadilly Circus for people watching, The many Thames bridges, Fulham and Putney for the pub on the river scene, Marble Arch, Bakeries in Liverpool St Station, Canada Waters, Northern African Food round Bayswater… just to name a few!

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Travel Quote of the Day… Never Stop

never stop

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Hoboken Arts and Music Festival

The Hoboken Arts and Music Festival is held each Spring and Fall on Washington St, in Hoboken New Jersey. I was fortunate enough to attend during my first ever trip to New York in 2007. Random traveller luck would have me meet a Hoboken Native whilst travelling in Prague who offered me her couch when I was travelling to NY later that year. Seeing as the cost of accommodation in Manhattan was out of my poor measly backpacker budget I accepted her offer and found myself busing from JFK to the Port Authority Bus Terminal on a Saturday night then getting the bus out to her apartment, on Washington St. We caught the ‘path train’ under the Hudson river to party in the East Village all night (felt like a real New Yorker saying that!) and then woke up Sunday morning to climb onto the fire escape (again, so New York) to find the Arts and Music festival happening at her door step.

What a great festival, full of interesting art, artists and stalls, amazing food and performances. Hoboken is a great little city right across from Manhattan, with lots of cool bars and restaurants, including one of my all time faves, Johnny Rockets! The festival was a  great start to my week in NYC!

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Photography Souvenirs

I just love that redbubble have branched out from print products (cards, wall art, calendars) to make iphone cases, throw pillows and tote bags. What a great souvenir of your travels! Instead of putting photos in an album you can upload them to a redbubble profile and make a product that you can use every day. You could give your photos to others as gifts!

Here are some of my recent favourite travel photographs as fancy art products.

ic,x350,iphone5_deflector      ic,x350,iphone5_deflector batu      ic,x350,iphone5_deflector (1) jasper

tpr,875x875,s.6  tpr,875x875,s.6 (2)

totebag        tb,1200x1200,small.2

 

 

 

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Travel Quote of the Day… Breathing

travel breathing

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Bucket List: Rio De Janiero

All this world cup fever has me lusting to visit Brazil, and especially Rio De Janeiro.

This city has been on my bucket list for a long long time. Well before I even began serious ‘Overseas Travel’ (which was in 2005, just for trivia’s sake).

I long to stroll along the Copacabana beach, go Giselle spotting at Ipanema and climb the hill to see the views from Christ the Redeemer. I almost went there in 2010 but our plans changed and we did Mexico instead.

One day my baby will smile at me and I’ll go to Rio.

Dreaming until then!

Ipanema Beach

Image courtesy of photog63 @ flickr.com 

 

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Image courtesy of christianhaugen @ flickr.com

 

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Image courtesy of soldon @ flickr.com

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Cottesloe Beach, Western Australia

Cottesloe Beach

I had the joy of visiting Cottesloe Beach on the outskirts of Perth in April for a friend’s wedding. We decided to stay for 4 days and make the most of this sleepy seaside town. A location this close to the Sydney CBD would be crowded with tourists (both travelling through and living there), heaps of restaurants and bars, not enough car parks and regular heavy weekend traffic.

Cottesloe has a much different vibe. Relaxed, one main road that snakes the coast next to the beach. A few take away shops, cafes and upscale bars, with a few simple necessity shops and an old pub (location for the wedding ceremony). We stayed across from the beach and enjoyed walking the boardwalk every day, grabbing coffee and banana bread, or cocktails or fish and chips. Walking around the neighbourhood revealed the most glorious homes, decadence reminiscent of a bygone era, all sweeping verandahs, gazebos and formal gardens.

The water always looked inviting, crystal blue with very little waves (perfect for water wusses like me) but with wedding preparation keeping us busy each day we only got to the water once. It may have also been the numerous tales of shark attacks that kept us apprehensively out of the ocean too!

The ‘Freemantle Doctor’ definitely rolls in each afternoon and unfortunately turned the ocean into a carnivorous-like attack of waves just when we decided to bravely enter the water. If visiting, it’s best to head for a swim in the morning.

And of course Cottesloe is the best spot for the ‘daily sunset watch’, such a treat for us East Coasteners who don’t get to see the sun set over the water…and I’m rarely up for sunrise over the Pacific!

 

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Nine Things To Do In: San Francisco

1. Alcatraz! ‘The rock’ is a great day trip, the audio tour head set thingy is very interesting. Plus the ferry ride is great!

2. Segway tours… 3 hours of cruising fun, we booked with city segway tours.

3. Eat seafood chowder and shrimp down at the Wharf.  Anywhere at Fisherman’s Wharf will be yummy.

4. Watch the seals relaxing and playing at Fisherman’s Wharf.

5. Ride the cable cars, worth the queue for people like me who live in non cable car cities and it’s still a novelty!

6. Hang out in Union Square, shopping, people watching, flower buying…

7. Walk the steep streets, go down them on a segway if you dare!

8. Wander the grounds of the Palace of the Fine Arts, pretending your in Europe

9. See the fog roll in across the bay… especially around the Golden Gate Bridge!

 

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Hoi An, Vietnam

In the middle of my 2 week sojourn through Vietnam we arrived at the quaint riverside town of Hoi An. A historic, heritaged listed attraction, Hoi An is popular on the tourist trail and it was easy to see why. Famous for custom designed and crafted clothing and shoes, cute streets with lanterns, a river that floods and spills into the streets and the beach nearby. Of course we hit up the fabric shops to get clothes made, I was in my element designing boots where you get to pick the leather, heel, cut, length and of course measured to fit (what fat calves?), ready in 24 hours!

Some fabric and clothing stores were better quality than others, some items were perfect but others didn’t quite translate when they were made (which could be due to the translation of language). Some of my shoes didn’t last, and some of the dresses lost their stitching. If you are serious about getting clothing made (one couple had 50 items made between them) it pays to shop around, inspect the quality and ask others for recommendations. A fun process nevertheless.

We were content (whilst waiting for our clothing to get made) to wander the streets, crossing over bridges, restaurant hopping (modern, western and asian fusion, try The Cargo Club for breakfast or Friendship down by the river), cruising the markets and taking a bus ride out to the ruins of My Son – Vietnam’s oldest ruins, dating from the 4th century.

Memorable  moments:

1. Having to go on a moto ride to the ‘other’ shop to pay for my  pairs of boots with the shop owner, who left my 2 friends in charge of her store!

2. Blackouts in the middle of meals in restaurants, Vietnamese style dining in the dark…

3. Enjoying the vehicle free streets all lit up with lanterns during  the full moon festival, where the lights are switched off to full appreciate the lanterns

4. Eating  western Vietnamese fusion penne pasta. With chopsticks.

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Travel Essentials – The right sized day bag

I’m not a backpack sort of girl. Or a money belt (though my recent lost passport experience may change that). I get that the everyday travel bag is a totally personal decision – whether you like a tiny clutch, a bumbag (‘fanny pack’), day backpack or tote.

I  don’t like dressing like a backpacker or hardcore traveller, in Kathmandu jackets and cargos. I’m classier, more dressy, I guess you could describe my travelling style as ‘backpacker chic’. I still want to wear my regular clothes and not stand out too much.

So when it comes to the everyday travel bag, I want a nice big tote that I can haul everything in. Cameras, wallet, maps, books, journals, cardigan, snacks, sunscreen. I like having it tucked under my arm with the zipper end near my chest, never trusted backpacks in crowded train stations and airports.

I like the bag to be squashy, so it can be stuffed under seats and even used as a pillow if napping (on airport floors and the like). dark colours are preferable, and a hardy texture.

Of course there are times when you need something to go on your back (like when hiking) so your arms are free, or a tiny cross body purse (like when out at night).

Oh no does this mean I have to take 3 handbags away with me? Still working on this packing skill obviously.

Here are some of the types  I like:
 

Travel Handbags

Travel Handbags by beavercity featuring a studded purse
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Shark Bay, Sydney

In summer it’s hard to keep a good find a secret. I’m sure the locals of Vaucluse have been enjoying the stunning beach that is Shark Bay, but  in the recent summers you have to fight for a carpark and a spot on the sand or grass, even on a weekday.

Nevertheless, we were determined to enjoy one of Sydney’s glorious summer days with a walk and swim around Shark Bay, through Nielson Park, along the paths in front of the sand and around to the rock formations and headlands.

With views of Sydney Harbour and the city skyline, clear blue water, minimal waves (which always pleases me!) and a small Kiosk for snacks, its great for anyone, especially families. We sat for a while under the shade on a park bench people watching, old men snoozing on picnic rugs, kids kicking balls around, portable BBQs, adventurous teens clambering over the rocks, couples sneaking a kiss, snorkelers swimming about, even fancy smancy types diving off their luxury yacht that was anchored just off shore.

Getting There: Head out of the Sydney CBD towards the coast, approximately 10 minutes

 

Look Out For: Historic house in the park, amazing rocks shaped by the wind, avenue of trees.

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The Great Cultural Divide

They talk about people from different cultures having different food, clothing, ceremonies, languages, even events. One thing they do not often talk about is, different bathroom habits. Now anyone who has travelled will be nodding their head knowingly, having flashbacks to some ‘hole in the floor’ toilet in some country that at the time seemed a long, long way from home and our tiled, flushable, western urinary waste systems.

I have used such toilets and have developed many coping mechanisms for enduring the experience. But every now and then you let your guard down. Every now and then you find yourself faced with some bathroom situation of which you were totally unprepared. I found myself in this situation whilst backpacking in Europe.

After a long and arduous train trip through the German countryside and then a confusing trip on Berlin’s U-Bahn and S-Bahn, I arrived at my large hostel, more than ready for a long wash. After visiting the ladies bathroom, and being impressed with the toilets, I returned with my toiletries and towel, ready for a hot, refreshing shower. I rounded the corner to the shower area, and came face to face with breasts, bottoms, and, for the sake of keeping things PG, front bottoms. These body parts were being lathered, scrubbed, towel dried and sprayed. It was a communal shower. Seven shower heads in one room.

I almost ran out, screaming back to my room, but realised 5 days in Berlin was a long time to go without showering. I wondered if I should return at 3am, to guarantee empty showers. Having an empowering moment, I told myself, just get on with it, you can do this! Next thing I knew, along with 2 French and 3 Korean ladies, I was showering, stark naked and jiggling.

It is amazing what the brain does to help us cope with confronting situations. Somehow I convinced myself that as I was not looking at any of their body bits (as my face was firmly planted against the wall), they were not looking at mine. I then reasoned, well, it’s lucky I just spent a week in the Croatian sunshine, I have such a tan! And we all look better with a tan… oh no! The exact body parts I want to hide have absolutely no tan! And now are standing out like white rabbits in dazzling headlights.

The European women are much better at being nude in front of each other than many of their western counterparts. I have never been comfortable stripping down in front of other women, strangers or otherwise. Maybe it was my upbringing, or my high school, or society at the time, but my teenage years were spent hiding behind towels and change room doors.

I do feel like I rose to the challenge in that Berlin shower and faced one of my fears, public nudity. I did find a great way to help overcome nude fears whilst staying there – have a shower, in the nude, with a killer hangover! You won’t care who sees you when you have nausea and a migraine! Out of my entire overseas adventure, the communal shower was one of  my most confronting. After checking out (still with hangover) I felt elated, ready to face the (nude) world!

hostel 1        hostel 2

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Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania

A road trip down to Port Arthur was broken up by stopping to see some lovely coastal sites.

As quoted here by wikipedia:

The rugged coastline has been the scene of a number of shipwrecks. Two large seagoing steamers have sunk after hitting the Hyppolyte Rock off its east coast – theTasman in 1883 and the Nord in 1915. Munroe Bight to the north of Cape Pillar is named after the former American barque James Munroe wrecked there in 1850.

The Tasman Peninsula is well known for its rugged eastern coastline, and much of it is now the Tasman National Park. At Eaglehawk Neck are many strange rock formations, including The Devils Kitchen,Tasman’s ArchBlow Hole and the Tessellated Pavement. Further south are the highest sea cliffs in the southern hemisphere, rising 300 m (980 ft) above the Tasman Sea at Cape Pillar. The peninsula is claimed to have some of Australia’s best surf spots at Cape RaoulRoaring Beach & Shipstern Bluff.

 

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New Year’s Celebrations

 

I have celebrated New Year’s Eve in different places around the globe, here are a few of the memorable ones.

Tarthra, South Coast NSW, Australia.  A beachside house with friends, a trip to the local pub.

 

Homestay, Sabah, Borneo. Local dancing show and dinner, then bed by 10pm – Alcohol free!

 

Sydney Harbour, Australia. You need to do this at least once and have an awesome view of the fireworks.

 

Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. In a apartment with a swim up bar. Perfect.

 

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Downpours, Lady Boy Shows, Cambodian Fish Curry. Bliss!

 

 

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