Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays

I grew up in a small tourist town on the east coast of Australia, Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays. Growing up alongside the great barrier reef is just a bad as it sounds! Tropical weather all year round, warm crystal clear waters and 30 degree weather, need I go on any longer. It such a hard life growing up in a tropical paradise surrounded by palm trees, beaches and coconuts, said no one ever! 

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As you all know I am currently living in mexico however when I was given the chance to write an article about Australia of course I had to choose the place I know the most about.

Then there was Debbie

Right at the moment I was to publish my article Queensland and most of the east coast and other parts of Australia was hit with a massive cyclone called DEBBIE. She made the community take a stand still and prepare for the attack. Locals in certain parts of the area were evacuated while others had to clear there yards. By tying down all loose garden items, tape up windows and support their homes. All in the all the community suffered with no electricity, water and access to the outside world for almost 11 days and counting. I sat close to the computer watching facebook videos and pictures my friends and family had posted. Images that would show what used to be a view of the town was now covered in a grey and black blanket of fog and clouds.

It continued for a week

Debbie unleashed hell to the Whitsunday region for a week before taking on a new course and now reports have heard she is unleashing fury over New Zealand.  It was not only cyclone DEBBIE that affected the area, soon after the locals were hit with a huge storm which then caused flooding to the community. Reports all around the state show the highest floods in 60 years. People have been stuck in their homes unable to leave while others have been lending a hand where it is needed. In this time of tragedy their is a glimmer of hope and that is how people from all walks of life have come together in a time of need and helped each other out. Strangers, neighbors, locals and even tourists are coming together and helping with the clean up to make the area bloom once again.

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As of now the tragedies are over however there is much to do in terms of the clean up.  So I decided to combine the good with the bad and help promote the tourism once again.  It will take a few months for the place to slowly get back to normal so all hands and donations are welcome. When all is said and done the place will bloom once again and when it does I welcome you to visit this slice of paradise. 

Until that day, check out my article Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday

Punta Allen

An Isolated Fishing Village

Sixty kilometers south of Tulum, following nothing but a narrow peninsular of dirt roads, pristine beaches and luscious mangalar lies the small fishing village of Punta Allen. Only access-able by  day trips made by big tour companies or the adventure seeker. This is off roading at its best, 2 1/2 - 3 hours of driving through the Sian Kaan Nature reserve.  Home to many species of fauna and flora this is a nature lovers paradise. A place I recommend to people who love to get off the beaten track.

Getting There

Before we went on this trip we hadn't heard a lot of information on driving out there on your own. A lot of people had warned us about the poor road conditions (a lot of potholes and puddles of water) and they suggested we not take our hired car. There are daily tours via jeeps or boats that are on offer in Tulum and Boca Paila by big tour companies but that's not really our kind of thing. We finally made the bold decision to wing it! to see how far we could get.

Our Experience

Now we not only made it out there, we did it twice!!! That's right! we drove all the way through the Sian Kaan reserve stopping along the way taking pictures of the scenery. We stopped in a place about 5 kilometers outside of the village to take some pictures. When we got back in the car, we were greeted with a tick tick tick sound, the battery was dead.! After a while of trying to start it we decided to hitchhike. Lucky for us we were picked up by some locals who helped us start it. We had no choice but to return to Tulum to buy a new battery, before returning back that night. 

 Tours / Sightseeing

Sian Kaan Is one of the only places left not affected by mass amounts of crowds. All around the town they have recyclable bins and signs encouraging people to dispose of there rubbish. Its a place where you can get up close and personal with animals in their natural habitat. They offer various tours from the main street of town including seeing birds, dolphins and sea turtles and the odd crocodile. We purchased the dolphin and turtle tour for $1300 pesos usually it would cover the boat so you can divide by the number of people. As we were the only ones we had our own private tour. 

Into the Wild

Not far from shore was a family of dolphins. It was so mesmerizing to watch them pop in and out of the crystal clear waters.  They basically had our boat surrounded, as if they were playing games with us. It was so amazing seeing these beautiful creatures swim freely in their own natural habitat. We only saw one turtle, who was very shy. We could see his shadow in the water, so we followed it  but he only came up for air once. 

Hanging out with a family of Dolphins

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Accommodation

There are various bungalows on the beach, hotels and camping places around town. They differ in price depending on the season and how many people are staying. We stayed at a beach front property owned by a lady from the states who had lived here for over twenty years. I cant remember the name but we just asked the locals a good place for camping and they  directed us there. We payed $300 pesos to pitch our tent but that included coffee in the mornings, the use of the bathroom and kitchen area.  She offered Glam-ping for $400 pesos and dorm rooms for $500 pesos. Prices vary on the seasons.

Around the Town

The town itself consists of only 2  stores for necessities , 4 -5 restaurants, 1 mechanic, an army base, a lot of tour boats, a church and a jetty which was the ideal place to enjoy the sunset. We arrived on the weekend so most of the places were closed we had 2 stores to choose from, so it was lucky we had food packed in the car. The best part about it is there was no cell phone reception, limited internet access and only 10 hours of  electricity throughout the day. Punta Allen is an isolated paradise shut off from the rest of the world, perfect for anyone who loves the outdoors and to enjoy the peace and quiet.

Tulum

Magical Town of Tulum

Tulum is a quaint little eco town located in the southern part of Quintana Roo, between Bacalar and Cancun. Home to the one of the Mayan archeological sites and only pyramids in the world that sits alongside the ocean. With its amazing turquoise, blue waters as your backdrop, makes this a must see for any traveler in the Yucatan. This is just one of the many reasons this town was named one of the newest magical towns in Mexico. It is rich in natural beauty, history, and culture. The natural beauty that surrounds the town is endless, the Mayan history is plentiful, and locals stress the importance of preserving their culture which adds to the towns charm.

Tulum Ruins

The Tulum Pyramid was an ancient Mayan fortress city, the most iconic of its structures is the Castillo. It is located on the edge of a cliff overlooking the crystal clear turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean. The Castillo is perhaps the most well-known with its well-preserved structure and amazing location. The only one with its own private beach. The beach directly in front of the Castillo is accessible to the public, and visitors certainly make use of it. There you can take a refreshing swim or float on your back with nothing but the pyramids staring back at you from above. It costs about $65 pesos per person for the entry into the site. When we went there we combined a snorkeling tour as well as the reef is so close to shore it costs $250 pesos per person. 

 

 

 Getting Around

Tulum can be split up into two regions the Hotel Zone and Downtown. The Hotel zone is the strip right in front of the beach offering tourists beach front hotels, restaurants, beach bars and boutique stores. It can be a bit pricey as this is the spot for tourists but it has beautiful beaches and amazing scenery, great place if you want to explore and take pictures.

Downtown is where the locals live it offers a lot of artisans, live entertainment and street performers. There are a lot of different types of restaurants around town, so lots to choose from and for a reasonable price. A lot of cafes are owned by foreigners so they have accustomed to the local cuisine with their very own twist and it is delicious. Tulum has a great music scene and nightlife with bars, clubs and a great host to music festivals in the Caribbean coast.

Useful Tips

The best way to explore Tulum, in my opinion is by bicycle. Bikes can be hired from various spots around town for about $80 pesos for 24 hours. It is about 2 klms from downtown to the beach which is quite a nice ride. Or if you’re feeling lazy you can take taxi for $70 pesos one way. If you’re a budget traveler like me, you will want to find more cheaper accommodation which can be found in the downtown areas. Just walk around and compare prices.

I stayed at the Quintana Roots hostel for $300 pesos a night for a dorm, or a minimum of $450 pesos for a private. Breakfast is included and you can organize tours through the reception. Very clean and friendly staff. Otherwise if you own you own tent, camping on the beach is free. If you go all the way to the end near the Tulum pyramids you can camp  for the night as long as your packed up by a decent hour the next day.

 

 Cenotes

Cenotes are sinkholes in the ground, which are formed from collapsed limestone bedrock. Made up of crystal clear fresh waters believed to contain special minerals good for your hair and skin follicles. There are over 500 cenotes in the area and are only found in this side of the world.  They are all connected by a system of   underground river and caves. This attracts professional divers from all over the world.

The cenotes were sacred places to the Mayans and were used for many different things. Some used it for their source of water. Others were used as sacrificial grounds for offerings to the gods or for births of their offspring’s. Some other tribes believed it was a portal to the underworld. Today they are popular spots for scuba divers and snorkelers. They attract people from all over the world who come to enjoy their mesmerizing crystal clear waters.

There are hundreds of cenotes hidden within the Mayan jungles. The ones I have visited are in the pictures above. Dos Palmers and Mil Columns, They are located about 20 klms out of Tulum. You can catch a combi and get off at the Dos Ojos entrance.  It is about 3 klms down the road.  It will cost $100 - $200 pesos to enter and this gives you access to their bathrooms, property and jungle. They also have areas for camping if interested.

Dos Ojos is a very famous cenote in the middle of the ocean however it is very touristic. If you want to get off the beaten path and avoid crowds visit these amazing isolated cenotes in the middle of jungle.

 

Laguna Bacalar

Magical Town of Laguna Bacalar

Pueblo Mágicos

Situated in the southern part of Quintana Roo Mexico,  is where one of Mexico’s well kept secrets is located, the magic town of Laguna Bacalar. It will take your breath away from its crystal clear blue waters and unique traditional feel. Bacalar is a great place to relax by the lake and enjoy the sound of serenity at your side.

Laguna Bacalar is a massive 42 klms long and 2 klms wide containing seven cenotes. (natural pits or sinkholes formed from collapsed limestone bedrock) This allows you to see its seven shades of blue flowing throughout the lake. Which can be seen over the entire day, this alone makes this place so unique and special. You can spend your days exploring the lake shores, or just kick back on one of the docks with your feet in the water.

If you're looking for a place to explore, with beautiful water and no crowds, this is a place you must check out. From Cancun, it's about a 5-hour drive south and 1 hour north of the Belizean border. There are regular combi’s and buses than run between Cancun and Belize. In Bacalar there are several eco hotels and hostels to stay at, most of them are located on the north side of town, and have private docks leading out onto the lake.

A little History

On top of the hill looking over the Laguna lies ¨The fort of San Felipe¨. This is a major attraction because in its walls, pillars and ramparts lies traces of past battles. This historic fort was built in 1725 with the dual purpose of preventing the ravages suffered by the pirates. Whom were trying to invade via the canals on the other side of the lake. (there is remains of a fort that is popular place for tourists) Many battles have been fought in this area but still managed to remained in the hands of the Mayans.

 

 

My Favorite Place

Within the past year, I have been lucky enough to have visited this magical place 5 times. It is one of my favorite places in the Yucatan Peninsula. I have stayed in various types of accommodation as they do have a lot to offer from boutique hotels to eco-friendly hostels. Depending on what your preference is Bacalar caters for all types of tourist and there travelling needs from camping, dormitories, private rooms and private hotel rooms.

Accomodation

There are a lot of hotels around town, you will be looking at a minimum of $800 pesos per night for a standard room. The prices with go up depending on your preferences and requests. E.g: lake view, breakfast included etc.

Magic Bacalar

Magic Bacalar - offers free breakfast, bicycle, kayaks and catamarans hires or you may book your tours at the reception. This property is off the lagoon about a 10 - 15-minute walk from the center of town.

  • $125 pesos per person for tents.
  • $250 p/p p/p for a dorm
  • $300 plus for prívate rooms
  • $500 pesos for 10hrs - kayak use

Cayuco Maya

Cayuco Maya - This is an eco-friendly property about 10 klms before you reach the town of Bacalar. They have their own chickens for eggs, grow there own fruits and vegetable and their buildings are made from recycled materials.

This property is 2klms away from the highway, it is owned by a man named Don Miguel who originally opened it for people to visit during the day. Now he is developing it for tourist to stay and enjoy the seclusion for as long as needed.

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner is around $50 pesos per plate and is homemade by the lady that helps run the property.

  • $100 - $200 pesos per tent
  • $500 for cabins.
  • $100 pesos’ minimum for kayak use - depending how many people are staying at the facility will determine how long you may use them for goes on an hourly basis.

Help Out

Don Miguel has a lot of future plans to make this a first choice for travelers from boat and horse rides to a self sustainable way of living.  They speak only Spanish however would be looking for a translator during busy seasons. If interested in volunteering I do know he is open to the idea from easy going hard working people, he does have a lot of work to be done.

Other Info

A girl I met at Cayuco Maya told me about a really relaxed and cheap place right on the water called the Green Monkey Bacalar. I have not personally stayed there however I have heard really good things so could be another option.

 Discovering Secret Canals

Discovering Secret Canals

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Isla Holbox

A Slice of Paradise

Located in the North-western point of Cancun, in the Gulf of Mexico lies the secluded fishing village of ¨Isla Holbox¨. Accessible by ferry from the mainland town of Chiquila, you can take daily ferry´s departing every hour between 6:00am – 9:30pm. This will cost $100 pesos per person each way and will take roughly 30-minutes. The ferry will drop you off on the south part of the island, where golf buggy taxis will be waiting.

There will be a lot of people waiting in line for the taxi however it is only a 10-minute walk to the center of town. The island itself is 42 klms long and 1.5klms wide, making it easy to walk from width to width. There are bicycles, mopeds and buggies for hire, that you can use to tour the island. If you’re in Cancun, buses depart the ADO bus terminal daily from 7:30am, 12:30pm and 1:45pm daily to Chiquila.

Accomodation

 Holbox is a quaint little town offering various boutique stores, hotels and artisans. The locals who call this place home, make a living mainly from fishing and tourism purposes. If you walk around you will be able to find various types of Accomodation per your budget. Our accomodation was a  cheap hostel offering treehouse style rooms, with a mattress on the floor for the cost of $450 pesos for the night. Very basic but comfortable and affordable.

Getting Around

Made up of paved dirt roads and sandy trails, Holbox attracts tourist yearly to its isolation and well preserved origin. An animal’s lover’s paradise, here you have access to an island within an island. It is home to hundreds of species of exotic birds such as flamingoes, pelicans and seagulls. During high tide, it is accessible kayak or boat and by foot during low tide. You also have the beauty of the crystal clear blue waters and white sandy beaches making this an amazing spot for pictures.

Swimming with whale sharks

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Tours and Prices

Between September and March Isla holbox attracts tourists from all over as it offers tours to swim with the whale sharks. This was by far one of the most amazing things I have ever done in my life. My brother had done this tour a few months before, he had paid $1500 pesos. (around $80 US) however he is a gringo.! Jorge and I traveled together and of course him being Mexican he haggled them down to $1300 pesos. This included a guided tour for the entire day, snorkeling equipment, drinks and snacks, time to swim with the whale sharks and fresh ceviche (seafood dish) for lunch which was caught the night before.  Worth every penny and something I highly recommend to everyone.

Swimming with the Whale Sharks

The day started off with a 3-hour boat ride out in the middle of the deep blue sea. They gave us our de-briefing on safety equipment and advise us not to touch the animals. Whale sharks are massive creatures reaching upto lenghts of 40 feet or more. This makes them the largest fish in the world. Lucky for us they are strict vegetarians enjoying mostly plankton. The guide instructed only two people were allowed in the water at a time for safety reasons. Swimming side by side with these tranquil creatures is breathtaking. No words can describe the feelings you get from excited, nervous to thrilling all at once.

 Underwater friends

We then went to a popular spot for snorkeling. There I was lucky enough to get up close and personal with a sea turtle and a manta ray. Before Jorge was grabbing me from behind warning me how the ray family don’t like Australians (Steve Erwin). Very funny! Fresh ceviche was prepared and served on the boat for lunch before returning back to the island.

A magical place

Not officially a magical town however there is something unique about Isla Holbox that made it a magical for me. Whether it was swimming side by side with one of the largest marine animals in the world. The seclusion and tranquility that this little slice of paradise offers or the fact it is overwhelmed by wildlife. This is a tiny little slice of heaven, untouched by masses of crowds and tourism making it a traveler’s paradise.

 

Following a turtle

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Isla Mujeres

Magical Isla Mujeres

Pueblo Magicos

Isla Mujeres is a tiny serene island about 13 klms off the coast of Cancun. You can take a 30-minute ferry from either playa Tortugas in the hotel zone for $400 pesos. Or you can go from the local’s port of Puerto Juarez located off Lopez Portillo and pay $200 pesos.

Isla is much more picturesque and tranquil in my opinion than Cancun however offers such diversity like none other. It is in fact the ¨El amanecer de Mexico¨ which means ¨The sunrise of Mexico¨. As it is in fact the first point of Mexico the sun touches in the mornings. There is a Isla Mujeres sign in the east part of the island where you can take nice pictures.

Spanish Translations: ¨Island of Women¨

The history of Isla dates back over 1500 years when it was part of the Maya province, Ekab. The island served as the sanctuary for the goddess Ixchel, the Maya goddess of the moon, fertility, medicine and happiness. The Temple was located at the South point of the island and was also used as the lighthouse. It remained a sanctuary until it was discovered by Francisco Fernández de Córdoba in 1517. Legend has it that the only inhabitants of the island were the priestess of Ixchel and her court of women. Scattered around were numerous gold, silver and clay statues of Ixchel, and so the island got its name: Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women.

My Experiences

I have been to Isla Mujeres several times. One of my favorite things to do is hire a golf buggy or moped and tour the island. Golf Buggies range from $250 to $300 pesos per hour or around $1000 pesos for 24 hours. Mopeds are only $400 for 24-hours and very easy to get around.

There is a dirt track on the south end of the island that leads into the mangalar (mangroves). You can drive down and have a private view of the lake. There is lots of dirt road, pot holes and water puddles everywhere, but good if you like to go off roading. (If your anything like my boyfriend Jorge, you will love this) One time when my brother came to visit from Australia we went to this place and after few doughnuts and skids through the mud we ended up tipping the buggy over and I think breaking parts of the motor. Not recommended, but a lot of fun. It only cost an extra $200 pesos for cleaning and repairs, so definitely worth it if you’re a thrill seeker.

As this is a tiny island and the maximum speed limit is usually 40 kilometers an hour. Just like at home drinking while driving is illegal however will be tolerated as long as you are respectful of your surroundings. Be careful as there are a lot of police, usually they will leave you alone unless you are being reckless or  they are just after some money in which case they will try to scare you. 

 Where Everything Is….

Playa Norte is the popular tourist spot with shops, restaurants, artisanals, bars and all sorts of boutique hotels. I usually stay in a cheap hospedaje (cheap hotel) not sure what the name is but it’s a big pink building off one of the main streets opposite Playa Norte beach, it costs between $350 - $600 pesos per night depending on the room.

Playa Sur is where the ruins of Ixchel are located as well as amazing coastlines of cliffs overlooking the beaches of the Caribbean Sea, a great place to take pictures. In between you will find a variety of things you can take advantage of from ziplining, snorkeling, fishing and much more. The island has a turtle sanctuary where they look after the endangered species of turtles and during specific times of the year help assist during the laying of the eggs when hundreds of turtles come ashore and lay their eggs in the ground (turtles lay their eggs where they themselves where born) and when they hatch the babies scatter off into the ocean.

 Otherwise there are a lot of unique and local bars offering all sorts of local cuisine and drinks, my favorite bar is the ¨Reggae Bar which is in the south part of the island, on a hill overlooking the crystal-clear waters. A great place to relax, meet people and enjoy your surroundings.

Mexico

Arriving to Mexico

I arrived in Mexico in October 2015 with only a couple hundred dollars left in my pocket and With the images of home in the back of my mind. At this point in my travels I had been away from Australia for about 15 months. I had no intentions on going back home however it seemed like the only option. I arrived in Mexico around my birthday so I thought what the hell blow it all, party and then call my parents and ask for a plane ticket home. (It’s funny what the universe has in store)

The World Works in Mysterious Ways

At the hostel, I was staying at I met other travelers who were working for commissions. So I thought why not give it a go. Cash in hand, no visa required and the only requirement was English as my first language. Now I am not here to promote illegal work as mentioned in previous blogs there are  a lot of options to help your travels last longer. For me, it was something that kind of fell into my lap and at that point in my life it was the opportunity I was searching for.

Working at a call center had its ups and downs. If you have ever seen the movie ¨Wolf of Wall Street¨, It’s similar with a whole lot less drugs and sex. It’s a very hectic, crazy and fun environment to say the least however it paid the bills. The company even supplied work visas, all you do is pay the fee and they file the paperwork.

A Place to call Home

Currently living in Cancun Mexico, I have been luckily enough to call this place home for over a year now. Very similar to where I grew up from its tropical weather, white sand beaches and crystal clear waters has made it very easy for me to settle in. Working at the call center opened many opportunities for me. I met my amazing boyfriend whom worked for the same company. I have lived happily and comfortably in Cancun for well over a year and who can complain about living in the Caribbean coast. Looking back, I realise just how lucky I am.

 A Little History

Mexico is home to the Mayan culture, known to be one of the original cultures remaining in the new world. Known for their spectacular art, impressive architecture and sophisticated mathematical and astronomical systems. Their Pyramids were built of stone and used as temples and royal tombs. Shrines where sacrifices made to the gods located at the top and burial chambers were hidden deep inside. There are hundreds of ruins scattered across the Yucatan.

The most famous of the pyramids are Chitchen Itza known today as one of the new found seven wonders of the world. Coba considered one of the few pyramids still accessible to climb with a spectacular view of the Mayan jungle. The Tulum pyramids are in fact the only pyramids in the world to sit alongside the ocean.

Believed to be one of the fastest developing civilizations of their time . The Mayans had refined their own Mayan calander still used today in some communities. Where the first recorded culture to perform open surgery and knowledge about anatomy and physiology, among other things. Mayans today, maintain and preserve distinctive traditions and beliefs, commonly practiced in well preserved towns throughout the country, these places have been recognized as magical towns.

 

 

What Makes a Town Magical

"Pueblo Mágicos" in Español, are usually small un-discovered towns that are known as cultural heritage sites.  Renowned for following old traditions and beliefes and have witnessed great events of their coutnries history. This is a program developed by the governement to offer tourism opportunites to promtote the nations jewels of culture, folklore and their countries value and it also recognizes the towns that have preserved their historical wealth.

Mexico has 36 official magic towns all around the country, they are situated close to or on a highway leading to top tourist destinations which make them easy to access however they are not allowed to have high rise buildings or be known for tourism. What is special about the magical towns is they still hold social, historical and cultural importance to society, Mexico is not only known for top tourist destinations like cancun or mexico city but if your a traveller that is interested in culture why not check out some special places. I have only been to a select number of Magical towns but they have definetly made an impression on me.

 

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traditions

Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres translates to Island of Women: home of the fertility goddess Ixchel.

 

Learn More

Bacalar

The magical town of Laguna Bacalar shows off its  7 different shades of blue throughout the day which represent the 7 cenotes.

Learn More

Tulum

Newest magical town: home of the Tulum ruins and access to Coba

amazing beaches and quaint little town.

Learn More

Not ¨Technically¨ Magical Towns but Magical to me!!!

Isla Holbox

Isolated Island in the northern point of mexico: popular for swimming with the whale sharks and all sorts of nature related activities.

Learn More

Punta Allen

Sian Kaan Nature reserve dedicated into preserving wildlife such as jaguars, iguanas, marine life, and untouched archaeological sites

Learn More

Related Links:

Check out my other blogs about Mexico

Cancun on a Budget

China

Travelling, Exploring and Learning about Historical Places.

Beijing

First off, I was not prepared for the minus 14 degree weather that was awaiting me. Even though I had just spent the last 3 weeks or so in freezing cold temperatures. This cold shot through me like a bunch of needles. I had long pants, jackets and thermals but it still was not enough. I had to cover myself in layers and layers of clothing, stuffing each bit of material into each other so no part of me could the feel the cold. By the time is was done I felt like I was wearing a sumo suit ready to start a wrestling match. The first impression of Beijing is how massive and colorful the city is. With its string of lanterns, street lights and out their decorations all in preparation for the Chinese New Year.

Tips and Tricks

The first thing you need to know before leaving the Airport is have your directions for your accommodation ready for your driver as no one will speak a word of English. (the only people who spoke English the whole time I was in china were the people at the hostel). As soon as I arrived at the Beijing Saga Youth Hostel I felt instant comfort. This was because it was a beautiful 25 degrees inside. However as soon as you walk out the door, it slaps you in the face with a whopping -14 degrees. This was very difficult for me and for the first couple of days I never left the premises. I could only walk as far as the end of the street before turning back around.

Exploring

After a few days, I decided to get off my bottom and attack the cold head on. I put layer after layer and tucked everything in to each other before I set out to explore. The city itself is beautiful and very easy to get around the train system is so advanced it was like travelling into the future. Even though the signs where in Chinese the direction given from the receptionist back at the hostel was very informative, which gave me the chance to explore the markets, temples and try some local cuisine. My first restaurant experiences were impressive. The chefs had my order cooked and served in matter of 5 mins and that’s no exaggeration. (I ordered, lit a cigarette when I used to smoke and half-way done my food was ready).

 

 The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall is exactly that! Great. Hiking up from the bottom was very steep but well worth it the view up there was amazing. I couldn’t help but wonder exactly how these people managed to build such an impressive structure with their nothing but their bare hands. As I walked along it, I glance along the horizon, as far as the eye could see the was no end in sight for this amazing structure. I think I must have walked about 2 klms taking in the amazing view of the landscapes. On the way,down there was a sled track that you could ride on the way down and at the bottom. there you are greeted by men dressed up in old warrior costumes asking for money for pictures with them.

Street Market

That evening I was off to try some local cuisine as I was told there was a tourist market where they sell exotic foods. When I mean exotic, I’m talking deep fried scorpion, snake, beetles and all sorts of bugs big and small. They even had sea horses, star fish, dog, cat and the list goes on. I know a bit full on, I told the guys behind the counter that seahorse is an endangered species. The man continued to tell me it was a sea dragon and it was different. Come on!! Sea dragon, I wasn’t born yesterday.

As I walked alongside the market I decided to test my taste buds with a serving of scorpion. Could have been a little bit risky I thought but none the less down the hatch.Tasted like crunchy potatoes smoldered in spices, it tasted good I must admit. Snake on the other hand tasted like off calamari. It was very chewy and hard to swallow but that’s all I could stomach after looking at trays and trays of all creepy crawlies.

 

 

 Kunming (Xi-Shan)

After a few days, I decided I needed to get out of the cold so decide to travel all way south to the city of Kunming. Realizing there are only 3 recommended hostels I didn’t really had much choice. So, I stayed at the Kunming Cloudland International Youth Hostel, it was a great place to socialize and meet a lot of new people. Funnily I spotted a few familiar faces from Beijing as it seems this is a popular tourist spot.

The city itself is beautiful very green and clean, it is famous for its temple on the top of the mountain called Xi-Shan. The hike up the mountain was steep but well worth it as the views of the city were amazing. The temples were like something out of a movie and seemed so surreal. The traditions and culture that this place this carries out even today is so fascinating and well preserved. People come up to the temple regularly for prays and services and to present their gods with gifts of respect. It is definitely worth visiting.

Communication Fail

The next day I asked the lady at reception where I could go to buy a train ticket as I was limited on time. She was kind enough to draw me a map which was good as the place seemed like it was close. As I left the hostel I began to follow the directions she had given me. To my surprise I was having a little bit of trouble, so after a while I decided I would have a go at asking for help.

To say that these people are friendly is an understatement: They went above and beyond trying to help me. Here I was making ¨toot toot¨ noises in the shop trying to get them to understand me. I even had someone say ¨I call my friend, she learn English¨. The girl on the phone was very polite and all she could tell me was ¨I’m sorry but I do not understand you¨. When I look back now it was a pretty hilarious situation I bet the people helping me would be laughing about it too. Needless to say, the place I was looking for was literally right around the corner. 

Dali

It is only about 7 hours by train to get to Dali, which Is such a hip little boutique town. The people are dressed in traditional dresses and outfits trying to sell things to the tourists. Again, I was running into familiar faces, coming to the realization I may not see these people again. We all decide to go on a boat tour out on the lake visiting all the popular monuments and tourist markets.  That night we went out to local bar and decide to try some of the recommended beverages. These were a combination of shots with exotic flavors from chocolate, chili, cinnamon, garlic, peppers, berry, etc. We also started playing some traditional Chinese drinking games. Probably not the best idea but I’m sure you can figure out what happened there.

Hong Kong

My last few days in china was spent in Hong Kong which is in fact its own country. They have their own currency, flag and they even drive on the opposite side of the road. This was very strange to me especially when you’re travelling by bus to get there. I arrived at the immigration building on the right side of the road. Was told to gather all my belongings and check in through immigration. Once all the fun was over I then received a stamp and left the building through the other end. Before I knew it I was off on the left side of the road on the way to Hong Kong.  

To my surprise, English was the most spoken language (I didn’t realize that Hong Kong was colonized by the English) there were also a lot of Indian immigrants, hustling on the streets. I found Hong Kong to be very touristic and a destination for a specific type of traveler. (not for the budget travelers) It is home to the island of Macau which known as the Vegas of China, a lot of people from all over the world transit through Hong Kong and therefore have easy access to Macau.

 

Footprints around the Globe

A Travelers Guide to Volunteering Around the World

Since I began travelling in late 2010, I have discovered ways of life that I never knew existed nor dream would be possible. From what was to be only a twelve-month gap year turned into 18 months of absolute bliss (that was the 1st round the world trip). The second trip is still in progress with an approximate time of 2 years 6 months and 21 days and counting. How have I made this all possible you ask? well this is all thanks to the wonder world of not only volunteering but couch surfing and cash in hand jobs, to say the least. (there are many options, you just have to be open minded) Its not only about working but introducing yourself to other cultures, different ways of life and people, which  is something beautiful and worth trying at least once in your life. Would you like to know what it would feel like living, working and sharing with others by simply trading, (offering someone something in exchange for something else) In this case I volunteered all around the world in exchange for food and accommodation (sometimes I received other incentives such as pocket money)

Volunteering: How It Works

Depending on where you’re travelling to and if you’re not on a time limit you could always look around in the place you are choosing to stay at. Some hostels, hotels or even BnBs advertise in their properties if they have any job/volunteer vacancies available or you could always walk around and speak to locals. (they will be the best option for up to date information on the destinations) Another option is volunteer in a place and ask your hosts if they know of anyone that might have cash work available e.g.: gardening, babysitting, maintenance work, animal care and so on, the possibilities are endless based on what kind of travelling you are doing.

There are various websites online where you can sign up for example : woofingwork awayhelpx just to name a few but like I said there are many just google it, but all you need to do is research which one will benefit you the best, based on where you want to  travel to and what things you would like to do. Each website will require a payment to create an account but it will roughly cost between $20 - $40 US for a year or two this is depending on what kind of profile you create. Set up your profile with up to date pictures and information about yourself and what kind of work you can do, your likes and your dislikes and a basic biography on yourself.

(To research places and jobs, it is free, once you want to contact the hosts that is when you must pay the registration fee).

Once you know where you’re going all you need to do is type in the city or town and a list of volunteer work will pop up in the desired location. Read through them save the ones you like then when you have a few in your favorite list, message the ones that you would like to volunteer at. Note: sometimes host may not respond quick or they might not have availability so try to message a couple of places, that way you have options. Tell the host what jobs you can do, how long you require to stay and ask if there is any other information you may need e.g.: how to get there, type of accommodation etc. that's it! your well on your way to becoming part of a worldwide community.

Note: All volunteer places are different: They will specify the hours they require, generally its between 20 to 25 hours of work  a week in return for board and lodging, but if it is more they will let you know. Some places offer 3 meals a day some only offer 1, just read all through their profile so you know if it is something you might like. It is a referral based program: once you have volunteered, you write a review based on your experience and so does the host, that is how other host/volunteers determine what kind of person you are and helps them decide if they need your assistance. TIP: If you do have a bad experience the best way is to not write anything at all or keep it professional as it could backfire and tarnish your profile and effect your chances on getting accepted to other places.

Live like a Local

This is a great way to meet new people, help others and feel like your contributing to the community. the best part about it you get to experience first hand what is like to live like a local, explore areas you may not have been able to otherwise. For me I was lucky enough to  some hosts take me to their local hotspots and I was able to discover and learn new things about their cultures history and tradicions.

I have accomplished things I had never done before from milking goats, assisting with construction and buildings, gardening and landscaping, looking after animals big and small from pigs, dogs , goats and even elephants. I have left my footprint all over this place we call home and that to be is one of the greatest gifts of all, knowing that I have helped people from all walks of life while doing the thing that I love most. TRAVELLING!

It feels amazing being a part of and contributing to the community, you walk away with a sense of self accomplishment knowing that you have left a piece of yourself all over.

 My Volunteer Experiences

  • Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand – 1 week 2010
  • Pink Palace Resort - Corfu Island, Greece -  1 week 2011
  • Bed and Breakfast - Feltre, Italy – 3 weeks in 2011
  • Randijk Bamboe & Hoveniers - Leusden, Holland – 5 weeks in 2011
  • De Bereklauw - Lueven, Belgium – 3 months in 2011
  • Dog Breeding place - Bavarian Forest, Germany - 1 week in 2011
  • Novy Mlyn- Jihocesky KrajCzech Republic – 2 months in 2011/2012
  • Home Maintenance  - Vienna, Austria – 2 months in 2012
  • Home/ Property - Normandie, France – 2 weeks in 2012
  • Lefamous knight  and Brewery work - Normandie, France – 2 weeks in 2012
  • The Lavra - California, U.S.A – 10 days in 2014.
  • Hostel Salento Estrella sin Fronteras - Salento, Colombia – 1 month in 2014/2015
  • Chaqana Lodge  - Salinas, Ecuador – 3 weeks in 2015
  • Home / Property work - Jaen, Peru – 1 month in 2015
  • Supertramp Hostel - Cusco, Peru – 5 weeks in 2015

IS VOLUNTEERING THE ONLY OPTION?

We live in the 21st century so there are many possibilities depending on what kind of traveler you are, what you budget is and how long you intend to travel. There are so many different ways to help save cash on your next trip.

Couch-surfing - Stay with locals and meet other travelers in your area. - short term stay in the desired location.

Google: Airbnb /country.com - is an online marketplace where your can rent homes, apartments and condominiums etc for short or long term stay.

Hitch Wiki - Hitch hikers guide to the galaxy! : Beneficial mainly all over  Europe.

AU pair - basically a live in nanny from a foreign country so to speak, short and long term stay available

Seasonal work: fruit picking in France, trimming in California, Teach English in Asia. - Ask the Locals - you will never know how easy it is until you try!!!

Others ways to help save you money while travelling:

  • Take local transportation - combi's and local buses
  • Talk to locals about cheap hostels, hotels or rooms, Walk around
  • Take a tent or hammock if your game! Stay at campgrounds, beaches or even hostels -
  • Secluded beaches or parks : may require a lot of walking to find secluded areas but it is free. - Note: locals will say it is dangerous due to people that might rob you but use your own diligent and check online to see if other travelers have done it.

This is just a guideline based on my personal experiences, everyone will be different and have their own opinions however this blog is mainly focusing on long term travel but with little bits and pieces of things I have encountered whilst on my journeys.

 

Tips, Tricks and Travel Treats

 What to Consider When Planning your Next Trip

There are a lot of things to consider before taking your next trip. Whether your traveling for 2 weeks, 2 months or even 2 years there is going to be a lot of planning to be done. For me I found the most expensive part of it all was leaving the country. From the passports, visas, insurance and flights not to mention settling debts and bills before leaving home. Watching your money dwindle down can be quite daunting. Don´t get me wrong all the planning, organizing, applying and even counting down the days can be very exciting. but also overwhelming at times but the overall result is well worth it.

Let’s go back to the very beginning! You´ve decide you want to start travelling.

5 Ways to Help You Save Your Cash

Bank Account with Interest:

If you´ve just started saving then we got a minimum of a few months before you leave, why not start up an account that builds interest. Deposit money into it every week, put a block on it so you can’t touch it till you leave and watch the interest grow!!

Make A List:

Write a list of your weekly bills: Electricity, Rent, Fuel, Food etc. Add your Savings to it and why not make it fun. Trick your brain by giving your savings a name so it’s like you owe someone money each week.

Cut Down Cost:

Look out for sales such as 2 for 1 bargains and compare prices on items at your local stores. Shop at thrift stores or markets or even shop online, buy in bulk to save or Ask yourself ¨"Do I really need this. ¨

Sell / Buy Stuff Online:

When buying things for you trip try before you buy! E.G: Go into a store try it out, feel it and get the size, color and code. Search for it online guaranteed you will find it cheaper for the same quality. Do some research on social media sites: Facebook has buy and sell pages all you have to so is search your area.

Inspirations:

I believe the best form of inspiration Is visualization! Now a-days we have the wonderful world of the Internet so you can pretty much research anything you want. Take this opportunity to learn about your preferred destination. What I did was put a $20 dollar note up on my wall and I just added extra zero´s. Tranforming it into $20,000 dollars. Around the money, I placed images I wanted to visit from all over the world. Every day and every night I would gaze at my goals and it would motivate me to go to work.  That year my goal was to reach $20,000 at the end of that 12-month period I had saved a total $24,000 dollars.

savings

$pendings Before You Leave

Like I mentioned before, you are going to spend a lot of money before you leave. It will consist of a lot of planning and researching. Here are some helpful tips to make it a little easier.

Passports:

If you haven’t got one yet don’t worry, go to a place that takes photographs and ask them to print them in color. let them know it is for your passport. Then go to your local post office, embassy or consulate and fill out the appropriate documentation. You will need to provide appropriate evidence such as birth certificates, photo I.D, etc. You will need to pay a fee and wait for a parcel in the mail. If you are in an embassy or consulate most of the time you will receive it straight away.

Visas:

Look at government websites or ask at your local embassy or consulate, otherwise just google your countries immigration laws and entry requirements. If a visa is required you will need to complete a form, show appropriate documentation and proof of who you are, pay the fee and wait for a response. E.g.:

  • Smartraveller.gov: is the best site for Australian travelers.
  • Travel.state.gov: is good for North and South American travelers.
  • Research your local government websites

Flights:

There are so many different websites you can look at online and compare prices. Perhaps you have a preferred travel agent that you´ve been going to for years or you may have collection of frequent flyer points. The great thing about this day and age is the various possibilities that make travelling very easy to accomplish. Some preferred sites I use especially for comparing flights is: Sky Scanner (My favorite) ExpediaCheapOAir and Cheap Tickets.

Note: Some destinations require proof of a departure ticket upon arrival otherwise they may refuse entry.

Travel Insurance:

Just like the flights, you will find a lot of travel insurance websites online. Compare prices most sites will ask you personal questions about what you plan on doing on your trip and that will determine how much you will pay. Lonely Planet is a good place to start or try Insure My Trip or World Nomads. Also, you may require Immunizations such as yellow fever or typhoid shots. Depending on the country make sure you research before entering as you may be refused entry.

What to Pack

Depending on how long you’re travelling for I´ve put together a basic guide of necessary items for all different types of travel.

Please Note: Research before you board the plane as there are a lot of restrictions towards what you may bring with you. There are  limitations on liquids, bottle sizes, sharp objects, aerosol cans etc. Be safe if unsure pack it in your backpack.

Documents:

  • Passports and Copies (leave some with family members), Credit cards, Cash, Visas, Insurance papers, Boarding pass, Immunizations papers.

Hand Luggage:

  • Laptop, phones, music devices, chargers, cameras, earphones etc., neck pillows, travel blanket, snacks for plane, books or magazines, sunglasses, socks, spare clothes, jacket, Kleenex wipes, hand sanitizer, water.

 

Main Luggage / Back pack:

  • Shirts, pants, underwear, socks, running shoes, boots, flipflops, jeans, shorts, swimwear, thermals, rain gear, jacket and/or hoodies, scarves, hat, beanie, towels, oversized liquids and aerosols.

Toilettries:

  • Tooth brush and container, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, hair ties and hair brush, soap and loafer, deodorant, sunscreen, face wipes, sanitizer, Q tips, tissues, wet wipes and toilet paper.

First Aid Kit:

  • Band aids and bandages, vitamins, water purifier tablet, alcohol rub, Aspirin, cold and flu tablets, cold pack, emergency blanket, thermometers, ibuprofen.

Camping Equipment:

  • Day pack, tent and poles, sleeping bag, sheets or blanket, sleeping mat, knife, lighter, flashlights, bug spray, portable utensils, pots and pans. etc.

On the Road

Once you´ve landed at your destination you will be feeling a mix of emotions from excitement to nervous.  Dont worry you will be well on your way to exploring, meeting new people and probably partying too. Depending on how long you’re travelling for I´ve provided an easy guide to help maintain your budget while on the road.

Accomodation:

  • Hostels rather than hotels: Hostels are cheaper and more social than a hotel. Some have common areas and bars where you can meet new people, some can provide a lot of entertainment and others can be very basic try HostelBookersHostel World or Hostels.comOtherwise why not wait till you get there. Talk with the locals if you’re looking for cheap rather than luxury as you most likely won´t find it online but through word of mouth!

Other Options

Sign Up To Couchsurfing: This is for Short term stay with Locals that live in your desired location. Create a profile if you haven´t already and socialize with people from all over the world. It’s a referral based setup, once you´ve stayed somewhere people with comment on their experience and you will do the same. This will build up a reputation, the better comments the better the chances someone will let you stay at their house.

  • Camping / Hammocks: Campgrounds and trailer parks can be quite expensive so walk around. Speak with locals on good cheap places to camp, sometimes bars or restaurants by the beach will let you set up your tent for  fee. After dark Public beaches in tourist areas can be known to have campers sleep overnight as long as your packed up by the next morning. Google camping forums in the nearby and view comments see of other people’s experiences.

Volunteering:

There are many volunteer websites that offer the basic exchange of food and accommodation in return for 20 to 30 hours of work a week. They differ depending on your location but most will offer accommodation with between 1 to 3 meals per day. Some may offer a food allowance or some may offer cash in hand work all depends on what you agree upon. Create a profile indicating what your likes and dislikes are, what work you can do and where you’re travelling. There will be a fee usually lasting a couple of years. Work awayHelpx and woofing are the sites I have used in the past however like I mentioned there are a lot. Do your own research and find the ones that best fit your needs.

Transportation:

Public transportation is by the far the cheapest way to get around in most worldwide destinations.  Combi vans, buses, trains, last minute cheap flights and even boats (depends on where you are). If you’re looking for an even cheaper alternative and are open to try new things I recommend Carpooling. It is the new age in sharing the cost of fuel in long distance trips. Carpool World and Ridesharing are some popular sites or you could always do the old fashion hitch hiking if your game. HitchWiki is a hitch hikers guide to the Galaxy! 🙂

Image result for hitchhiking sign

Cash In Hand Work:

Work on the road, like I mentioned some volunteer options will give you extra cash if you work more hours. In top tourist destinations, all around the world you can find cash jobs like call centers or selling tickets. These will be paid by commissions and bonuses. If you are talented and are game try being a street performer, play music, fire twirl or juggle.  Anything to help accumulate some money even if it’s only enough for your next night’s accommodation or a bus ticket to your next location.

My Experiences

In Ecuador I sold chocolate rum balls in the park. A friend of mine played guitar and sang songs on local buses and did so throughout various Latin American countries. 2 girls from Argentina they sold sandwiches and sweets in tourist locations. It just goes to show if you have determination, willpower and work towards what you want the possibilities are endless.

Happy Travelling!

Motivational Documentary: Must Watch!! The Secret.