Author Archive for: ‘Fatti’

Get To Know: Bobo

Get To Know: Bobo

 

                           Photo courtesy of Mmaphuthi Morule

1.What is the best early morning experience you’ve had while traveling?

A champagne breakfast on the balcony of our hotel room at the Vista Palace Hotel when visiting Monaco back in 2009.

Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, from the Principality of Monaco to the Italian Riviera, the Vista Palace Hotel offers one of the most spectacular views of the French Riviera. That experience had me feeling like i was in paradise.

Vista Palace Hotel , 1551 Route de la Turbie – 06190 Roquebrune Cap-Martin – France

Tel. : +33 (0) 4 92 10 40 00

2. Have you experienced any disasters/crisis while traveling?

Well, I suppose missing a flight from New York to Johannesburg could be considered a crisis of sorts, but it worked out in the end. And besides, an extra night in New York  never hurt anyone! We were also lucky enough not to have to pay extra for our flight the next day. Thank God for that because we were super broke come the end of that holiday! Crisis averted.

3. What is your travel style?

I do a lot of research on the destination I am traveling to.  I will trawl the internet to find out about the best restaurants, best places to shop, must see attractions, where to party etc. I feel like when visiting a new place, I really don’t want to miss out on “the best of” that city. A well informed traveler is a happy traveler!

I also prefer to experience new destinations through the locals as opposed to doing the tourist thing. The best way to fall in love with a city is to experience it the way the people who love it most do.

4. Which songs best describes your travel experiences?

“Paris Nights & New York Mornings”- by Corinne Bailey Rae. I can testify to those beautiful, mind blowing Paris nights, as well as those early morning walks of shame back home after a big night out in New York…heels in hand, hailing a cab down…

Rihanna has also provided many soundtracks to many a crazy night out in my recent trips to New York and Accra.

5. Most profound lesson learned through travel?

That to travel, and see the world, is to truly live and learn. Travel feeds my soul in a way that touches me deeply. Every single time.

6. Favorite Town/ Village?  Why?

Ada, Ghana. A small coastal town about an hour outside of Accra. It is beautiful. So simple, yet so exquisite. Definitely one of the places I have to go back to.

7. Favorite City? Why?

New York remains a big love. So much to see, so much to do. The energy of the city, the spirit of the people is what I resonate the most with. There’s just something about millions of people from everywhere around the world, coming together in this one city, with the common goal of making their dreams come true.

Paris comes a close second. The beautiful architecture, the romance, the ridiculously beautiful and stylish people, the classic sidewalk bistros, the art, and the champagne of course!

8. Who is the most unforgettable person/people you’ve met or interacted with while traveling?

The people of Accra that I have met on my visits there. They are some of the most kind-hearted, caring, and accommodating people I have ever come across. Their spirit is amazing. They always give so much of themselves to others. Always eager to help and forever hospitable. We are always so spolit every time we visit Accra.

9. What are some of the things you don’t like about traveling?

The admin involved in getting visas. Looooong flights in economy class. Bleh. That’s about it!

10. What are the 3 top eating experiences you’ve had while traveling?

1. Home cooked traditional Ghanian food. Shout out to Rita and Aunty Fafa!

2. A seafood braai on the beach at Inhaca Island, Mozambique.

3. Dinner at the Ciel de Paris restaurant in Paris.The restaurant is situated on the on the 56th floor of the Tour Montparnasse, and has the most beautiful panoramic views of the city. A great dining experience!

11. What’s the craziest stereotype you’ve heard about South Africans while traveling?

The usual stuff. We cant walk the streets because there is crime everywhere. We have lions and elephants in our back yards. We all have AIDS.

12. If I had only 24 hours to live, I would spend it in:

I would spend it on an island with the loves of my life on a secluded island.

13. Best Cities to fall in love?

New York, Amsterdam, Paris, and I would love to fall in love all over again in Barcelona. Never been to Barcelona, but I imagine that Barcelona would be the perfect background to a beautiful love story. With that Spanish guitar providing a dreamy soundtrack to it all! lol.

14. Cities you want to see with a lover?

Barcelona, Venice, Paris (of course).

15. Places you want to see with the girls?

A girls trip to Mykonos, and maybe Hvar Island in Croatia would be awesome :-) Long lazy days spent on the beach, bottomless cocktails, good food, and long Summer nights.

16. Best Cities to travel on your own?

New York.  Amsterdam.

17. What city best suits your personality?

New York. A city with many layers. A city of dreamers.

18. About Yourself?

I am a lover of life, family, friends, food, wine, travel, fashion, film and music. I’m learning and growing every day.

 

Tips: Finding the best flights

Tips: Finding the best flights

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Being a traveler, I have been fortunate to get great flight deals and have also been unfortunate to experience not so great flying experiences, so its safe to say I know the ins and outs of flying.  Accompanied with the fact that fuel prices keep fluctuating which impacts on the cost of a ticket and this year also being the year of people saving,  finding the right flight at the perfect cost is very important. So through my experiences I have put together some tips regarding the flight aspect of traveling, to help you when you plan your next trip.

Here goes!

Be flexible with your travel dates

Rather look at traveling during the week between Monday and Thursday as prices are cheaper during the week than over the weekend. And early morning or late flights are also cheaper as few people fly then.

Take advantage of Student flights

I’m on the database for STA Travel and use them to inquire about great deals as well as I get my insurance through STA Travel unless you don’t use your credit card to pay for your flight where you get free travel insurance. Using student flight centers guarantees you discounted rates.

Compare prices

Most people generally go for the airlines they are familiar with. With smart phones you have travel apps only just a click away. I have downloaded the following apps which helps to compare flights. I have the following apps downloaded, Kayak, Expedia, Easyjet and Travelocity to compare flights. Never just book a flight based on one site.

Take your time

I immerse myself in finding the right flight. Take about a week to search for flights. Flights fluctuate and you need to ensure that by the time you have booked, you have exhausted all possible options.

Go to travel agents

I generally start my search by calling or popping into different travel agents to compare prices. Once they have given me advice on what are the best options available, I go back and do the searches myself as travel agents charge a service fee. Travel agents take the stress out of finding a flight so if you do not have the energy to do the homework, they are your best bet.

Sign up for a Airline rewards programs

Most airlines have frequent flyer rewards programs. Even if you don’t use the same airline it doesn’t matter. Star Alliance has many airlines under their belt so you can sign up there and earn points when you fly which might come in handy the next time you are short.

You earn free miles if you signup when you are still on the flight and some airlines have a 3 month gap for free points after your flight.

Look for alternative routes

Some people generally book direct flights which are much more expensive than connecting flights. By changing your route you end bagging a good deal. This also gives you a chance to pop in for a day or two to see another country that isn’t part of your travels.

Connecting flights

After a stressful 6 hour flight delay from Joburg to Thailand, I learned to make sure that there is ample time between my connecting flights. Some of the people on our flight were unfortunately not using the same airline to connect and missed their flights.

 Travel insurance

This is not even a nice to have actually. You need this. Anything can happen, you could miss your flight because you were late for check in, your flight caught be delayed which affects all your connecting flights and not forgetting having your baggage lost. In peak season having to book another flight could be disastrous.

Be at the airport on time

I don’t know how many times I have had to run through the airport because I was late for check in, or I was too busy having a beer that I was late for the gate. It could also happen that you are not at fault, so make sure you have an hour contingency. The last thing you want is receiving a phone call saying they are off loading you because the gate is closed. That could be the most heartbreaking thing ever especially since you have been looking forward to that holiday.

Investigate the airline

This may seem dramatic, but it could be the thin line between a great flight and a pear shaped flight. Myself and Lera decided found the cheapest flight but it came with a price. There was NO ALCOHOL on the flight. Nothing, Zilch, nudda. After running through the airport all we were looking forward to was a glass of wine, and we were met with disappointment. Needless to say at the connecting airport looking for a bar was the first thing we did. So investigate what their dos and don’ts.

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Stick to the luggage weight requirements

Make sure that you pack lightly, because its not the going where it matters, its the coming back. So leave atleast 10kg extra for all the shopping you will do. You don’t want to be stuck in a situation where you don’t have money to pay the penalty fee and have to leave some luggage behind. This experience could scar you for life.

 Have the card you booked ticket with, with you at check in

On my last trip I had forgotten my card at the atm which the atm swallowed. I completely forgot that I needed this at check in. I wasted a good 45 minutes running to the bank and then back to ticket counter to get a letter from the bank. You may think its not necessary, but that one time you lose your card, is when they will ask for it.

Let your family know your flight details

Leave your flight details with a family member so that they can track your flight. You can track your flight using the Skyscanner app that shows all flights arriving and departing and status of the flights. This comes in handy particularly if you are not roaming for whoever is picking you up to know.

 Check your flight information the day before you leave

Some flights change their flights at the last minute. Its your responsibility to check that everything is running according to schedule. You can choose the email option for flight updates as it doesn’t matter where in the world you are, you can get access to your personal email account.

Finally: BE EXCITED FOR YOUR FLIGHT

It usually only kicks in when you have checked in and boarding that flight that you are about to embark on the most epic trip of your life. Once you are on that flight, there is not turning back. Leave all your worries and stresses behind, because the ride is far more important. Your journey begins the minute you hop onto that flight. Give thanks that you are able to get the opportunity to go make memories, and pray for safe travels.

 

 

 

 

TBT: Nice, France 2011

TBT: Nice, France 2011

After being in Paris, I was quite excited to go to the South of France where so many people have raved about it and the pictures just told a beautiful story.

I was just looking forward to soaking up the sun on the beach and swimming in proper bikini gear and not my underwear like I did in Switzerland.

I spent the first day doing some shopping as well as looking for an outfit for Monaco as we were going there the next day for dinner and to party, so I needed to make sure I fit in with the money dripping folk of Monaco.

What was lovely about where our hotel was situated is that it was close to all amenities, well the important places such shopping district, bars and the beach. Everything was a walk away.

We had dinner at a place called Le Ligure where the food was just delicious. We then all went our separate ways to enjoy the rest of the evening. Going clubbing was our first option, but after we were denied entry into one club we quickly shutdown that idea and opted to go bar hoping instead.

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Romain and I

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Topdeck troop

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Gorgeous girls of Topdeck

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The Cathedral

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Crazy and awesome couple, Joan and Romain

Crazy and awesome couple, Joan and Romain

After a hectic night of partying, we woke up had a delicious breakfast and decided to go to the beach and roam the streets of Nice.

We were lucky that our place is situated approximately 10 minutes walking distance from the beach and famous Promenade des Anglais. Its full of runners, people just taking a stroll, people on roller blades and cyclists. The atmosphere is just amazing. After enough walking, we then decided to find a spot on the beach and have a swim. The only eeky thing about the beach is that the beach is pebbles, so it makes your bum sore. Yip I spotted the odd three women walking around topless, aint no thang. They had nice boobs so for me it was ok, however I did not think it was smart for me to do the same. I just kept my African titties covered.

Promenade des Anglais

Promenade des Anglais

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Beach of Nice

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View of Nice at top of Le Chatea

After the beach we headed off to Le Chateu where its quite a climb to get to the top, ok i’m being dramatic, I was just unfit. I was taking breaks just to get back into the idea of going up more steps. But trust me that once you get to the top, you are grateful you didn’t turn around. The top gives you a panoramic view of Nice. Its truly breath taking. I remember thinking when I was up there “This is where people take all these beautiful pictures of Nice”. We came across a guy playing his cordian. I tried to speak to him, but with a combination of my lack of French and his limited English vocab, it wasn’t much of a conversation because all he said was “You are beautiful” and I was like “Music is beautiful”.

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View of Nice

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Myself, Romain and Joan at top of Le Chatea

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French man playing his cordian

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After the Le Chatea we took a walk to the famous  Cours Selaya Market which is not far from the beach. It was perfect timing beacuse we were in need of a mid day snack just before lunch. You need to contain yourself, other wise you might want to buy everything you come across. We ended buying some berries and croissants as our snack. We were in France, of course we had to have croissants even though we had them for breakfast, but these were sold at a market, very different. The market is surrounded with souvenir shops and cafes everywhere, so if you want to stop for a meal its not too far.

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Croissants sold at the Cours Selaya Market
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Delicious berries found at the market

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Cheese, glorious cheese sold at the Cours Selaya market.

Wandering around a town and finding gems and hidden places is just one needs to do and Old Town seemed like the perfect place. There are so many small shops and cafes everywhere. While wondering the streets we came across a Durex machine. Yip, slap bam in the middle of the streets. Everyone does the deed, so why not make sure you doing have a disappointing evening because you don’t have the goods. So I just had to take a pic of it. Romain and Joan dared me to go and buy a pack and they will take a pic of me, I wasn’t going down like that. Taking the pic of it was enough.

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With these on the streets, you cant say “I have run out”. Sorry for you, no holiday babies should bepopping up.

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This shop was just so inviting and just so Frenchy.

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Streets of Old Town

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Streets of Old Town

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I had an amazing time. Nice is nice, nice is beautiful and the views breathtaking. The French riviera definitely gets a high five from me. Whether I am back to find that French man, or just back because its a place to go back to, I’m excited to experience it from another angle.

TBT: Venice, Italy 2011

TBT: Venice, Italy 2011

Part of my Europe tour in 2011 was going to Venice.  So off we went to Venice.

You have a choice of navigating yourself on a gondola or just getting yourself lost in the streets.It is separated by bridges and canals. You have to take a ferry to get to the city. It is absolutely perfect and amazing.

I had heard so much about it I was beyond excited. The architecture is just amazing. Its also famous for its glass, I decided to purchase plates for my mom, my only purchase. I have to say that they are not lying when they say its expensive. But regardless you still are able to have a lovely meal, coupled with a good glass of wine and do some shopping without it denting your pocket money too heavily.

Standing in the middle of the magnificent piazza San Marco is an experience in itself. We started off visiting the world famous St Marks Basilica .The architecture is just exquisite, I can’t describe it anyway else. We spent the day wandering the streets and visiting historic sites. Our Gondola ride was nothing less than perfect. It was the right way to relax but still get to see the city. You forget how much walking you have done because every street is just so unique and interesting. There are small cafes and restaurants, tucked away.You can also enjoy a meal over looking the canals.

We ended off our evening with a Toga party. We were given sheets and the rest was up to us. The men were dressed by us (ladies), so they literally were standing there exposed in just their undies waiting for one of us to come wrap them up in their sheets.

Lots of drinking, eating and dancing. The best bunch of people who know how to have a good time and let loose. To seal off Venice being a city of romance and love at its best, one of us, no names mentioned was able to have a short summer fling in Venice. The bliss of it all.

I definitely want to come back to this breath taking city with a boo thang. Venice is another reason why Italy is such a beautiful and romantic country.

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Ghana, beautiful Ghana.

Ghana, beautiful Ghana.

After hearing my friend Adj saying “Katiso can you be serious about life and come to Ghana” and Bobo saying “Friend, you will love Ghana” I just had to pull myself together and mission to Ghana. 2012 could not go by with me not having traveled a bit of Africa. Having friends visit there before and them go on non stop about how beautiful and in love they are with Ghana, I could not but have high expectations for Ghana.

This trip meant more to me than I realized at the time. My heart had taken a bit of a beating and I’m grateful I have friends who know what is good for me to heal. I needed to go somewhere to feed my soul and nurture my heart.

I have to be thankful that we actually made it onto the flight after they had closed the gates, so you could imagine that all I wanted was to get to Ghana and make memories.

We arrived in Accra in the evening awaited by perhaps the most funniest guy I have met. The hospitality that I received at the airport already left me feeling warm and fuzzy. Everyone was happy, the officials would crack jokes with you. The men greeted you with such respect. And boy was it hot. It had to have been the smoothest immigration process I have gone through coupled with such an amazing reception.

As Africans we have a great sense of pride, however being in Ghana I experienced a pride on an inspirational level. I was fortunate to meet people who told me about their countries history and hearing the excitement and faith they had in their country was humbling. Ghanian’s pride themselves on educating themselves and giving back to their country.

Unlike my friends, I don’t eat hot and spicy foods, so being in the land of hot food, the local cuisine was going to be quite an experience for me. When you are in another country you have to indulge in their local dishes. Talapia was what Adj and Bob recommended to me, which is their specialty fish. Its delicious. The experience you have with the food is out of this world. Its tasty and it feels like a whole lot of love and soul goes into preparing the meals.

The men, oh the men. Now I heard many people rant and rave about Ghanian men, so I thought it best to experience a sea of them. They are gentleman, they care about your well being and are always asking if there is anything they can get for you, not because they want to jump you, but because they genuinely care. And to cut to the chase, they ooze sex appeal. They are well built and their dark skins make them more appealing. They are REAL men without causing any controversy. There are other reasons why I can’t wait to go back to Ghana but I have to speak the truth and nothing but the truth in saying that I will save up for a flight ticket to just be surrounded by them again.

It sounds strange but I feel I get a true sense and feel of a place when I walk the streets. Walking the streets of Accra in search of a spot to go wind down was a lovely experience. The girls showed me a few of their favourite spots until we settled on one. Having the locals greet you in a respectable manner was truly humbling. There was a buzz that one was not meant to understand but take it all in. We take for granted the freedom of walking streets so freely without a care until you get to a place where you can and you realize that is how you truly experience a place.

From City to quaint beach and lake atmosphere is what one can experience in Accra. Just an hour outside of Accra we went to Ada. Its serene, its breath taking, and its just beautiful. With the perfect company, amazing views great drink and food what more could you ask for from this stunning place. I was adventurous enough to hop onto the Jet-ski, why not. When you are on holiday you need to throw yourself into being adventurous. It was loads of fun. Spending the day in Ada was the best way to close off my Ghana experience.

It is always comforting when your expectations about a place have been met or better, exceeded. I was and am still in awe of Ghana and its people. We always here people raving about how Africa is a place of beauty. Ghana made me appreciate what our continent has to offer. We are rich with such amazing people, we have a plethora of cuisines and beautiful cultures, and our souls are what keep us singing.

Thank you Ghana for the beautiful experience. I will sing your praises for as long as my heart keeps beating. You are beauty and you are incredibly inspiring.

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I realized that the most powerful time in my life is now and here, so I need to make it count for something truly great. Ghana, thank you for that.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

Arriving at my final destination was overwhelming.  When my sister and other people told me that its a city that is busy, I underestimated them. Crossing a street is no joke. Hi Chi Minh was nothing compared to Hanoi. I felt like I was going to see my last days on the streets of Hanoi the way I was soo petrified of crossing. But after some time, I mastered it. I realise that all I needed to do was just walk and that the motorbikes will make a plan., and they sure did.

Staying at Hanoi Backpackers was the best choice ever. It is situated in the Old Quarter. After checking in we went to the market where they literally were selling chickens that had just been slaughtered and other strange animals. It had the feel of an old market. People were sitting on the floor and everything was sold from the floor and not on tables. What was great was that you can walk through the market and you exit onto a main road, so exciting.

We then decided to walk the rest of the day but could not continue without having a beer break. Because you can drink and walk in Vietnam, we walked into a convenience stores and each bought three beers. We stopped at the Hoam Kiem Lake which is sooo beautiful. Our stop ended up being quite entertaining when Aurelien was approached to have his shoes shined. Him and the shoe guy agreed on a price, but once the job was done the price shot up to $40. Such chancers.  Jono and I were entertained to see how Aurelien was going to get himself out of the situation. Eventually he did. Sitting by the river was exactly what we needed.

Art galleries was then our next stop. Aurelien wanted to buy a painting so we spent time going in and out of galleries, one thing that Hanoi is famous for.

It started to rain so we ended up finding a place to go have lunch and more beers of course. ‘BEER O’CLOCK’ was calling again. After that we all needed to get some rest before a big night out as Janine, Jono and Paul were heading off to Halong Bay. I missed out because the boat was arriving back to Hanoi when my flight back to Bangkok was scheduled for. I was rather bleak so I made sure that I had an epic night.

One thing about the evenings is that they are much calmer. The place feels completely transformed. We found a place which was on the corner of the street. Beers were 3000d, just my cup of tea. Paul then suggested that we drink out of a shoe, some tradition from some country, I can’t remember. So a new pair of shoes was bought and we each took turns drinking out of the shoe. It was soo silly but we had soo much fun doing it. That night we went bar hopping and drinking loads more beer. It was our farewell seeing everyone was going their separate ways. I was bleak, very bleak. I had made such amazing friends, met Jono who traveled Vietnam with me and our journey was ending. So we ended it off true trooper style.

The next day I spent partly on my own and with Aurelien. One thing about Hanoi is even with a map, the streets are so darn confusing. Be prepared to get lost a couple of times. I spent doing touristy stuff, I went to visit the Ho Chi Minh museum which is filled with contemporary artifacts as well as paintings. I have never seen such beautiful and detailed paintings before. We spent about 3 hours there. You definitely cannot rush and don’t want to. There is soo much history and knowledge in there its unbelievable. I developed a new sense of appreciation for art.

Then I read that there were a few dished you have to try when in Hanoi. So I opted for a fish dish called Cha ca la vong I hope I have the spelling right. It was fish with peanut and some fish. Probably my most expensive meal in Asia., but I was leaving soon so I had to try it out. I can say I have ticked off one of the 100 things you need to do before you die.

I then just walked the streets and got myself lost quite a couple of times. Bought pineapple from the ladies selling it and just roamed.

The highlight of the day was that I realised I was sharing a dorm with a fellow South African from Cape Town, Abbey and then met another Canadian in our dorm who had quit his job and was traveling for a year. You have to love meeting people. The stories you share are priceless.  Abbey introduced me to some people she also met and then we all decided to go out. We found a spot not too far from the hostel. A kebab spot was there so we ordered pork kebabs and drank 3000d beers. It was my last night there so it was sure to be an adventure.

As I sat there laughing, sharing stories and taking in the moment, I realised that I could not have asked for more.  Hanoi was my last stop in Asia and my last place I could experience pure joy. I spent my last day having breakfast with Abbey and wondering the streets to get in at least some bit of shopping. It was in that on this day I found myself walking down the streets smiling with myself. I was happy, I was blessed, I had joy in my heart, embarked on the best and most meaningful trip of my life.

I truly experienced adventure, I immersed myself in every situation. I tried different things. I learned more about myself. I made life long friendships. I did it on my own.

I’m notorious for ending off my holidays coming back home with no money. That is how I know I have had MAD times. A trip of a lifetime. I had to fly out back to Bangkok. No brainier that I would be overweight, but the only problem is that I didn’t have money to pay for my fine. So I spent 20 minutes negotiating. I had to spare money for the airport for one last meal and beers. I couldn’t bare having to leave my belongings behind considering I had to cart two bags through Asia, it wasn’t happening. Eventually the official realised he wasn’t getting anywhere and they were telling him that they need to close check in. I ended up paying $20 out of the $70. It aint an adventure if everything runs smoothly. Word of advice, don’t be silly and travel two different continents on one holiday thinking you can get away with two bags.

I have unfinished business with Halong Ba, so I will be back.  Thank you a million times for the best times of my life. Hanoi was the perfect place for me to bow out of the most epic holiday I have ever been fortunate enough to be on. Vietnam lived up to the great reviews. Asia is perhaps my favourite holiday destination, and I know that before the year ends, I will be back in Asia.

 

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Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

 

The place where love finds you and you embrace it. Hoi An is the town I fell in love with. It is the one place that wasn’t affected by the war. The buildings are ancient and have so much character. A city where you truly weave your way through it. Before I left most people spoke about Hoi An as the place to get things tailor made. Undoubtedly so they were correct, but I felt that they were so overwhelmed by being able to have clothes made within 24hours that they didn’t see that that the town was majestic and romantic and quaint. Once we arrived, we checked into Sunflower hotel which from just the warm reception received, I knew I was in for a wonderful time.

We rented bikes right across from the hotel. The last time I rode a bicycle was years ago so I was quite weary of driving it into something or better yet falling.   We would find a spot and park our bikes and then would wonder and explore the town. An ofcourse I would get on after a couple of beers later. Our first stop was at the Japenese Covered Bridge. The bridge is the main tourist attraction of Hoi An and most importantly thr symbol of Hoi An. We then decided to walk along the river taking in the heat and seeing what the town had in store. We then stumbled across a place called Cafe 43 that had a sign saying 4000 for a beer. There was no hesitation at all and it was ‘beer o’clock’ anyway. Its here where we met the Canadians. Lunch was on order and I tried their specialty which was fish, laid on a bed of leaves it was a generous sized portion which was fresh, spiced just right and perfect for the hot weather.

We spent the remainder of the day exploring the town. Walking the streets is when you really see the beauty of the Chinese, Japenese and European ancient architecture which the town is so desperately trying to preserve.  We found ourselves at the Handicraft market where I found myself doing pottery, something that I thought took time to master but it proved to be quite easy if you have the right teacher. It was soo hot that we decided to stay for one of the shows where you have dancing and a short skit is presented. There are tons of shops selling lanterns, so beautiful. Every second shop is a tailor so one would have no problems finding a place to get suit or dress made.

I loved the idea of getting lost in the street because every street had something different to offer. The streets were not packed, there weren’t motor bikes everywhere where you felt like you would get run over. Its quiet, calm and peaceful. Jono and I toyed over the fact of getting something made, but I wasn’t overly keen to get something made, perhaps because nothing came to mind and also because I realised that I wanted to have my own experience of Hoi An and not review it solely based on having clothes made for me. That’s the comforting thing about Hoi An, there isn’t that much to do which is what makes it great. Its a place to just be and take it all in. We walked and we walked and we spent a lot of time talking and taking beer breaks along the river.

In the day time the town is quaint and peaceful, in the evening its totally transformed to being romantic and magical. They light the lanterns which then float in the river. Just the perfect romantic setting. Janine and Paul told us that they went on a dinner boat cruise which was just absolutely beautiful.

We decided that dinner and the rest of the evening would be best spent if we left the bikes behind seeing we knew a great deal of alcohol would be consumed. We spent quite sometime trying to find the perfect restaurant which eventually was because Jono had had enough of comparing atmospheres and prices. It was small place we found on the corner of the street. The meal was refreshing and it was my first glass of wine since arriving in Asia. We ordered many dishes and decided to share amongst the four of us. After two bottles of wine, laughing, story telling, we decided we were good to go for a night out in the town. We ended up Nam Bar where we bumped into Janine, Paul and Mark again. Yip Hoi An is that small. After several boozy card games we decided to go check out another place. With about 6 scooter drivers parked outside, all the new people we made friends with that night we all hopped onto the bikes and weaved through the streets to get to the next bar. It felt like a scene from the movies, first bike off then the next and so it went on. What an experience. It was this night that I fell in love. For just that night, love felt beautiful, no judgements, no rules, just pure love.

Undoubtedly we woke up with screeching heads, so we went to grab breakfast and then headed to Cua Dai Beach. It seemed like the better option in terms of distance and I don’t think my skinny legs were going to make it far out. It was approximately a 15minute cycle to the beach.  Peddling along the way felt so peaceful. There were a couple of times I thought I was going to fall over because I kept waving at the locals. Once you arrive at the beach, you have to pay to park your bike just before you enter. The beach was not crowded which was lovely and the water was warm. It was the perfect way to spend our last day in Hoi An.

We then stopped off into town for one last meal for lunch before catching our next bus to Hanoi. Hoi Cafe was just perfect. It had a variety of food. I realised though, that I was still rather hung over so a burger and chips was the order of the day. And I couldn’t resist having coffee. Vietnam has the best coffee. I think the coffee was what brought me back to my center.I really wish I had time to go to the fish market which apparently is superb because it isn’t flooded with tourists. But because I fell in love with Hoi An, I will definitely return.

The tranquility of this place puts your heart and soul at ease. It truly is my gem of Vietnam. Hoi An is truly a remarkable place, it combines culture, beach and tranquility together just perfectly. Its only a mad person that wont see the magic in this place.

 

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Nha Trang, Vietnam

Nha Trang, Vietnam

Thinking about my experience here makes me smile soo much. I met an amzing Irish man and at the same time broke another man’s heart. My philosophy was that I am here to go through experiences and not regret anything.

Arriving in Nha Trang was a breath of fresh air. From the buzzing and busy city to just pure serenity never felt so calming. After trying to figure out where to stay we eventually found a backpackers spot called The Backpackers house in the Backpackers area. It was situated 5 minutes from the beach with restaurants and shops along the way to the beach. All I wanted was a hearty breakfast and yes I said it, a gin and tonic to quench my thirst. Found this stunning restaurant right on the beach called Nha Trang Sailing Club. It’s just perfect. They have an area for lazing around as well as the restaurant section. Prices are reasonable.  We lazed there for some time before going to look for a bikini for myself.

I was having so much fun negotiating prices for the bikini, I wasn’t really focused on why I was there. Poor Jono had to sit there and tell me which one looked better on me. All bikinied up, we hit the beach. You have to pay $1 or something like that for a beach bed. Did I mention that you can drink on the beach and that there are people who walk around selling beer, ah I was in heaven. That’s not the end of it, we never had to get up for anything. A lady came around selling, prawns and lobster. I had the two things that made me smile, beer and seafood, and to end it off, I was basking in the sun on such a beautiful beach.

I met a fellow South African, Janine with her boyfriend Paul from Zimbabwe. They were off to Hoi An later that evening, so we decided to go looking for some sushi. We found the best spot about a 4 minute walk from the beach called Surai Sushi. The sushi was the freshest i’ve ever had. They had soo much variety. We were all sushied out. We exchanged numbers as we were also heading to Hoi An in the evening the next day.

My fun times were only just  beginning. We started off at The Red Apple bar where we made some new friends. I a bucket which the call ‘The Bucket’, what a lethal drink. With our new friends, we headed off to the next place called The Jolly Leprechaun Irish Pub where I drank the biggest fish bowl ever with total strangers I met on my way to the bathroom. Gotta love travelling alone, everyone wants you to share an experience with them.

Mark (The Irish man) and I decided to leave the rest at the pub and head off to a beach party at The Sailing Club. I can safely say that it was my first proper beach party. Shoo did I dance or what. It was so much fun being the only black person there I had shots flowing for DAYSSSS. Needless to say this night was the start of something exciting. What was lovely is that everything is in walking distance.

Word of advice, don’t pay to go scuba diving and drink the night before, because you and wake up late. Scuba Diving was the one reason I was excited to come to Nha Trang and I didn’t even make it. So my consolation was  to go on a booze boat and  just go snorkeling. And also don’t wake up with a hangover because the rocking of the boat will just shatter you and you which forces you to keep drinking.  Before we went snorkeling we stopped off at the Aquarium, which for me was a much needed stop over. Snorkeling was just bliss. The water was crystal clear and the weather just perfect. But what a lovely day on the boat eating fresh sea food, drinking beer and meeting amazing people.

The highlight though was swimming in the middle of the ocean with nothing in sight but water and boats passing by. Wait for it, we had a floating bar to continue the madness. The smartest idea ever, you don’t have to start and stop, there is a bar swimming with you. Ah, the sheer joy that was in my heart.

After soo much swimming, eating and drinking I wanted to have a calm rest of the day. So I headed back to the beach to nap and read a book and yes of course have a young beer. Had to freshen up for a quick dinner at the Green Apple restaurant before hoping onto the sleeper bus to make my way to Hoi An.  Thank goodness for smart Asians and their sleeper buses, otherwise I would have been a broken soul. We had one shot at the backpackers bar to say cheers to a lovely time in NhaTrang.

Nha Trang has the best beaches in Vietnam, is the best place for scuba diving, has the coolest nightlife, but of all, it was here where I met the most amazing people who made my stay unforgettable and memorable beyond words. I am definitely coming back here for memorable experiences.

 

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Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

So I received my passport in time just to leave Cambodia for gorgeous Vietnam. Got onto a bus for another couple of hours to get to the border of Ho chi minh City. Another border experience will make me an expert off crossing into borders. I was sidelined and then they searched my bag claiming there was something which after 20 minutes of making the bus wait for me, they eventually let me go because they couldn’t find anything. I wasn’t bothered its just that I had so much crap it was a mission repacking my bag. But I was in Vietnam, that was all that mattered, I was in Ho chi minh the capital of Vietnam.

After that we made our way to the city.  Now people were not lying when they said that the motor bikes there have taken over the place. They are everywhere, an invasion of the motor bike I tell you. Its another New York but on serious steroids, busy oh so busy. I met a guy by the name of Jon from New Zealand on the bus whom decided it would be a great idea to stay at the same place and mission together. We were dropped off at Mien Dong bus station and had to find our way. All we knew was that we wanted to be in District 1. I forgot to tell Jono that we need to be careful about the taxi’s. We were almost scammed by one of the taxi drivers.We got onto a private taxi which tried to rip us off. You should only take Mai Linh which is green and white or the yellow and green ones. The private ones will make you broke before your trip even begins. Sies on that man.That is the amazing thing about Ho chi minh city, there is accommodation everywhere ranging from dirt cheap to expensive.  We found a place that had only been running for 6 months tucked away in a tiny alley way. On your way to the hostel there a small shops, a salon, and a restaurant. It was then that I felt the heart of the place. Thank goodness Jono was attentive because with so many alley ways I was sure to get lost.

Done with freshening up we hit the streets. Now it was at this point that we realised that crossing a street was an adventure.”ok, 1,2,3 lets walk” You literally are walking while the bikes are weaving around you, its phenomenal. We decided to explore a bit of the Ben Thanh Market. We came across bottles of alcohol that had snakes and all sorts in them, not my kind of vibe. The market has clothes, jewellery, food, fresh fruit, its amazing. The knockoffs there are so on point you cant tell the difference.  Mind you I was keen to try anything, I was in Vietnam dammit but I was not going to drink something that had a snake in it. After lots of exploring and markets and stopping for beer breaks we decided we were famished and needed to have some Vietnamese cuisine. We found a place not too far from Saigon Square. Our meal was delicious, mouth watering and oh so cheap, my kinda stuff.

Jono thought it would be great to get full body massages which cost us a whole $7. I was like “get out of here, let me start getting undressed”. If you never thought there was value in a full head, body the whole shebang massage, my experience should get running to one. I was feeling rejuvenated, but it was time to go hit the nightlife. The city had such a buzz we did the bar hopping thing. Had dinner and went back to it.

A new day and we went to the Vietnam War  museum. There is something about hearing about war, but seeing the impact of the cruelty of war just cuts at you and you feel numb. I could only stomach a few floors and skipped the section “Agent Orange” which affected children. I don’t deal well with seeing suffering. I did take away with me witnessing how a country rebuild their country to build it into one of the most beautiful countries. To ease my soul we went shopping for sidewalk food and more beer and we came across a place called Cafe lam. They sold Tiger beer for $1 that is freaking awesome. Because we had already snacked from the food we collected while walking, we couldn’t indulge in their cheap dishes, like $3 cheap.

Our last night was a bit of a blur, as according to Jono I drank lots of shots with random folk we met at La Habana. But we started off our evening having dinner at Lemon grass also in District 1 and then decided to go hit the streets. I had to rely on Jono to tell me how the evening ended up because I was rather pumped from free shots. He said, the minute you said “Hi I’m Kats” things got crazy. Everyone was buying me shots. Not remembering your evening, now that is what I call epic.

The city dubbed the heart and buzz point of Vietnam treated me well, oh soooo well. Ho chi minh is where ‘Beer o’clock’ came to life.

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Phnom Pen, Cambodia

Phnom Pen, Cambodia

On the morning of my journey to Phnom Penh I realised that I had lost my passport. After realising that, I went straight to the local convenience store, bought a beer and regained calmness. John decided to take me to the consulate. Lodged a report, left my copies and told them no matter what happens I’m on that bus to Phnom Penn. I told them I will start to panic when I have to make my way to Vietnam. Indeed I made my way to Phnom Penh. 6 hours later I arrived in Phnom Penh, the capital and biggest city of Cambodia, still without a passport. I had one of John’s friends waiting to pick me up. Off we went checking out hostels. I eventually negotiated a room. Can you believe you can negotiate accommodation. So much fun.
I roamed the streets of Phnom Penh which is completely different to Siem Reap. Another city full of loads of scooters and TU TUK’s. I just spent the first day drinking cocktails eating great food and meeting people. Had dinner on my own. I tumbled across a pub that had a $1 cocktail special. I was in the right place. With a band playing, the room filled with foreigners it was a relaxed evening. I think I went through 5 different pubs in one evening on my own. You would think a girl walking on her own in dark alley ways was not the smartest thing, well I did it. I had fun getting lost and not knowing where my hostel was. During trying to find my way back I met 3 Cuban boys drinking at this hidden spot. Without them I would have woken up without a hangover, but with them I had a blast.
I spent day two doing the touristy stuff. I visited the ‘Killing Fields’  which was such a heart breaking experience. It feels so strange to be walking through a place where thousands of people were killed. The section where women and children were killed was the most painful. This is where they encouraged you to leave a bracelet in memory of them. After that section I brought my visit to a quick end. I had heard and seen enough to make me disgusted. The Genocide museum wasn’t any different. There is that Eerie feeling when you visit the holding cells. Its different when you see numbers, but when you see faces of the people who suffered, its something else. When you stop and think about the amount of cruelty and pain that humans inflict on each other is disgusting. The quote “Power corrupts absolutely. Absolute power corrupts”  is so true. Through all of the suffering and pain that the Cambodian people had to endure they still rise, they are committed to building a better life for their country and making sure they never have to go through that again.

My Tuk Tuk driver thought I was that girl who likes shooting people, so he took me to a shooting range. I saw some serious guns there. I didn’t have the money to shoot any of the guns so I spent some time chatting to the people who run the place so that they can tell me about the guns. If I had enough money I would have opted for the grenade and some other gun that looked like it weighed more than I do.
After that experience I needed a pick me up, so I was dropped off at my hostel, freshened up and took to the streets again. I roamed the busy streets, popping into shops, stopping for fresh fruits. I loved the fact that I walked everywhere, everything is so accessible. With a mixture of boutiques, department stores and your cheap stores, Phnom Penn is lovely to go shopping. I spent the rest of the day and evening trying out different cocktails, roof top bars and sidewalk restaurants kept me occupied.

My stroll along the Mekong River was peaceful. I was soo hungry from all the walking I decided to stop for some fresh fruits and sit and watch the happy couples walking by, the kids playing so innocently.
The highlight of my evening was that I spent my evening chatting to a guy named Wayne who has been living between Vietnam, Cambodia, Bali and Thailand for the past 15 years. He is an Englishman who has never been married and his no intentions of doing so, but he believes in love and feels that you don’t need a certificate to prove your love. He believes that people are always expecting to get something in return, that we don’t do things from the bottom of our hearts. Reason why he loves Asia and never plans to leave is because the people in Asia are genuine, true, happy, they are just happy despite their plight they are happy.  His words of advice, “Be you, be happy, explore, take risks and never ever stop loving”. Needless to say we spoke about everything right till 4am. So much for wanting an early night.
I closed off my Cambodia experience with gratitude and a sense of rejuvenation. I realised I have soo much to be grateful for and so much living to still live.

 

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