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Chasing The Summer!

Chasing The Summer!

Day dreaming about our upcoming travels. Its Winter here in Joburg, but in just less than a month, we satisfy that persistent itch to see some world, and chase the Summer. We cannot wait! This is what August will look like for us… #NewYork #Mykonos #Paris

Summer 2013 Collage

TBT: Winter in Lesotho, 2011

TBT: Winter in Lesotho, 2011

Firstly….This was my coldest winter EVER!

I had heard about the snow in Lesotho, but being the sceptic that I am, I didn’t believe it! We are in Southern Africa… How much snow could there really be? I soon found out that just 500km out of Johoannesburg, the mountains of Lesotho have seasons of their own.

Naturally, a group of friends gathered to explore the snowy mountains of Lesotho.

This was an experience that was out of my comfort zone (I generally do not like the freezing cold), but all of that was forgotten when we arrived. We were welcomed into a cabin with a fire place at Afri Ski Resort Mountain Resort . Well, actually, we had to make the fire:-)  We cooked, drank local beers and immersed ourselves in the snowy landscape. We bonded over bon fires and  bum boarded, mainly because because our alchol intake levels did not allow for us to be up early to do proper ski trainining sessions.  It was good times indeed…

Afri Ski, the only skiing resort situated in the Maloti Mountains, proved to be an exciting and well worth experience. After that holiday, I was sure that you could put me anywhere in the world and I’d still have a fantastic time, as long as there’s good company and great food…even in the ice cold :)

Contact details:

Website: www.afriski.net

Tel: 08612374754

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Welcome to SA: William Jones

Welcome to SA: William Jones

William 2            William 3

1. Flight and airline?

Delta flight 200. Atlanta to Johannesburg direct (http://www.delta.com)

2  Johannesburg, South Africa. First thoughts?

So excited to be in SA and to see my friend! The airport is easy to navigate and the Gautrain is a clean, quick way to get into the city.

3. How many days did you spend in Johannesburg?

 9

 4. Where did you stay and why?

 We stayed at Southern Sun Hyde Park. My friend suggested it and I had been to the rooftop lounge with her on my first trip, so I knew it would be a nice place to stay.  The room was lovely and the views are amazing. We had breakfast in the hotel most mornings and went a few times to the pool lounge. The food and drinks were good, as was the service. The people at the front desk were very helpful when we hired a car. Also, being connected to Hyde Park Corner gave us lots of convenient options for food and shopping.

5. Stereotypes you had before?

This was my second trip to Johannesburg so I was sort of familiar. I remember on my first trip I was surprised at how much the landscape looks like California to me.

6. Best part of your trip?

The point of the trip was to see my friend (Adjoa Amuah) . The best part was just hanging out and talking to her.

7. Worst part of your trip?

Leaving. Isn’t that always the worst part?

8. South Africans are the most ___ people?

South Africans are the most open people. All of the people I’ve met there are very open in their conversations. No subject is off-limits and nothing is shied away from in any conversation. Race, religion, politics, sexuality and anything else are up for discussion anytime, anywhere.  And it’s not a salacious or voyeuristic thing; it’s an open, frank, inclusive exchange that no one is afraid to have. It’s refreshing to me. I’m lucky enough to know someone who lives there and I may be exposed to conversations that most tourists are not, but openness has been my experience with South Africans.

9. What do you think of the new currency?

I love the new currency! Mandela definitely deserves the honor and the vibrant colors and the animals are stunning to me. I’m American and am used to looking at boring currency, so any colorful departure from that is exciting.

10. Best restaurant?

The Foundry. (21 3rd Ave, Parktown North, 2193 Johannesburg, Gauteng) The mushroom ravioli there is particularly good.

11. Distinctly South African things that you did

The first night we were there we went to the Sanlam FoodWineDesign Fair (http://foodwinedesign.co.za/home/). It is an outdoor market featuring the best local furniture crafters, artisan products, top wine labels, micro breweries and speciality foods. I tried Kudu and Wildebeest stews. I had never had African game before and they were both delicious. If you can find it, I highly recommend.

12. How do you say hello in Xhosa?

Molo! (I didn’t learn that on my trip, I googled it just now)

13. What does travel mean to you?

I believe that experiencing another place enhances my perspective. I think that I’m a more understanding person because of travel. Even though people live in different geographic locations and are products of different cultures, I’ve seen that everyone wants the same basic things. I do recognize that travel is a luxury and an indulgence, but it is an important part of my life.

14. A must see for future travelists?

Neighbourgoods Market. I bought a peacoat there that I am obsessed with. It’s by Adriaan Kuiters and I wish I had bought more of those clothes.

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Republic Bar & Grill, Accra

Republic Bar & Grill, Accra

When traveling to a new city, its always good to find out where the locals love to let loose and enjoy a drink or two. Its usually in these environments that the real personality of a city shows itself, and also where you really get a sense of what makes each city unique.

Word of mouth led us to a charming bar & grill in Osu, called Republic Bar & Grill. Osu is a district in central Accra, known for its busy commercial, restaurant and nightlife activity. It is locally known as the “West End” of Accra. When walking and driving through Osu, I felt was a strong sense of the authentic energy and soul of the people of Accra.

The selling point of Republic Bar & Grill is the fact that all the drinks are laced with Akpeteshie (Disclaimer: Not for the faint hearted). Akpeteshie is a home-made alcoholic spirit produced in Ghana and other West African nations by distilling palm wine or sugar cane. But beyond that, this charming bar & grill provides an eccentric and quirky experience in the city of Accra. From the sounds of Fela Kuti filling the air, to the vintage inspired decor, the colourful and interesting  clientele, and the yummy Akpeteshie laced cocktails (AGAIN, Be warned), a night out at Republic Bar & Grill is a sure stop before heading out for a night of partying in Accra (if you’re still standing of course).

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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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Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand

My Asia journey began in Thailand. I arrived not knowing how to navigate myself round and the language barrier proved to be quite a challenge. Hailing a cab was not as simple as I thought, I had to get a ticket and had a cab driver assigned to me. Off I went to train station which was a 45 minute drive. I must say the driver wanted to try his luck by driving me himself to Chiang Mai for a hefty fee. “Ah ah i’m smarter than that”. It was another 12 hour trip to get to Chiang Mai by train. Met some lovely people from Hong Kong who were adamant to feed me their food.
It wasn’t so much the excitement of being in Chiang Mai but that I was going to see my brother who I hadn’t seen for over a year which is torture in itself. My interesting travels began when as I arrived there he wasn’t there. Oh golly this has already turned to be interesting.

As we hopped onto the TUK TUK with my two huge bags we weaved the buzzing streets of Chiang Mai. What an amazing atmosphere. So many scooters, no like sooo many scooters. We ended up renting a scooter for the days I was there.
I spent my first day there visiting the village where TK stays. The views as you make your way up the mountain are breathtaking. With beautiful Asian kids running around and the hospitality of the people, I felt just at home.
The food market made me feel like I was in heaven. We bought a couple fruits I have never heard of, mouth watering stuff that was. I cant say I was moved by the snake meat. It took us 40 minutes to get to the foot of the mountain and then another 12 minutes to get to the top. I realised when I got up there how beautiful nature is. You cant fault it. TK built a school right at the top of the mountain. He then took me to the village to go meet people who have been taking care of him. We were given boots to put on because of the heavy rains had resulted in lots of mud. So unfortunately we couldn’t the scooter but we had to hike. Ooooh boy was I out of breath. TK would say “sis this is shocking, when you get home please start running again”. It was tough I aint gonna lie. I was relieved once we got to his abode and school. Simple and basic. No TV, just him, his books the school and nature. A different way of living life. We rested and indulged in the fruits we bought at the market, and once we saw it was about to rain we made way back down.

I was fortunate enough to spend time with a Monk who brought new perspective to the way I saw things. After that encounter I made sure that every experience made me a better person. He told me that I need to focus most of my time on nurturing my soul. If my soul is fed and looked after my life will be beautiful. He told me that I am the only person responsible for my life, my happiness, my joys, my successes and my failures. He told me that having strong beliefs and values will steer me in the right direction. Love is what we all need to have and give.

Every night in Chiang Mai was a blast. With celebrating one of Tk’s friends birthdays to just bar hopping. I hadn’t partied like that in ages. 50c Mojitos really was awesome. Chiang Mai really has a buzzing night life. There are bars and pubs everywhere. There is something for everyone.

I spent a day at a butterfly farm, and Elephant Sanctuary. Riding elephants, rafting, watching an elephant show was the order of that day. My brother is in love with elephants so we just had to go. It was great being one with nature.

I made new friends, heard about other peoples great adventures and their plans for their lives, it was refreshing. I was humbled to see how my brother has changed and to experience his refreshing outlook on life. He taught me soo much about being happy and living a life you want to live and not one that is dictated by what society deems to be right. The simpler your life is the more you focus on being a spiritual individual, because you realise that the things we think matter don’t really matter.

I know why its voted one of the top 25 destinations to visit, truly magical. Accommodation is cheap, partying is cheap, just living is affordable. The people are beautiful with such caring souls. I cant wait to be welcomed back by the people, eat mouth watering food, party until I don’t know what time it is and just make unforgettable memories. I am definitely coming back. I didn’t spend as much time as I should have. The year cannot end without me coming back here.

Our scooter we rented for the time I was there

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TK is always surrounded by hot girls.

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