Fish are friends not food! – Bruce (JAW-some Shark in ‘Finding Nemo’, Fish Friend, non conformist)
To travel the globe you need an energized body to go with that healthy mind, This doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your taste-buds to consuming anything with a mother! Because who wants to do that, right? We love mothers !
Due to my major fear of food poisoning and cross contamination I managed to travel across Europe and through Asia without actually considering myself Vegetarian. As most food related illnesses come from meat, poultry and fish I decided that I don’t want any Bali belly or Thai tummy holding me back from my awesome adventure.
For starters, it ain’t easy! This is no walk in the park, as lot of cultures don’t even consider chicken/fish as meat, so when ordering make sure the server understands that you don’t want any animal and don’t freak out but when you ask for something to be customized into vegetarian a lot of the time the waitress will just pick out the meat from your meal, these are something’s you will have to get used to.
On one occasion I said I was vegetarian, and the non-english speaking chinese server pointed to noodles and then various meats and started mooing, making chicken noises, and then went to barking and meowing….so yeah that’s when I just settled with the restaurant next door.
Do expect: “you’re a what”? and then with astonishment ask “so what do you eat”? Grass?
Growing up in nearly all vegetarian/ flex-atarian family I never considered that some people couldn’t even imagine surviving without meat, However it is great to see when traveling how many people are interested in learning and trying to be vegetarian.
It sounds hard but it is still possible ! J Here are some of my best tips on how to plan, prepare and enjoy !
Plan Ahead: As a busy globe trotting traveller you don’t have the time walking the streets to find a meal that will suit your dietary requirements, and as the world has progressed so much when it comes to vegan or vegetarianism more restaurants are adding vege options to their menu, check out any vegetarian apps and websites like Happy Cow which is a popular website for locating vegetarian restaurants. Vegetarian/vegan options are everywhere we just need to know how to find them. By doing this you won’t be stuck and searching for hours then only realizing there was a vegan restaurant down the road.
Change up your meal: Have you ever seen a delicious meal and thought ‘omg that would be great without meat’ if so, just ask the waitor/waitress if you can have the meal with no chicken or meat but the best option I found was to say “just vegetable” because “no meat” can mean no red meat or some meat. Most restaurants will accommodate to this, I’m not saying it will always be purely plant based but its better than eating your right arm for dinner.
SNACKKKS: or ‘snack-a-roo’s’ how a true Aussie says it! Healthy little snacks are your light in the darkness if you simply can’t find any food and have almost given up hope. Especially if you’re taking a long haul bus trip and don’t really have a choice where the driver pit stops for lunch, this tip can truly save your hunger pangs. Note down to stock up on Nuts, dried fruit, muesli bars and corn chips, they are great for nutrition and travel extremely well.
Explore a new taste palate: Do like the locals do! and get yourself immersed into the ethnic cuisines like Indian, Thai, Mexican ect. Because they love their Veggies as much as we do and almost always have a vase range or vege options.
Release your inner chef: let Jamie Oliver flow through you and start cooking up a storm whether you’re staying in an AirBnb or Hostel, utilize the kitchen and save money while doing it ! Even if you are lazy like me and just heat up that frozen meal it’s an easy way to know exactly what you’re eating and remain a lazy (but happy) vegetarian.
Just add water: dehydrated soups, cuppa noodles, instant mash and porridge mixes are your new best friends! This isn’t just handy for your diet but for long haul train and bus trips too!! Feeling like you’re not getting the nutrition you need? Get some vitamin drinks and top up all those great vitamins you need in a drink! Honestly these tips saved me on a 3 day long non-stop train trip through Russia – click here to read my post on traveling across Russia here.
I hope you liked my post, do you have any extra tips? Or a traveling while vegetarian story? Let me know in the comments below.
Like Samuel Johnson once said “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life” And this is one quote I always refer back to when I think of London and the 2 years I spent living there. There was never a dull moment or a quiet Friday night, even when I sadly moved on due to visa restrictions, I never felt I would find the same love for another city. I learnt a lot about not just London but myself and there are a few things I wish I had known before my time there was over.
- You’re here to have fun not make money
So you’ve arrived in London and eventually you will have a job and be paying your rent, and like the other 8.7 million people in the city you will be struggling to save for everything and anything, but its important not to forget why you are there. You chose to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world for the experience not the money. No ones getting rich on 7 pounds an hour, so screw the savings account and drink an over priced pint, cause at the end of it, you wont want to trade those memories for a 1000 pounds.
- Stop saying you’ll do it, and just get the bloody monthly Oyster Pass
I debated this for way too long. If you’re working a Monday- Friday job just get the monthly pass. I found myself choosing to walk for 30minutes, trying to save an extra couple pounds, and avoiding going out anywhere that wasn’t in my area. JUST GET THE BLOODY PASS. You’ll end up saving saving money and time, it’s just one less thing to stress over.
- You’ll always need an emergency jacket
This might seam like an obvious one but trust me the weather here can fool even the most skeptical. The weather can change in a matter of minutes, and it you ask me the weatherman is playing a sick joke on the city, and deliberately reporting the wrong forecasts. It might say sunshine all day, with a low chance of winds but you can bet your bottom dollar (or pound) there’s going to be a blizzard on the day you don’t bring a jacket.
- The British know how to drink
Being an Aussie we can hold our liquor pretty well, I have been witnessed holding down 5 tequilas, 2 vodkas and a handful or flaming Sambuca’s and still making it in on time for my shift the next day (Looking like the cat dragged me, but on time none the less). But from one binge drinker to another, do not challenge a Londoner they may not look tough but after many years of training and pure breeding they will bring fair game to the table.
- It will take you 40 minutes to get anywhere in the city
London is a huge city with millions of people buzzing and bustling to get to their next stop so plan your trip with extra time because a in many cases you will be stuck behind some dordeling tourists who will think that walking really slow and stopping right in front on the exit is okay…oh… and don’t get me started about people who stand on the left side of the escalator !! and this will probably take me to my next tip
- You’re going to become a rude person but, that’s okay
It maybe something in the London water, or maybe something in the air, but everyone seams to be in an insane rush and soon you will be too. You may actually have nowhere you need to be, but you’re going to get well pissed off if anyone gets in your way when you’re trying to get there. You will become invisible to waving elbows and shoulders, and soon enough you’ll be the owner of those jabbing elbows and shoving shoulders, and not long after that enough you will regret your decision to go to Oxford street at 5pm on a Friday because you know you may actually have to knock a few people over to get down into the Tube.
- Its expensive but not unaffordable
Yes you know it, I know it, we all know it! London is expensive. I’ve heard it a million times but really it’s not unaffordable. You don’t need to be a millionaire and majority of the city’s people aren’t. So yes, you’ll probably have to give up on paying for extra ‘Guac’ and opt for instant noodles or like most Londoners grab a 3-pound meal deal at Tesco’s for lunch. But 8.778million people are managing to live in the city so you can too.
- Take advantage of the free shit
There is so much free things you can do and see in London. A lot of people don’t realize it. And given you’ve just moved to the city, and probably don’t have a job or any sort of disposable income, I would definitely recommend you check some of it out:
There is really so much to do, here is a list:
Houses of Parliament
East London StreetArt
Free food events almost on every weekend
Museum of London
National Portrait Gallery
Bank of England Museum
Museum of London Docklands
National Martitime Museum
The Anaesthesia Museum
Changing the Guard
Princess Diana Memorial Fountain
Sir Johns Soane’s Museum
- City mapper is your new Bible
I wish I had downloaded this when I first arrived. I found myself lost so often, that I refused to go for walks on my lunch break, as it would take me an extra hour to find my way back. I found this to be the easiest and most reliable way to get anywhere in the city. Google maps ain’t got shit in comparison. This amazing App is available in other cities too, so definitely check to see if your local city has it.
If you are interested in App’s that I recommend click here to see my must have travel apps
- The weather’s not that bad, so stop complaining!
I’m originally from Australia and have therefore had a lifetime of great weather, and still didn’t find the weather unbearable. Yes it got cold and I even saw a little snow while living there. And it did rain fairly often, but the weather there is really quite temperate compared to other cities. Dublin a close neighbor of London was by far worse with 80% rain. Toronto hits temperatures of -30, and Sydney gets golf ball size hail, and winds of over 170km per hour. So you’ll survive a little rain.
- It’s Worth it!
London is such an amazing city, with the potential to give you experiences unobtainable anywhere else. It may not be the easiest transition, but you wont regret it.
I hope you liked my post, if there is anything you think I should add, let me know in the comments below
Indonesia has a special place in my heart, as it was the first country I “Really” traveled through. From a young age the love and necessity of travel was drilled into me. I grew up listening to stories, of my mum backpacking through Mexico, going weeks without a word of English, My dad sleeping on the beaches of Asia, living off 11c a day, and my uncle chancing a monkey through the African desert that had stolen his very valuable box of Weetbix’s, (the best Aussie cereal in existence) only to realise he that they had seen a cheater in the area 20 minutes earlier, and promptly returned to his camp defeated and empty handed. As such my first visit to Indonesia had more forest treks, out door squat “toilets” and bamboo beds and than it did beaches, hot showers and banana splits. This trip is where I contracted the incurable “Travel Bug” that 60 countries latter I have not yet shock and hope never to. Having recently returned to Indonesia I have developed a new appreciation and perspective. One thing that hit me almost immediate is how much the country and changed a developed, It is not the same Indonesia I visited as a school kid, this is why you need to visit It NOW, not next year, not when you retire, not when you win the lottery or quit that crappy job, you’ve been talking about leaving for past two years, Now!
Every day we are loosing more and more of Indonesia’s rainforests, little villages, and culture to modern development and Tourism. Have a look at my ‘leave the right footprint’ post to learn how important it is to be a conscious and considerate traveller.
For starters Indonesia is made up of over 17,508 islands! That mean if you were to visit a different island every day it would take you almost half a century to get through them all. I’m going to make a wild guess and assume you don’t have a spare 50 years to travel Indonesia, so here’s a breakdown on what you should expect while exploring this crazy country.
You can’t talk about Indonesia with out mentioning the notorious Bali. Bali is on almost everyone’s bucked list, and so it should be, it’s an amazing place. Bali has become a major tourist attraction, and as such it is extremely tourist friendly, there is countless hotels, restaurants, activities, and markets selling everything from wooden penis bottle openers (Why are these everywhere is bali, just why???) to high-end fashion (Same, same, but different).
Additionally there is 101 different activity’s that are made extremely ease to book, with a tourist office, or a couple on every street, making it a very desirable place to spend a week snorkeling, partying and getting amazing massages at.
But don’t get stuck, its very, very easy to find that time has just slipped away and before you know it you’re a leathery 60 year old that never returned, chilled Bail lifestyle having absorbed any desire to return to reality.
So get out of Bail and try out Bali’s neighbour; the Island of Java. If the first thing you think of when you’re here Java is coffee your on the right track. Indonesia is the 4th largest producer of coffee and most of that is grown in Java, so make sure you try out an espresso or two while you’re there, or better yet go for a coffee tour around a plantation and learn how the globes most widely used drug is goes from cherry to the sweet nectar of life residing in your mug.
As we head east, and away from the tourist hot spots the first thing you’ll notice is a change in the people. As we’ve established you’re a “hardcore traveller” and enjoy getting into remote areas, but like anything else this comes with a few complications and consequences. Remember when you were a child and wished you where famous, well your dreams have come true, through only in this reality you have all the fame and next to none of the skills and talent. There’s going to be a lot of cat calling and a lot of photos and your going to get bloody pissed off. Try hard to remember that to them your just as rare as seeing Justin Bieber or Kim Kardashian walking down the street, and if you can say you wouldn’t be wiping out your phone and grabbing a few shots, then you’re a liar and can’t be trusted, because you would, you and I both know it.
This kind of sucks, but take it with a grain of salt because it’s absolutely worth the visit. Java has some truly amazing sights unlike anywhere else. Check out Yogyakarta, Borobudur, Prambana and Kawah Putih. Get your bargaining on and hire a driver to take you around, I recommend starting real early like 4am early (Crazy, I know) this way you can skip the clouds, get more out of your day and get to watch the amazing sunrise over the mountains.
Next stop… Sumatra.
Sumatra is just as cool as it sounds, but if you think the attention was too much in Java ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’. You’ve been bumped up from Justin Beiber to the Queen of England, none the less, you’re a ‘hardcore traveler’ and can handle it.
You can’t visit Sumatra with out spending so time at Lake Toba. It a bit of a pain in the ass to get to but do it you wont regret it. So Sumatra is an island and at its cater is the worlds biggest volcanic lake, Lake Toba and at its centre is another island ‘Samosir’ and to make things even trippyer there’s another lake at its centre with another Island in that. After about an 8 hour bus from Medan, and a 30minute ferry and a 10minute motor bike ride you will find your self in a 5 start cabin watching the sunset over the lake with a cocktail with a little umbrella in one hand selfie stick in the other, cause lets face it, did you even go travelling if no one see’s your cliché selfie pop up on their social media with a few #wonderlust #Moday #lovelife #followforfollow hashtags.
So that’s three islands done, only 17,505 to go.
This is a country I never really expected to visit, and only really did because of its geography; basically it was in the right place at the time. Although having said that, I’m so glad I did. This was the first “Stan” I had visited, but would defiantly not be my last. This diverse country sparked a new fascination, interest and curiosity in this part of the world that I did not posses before my visit.
I flew into Kazakhstan’s capital Astana from Russia, as I had previously read it was relatively easy to get a Mongolian Visa from here. Have a look at my ‘Getting a Mongolian Visa in Astana, Kazakhstan’ post from details on this.
Astana is a large city, as such many of its attraction are rather spaced out, I’d recommend taking advantage of the public transport. Even without speaking the country’s native tongue catching the local buses are relatively easy and super cheap, the standard fare converting to less than 0.30c. There is also the classic ‘Hop on Hop off’ Bus. If you’re tight on time these are a great option, allowing you to view the best parts of the city and its attractions as well as hear about its history all in a matter of hours.
I was eager to get a real feel of the country and escape the mundane of a city, after a few hours of searching Kazakh tours I found myself communicating with a local guide I found through ‘Indy Guide’. Convincing me to take the 12-hour train south to Chimkent was easy after a quick Google image search. The south region of Kazakhstan has absolutely breathtaking natural landscapes that I was eager to get amongst, and boarded a train the next day.
I shared a cabin with a young woman and her two cheeky kids, an hour latter I found my self baby-sitting the 2 and 5-year-old boys while she had took disserved nap. None of us understood each other, however they soon came to refer to me as ‘Apa’, meaning sister. After a bumpy nights sleep I found my self swapping phone numbers and Facebook’s with my cabin buddies and saying good bye, as I jumped off the train and into the dusty hot air of the south.
I spent the day exploring the city and the night in a creepy looking hostel. The next morning the adventure began.
To be entirely honest my guide was rather annoying and never seemed to know when to shut up, but undeniably loved his country and knew where the best place to visit where. On top of that he knew almost every fact, story and spiritual meaning for everything from the many amazing Mausoleum we visited to Carpet, like seriously this guy spent a good part of the afternoon taking me around a caplet factory and explaining the origin of Kazak carpet, the guy could not get enough of it, and confessed that his home was covered in it, floor, walls and roof???? (True story). During my week with him I was taken everywhere from the steps of the desert, to the mouthman’s and even spent a few nights with a local family in a small village with their 7 children, and couple of horses, cows, chickens, sheep and donkeys. Here I was spontaneously brought to the local school of 160 students from 5-18 to teach a lesson of English, as even the English teachers could not speak it, there was also a whole school assembly to show me of as a westerner, with a Q and A season.
In this village I also tried Horses Milk a delicacy of the area and many Kazak sweets as the locals believed that western people loved sweets would offer them to me constantly. I trekked a mountain and had a picnic at its snowy peak, explored ancient ruins, rode a rather grumpy horse, picked fruit from wild apple trees and watched men squat with a baby camel on their back (apparently it’s a traditional sport)
After a crazy, weird and adventures week it was time to move on, and the city of Almaty seamed as good as any. I boarded yet another train and 13hours later I was wondering the streets in search for my hostel. After asking a handful of people if they spoke English, I found a woman with her mother in the park, that not only called the hostel for me, but helped me but walked me to it, and helped carrying my overly packed front-pack.
The city of Almaty has some unique and beautify sights; however just beyond its rim is untouched beauty that deserves to be on everyone’s bucket like. As I was to be spending my birthday in this city, I made a point make my time here memorable and found that to challenge. I organised a tour with some others in my hostel a few of Almaty’s best natural locations, including the famous Kolsi Lake, Charyn canyon and Kaindy Lake all of which are bewildering, exceptional and astonishing there own remarkable way. It took several hours in a craped car, on some of the bumpiest roads I’ve travelled on, with a guide that spoke next to no English, however he did spit out “Kangaroo”, when I told him I was from the land down under.
Before I know it I had spent over a week in Almaty and almost a month in Kazakhstan. And as my visa was due to expire I was to move on, next stop Mongolia. If you’re humming and Harring about visiting Central Asia, I’m hear to assure you. You will not regret exploring this antique part of the globe.
Welcome to a Disneyland like paradise, where the lights only shine brighter when the sun goes down…. Seoul, South Korea
Stepping off the plane and into the airport, and you’ll already know you are somewhere very special and very very….. Different, to say the least.
If like me the first thing you do once you get off a long flight is find the closest restrooms, then prepared to be amazed, South Koreas high tech toilets are about to blow your mind. You will be greeted by systems with a button for everything from playing music, and heating the seat, to an oddly enjoyable water squirt directed certain points of the rear??? So, now you’re sitting there listening to the relaxing waterfall sounds and finish up your ‘duty’ (Pun intended), wave a hand over the sensor and receive a precisely measured amount of toilet paper, once you stand up the toilet flushes automatically and then begins to clean its self with sanitized, as it bids you farewell.
If this isn’t enough to freak you out, then take a casual stroll down the road and checkout the k-pop street performers, the girls dressed as dollish anime characters and the occasional Owl, Raccoon or poop café.
Take a deep breath in and guess what you’ll smell? Korean BBQ of course, what were you thinking off ? That’s right BBQ!
Korean BBQ is a whole new interactive experience! Take a seat at a table witht a giant woke style BBQ at its centre. Let the waiter know what you fancy and a few moments later some raw meat and veggies will be delivered. Don’t go blaming the cheff if you food is over cooked, because now you’re the chef!!
A little nervous? Its okay because even an idiot or a baby could do this, I know because I can sometimes be both. Let the sizzling magic begin with a bottle of typical Korean beer Mekju.
Seoul is one of my favorite cities to date, its not just for the unexpected, strange and futurist sights that make you know you’re a very long way from home, but the culture and people. I found that even though Koreans are always moving forward in technology and business, they have managed to maintain and live by their old traditions creating a buzzard and beautiful balance between the two.
Being a young girl who always finds herself lost in a big city, it’s life saving to have multiple strangers stop and offer help, even when I wasn’t in need of any. On one particular occasion a few Koreans actually caught the train with me just to help me get to my destination.
Koreans are polite and respectful, so much so that even on an empty street and 4am in the morning, they will wait for the little green man to tell them when to cross, or during peak hour on a Monday they will line up to board the subway.
I could write on for pages how beautiful this city is, but really its one to discover on your own.
The Annapurna Circuit
Okay so you’ve made it all the way to Kathmandu, Nepal, and you’re ready to get some serious bragging material under your belt. Is there anything cooler than starting a conversation with “This one time when I was trekking the Himalayas”?
Rhetorical question, the answer is obviously ‘No’. So if you’re ready to add this line to your vocabulary then take the road (or mountains) less traveled and trek the Annapurna circuit in the HIMALAYAS!
Lets not kid ourselves; there is a reason that line is the coolest opening in the English dictionary. This isn’t going to be a stroll in the park (excuse the pun). This is an intense trek and should not be underestimated. Some serious thought should go into the preparation of this quest, as you will be sure to face some harsh climates, real low oxygen levels and some extremely steep terrain! Additionally this won’t be a trip you can pump out in a week or even two, this trail has an estimate time frame of three weeks even with a steady eight hours of trekking each day.
It is possible to shave off a few days, however there is only so much altitude you can climb each day before you get seriously sick, so just because your body can climb it, doesn’t mean your brain can.
If you’re continuing to read this, then I haven’t scared you away. Continue to hang in there because the best is yet to come. This trip is truly a once in a lifetime experience; you will continue to tell the story of the Himalayas for many years to come. In 50 years when we’re all driving flying cars, walking around with micro-chips in our brains and fighting the war against computers you will still be throwing that amazing line into your stories.
But lets not get ahead of ourselves; you actually need to do the trek first. There is a number ways to do this circuit depending on your fitness level and the experience you want to get out of it.
Guides and Porters
Three weeks of clothing, toiletries, emergency medical equipment, and the extremely necessary Gopro, Selfie stick and the cliché travel guide can get rather heavy, even with out considering the unpredictable terrain, altitude and exhaustion, so to literally take some weight off your shoulders there are porters. Porters will carry your pack for around $20 a day.
Additionally a guide is highly recommended, they will also cost around $20 a day, however you can get a guide that will also be porter and carry your pack for you.
The guides are very experienced and understand the mountains better than most. Altitude sickness is a real and serious threat, and a guide will know and make sure you stay safely within the correct levels. I would recommend meeting your guide/porter first as I met people whose porter was very young and could not a carry the pack.
Don’t Do What I Did!
Take it from someone how tried going it with no porter or guide and just a map, GET A GUIDE!
I was under the impression that I was a tough, independent woman who needed no help and was well and truly proven wrong within the first few hours.
You maybe able to carry your own pack, but the directions along the trail are next to non-existent, and using a map is basically impossible.
I was lucky enough to met some awesome Canadians, that basically shared their guide with me, and if it weren’t for them, I would have either died or had to turn back. As for my choice not to get a porter, I suffered the entire 3 weeks with a terribly sore back, blisters and throw away things I actually liked, as I couldn’t bare to carry it any further.
Don’t Abuse your Guides or Porters
I’d like to add, that it is important to be kind to your guide and porter. Don’t force them to carry ridicules weights or risk their own health pushing their bodies to climb vast altitudes each day. They have been told not to report any signs of attitude sickness they may be suffering with, and will continue to do the their job, despite there condition, furthermore they can get very ill, and can not afford the health care and medication we take for granted.
How to get started
PERMITS! Your guide is likely to take care of this, or accompany you in this process, but if not here’s what you’ll need to do:
You will need two permits: In order to obtain these you’ll want to visit the Nepal Tourism Board to get a Trekker’s Information Management System card (TIMS) and the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP). It is a relatively easy process and shouldn’t take much more than an hour. With these permits you will be required to check-in at various checkpoints every few days along the trek, so the Nepali government can keep note of where you were last if you to go missing.
What you will need for the permits:
- 4 passport photos (2 for each permit)
- $20 or 2000 Rupees (cash)
- Document paper work (provided at the Tourism Board)
What to Pack
Before you pack your bag remember that whether it’s you or your porter, this stuff will be carried up a mountain. So lay out everything you think you will need and ditch half of it, you don’t need your hair straightener, laptop or collection of cute trekking hats.
Bring the bare minimum:
- 1 pair trail boots (can be hired/purchased from Kathmandu or Pokhara)
- 1 pair fitness pants
- 1 pair of hiking pants
- 1 winter jacket
- 1 long sleeve shirt (preferably light material)
- 2 short sleeve shirts
- 1 pair pajamas
- 6 pairs of socks
- 7 pairs of underwear
- Sun hat
- Trekking pole (hired in Kathmandu or Pokhara)
- Camera and charger
- Mobile and charger
- Powerbank (the cold drains the battery a lot faster)
- Power plug adapter
- Below 0° sleeping bag
- Silk liner (These are great!)
- Water filter/purifier or water purification tabs
- Water bottle (1 liter size)
- Passport & Permits (you’ll be asked for these at every checkpoint)
- First aid kit (the guide may be able to provide this for you)
- Cash (there aren’t ATM’s alone the way)
- Book/journal (e-book is best)
You can wash your clothing in the sinks along the way and hang them to dry on your backpack as you walk.
Lets get Trekking!
Talk you your hotel/hostel or guide about getting a bus to the base of the trek. There are a few options on where to start. Pick a date and time that works best for you. The bus from Kathmandu is very long and bumpy; as such don’t expect to do much walking on your first day. It is likely that you wont arrive at your starting point until 4.00pm or 5.00pm in the afternoon. Pick a guesthouse and get bargaining on the price. Accommodation is super cheep and can be as low as $2-$3 a night, however you are require to eat at the same guesthouse and will be ‘fined’ if you do not. Food is where they make their money and will cost you around $10 for a chai, dal baht, and apple pie. The price of food will climb as you do, as porters have carried this food up the mountain, (I purchased a Mars Bar for $10 at 18,000ft).
Now, meet the people you are likely to trek with over the next few weeks, get a good nights sleep, and start walking.
Take it from two Aussies arriving in Toronto who strongly live by the mentality of ‘death before decaf’. After a painstaking 30hour flight, a strong amount of caffeine was the only thing that could break us through the jet lag. We had heard the rumors and knew the Aussie standard would be hard to come by and therefore opted to ask some local Canadians that confidently directed us to try Canadians famous Tim Horton’s. I don’t even know where to begin in reviewing this beverage, I refuse to call it coffee, unless you can classify dirty bean water, and sugar as coffee. Additionally I made the mistake of ordering some food to company this disaster. And was served a plate (cardboard box) of calories, carbs and what may or may not have been a vegetable, this yet to be determined.
Don’t, go here, just don’t.
However before you subject your taste buds to the torture of repulsive imitations of coffee I have endured over the past few weeks, there is hope found in a handful of cafes. Below are some of our favorite cafes in Toronto that not only supply consistently great coffee, but fun hangout areas you’ll want to stay in all day.
Get yourself downtown into one of the 6 ‘jimmy’s’ cozy cafes and surround yourself with inspiring walls covered by rap legends and Historical figures, the design layout changes from store to store.
Now lets get a little technical and dive into Jimmy’s many coffee blends, you have a few choices from the blend hall of fame, each is named after a famous “jimmy” from jimmy Hendricks to James dean. Combine that with a pretty unique drink list, including such delights as the Purple haze, Goth Latte or JVO (Jimmy’s very own). You’ll find your classic cappuccino a bland beverage in comparison to these awesome specialty mixes. Additionally no one likes coffee that drains your pockets even if its good coffee, and lucky for you, this isn’t as issue. The prices are descent for Toronto standards and leveled by the amount of shots per coffee.
To top it off the staff are very warm, if not a little eccentric and are always up for a chat. You can find one of these little gems everywhere from our local Baldwin Village location as well as Kensington, Gerrard, Queen west, McCall and Ossington.
The dark horse also has 6 cafes within Toronto, with one situated right in the heart of Chinatown and located right next to a funky record store.
This place is cool, everything and everyone in there is super modern with a quirky, rustic edge. It has a awesome contemporary interior with wooden flooring and a large communal table that looks designed precisely for the purpose of whipping out your laptop and Mooching off the hour of free Wi-Fi (it’s okay we all do it). Decoratively vaulted ceilings, exposed old brick and elaborate polished metal, bordering the espresso bar gives this café a unique character and style. Additionally is front is complete with large elongated windows that allow you to watch the chaotic street go by while you relax with a hot cup of chai accompanied by some trendy folk music.
This is a specialty café with beans from Detour and 49th Parallel to give their customers a seasonally diverse and interesting espresso. You will have to expect to pay a little extra for a good cup of coffee here, however if you craving a little afternoon delight, swing up after 3pm and treat yourself with a baked goods at 50% off. These treats looks so gold you could but on a kilo just looking at it, but with 50% off, it’s worth it.
Crafted bean Coffee
Crafted bean is along Dundas West Street, amongst half a dozen private art galleries and opposite the famous Ontario Art Gallery.
This is where I grab purchase my vital morning caffeine dosage after a run. I love the charming staff, atmosphere and the beautiful printed designs that is printed onto each coffee (check out the pictures below). Additionally there is a large range of delicious Tea’s and student discount. This café is never super busy so you would have to wait long for your coffee, and finding a table for you and your laptop is easy.
De mello palheta Coffee Roasters
De Mello Palheta is only a short walk from my house, situated by Young and Eglinton, it was originally recommended to be by a local, however this place is listed at the top of almost every coffee review in Toronto.
It is an absolute hipster haven, and an undisputed crowd pleaser.
The beans are roasted in store and distributed to some fine-dine coffee establishments like Sorry coffee co., Neo Coffee Bar and Toyko smoke.
The masterminds behind this concocted creation are two Melbourne born Aussie brothers (like I said, Aussies know their coffee).
I have even read reviews by Californians who order their beans hear in bulk and have them shipped over.
When walking into De Mello you will be welcome by inviting and fun décor and friendly and attentive staff with excellent customer service. You will find that only after a few visits they will have remembered your name, coffee and ask how your aunt Mary in hospital is doing.
If you’re after a non- douchey or pretentious staff that genuinely make you feel like an extended family member visit De Mello Palheta . Don’t just take my word for it, get off your computer, jump on the TTC and come up to the best part of Toronto; Eglinton (totally not want to be bias, but this is my neighborhood and it’s the best part of the six).
Bicerin Espresso Bar
Bicerin has taken over the coffee scene within Baldwin village offering free wifi, comfortable seating and of course that great coffee. Freshly roasted single origin beans make for great tasting coffee, and if like me you prefer a healthy alternate milk, you have the option of soy, coconut milk and my favorite; almond milk. One of my favorite aspects of this coffee joint is that it feels very personal with close wooden tables that are often shared with 2-3 people, plus friendly staff that make it very easy to strike up convocation.
A chic nook along Dundas west and a new recently opened store in the Financial district. Fall in love with the modern blanc white layout and the smooth coffee taste. There is a huge range of pastries, paninis and salads that makes this a already popular brunch/lunch stop, so don’t expect to get a seat at lunch time unless you’re ready to fight for it. The paninis will cost a steep $10 but they serving sizes are huge and come with a complementary side salad, and for the vegan and gluten-free species out there you have not been forgotten, there is plenty of item on the menu, you’ll be sure to fall in love with. Go ahead while yourself and support a small growing business.
If you know any great cafe’s in Toronto that I haven’t listed please let me know in the comments below 🙂
Mongolia is one of the last truly nomadic countries left on our planet, this absolutely breathtaking expanse entails vast, rugged and fiercely wild wonders that will enlighten the raw nomadic sprit in all. Mongolia’s ancient land delivers experiences, adventure and uncut beauty unobtainable anywhere else. You cannot help but feel a primal, humbling and emotional connection to this awe-inspiring terrain.
So, in order step foot in this remarkable land 9 out of 10 times you’ll be entering through Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, as there’s not much you can do to avoid this. Don’t let this city discourage or cloud your impression of the country, as the real Mongolia and the best of it is yet to come. Try not to spend much more than a day here, and if you have to, take a tour or hire a driver to take you out of the city and to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park and The Giant Chinggis Khaan statue. Its well worth a visit.
Keeping it cheap.
If you have looked into flights, accommodation and tours you have probably learnt that this is not going to be a cheap destination and unfortunately your not wrong, however as I have done this exact trip I can offer an insight on how you can experience an amazing trip and save a few bucks here and there. Sorry I can do much in the area of flights and unless you’re coming through China by Bus or Russia by train (both of which, you will need a visa), there’s going to be pretty pricy airfare, as Mongolia only has the one international Airport- Chinggis Khaan International Airport.
However as for accommodation and a Tour of the Gobi desert I have an excellent alternative to the inflated prices listed online.
Where to stay
First off, your going to want to book a room at The H7 Hostel in Ulaanbaatar, this place is basically an apartment so you wont have to worry about walking into a party hostel with 12 beds to a room and the constant fear of being robbed. There are only private rooms so you wont be sharing a room with anyone, additionally there is a kitchen at your disposal, the location is perfect, and it is very clean and modern. Although, even with all this in mind, the best part about the Hostel is the owner; Namjil. He is a super nice guy that goes well out of his way to meet your every demand. Namjil organised an absolutely amazing trip for my sister and I that allowed us to see the best parts of the country and truly get a feel for the real Mongolia. We spoke to him about our desire to explore the Gobi and he devised a tailor made trip, calculating the cost of a driver, fuel, food and accommodation in a different area and Ude each night. This met we knew exactly what we where paying for and that there was no hidden commission.
Najil took us to the bus station the next morning, helped us by tickets to Dalanzadgad, in the south of Mongolia, this cost less than 10 dollars and took around 8-9 hours. The bus is nothing flash but comfortable enough making regular toilet and food breaks. Najil also sent us up with a sim card each with unlimited calls and data for FREE! So with spottily, Netflix and Angry birds the trip was over before we knew it. Once in Dalanzadgad we found a man holding a sign with our names on it; our diver; Baggy. Baggy did not speck English but was very accommodating and went out of our way to make our experience an enjoyable one. He drove us to a local store where in order to keep within budget we purchased 7 days worth of instant porridge, two-minute noodles and plenty of snacks. We were then taken to the Ude we would be spending our first night in. Here our host family greeted us with a home cooked meal of Horse and rice. Yes, you read that right … Horse. The Mongol people love their horses; they provide them with company, transport, milk and meat. As I am always eager to try something new and ‘when in Rome’ I tried my luck with it. It’s a rather tough meat, and the milk; very, very sour. All in all I’m glad I’ve given it ago, but won’t be ordering this from my local butcher or supermarket any day soon. We then retired to our Ude for the night.
An Ude or Ger is a traditional dwelling distinct in Central Asia and have been in use since the Mongols began their nomadic life with animal husbandry 3,000 years ago. It is very portable and assembled and dissembled easily, aiding to their nomadic lifestyle. They consist of a wooden frame and wool cover, usually sheep or camel, with a fire at its centre. However Keep in mind the fire will not burn all night, and depending on season you choose to go in, it can get very, very cold. I found my self there in the heart of winter and found sleeping very difficult. I hid firewood under my bed to feed the fire at night with, and on one particularly cold night (-10°C) lit my toilet role on fire in order to get the fire started again as the wood had frozen solid.
I wont lie, the cold made for a rather uncomfortable sleep, but now its all part of the experience and didn’t come to the Gobi desert for the hotels, so took it all in my stride.
The next morning using a camper stove provided by Baggy we prepared noodles and coffee, packed up our things and Baggy drove us out to Yolyn am to explore the mountains and frozen Ice Rivers among wild horse and marmots.
Then back to the road, or desert rather as I did not see a road once during my stay in the Gobi. We spent most of our time in the car with Baggy but found we were never bored. The desert is constantly changing, we saw many herds of camels, horses, and goats, and even hairs and gazelles. That night we visited a new host family, eat horse and noodle soup and spent another night in an Ude.
This became our new routine; Baggy driving us to a new and interesting location each day, and then to our new host family for the night. We climbed sand dunes in Khongoriin Els, stood on the windy cliffs of Bayanzag, and explored the beautiful colourful rocks of Tsagaansuvarga, rode Horses and camels, and played with their babies (that where taller than us), watched shooting stars and developed a new appreciation for central heating, flushing toilets and showering.
To get back to Ulaanbaatar Baggy aided us in purchasing bus tickets, loaded us on the bus, and Najil was there waiting at the other end.
All in all the cost of my 2 person trip broke down to:
- Driver + Car -$100
- Fuel – $150
- Week of horse dinners (for 3, drivier inc) – $180
- A weeks accommodation in Ude’s (for 3, driver inc) – $ 180
- Activities i.e. horse and camel ridding – $40
Total = $650 for 2 people!
Mongolia isn’t a holiday destination; you won’t be finding the Hilton in the Gobi desert nor a McDonalds or KCF. However if your after a real adventure and okay with outdoor holes for toilets, sleeping in sheets that may have NEVER seen soap, no showering for a week, and the probability of eating horse meat and drinking hose milk, then this is the trip for uou; get booking!