Things I wish I knew before moving to London

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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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:

 

National Gallery

Brittish Mueseum

Houses of Parliament

Greenwich Park

East London StreetArt

Free food events almost on every weekend

Borough Market

Museum of London

Kensington Gardens

Queens house

National Portrait Gallery

Sky Garden

Bank of England Museum

Museum of London Docklands

National Martitime Museum

The Anaesthesia Museum

Wimledon Common

Richmond Park

Changing the Guard

Abbey Road

Princess Diana Memorial Fountain

Portobello Market

Science Museum

Sir Johns Soane’s Museum

Temple Church

Wallace Collection

IMG_6959

  1. 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

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

IMG_3276

 

I hope you liked my post, if there is anything you think I should add, let me know in the comments below

Happy Travels!!

Why you need to see Kazakhstan now!

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.

IMG_6798 2

Astana

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.

Getting around.

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.

IMG_6555.jpg

Chimkent

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.IMG_7044

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.

IMG_7102

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)

IMG_6941

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.IMG_7083

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.

Happy Travels!

Trekking The Himalayas

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.

IMG_5677.jpg

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.

IMG_5674.jpg

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.

GOPR0718.jpg

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)

 

IMG_5648.jpg

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
  • Gloves
  • Trekking pole (hired in Kathmandu or Pokhara)
  • Backpack
  • 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!)
  • Map
  • 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)
  • Towel
  • Cash (there aren’t ATM’s alone the way)
  • Book/journal (e-book is best)
  • Toiletries

 

You can wash your clothing in the sinks along the way and hang them to dry on your backpack as you walk.

GOPR0768.jpg

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.

 

Happy Travels!