“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on the list” (Susan Sontag)
I consider myself to have been very fortunate to have travelled to some awesome destinations in 2016!
Some were standout and bucket list destinations such as the Greek Islands of Mykonos and Santorini, they will forever be emblazoned on my heart and mind as absolutely stunning and beautiful places – a bucket list dream come true.
Now “the bills wait for no man” as my gorgeous Mum used to say – so like many people I work a full time job and live simply in order to be able to afford and indulge my passion for travel on a part-time basis.
(A blog post on my personal travel and savings tips will follow at a later date).
So, as a part-time Travel Blogger I was really surprised when I actually counted up my modest stats for 2016:
(Singapore, Japan, Dubai UAE, Greece and New Zealand)
(Greek Islands: Mykonos and Santorini)
(Airlines: Qantas, Emirates, Japan Airlines, Jetstar)
ROAD TRIPS: #5
(Queensland: Marcoola, Mooloolaba, Caloundra x 2 and New Zealand)
(Athens: Piraeus port to Mykonos – Mykonos to Santorini – Santorini to Piraeus port)
HOTELS & MOTELS: #15
(The Pan Pacific Singapore, The Strings Inter-Continental Tokyo, Rumba Resort x 2, Raffles Dubai Hotel, Athens Inn, Belvedere Boutique Hotel, Panorama Boutique Hotel, Coco-Mat Hotel Athens, Electra Metropolis Hotel, Pullman Dubai Creek City Centre Hotel, Executive Motel Taupo, Aubyn Court Motel, Sudima Hotel, Crowne Plaza Hotel Auckland)
2016 was a very full on and busy year for me for travel and I would love to share my thoughts and views on the cities and countries that I have journeyed to abroad.
Singapura is the Malaysian word for Singapore – with the name Singapore as its own capital city and country.
Singapore is considered a ‘stopover’ destination, but in my opinion it is also a great holiday destination in its own right with so much to see, do and eat!
The accommodation in Singapore maybe slightly more expensive than the rest of Asia, however, you can make this up in many ways – especially by dining out at local restaurants or markets.
During my holidays in Singapore I loved visiting the usual tourist places such as:
- The Singapore Gardens
- Raffles Hotel where I delighted in having a delicious ‘Singapore Sling’
- Ferris Wheel Singapore
- Centosa Island (a 1-2 day visit at least)
- The lovely ‘Gardens by the Bay’
- The ‘Sky Park’ Observation deck located on the 57th floor of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel
- Don’t miss the Singapore Zoo (Day tour – Breakfast with some beautiful baby and adult Orang-utans’. Night tour – enjoy a ride through the park to see in the ‘big cats’ and other nocturnal animals in their environment)
- Finally, shopping on ‘Orchard Road’ and at the ‘Chinatown’ or ‘Bugis’ street markets.
Kon’nichiwa! Japan is such an interesting and beguiling country. It is a country that merges both its cultural traditions in perfect synergy with a modern and innovative society. I love Japan because of its culture that is seamlessly interwoven with a sense of spirituality.
This is evident in the city of Tokyo where ancient temples blend in harmoniously with a back drop of modern high-rise buildings.
Tokyo is fast-paced city, a truly urban and modern place that has adapted itself in finding a balance between the old and new, while still maintaining a strong sense of cultural identity.
A personal highlight of mine was watching a ‘Shinkansen’ (Bullet train) in fast motion – honestly, if you blink it will literally be gone in a flash!
My time in Japan was enjoyed visiting:
- ‘Mt Fuji’ in all her esteemed glory,
- Disney Sea and Disney World theme parks
- The revered Asakusa Kannon temple
- ‘Tokyo Skytree’ Observation deck,
- Near the ‘Imperial Palace’,
- ‘Ginza’ boutique shopping area
- The ‘Golden Pavilion’ and ‘Nijo Castle’ (Shogun Palace) in Kyoto
All were spectacular, breath-taking, memorable and appealing in their own right.
Marhaba! The United Arab Emirates is also another destination that is not just a gateway to Europe – it has promoted itself as an independent, vibrant and exotic tourist destination all of its own.
I am also very aware and conscious of the fact that Dubai and the UAE is a deeply conservative country, so I always endeavour to act and be respectful of what I wear and how I behave in public.
That is not to take away from the experience of the place, however, as an indigenous person myself – I believe in the importance of being considerate of your host country’s culture, values and belief systems.
The shopping Malls in Dubai are out of this world. The ‘Mall of the Emirates’ houses an indoor ‘Ski slope’ while the Dubai Mall has a massive ‘Aquarium’ inside – absolutely mind blowing stuff, you have to see it to believe it! The Dubai Mall also has a great ‘Esplanade’ with a ‘fountain’ show held daily and fantastic views of the imposing ‘Burj Khalifa’.
When in Dubai scale the giddy heights and:
- Visit ‘The Top Burj Khalifa’ Observation deck of the world’s tallest building located in the Dubai Mall
- Get inked with a ‘Henna’ tattoo
- Take a leisurely monorail ride around to ‘Atlantis The Palm’
- Savour an absolutely gastronomic treat of ‘High tea’ at the ‘6* Burj Al Arab’ Hotel
- Sit in ‘Gold class’ and catch public transport on the driverless Dubai Metro
- Enjoy the ‘Hop on hop off’ buses with a city tour of Dubai
Yassas! The land of the ancients, a land of warriors, gods, goddesses, philosophers and sages – and a bucket list destination come true.
I had only seen pictures of Athens and Greece between the pages of a magazine, so to finally have the opportunity to travel there and to “walk in the footsteps of the ancients” was truly inspiring and amazing!
While in Athens, a must see visit should be to watch the ceremonial ‘Changing of the Guard’ (Evzones) at the Parliament building in front of the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’. This takes place at 11.00am sharp every Sunday. It is definitely an awesome sight to see!
Other great experiences that you should be hungry to include on your itinerary is a visit to Acropolis Hill to see:
- The stone theatre built by Herodes Atticus
- The ‘Parthenon’ as a temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena (also the patron of Athens)
- ‘Erechtheion’ temple with a symbolic ‘Olive’ tree nearby where Poseidon and Athena fought to be the protector of Athens
- (There is so much rich cultural history to learn from this amazing historical sight)
While you are in Athens also make sure to check out:
- The blue ‘Sights of Athens’ hop on hop off bus tour of the city
- ‘Hadrian’s Arch’ a tribute to Emperor Hadrian and through which roman soldiers marched
- ‘The Temple of Zeus’ and
- For antiquities and a history lesson the ‘Acropolis Museum’.
It still fascinates and amazes me that the vestiges of an ancient society still remain and exist today, as a reminder of the ‘cradle of civilization’.
Kalimera! Wow – the sights of this beautiful Greek Island are indescribably magnificent.
Our journey to this Mediterranean haven began from the Port of Piraeus onboard the behemoth ‘Blue Star’ ferries. A massive ship with comfortable seating, nice refreshments and great views of the Aegean Sea.
The scenery that I had longed to see, finally burst into view. It was a moment of both awe and excitement as I was greeted by those famous white-washed homes all clustered together – with beautiful aqua, crystal clear waters that gently lapped at their inviting shores.
Go and get lost! – Amid the labyrinth of alleyways as you navigate your way towards the ‘Old Port’ township and savour the views of the iconic ‘Windmills’ of Mykonos and “Little Venice’.
I fell in love with Mykonos and am happy to say that it is now my most favourite holiday destination abroad.
Kalimera! My Cyclades odyssey to Santorini (Thira) lived up to all of the hype and accolades that I had read about and researched.
I was mesmerized by the stunning beauty, the incredible scenery and golden sunsets. The sea was a deep azure colour, the cliff faces a rich earthy tone dotted with those well recognised white-washed buildings with the blue domes, famous in Santorini.
I was excited to discover:
- The ‘Caldera’ walkway on the way to ‘Imerovigli’ Village
- The ‘Catholic Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist’
- An exhilarating cable car ride down to the ‘Old Port’ (with donkey rides offered too)
- At the Old Port plenty of scenic tours await you for a cruise around the ‘Caldera’ and also to the ‘natural springs’ at Santorini
Along the adeptly named ‘Gold’ street one can find a good selection of jewellery, t-shirt, souvenir and clothing stores and of course restaurants.
Santorini is one of those places that will forever leave an imprint on my Soul – I know that as long as I live, I will never forget it………………….
Kia ora! I’m totally biased when it comes to my homeland of Aotearoa, a country with so much natural beauty and of course the great hospitality of friendly Kiwi’s.
The country and its spectacular scenery promotes itself, so Nau Mai, Haere Mai – A warm Kiwi Welcome!
(Please feel free to check out an earlier blog post of mine about NZ and the ‘Bay of Islands’).
In summary, if travel is your passion follow your dreams and heart and seek out distant lands.