Avalon Retreat – Hobart | Australia

After walking, climbing, running in and around Hobart all day long, Avalon Retreat was truly a retreat, especially the beautiful outdoor Huon pine bath I had under the stars! This modular pod right in the centre of the CBD, sits on top of an office building and boosts two very large bedrooms (sleeps 4) with en- suite bathroom complemented with a gorgeous custom made Avalon toiletry range crafted with locally sourced products and fragrances. There is a massive living room and stunning kitchen equipped with anything (and more) you might need during your stay, including a full breakfast which you can cook at your leisure, including free range eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, muesli, yogurt, fresh fruit, juice, Nespresso coffee and serious tea selection. Throughout the property you can also enjoy complimentary WiFi, an Apple TV and a Sonos music system.

Avalon City Retreat is built for sharing, quiet noise, celebrations, contemplating, dreaming, cuddling and fun. This soothing sanctuary is an oasis, a memorable escape from ‘the circus’.

✪ Perfect for: A family getaway, a romantic stay or a different business accommodation
✪ Book your stay here: www.avalonretreats.com.au

Hotel Hotel – Canberra | Australia

Hotel Hotel is more than a place to stay, it’s more than a hotel, it’s a Hotel Hotel. With two capital Hs.

Nestled in the New Acton precinct area and part of the Nishi building, Hotel Hotel is the result of an deep partnership between more than fifty designers, artists, artisans and fantasists. Hotel Hotel  was created with people – people in mind as it’s stated on the doors at their other entrance. The founders chose a stylish design over a flashy luxury one. It’s cool, without being overbearing.

On the first night I managed to stay in one of their apartments which was oh! so well-decorated and beautifully thought through that I immediately felt at home. I normally don’t feel 100% comfortable in hotels, there is something that is too pretentious and fake in some of them, so it’s hard sometimes to feel good. But Hotel Hotel -and handful others I had the opportunity to visit in the past year- have this feeling that just makes you feel more than welcome, they make you feel at Home. A home away from home, basically what a nomad like me needs from time to time. On the second night I moved to a Creative Room which was equally beautifully designed with concrete walls and columns and work art and books all around. Both rooms had the largest king sized bed I have ever seen, dressed with the whitest and softer sheets ever and six (six!!) pillows. Little details like the French Press, Aesop bath products, vintage lamps, a granny-style rug on the bed, the last bestsellers next to the classics on the shelves are the ones I look for whenever I stay in a hotel. They are the little touches that make everything different and special.

You need to go and experience it first hand to understand what I am talking about, but I hope the pictures below will help a bit to give you an idea of what I mean.

You might think that I have spent the entire weekend in bed (which in fact I was really, really tempted to do), but my gorgeous luncheon and Canberra adventures were awaiting…(read more about my weekend in Canberra here or download my complete Canberra CREED guide here)

PERFECT FOR: a business, romantic or family stay
ADDRESS: NewActon Nishi, 25 Edinburgh Avenue, Canberra ACT 2601

WEBSITE: www.hotelhotel.com.au
INSTAGRAM: @hotel_hotel

Sorry Sydney, Melbourne wins

When I started blogging, almost 10 years ago, I had the firm intention to write and post everyday. At that time, I used a platform called Fotolog and in the evening, upon finishing my homework for school,  I would use my parents desktop computer to upload a (horrible) grainy and heavily edited picture along with my day reportage, a poem, a story or a meaningful quote. Many years have passed, I have since closed that photoblog and opened two more, including the one you are currently reading and the only one I’ve designed from scratch. I barely manage to write more than 4 blog posts a month and sometimes (much) less than that. Sailing early days as freelancer since launching last year has been crazy scary,very intense, inspiring and extremely rewarding. Often, an enlightening (and painful) lesson on my own limits and skills. To be completely honest, I had the best intentions to keep you posted on my down under travels, but Life {aka adventures, hikes, new and old friends, explorations, lessons, realisations and my new job} took over and here I am with an overdue overview of my month in Melbourne and the beautiful state of Victoria. 

Like my other very popular Indian guides, here’s your CREED*, collecting all the most important things you need to do while visiting this wonderful part of the world.

Here’s your:

Melbourne & Victoria’s Creed

COFFEE

Market Lane Coffee
An Australian legend that must be visited (and tasted!) to be believed! Be prepared for long queues, but they are well worthy before or after your visit to Queen Victoria’s Market. 

Monk Bodhi Dharma
A very tiny and cute cafe with some seating indoors. It’s set in a very well hidden place just off Chapel St in an unassuming car park. The staff is cool, hipster and fun, the blend used beyond words.

 

Brother Baba Budan
Another very tiny and cute cafe in the CBD with a quirky ceiling filled by hanging chairs. The place is very small and baristas’ attitude a bit arrogant and rushed, but that’s – I learnt – is what happens when a city is named global capital of coffee (aka: most baristas in Melbourne have the superhero attitude and arrogance, while they are pouring milk on a flat white they put on the face a surgeon would while transplanting hearts.)

The St Kilda Dispensary
A very peculiar coffee-shop in the beautiful St Kilda settings. The interiors are designed with a pharmacy in mind and everything served with that concept in mind, including the caramel-injected muffins 🙂 

READ

Melbourne State Library
You should know by now that I’m addicted erm, in love with books, libraries, (some librarians) and bookshops, so you can imagine my face and emotion when my friend Toni Frazer took me here after our delicious lunch at Supernormal (more below). The State Library of Victoria is a wonderful example of Victorian architecture and hosts the state’s largest public reference and research library. Make sure to visit La Trobe Reading Room (in the pic) with it’s wonderful white and imposing domed roof.

Books for Cooks
Another favourite at the Vic market: I spent entire afternoon here browsing the many titles and reading about new and old recipes from around the world. I have to admit I also stole a few ideas for my hostel nights & friends 🙂

Grub Street Bookshop
Another cute bookshop that gives Melbourne that special hip vibe without turning hipster. I loved browsing around for a few hours and filling up my reading list for the next few months, erm..years!

Books

The Melbourne Design Guide
It is clear that architects of major (and minor) talent have played with Melbourne’s architecture in the last few decades. The result is a messy, beautiful mix of styles and ambitions. You can learn more with this quirky and fun guide.

The Underbelly 
An interesting look into Melbourne’s underground world of crime, police corruption, hitmen and dead people during the ‘80s and ‘90s. Not for the faint at heart.

EXPLORE

Philip Island
One of the must do while in Melbourne. The world’s famous destination – and one of the only places – where you can see many, sorry I mean thousands of tiny penguins roaming around like in a Disney cartoon. To see this natural wonder, I decided to book my day trip with the best providers in town: Go West Tours which not only offers a day long exploration of Island, but also a cheese and wine tasting around lunch time and one of the funniest drive through the day. The Little Penguins that will delight you in the evening, are the smallest in the world and are only found in Southern Australia. The Penguins Parade is quite commercial and the viewing platform isn’t the best (some people had a very close look at the little animals, while others sitting at the back could only catch a glimpse of one or two). It’s also quite an expensive experience, but fortunately, all the money made goes back into research. Please be aware that photography is not allowed, since the flash blinds the little penguins so put away your camera, phones and whatever else for the preservation of this delicate species. (footnote: it’s a shame, for a semi-professional photographer like me, that the growing number of people with big cameras who don’t know how to use them (aka turn off their flash) once again affected my experience – the pictures you see here are not mine but of Go West Tours – this happens more and more often in churches, libraries and other places, not because artworks could be affected by photography, but by the flash, so here’s my request people and amateur photographers: read your manual, learn how to switch off your flash or simply buy a much simpler camera 😃 thank you!

Mt Donna Buang
Another Melbourne surprise that I only discovered thanks to the fantastic @igersmelbourne and the Melbourne Crew communities who invited me to one of their exclusive photo events. Thanks to Ben, Mallory and @ktaztrofk @deecamino, @sharoo0n,@s.wei_, @elleidaujackiemaz94 and the rest of the gang for making me feel SO welcome and for showing me such an amazing part of your city!

Great Ocean Road
This was another top priority in my to-do list for Australia, along with surfing, Uluru and the Whitsundays (yes, I know some common expectations, sorry! :P) So, having been able to drive down one of the most scenic roads in a 1970s WV Kombi, was not just a dream come true, but the end of a lifetime obsession. With my friend Taherah we drove up and down the Victorian coast with the beautiful AppleJack and stopping in all the little towns on our way. I hadn’t seen my friend since 2010 when she left London where, back then, we were working together at posh weddings/events as waitresses, to relocate to Melbourne where she leads a very successful career in cancer research. It was emotional to see her again – I had my doubts I wouldn’t see her ever again – and it’s true sometimes that distance is just mental and we had a real blast during our time together. Taherah is also a keen and talented photographer, so our road trip was filled with impromptu stops along the way to take just-one-more picture.

So, a long-lost friend, a beautiful Kombi and one of the best roads in the world? What else you need? Well, the sun would have been sweet and a few stars also would have made everything perfect, but I’m not here to complain. It was just perfect. Thank you to @hireakombi for making my dream come true!

The Grampians
This beautiful National Park is better seen in autumn or spring, when the full shades of the trees and leaves are in full bloom. But, there are also impressive aboriginal artwork and more than 50 bush walks along 200km of tracks. In winter it can be very cold so remember to wrap up warm and bring an extra blanket. Along The Grampians, you must visit The Balconies, accessible via the Mount Victory Road northwest of Halls Gap. The walk to the lookout is 1.6km return and once there it offers one of the best views over the Victoria Valley.

Brighton
A day in Brighton, even in winter is another must do. Take a friend for a stroll on the beach and make sure to walk up to the little beach cabins: they are all different and colourful and a few shots here are a must! I went here with another good friend of mine, my dear Shifa, who I’ve first met in India during my travels there back in Autumn. Shifa is now studying in Melbourne and slowly adjusting to the (coooold) life down under. She’s another friend I wasn’t sure I was going to see again, but Melbourne you know, it’s just a melting pot where I got to gather with so many new and old friends that my heart was totally filled with love. 

Warrandyte State Park 5/04
An underrated park in the suburbs of Melbourne. It’s quite hard to get there by public transports, but I guess you could always hire a car instead. The walk goes along a nice creek, but the best surprise was actually seeing a few dozens of wild kangaroos jumping around and playing with each other. So cute!! 

EAT

Gelato Messina
Since opening in Darlinghurst in 2002, Gelato Messina has had one clear goal: to set the benchmark for gelato in Australia and, oh boy, as an Italian pure blood, I can tell you that they have clearly achieved their target: their gelato is to die for. Overprices (as many things in Australia), but well worth every now and then.

Supernormal
Chef Andrew McConnell’s new restaurant in Flinders Lane is a beautifully, minimalistic designed space that houses a large open kitchen and bar. With Asian inspired dishes and drinks, this is the perfect spot for lunch, dinner, events and even karaoke.

DREAM

YHA North Melbourne

I’ve never been a big fan of hostels, in particular those bed bugs filled backpackers that are very popular in Sydney and along the East Coast, but when I finally booked my stay at the YHA I understood why this chain is so popular and attracts so many people all around the world. The cleaning standards and the little details here at YHA, make all the difference since that what makes them stand them out from the competition. If you get the YHA membership, you can also take advantage of many interesting discounts and offers including the GreyHound bus and rental cars.

 

Thank you note

This article is partially sponsored – all views are my own.
First and foremost, Olympus Australia, Manfrotto and Lowepro for providing me with the best tools on the market and being a constant support and source of inspiration.
A huge thanks also to HireAKombi, Will & Bear, GoWestTours and Jeep Australia to allow me to experience and explore Melbourne and surroundings in the best way possible.

Canberra ain’t just for politicians…

Not sure why, but everybody who I enquired with, told me not to waste my time in Canberra. I did in fact took it out of my draft itinerary back in December and only put it back very quickly when my good friend Lara invited me for a ladies-only launcheon at PodFood, a 1930s cottage in the gardens of Pialligo plant farm for one of her #PassionforProvenance event. I longed to see and hug Lara again after meeting her in London a year ago, and yes, I  couldn’t stop thinking about the six-course meal awaiting for me since her email popped into my inbox. Owner and (incredibly young) chef John Leverinck makes magic with his hands and the local produces of the area. Thinking about that meal I cannot avoid licking my lips and tasting that entire delicious feast in my mouth. And once again, what I love more about Instagram is its community, so the ladies that Lara gathered where not only great photographers, but also incredible human beings. Check the other stunning picture on #passionforprovenance.

Having been stable in Sydney for six weeks, trying to recover from my Indian travels, I was itching for a new adventure so I jumped on the Internet and booked my tickets with Murrays Coaches. So, here I was, on a fabulous coach, ready for yet another adventure, my first downunder!

The express service from Central Station to Canberra takes only 3 and half hours to reach the destination. The fun part to travel by coach vs your own vehicle is that you get to meet other people you wouldn’t normally chat to if you were in your own car. Additionally another big bonus (for us, insta-addicts and bloggers) is the USB socket available on each row. On the way there and back, both drivers were hilarious filling the trip with quirky notes, interesting facts about Canberra and various jokes so that the journey was fun and not only “a ride”. So, hey a big high five for Murrays!

Once I arrived in Canberra, I was more excited than a child at Christmas about my stay at Hotel Hotel. I read and heard about it since my times back in London, so I was over the moon when I walked in and finally witnessed the majestic entrance made of more than 2150 pieces of recycled timber whoosh on the walls and the stairs designed by March Studio.

Hotel Hotel
is more than a place to stay, it’s more than a hotel, it’s a Hotel Hotel. With two capital Hs.

Nestled in the New Acton precinct area and part of the Nishi building, Hotel Hotel is the result of an deep partnership between more than fifty designers, artists, artisans and fantasists. Hotel Hotel  was created with people – people in mind as it’s stated on the doors at their other entrance. The founders chose a stylish design over a flashy luxury one. It’s cool, without being overbearing.

On the first night I managed to stay in one of their apartments which was oh! so well-decorated and beautifully thought through that I immediately felt at home. I normally don’t feel 100% comfortable in hotels, there is something that is too pretentious and fake in some of them, so it’s hard sometimes to feel good. But Hotel Hotel -and handful others I had the opportunity to visit in the past year- have this feeling that just makes you feel more than welcome, they make you feel at Home. A home away from home, basically what a nomad like me needs from time to time. On the second night I moved to a Creative Room which was equally beautifully designed with concrete walls and columns and work art and books all around. Both rooms had the largest king sized bed I have ever seen, dressed with the whitest and softer sheets ever and six (six!!) pillows. Little details like the French Press, Aesop bath products, vintage lamps, a granny-style rug on the bed, the last bestsellers next to the classics on the shelves are the ones I look for whenever I stay in a hotel. They are the little touches that make everything different and special.

You need to go and experience it first hand to understand what I am talking about, but I hope the pictures below will help a bit to give you an idea of what I mean.

You might think that I have spent the entire weekend in bed (which in fact I was really, really tempted to do), but my gorgeous luncheon and Canberra adventures were awaiting…

Download your free and printable CREED city- guide by clicking

here

Editor notes: My trip to Canberra was kindly sponsored by Murrays Coaches and Hotel Hotel – all views are my own. 

Tasmania, the island at the edge of the Earth

Black swans, white kangaroos, red devils, tiny penguins, oysters day and night, borealis auroras and the freshest air in Australia.

This and much more can be found on that little island called Tasmania that represents the last stop of the southern hemisphere if you were on your way to Antartica.

With its 68.400 km² and 515.000 inhabitants, Tasmania is as big as Ireland but almost a third of the country is not accessible and left to beautiful National Parks.

Tasmania is probably one of the most amazing and diverse places I’ve visited. So small and so large, so far and so close, an island of diversity and contrasts.

The old joke of being the tired and old cousin of Australia is finally over and Tasmania is actually on the top of dreams destination of many: Aussies and foreigners. Attracted by the wilderness, breathtaking landscapes the adventurers, by the food and the wine, the foodies. To wrap it up, Tassie, like its bigger sister island, has it all: parks, wildlife, food, wine, beaches, relax, adventures, chill out and luxury, there is something for everyone.

After the success of my last PDF guide of Canberra [thank you so much to ALL the people who already downloaded the file, I’m humbled!!], I’ve decided to create another one for Tasmania. I believe in sharing, especially sharing travel tips in this over-crowded and useless blogosphere, so I hope to help you out narrowing down what you really need to know. I’m of course happy for you to print and bring this itinerary along with you and/or share it with your friends by sending them a link to this post. Do let me know if you have any questions! 🙂
Note: This is what I did with my two travel buddies and you don’t need to do exactly the same, but you can take the bits that inspire you the most and create your own route.  I also don’t aim to suggest that I’m an expert at all, but I do want to reply to all the emails/messages I got about Tasmania all in once, so here is my itinerary and I’m pretty sure that it includes some of Tasmania’s most beautiful angles and spots that you will also enjoy.

I really enjoyed my two weeks in Tasmania, but while I was writing this guide and doing my research I found tons of other places I haven’t been to and that I’ve now added to my travel wish-list. I will surely be back, sooner or later. So, trust me when I tell you there is enough to see for months!

Top Tips for your Tassie vacation

* Bring the right gear, especially if i) you intend to climb or even just walk on mountains ii) you are planning a road trip. The weather (even in Summer) can be inclement and if you are not prepared it can ruin your trip (waterproof jacket is a must!)

– Book early, especially if you are planning to rent a motorhome or a camper van. It’s a very popular way to explore Australia’s smallest state and there is limited offer, especially in high season (Dec-March)

– A bit like in the rest of Australia, always try to avoid driving at dawn, dusk and night. The native wildlife are their most rambunctious at this time and you will hit an animal or too (we did!).

*

My trip to Tasmania was possible thanks to the following sponsors:

Olympus Australia
Lowepro
Joby

Thank you also to all my hosts, including: Avalon Retreats, Wilderness Cruises, Wineglass Bay Cruises and The Cheese Factory

Download your free guide to Tasmania here!

Your Definitive Packing List for a Year (or more…) of Wanderlust

 

So, you are finally ready to set off and embark on that train/plane/bus/boat/bicycle/feet that will take you away for a year or more and you are facing the tricky question of:

What the heck shall I pack?

Packing for a weekend away or a short holiday can be difficult. Packing for a year of wanderlust can be daunting and scary, especially if it’s your first time. For some stupid reasons, I personally left it until the very last minute despite being well aware of the importance and urgency of it all. Unfortunately, I lost myself in the online jungle of recommendation of other travel bloggers and let’s be honest, there is lots of crap out there.  So four months ago I got on my plane to Istanbul unsure I had all the things I needed for the following 12 months and quite sure I had missed something.

The truth is that I hadn’t forgotten anything, in fact I had (many) more things than I needed and that I soon left behind (more about this below). Like many beginners, I fell in the most common trap of reading detailed packing lists of other travel bloggers and ended up “over-packing” with stuff that had no use for me.
So, if you are about to hit the road for the first time and you have no idea of what to take with you, here is my personal, heartfelt advice after 4 months on the road.

Rule number one and only one:
u-n-d-e-r-p-a-c-k.

Easy-peasy

Remember that while traveling, you’ll be constantly packing, unpacking, packing again, checking that you’ve got everything, screaming if your stuff doesn’t fit or having huge fights with your backpack zip which will refuse to collaborate with you on a daily basis. What to do then?

Yeah, you got it right, I told you: Underpack. What I want you to do (and wished I had done so in September too!) is leave your home with almost a third of your bag empty in order to keep that spare space that you’ll need (and deeply love) while on the go. In order to do so, there are a few things I want you to keep in mind ahead of the actual packing process:

  1. You can buy most of the things on the road, yes, even in some of the most remote area you will find shampoo, chocolate and underwear; depending on where you are going some of the things you will need will cost a fraction of what you would pay them at home;
  2. When you are on the road, you will need less things than in your normal life
  3. There isn’t really any difference between packing for 6 weeks or 6 months, because you’ll just do laundry about every week or more, so just think you are going away for a short time and don’t stress too much!

So, this is my packing list and the items that I have with me right now. Bear in mind that after the first month on the road I sent a package home with things I no longer needed or wanted and I also donated some other items that were no longer necessary to me.
This is my current backpack and possibly the one I will keep for the next 6-12 months.

Your home away from home

Now that you are about to leave the comfort of your house, your backpack will become your home. Exactly like a snail, your chosen backpack will be your shell and exactly like that you will have to carry it on your back on buses, trains, planes and on foot many, many times during your travels, so my advice is to keep it minimal. The optimal weight should be around 8-10kg, less if you can, or maximum 12kg if you must.

Leave your suitcase at home. Yes, even if you are planning to stay in 5 star hotels and resorts leave your trolley home. I could tell you about one of my stay in a 5 star secluded resort where in fact I had to reach the harbor by walking on semi-submerged boulders, cross a river on a very tiny long-tiled boat and ultimately climb a very narrow and steep staircase where my car was waiting for me. Now, I easily managed to do all of it, but people who where carrying large or medium suitcases really struggled and had to ask for help as well as pay extra for their large bags. Even if you are over the age of the usual backpackers (what is that, anyway?), think again and buy one for yourself. Even if you aren’t planning to “backpack” in the conventional sense of the word, ditch the suitcase and trade them in for a good, sturdy, waterproof backpack.

My Bag(s)

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41MxLQlZGlL._SS160_Osprey Farpoint 70 Travel Backpack
(Main backpack volume is 55 liters and the Farpoint Day is 15 Liter). Yes, I must admit, I had a few fights with this bag at the start of my trip: things seemed to take more and more space and the bag seemed to get smaller every day. I later learnt that everything needs to go in the right place every time, exactly like the pieces of a jigsaw which needs to be in the right order in order to make sense. Fast-forward to four months later and I now love my bag and it’s like my second skin. I use the small one for my tech gear when in transit and my large one for everything else. The two of them, currently weigh 10.5kg together.

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Quequa Waterproof cover
For your bag, not only protects it from water, but also from tear and dust when in the plane booth as well as the other transports

Newfeel Foldable backpack: this is one of the best thing I bought for my trip. Not only is super tiny, but it becomes handy in million occasions like food shopping, beach, hiking, sightseeing. It only cost me two euros and I always have it with me in case I need some extra space.

Two cotton shopping bags: perfect for a day by the beach and for your laundry or just in general for you to carry around your things. There will be moments when some things won’t fit in your bag, so they are always very handy. I have one normal size and a smaller one which is perfect for little things or even to keep things separate in your bag.

One leather shoulder Camera bag: this is a late addition to my travel kit that I bought in India. I didn’t really need it, but it’s extremely handy for those other situations when you can’t be completely casual and/or business meetings I need to go to. I love it and it was a massive hit on my instagram feed some time ago and before you ask, no, you can’t buy it online 😉

 
The Essentials

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These are like THE MOST  important items, without them you can stay home and forget about your trip. Don’t only pack them, but throughout your trip always hold on to them like they where the most precious items you ever own – which in fact they are when you are traveling:

Passport – do I need to add anything to this? Well, I just say that in order to enter most countries, you will need to make sure to have at least 6 months left on it

10 copies of your passport – like your money, they should go half in your day-bag and half in your backpack/hotel

5-10 passport-sized photos – you will need them for visas and other documents on the road

Health and travel insurance – I use Worldnomads

Two or three debit/credit cards – don’t stack them all together in your purse/wallet, but use different locations and remember them!

  1. Credit/Debit Card with free cash withdrawals abroad
  2. Credit/Debit Card for purchases and backup
  3. Prepaid Credit/Debit Card  additional backup (trust me it’s never too many! Insert long story here…)

Cash – take approximately $200 or £200 for emergency and spread them around in your belongings. Dollars are universally accepted, but any international currency would do in those tricky situations you want to avoid.

Business Cards if you are planning to meet potential clients on the go

Airline Miles Membership Cards

 

Medical Kit

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This is as essential as the section above, especially if you have some permanent conditions. It’s a great idea to also have a mini medical-kit with you at all times especially in some third-world countries or where some diseases are more frequent and common.  Your medical kit should include some of the below, but obviously only you know what are you weak areas and what you should bring with you. I currently have with me:

Plasters

Bandages

Antiseptic handwash

Antidiarrhoeas (Imodium)

Antacid (for indigestion)

Ibuprofen / paracetamol

Antihistamines (mosquitos can be a big problem in some places)

Motion Sickness Pills: I never got motion sickness but then I was very sick on my ferry from the Andaman Islands as the Ocean was very rough.

Sleeping pills: I’m a late-sleeper and early-riser and when I feel I need to sleep more, I knock myself out with a couple of natural, valerian-based tablets.

Lavender essential oil: for the same reason above (thank you Rachel!)

Tea-tree Essential oil: endless ways of using it and a best friend while travelling!

Condoms (yes, girls too)

Clothes

Right, ladies (and gentlemen!), this is the moment where I’m telling you to forget your fashionable habits at home and think smart.  I’m not telling you to look like a lost soul or a homeless, but to smarten up your wardrobe and matching skills.  You must leave home most of your clothes and start thinking in multiple outfits, if you are not doing that already. On the road, life will be easier (less choice=less drama), but the crucial moment is when you pick the things that are going to come with you for the next year or so. Below is my current selection and the things I have with me right now. Sometimes I struggle, most of the time I’m extremely happy that I don’t have to waste time choosing what to wear, only one time (at the Opera) I felt I was underdressed, but I was excused as I had very little notice. 

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Fashion tip #1

Try to pack only clothes that match together or that have a similar tonality. Ideally, select dark or neutral colors (especially for your bottoms).

Learn to dress in layers, depending on the temperature, you will need to learn how to dress adding or removing layers. Of course, if you are traveling to Iceland or to the Himalayas you might want to bring that bulky, fat, super warm jacket, but unless you are going there, then the layers’ strategy will work for most places around the world.

Fashion Tip #2

Roll your clothing – yes, folding won’t work for a backpack, it’s much better if you you’re your items very tightly so to minimize the air and to avoid wrinkles

Underwear X 5
Socks X 3
Bra X 2
Bikini X 2 (2 swimming costume/boxers)
Short shorts X 2

Jeans 1
Light long trousers X 2
Leggings 1
Dresses X 1 (for those fancy occasions or elegant dinner)
T-shirts / vest tops X 5

Longsleeve top 1 (for temples, protect against mosquitos)
Shirt x1
Fleece (it can get cold at night, especially in the desert)
Hoodie (to keep warm on planes and at night)
Waterproof Jacket

Ultra-light Uniqlo puffy jackets
Beach Towel: use a lovely sarong
Belt x1
1 x large scarf or pashmina
Hat

 

Footwear

Obviously, it all depends on your destination(s). I can tell you to bring your flip flops/thongs, but I believe you will make little use of them if you are going to climb Mount Everest or cycle through Africa, right?

So, considering I’ve been doing some adventures as well as some beach time and city exploration, this is my current mix and I love it.

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Adidas Ultraboost 2 black: they have no visible brand and that’s great for me as I don’t want to be a walking advertising board

H&M Espadrillas: recent addition to my mix here in Sydney as it’s very warm for my trainers but my sandals aren’t ideal for very long walks

Crocs Flip-Flop: had to replace my Hawaianas recently as they broke down and there was no way to repair them. I’ll let you know how I like them soon!

Sandals: bought these almost 8 years ago in a little shop in Spain, everybody, especially me loved them. They are super-comfortable and almost fashionable! 😉

 

Toiletries

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Nothing. Yes, leave at home everything. EVERYWHERE in the world you can buy these things and you do not need to carry them all the way from your home country even more because you will end up taking too much.  Well, take with you a travel toothbrush and small-sized toothpaste, that’s all you need for the flight or in case your bag get lost. 
So, once you are at your first destination, head to a supermarket and buy the followings:

Tooth floss/paste/brush

Shampoo / conditioner (not pictured)

Deodorant

Bodysoap

Aesop Sun cream (at least SPF 30)

Aesop Aftersun / moisturiser

Make up (I personally only have one black eyeliner, one mascara, a red and a pink lipsticks)

Lip balm

Cotton buds

Nail clippers

Tweezers

Comb/Hair bands

For Ladies Only (from home):

Mooncup

Braun Silk Epil

Pacifica Solid Parfume (it smells delicious, it’s super-light and compact and lasts a life time, plus no worry about breaking it in your bag!)

Boys
Leave your electronic razor at home, beard is SO sexy! 😛

 

Tech Stuff, Photo Gear and Gadgets

If you, like me are working while travelling, you will need some of the below. If you instead have decided to take a total break from the digital world, you can skip this section completely and jump to the next one.

Remember to back up and get insurance all the items you particularly care about!

Mini ipod for long train or bus journey, days at the beach and back up for saving battery of my phone

Olympus OM ED10 (plus extra battery) with 14-42 and  Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8 lens

4x SD card

JOBI Gorilla pod

iPhone6

Power bank x2: a small ANKER (thank you, Anna!) for my out and about and a TECKNET 15000mAh with dual USB for those long train/bus journey with no power outlets. It was  also very handy in India where I used it every other day or even in those guesthouse or hotels where there is only one plug or it’s too far from your bed!

WD 1TB My Passport External HD and robust anti-shock case 

USB stick (1GB) for those things you might need to print on the road or those pictures you take of strangers and want to print and give to them

Kindle: I’m a book-worm so I can’t go anywhere without a good book. The battery life is great (one month or more), and if you’re planning on getting away from it all there’s no better company than a good book.I have an old one that I think Amazon does no longer sell, but if this one breaks down, I will surely buy the Voyage or Paperwhite 

11 inch MacBook Air: Whilst I travel, I’m also working. If you’re not working and just want to keep in touch with people and access the internet, then an iPad mini or your smartphone would be perfect for the purpose

Go Pro Hero 3 with waterproof case and pole

Triple UK plug: Every day I have at least three things to charge (phone, laptop and camera) so this bulky item has become my life savior when there is only one plug available

Apple iPhone6

One spare cheap phone (just in case!)

Headphone Splitter (to watch movies with your mate or travel buddy on planes, stations and/or buses

1 x Travel Adapters (to charge all this equipment)

Camera, phone, kindle and video battery chargers

 

Miscellaneous

Super Glue – a must-have for all those quick repairs, it’s incredible to see how easily things break when you are constantly using them.

Plastic bags: there will be moment when your bikini or towel will be dump or wet and you will be on your way to the airport: one or even two of these freezer-kind of bags are going to save your life (and the rest of your stuff!)

 Packing Cubes: these were introduced to me by a packing pro and since I bought them, my travelling life has changed. All my clothes are organised so I know exactly where to look for a specific item at any time eBags cubes and the Eagle Creek packing sleeves.

 Locks: you can either choose a Combination lock or one with the key, the risk is that you might lose it

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Sunglasses: I love my folding Wayfarer Rayban, the box is super compact and they are just perfect for any kind of adventure

Travel towel: they don’t feel amazing, but they dry super quickly and that something you need while travelling

Rab Sleeping bag Silk liner: for the occasional dirty bed or for when there isn’t one, yup it can happen!

 Eye mask, I cannot sleep if there even the tiniest light so, my beloved silk eye mask became my best friend on train, buses but even hotels and guesthouses that didn’t provide pitch black

 Ear plugs, for planes or even while working in noisy cafes

Inflatable travel pillow, perfect for that nap waiting at airports and on planes

Sewing kit: yup, another handy thing to fix those things that might become loose on the road

 Swiss army knife: it’s cool to have one 😉

Shoe cover: shoes can be the more disgusting thing to put in your bag, instead of taking plastic bags, try and get some covers, they are lighter and don’t take space at all!

Pen and paper: who knows, you might find some inspiration while on the go or you might need to share your phone with that cute girl/guy you’ve just met!

 Camomille bags (a taste of home…)

Digital Luggage Scale

 Travel Laundry Soap

Little Mirror

Tiny hot water bottle

Light

Digital  packing list & Apps

I’m not going to tell you that you are not a real explorer if you bring your smartphone with you, like so many travel-gurus on the net. I’m telling you bring your phone but use it only when truly necessary or when there is nothing better to do (which won’t happen often while travelling). There is no point in avoiding technology when it can be so helpful to us, so bring your phone, get a local SIM card and make your life easier. Yeah, you will still be considered a cool traveler!

Apps

Google maps

Pennies: great to set a budget and keep an eye on it everyday

AccuWeather: to check forecasting of your next destinations

Tripadvisor: it’s not the bible, but it can give you an idea of the places and the features you are looking for

Zomato: like the above

Shazam: you never know which or where you are going to hear your favourite new song!

Townske: up-and-coming, community-based global city-guides. This is an essential to find cafes, galleries and restaurants and you can be a contributor too!

Sleep Better: not only while travelling, but for everyday life as it wakes you up at the right cycle of your sleeps

Postagram: little cute app to send your phone pictures as postcards to your family and friends

Skyscanner: check the best price for your flights comparing all the different airlines

Instagram: of course! IG is not only a great photo sharing app, but also the perfect way to meet locals and expats in the places you are visiting

Spotify

Skype on laptop and iPhones

Twitter

Facebook

WhatsApp messenger for iPhone: great app that you can group message friends & family for free over wifi

Photo editing apps (but this will be a separate future post!)

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Things to do before you go
(VERY IMPORTANT STUFF!)

Notify your bank of your travels, mine has a section on my online banking where I can compile a detailed itinerary, some others might require you to call up or to send an email. Check some time before your departure. There is nothing worse than being locked out your card at thousands of miles away from your home with no cash at all (yup, I’m talking from personal experience here!

Make sure to do some research for your back-up card(s) and make the right choice. Most cards will charge you for withdrawal and payment in foreign currency, see which one offers the best deal in your home country

Set your google drive as your go-to back-up: Create a folder of digital copies of documents, credit cards, tickets, travel insurance, contact details and everything else you might need. If you lose everything, you will have a safe copy in the cloud.
Some people suggest to keep physical copies of your credit cards, I say don’t! Have them online or emailed to yourself or to someone you trust, but don’t carry physical copies with you. It’s very easy to make payment with the copies and you might be lose all your money in no time.

Unlock your phone: some new generation phones are locked by the carrier, so make sure to unlock it before you go. The process can be dreadful and long (especially if you bought a Vodafone device at Carphonewarehouse in the UK, my gosh! Never again!), so start calling the customer service far in advance. If you have an unlocked phone you can pick a local SIM card wherever you are and use data as you were at home. Do not use data-roaming, unless is a life-threatening emergency!

*

Ready, steady, Go?!?

No, not yet. Before you leave, pack and unpack your bag in the comfort of your home. Do it in different moment of the week and maybe make a sketch of how you placed your items. Put the bags on and walk around your house for 20 minutes or more. If you are ok, you are ready to go. If you are suffering, sweating or crying then go back and re-pack again.
You will soon realise that items will fit better in one or the other position and it’s better you save yourself time at home in the preparatory phase rather than getting frustrated with these experiments while you are away (yup, another personal testimony here!!!). If you have a weekend away before your big trip, take the opportunity to test the bag and your packing skills too.

I hope you’ve found this article useful. I certainly wished I had these information  4 months ago!

Additionally, if you enjoyed this post and are interested in buying some of the products above, you can click the links to my Amazon shop: it doesn’t cost you anything more than the displayed price and it will give me a micro fee on the products you purchase. I’ve only added the affiliated links on products I truly value, love and trust. I wished I had this kind of list and links a few months ago, when I was spending days comparing products online, well you do have it now…easy-peasy! 😉

[Note: This is NOT a sponsored post, but my own personal recommendations!]

Don’t forget to leave me a comment below to let me know your packing tips; share my post on your social medias and if you have any other  packing questions, please let me know via my facebook page or Twitter. If you wish to help me creating boards on my baby-born Pinterest page, I’m here .
As alwaysy you can find my photographic journal on Instagram and peak my Aussie adventures on snapchat {sab_storyteller}.

See you there and don’t forget to Make It Remarkable! 😉

Take a dip into the Maximum City

mumbai_taj

A weekend in Mumbai is not going to be enough to take a true dip into the maximum city, probably a week or a month won’t work either. But maybe this could just be enough time to get your head around why this metropolis is still so cool and why Bombay (as it was called till 1947) keeps attracting million visitors from every corner of the world every year. Hopefully my final Indian CREED* is going to show you why, give you a hint or hopefully make you book your flight there.
If you missed my previous guides, you can easily access them on my past posts. Make the most of it! 🙂

The thing about Mumbai is you go five yards and all of human existence is revealed. It’s an incredible cavalcade of life, and I love that.
Julian Sands

Mumbai is huge, filled with dreamers of all age, colour, race and religion. It is also full of real movie stars and starlets, mafia bosses and soldiers, millionaires and the poorest people in the world.

Mumbai is a city of contrast and nonsense, where a superficial look would be dangerous as well as useless. If you start your Indian trip from here, please be ready, the pollution and noise can be unbearable, the harassment by street vendors unsustainable, the amount and insistence of beggars totally out of control. But. Hold on and take the jump anyway. Mumbai is also a treasure of Portuguese-influenced architecture, secret temples, a crazy nightlife and an exploding food culture.
Mumbai is life. And you only if you are truly alive you can grasp its essence.

Here’s your:

Mumbai’s Creed

COFFEE

Birdsong Organic Cafe
A lovely cafe in Bandra, serving delicious Jacket potato. Apparently their hot chocolate is also delicious, I didn’t try as it was above 30 degrees when I was there 🙂

The Pantry
Perfect place for a generous breakfast made of granola and yoghurt for me and creamy waffle for my travel companion. Cappuccino is pretty good by Indian standards.

Kala Ghoda Cafe
I found this tiny, little coffee shop by chance while trying to get lost in the Colaba / Fort / Churchgate triangle. Espresso was very good and we had a nice little bite there too, however the staff needs to step their game up. Big time. On top of being quite rude (I wanted to sit upstairs, but I was forced to stay downstairs as one customer  was already up?) and the general attitude was very far from welcoming. When asked the wi-fi password we were abruptly told it was only available for about half hour as lunch time was about to start. I get it when cafes do that as they are open to make money, no to serve coffees to freelance workers who are bored to work from home but, firstly, they could have told us in a nicer way, secondly as we were consuming both food and drinks for about an hour and needed the internet for our on-the-road jobs, would have been quite good if we could use our laptops while eating right?
I was quite uncomfortable as they disconnected the line while I was in the middle of sending an important email.So, you might be wondering why on earth I’ve added Kala Rhoda in my coffee list, right? Well, the truth is that it is very hard to find good coffee in India so if you are looking for your daily caffeine dose, then head here, but only for a brief stop or even better, for a take away. Don’t go there to hang out with your friends or family as they will make you feel rushed or forced to make an order.[Photo Credits: Bobby Joshi]

Colaba Social
I’ve been raving about Social in Delhi and Bangalore, so I had to try the Mumbai venue too, right? Well expect for the temperature which probably was below zero due to the centralised A/C (and my double request to switch if off), it was another delicious breakfast with a elvis toast and nicely done cappuccino.[Photo Credits: Bobby Joshi]

READ

Mumbai is like heaven for bookworms like me. My five days there were like a torture as I couldn’t buy or carry any book in my backpack and I had to fight the temptations constantly.

Strand Book Stall

The city is filled with bookstalls everywhere, it’s almost impossible to walk for more than half a mile without bumping into yet another guy selling new and old books on the street. Especially near parks and stations. I loved it, even if it tortured me! LOL! On top of street vendors, there are also famous and less-known libraries and bookstores you should check out. Strand Book Stall was one of my favourites
Address: 15-C, Dhannur Building, Sir P.M. Road, Borabazar Precinct, Fort, Mumbai

David Sassoon Library
I found this beautiful library completely by chance as I was randomly walking on the Esplanade. Unfortunately, it is only open to members and you know me, I love everything that has to do with books, so I was desperately curious to enter and I offered a coffee bribe to the guardian to let me in, but he politely refused and offered me the option to buy a membership instead. Despite my strong, strong curiosity, I could not afford to spend 55,000 rupies for a couple of hours in a library, however I would suggest you to do so if you are planning to stay in Mumbai longer. I only managed to take the sneaky shot below, but I would have loved to run upstairs and see the rest of that book collection (possibly with the guardian shouting at me, that would be an experience worth doing!!).

Central Library
I had the Central Library on my list for almost two months as I had seen pictures of it and I was excited to finally be in the city to photograph it myself. Well, I did, but from the outside only. The building was under restoration and all the books were transferred in a miserable tent next to it. My heart broke, I have to admit, and I was quite pissed as there were no notice on their website or Facebook page. Anyway, would you do me a favour and go when it re-opens and show me how it looks like from the inside? Thanks! 🙂

Books

EXPLORE

Jehangir Art Gallery
This is a strange gallery, or at least it was when I went there. The floor was scattered with cardboard boxes and pieces of tapes, the first floor was closed to the public, despite the timetable said the opposite. Regardless, there was a very fascinating drawing and painting exhibition in the main room on the ground floor. I don’t know much about it as there were no information or leaflets.

Go to see a Bollywood movie
There are dozen of old and new cinemas in Bombay and you will have to pick the challenge to select one for your Bollywood vibe. Remember that most movies are in Hindi, but having experienced first hand, I can tell you that the dance, the expressions and the music are worth the ticket, even if you won’t understand a word!

Or…Be an extra in a Bollywood movie!
If you follow my Facebook page  you should already know that when I was in Mumbai, I was approached by a scout to take part as an extra in Bollywood movie. Unfortunately, I had plans that day and I had to refuse, but I will certainly accept next time I’ll go to Bombay. I’ve done some research for you and in fact it wasn’t something unusual or unique.. you can do it too! You can read the amazing story of a backpacker turned “actor” here. If you want 10 minutes of  Bollywood fame, my tip is to wander around Colaba where scouts are fishing  for Westerns to feature in local movies almost every day. Can’t wait to see you all in one! 🙂

Dhobi Ghats
This is also known as one of the largest open-air laundry in Asia and in fact, looking at it from the bridge that takes you there, it can easily be the largest in the world. The Dhobis, or washers, work in the open to wash clothes from hotels, hospitals and some privates.
It’s a maze of concrete wash pools, each fitted with its own flogging stone where men of all age are at work from morning to evening. Why, are you wondering they wash things this way? Well, that was also my question and it seems they use chemical products that are hard to find or dangerous to obtain such sparkling results.

The Other Mumbai: Dharavi Slum
Since before reading Shantaram and other books about India, I knew I was going to visit the largest slum in Asia one day. I didn’t know I would visit it in the vest of an ambassador for the best not-for-profit organisation around, Reality Gives. With the guys of RG I managed to learn about the live in the slum, its economy, culture and community sense. I was expecting to hear horror stories and to fall into pieces, but in fact the story is different and I highly suggest you to book a tour too via the link above. Please note that photography is not normally permitted to respect the privacy of the people who live there.

Sir JJ College of Architecture
One of the things I love the most, as mentioned already many times, it’s to go with the flow and get lost in a new city. So, when walking down Dadabhai Naoroji Road, I saw the gates of the Sir JJ College of Architecture opened, I could not stop myself to go inside for a quick peak. And hey, wasn’t one of the best things in Mumbai? There was a college cerebration going on, but other sculpture artists were busy with their creations in the garden, while the painting class were drawing two old men lying on the floor. Students and teachers made us feel most welcome and explained to us many things I did not know about the art and the Indian university system. If you get a change, try and get inside too.

Dhabba Walla
These are Six Sigma foodies. While I was in Mumbai, thanks to Shanti travel, I got to experience first hand another magic of the city that never sleeps: the Dabbawallas in action. It all started about 125 years back when a Parasi banker wanted to have home cooked food regularly in his office and gave this responsibility to the first ever Dabbawala. Other people also liked the idea and the demand for Dabba delivery soared and it still remain alive today. Even Richard Branson was so impressed that he came all the way to India to witness these guys’ delivery system in action and I couldn’t miss my chance either! They have been shifting dabba (lunch boxes) from Mumbai suburbs into the city’s office with less than one mistake in every six million deliveries, for this reason they have been awarded the Six Sigma  certificate and yes, that is without any computer or software in place! To watch them live too, get in touch with Shanti Travels and arrange your visit too.

Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sandhralaya
There are very few museums or memorial places in the world where my heart sunk and I felt as I was touching a piece of history with my own eyes. One was Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam and the second the WWII memorial in Berlin. Now, in Mumbai, Mahatma Gandhi’s house gave me the same feeling for its powerful photographic and video journey as well as his intact room on the first floor. If you don’t believe in soul, maybe a place like this will change your mind, because there, I felt as Bapu was still alive.

Mumbai CST
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), formerly  known as Victoria Terminus (VT), is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which serves also serves as the headquarters of the Central Railways. From the inside and the outside, the Gothic influence mixed with the Mughal architecture is clearly visible and this improbable juxtaposition makes it a grand building overall. Built in 1887, it is one of the busiest railway stations in India: take care!!

EAT

Leopold Cafe
Does this place really need a introduction? Everybody knows about Leopold Cafe, right? If you don’t, read this
Leopold, as it is popularly referred to be one of the city’s oldest restaurants in Mumbai, India. It has created its own heritage and legacy into the food business since ages… To call it a restaurant, it would be demeaning as an institution since it has become a landmark in Mumbai as it is the preferred place both for local Indians and foreign tourists. Founded in 1871, Leopold is open from morning 7:30am till midnight. It boasts of a varied and eclectic clientele. The interiors are very much like a european cafe and the food is so scrumptious and delicious, you’ll want for more and more and more!!!! Whether it’s lunch, Sunday brunch or an evening spent with friends drinking.

Salt Water Cafe
This lovely restaurant came highly recommended to me by my local friends and once I got there I understood why. The menu is filled with delicious local and international dishes and the wood-filled venue itself is also very lovely. The only issue was that once inside it was freezing. Everybody in fact looked like their were having their meal in a refrigerator and despite having asked them twice they couldn’t turn off the A/C. Remember to bring a jumper and a scarf, there is nothing worst than feeling cold while eating.

JamJar
A super cool restaurant in an up-and-coming area of Mumbai that reminds me of Dalston in London. The food was good and coffee was not bad either.Staff is super friendly, but what is the key factor here is the beautifully Gaudi-inspired terrace and the quirky indoor design.
A must-visit, especially for those foodie instagramers on the hunt for cool restaurant to add to their gallery.

Elco Pani Puri Center
A very popular stop for Indian families for Pani Puri on every day of the week. It was a Wednesday lunch time and there was a 45-minutes wait when we went, but it was totally worth it! If you go, make sure to ask advice about the most amazing dishes to your neighbours tables: we did so and soon enough with a table covered by the most delicious local food ever.

DREAM

I’ve been one of the earlier fan of Airbnb for a long time, so whenever I feel tired of hotels and resorts,  I try to find a nice little accommodation where I can pretend to have a house for a couple of days. Even in Mumbai, Airbnb didn’t fail to meet my standards. If you also want to start airbnb-ing, why don’t you sign us using this link? It will give £14 credit to you and £14 to me when you travel.
So, it’s a win-win strategy for both of us, right?

Gallery

Goa, what’s the fuss all about?

I tried to resist going to Goa, though most of my friends had told me how much they loved it. I imagined an Indian beach town between Rimini(click the hyperlink to understand the metaphor) and Ibiza (I don’t think Ibiza needs presentations or hyperlinks 🙂 ). Basically, I was expecting a large, wide beach packed with tourists, a place with little personality, culture and/or heritage and westerns self-appointed gurus immersed in a drug-dance-party marathon.
Oh, and I was so right. The sand beaches were covered by western (and Russian) women in bikini (or topless) and muscly, middle-aged men with tiny, little dogs; there were more dreadlocks here than in Jamaica and tattoos were a must too: 9 out 10 had at least one. The OM sign being the most frequent among all, I would say 2 out of 3 of the westerns had one somewhere on their body. Yeah, I know, ridiculous, right? Oh, and what about the constructed rough, pretentious messy, fake hippy look? Not sure why, but most of the backpackers/travellers and even expats seem to suddenly undergo a brainwash about appearance while on the road. Especially in holy/hippie places like Goa, Varanasi, Varkala and others, people seemed to think that dirty meant cool. Nah, I can tell you boy, it doesn’t work that way. Never mind, I’m writing a separate blogpost about the travellers’ look and attitude abroad, because it’s too funny to ignore, stay tuned.

Going back to Goa, I was just saying, I wanted to avoid Goa’s touristy vibe at all costs, but it became a “mandatory” stop after 10 hrs train journey from Hampi  on my way to my final stop in India, Mumbai.
I was going to stay there only for the exact amount of time to review two clients’ hotel ( see the DREAM section below) so 3 nights in total before catching a plane, but my curiosity was too strong and I really wanted to understand what the fuss was all about. So, I quickly changed my mind, changed a few details of my last weeks in India and the next thing I knew it was that I ended up spending 10 days in Goa even pushing my flight to Australia forward and squeezing my stay in Mumbai of a couple of days.
Yeah, you guessed it right… I understood what the fuss was about Goa.
Check my CREED guide below to find out, yourself.

Goa, India’s smallest state (yes, it’s a state, not just a city!) is probably the most famous, at least in the UK and among my English friends. The state is typically split into North and South, with Dabolim airport and Vasco da Gama train station being a divider between the two. This time, I explored extensively the Northern part and I left the South (yeah, you guessed right again, I will be back…), for next time.  If you also have limited time in Goa, you will be faced with the tough decision between north and south as distances can be quite big.

But there aren’t only the beaches in Goa. There is the vibe. There is the extraordinary natural beauty of the jungle reaching up to the coast, the awkward presence of a sweet lake among lush green hills, there is the variety of restaurants, the yoga lessons before the sun rises and that same massive orange ball that dives into the ocean right in front of you every evening, like a show you should never miss while by the ocean. There is also the Portuguese heritage, like in Bombay and Kochi, Goa was a main commercial centre of business for them and of course they left their clear mark all around, from the architecture to the food, from the language to the religion. Exactly like in Kochi with Portugueses or Kolkata with the British, there is a kind of halo of past participle, and the one in Goa is particularly strong as the Portuguese only left the capital in 1961 after 400 years of colonisation.

COFFEE

Lamuella

Israeli-run boutique with a lovely café at the back that serves over-priced but delicious mainly avocado-based dishes and other snacks. Espresso, one of the best in India, is dark, strong and made of beans imported from Kerala.  Some clothes are lovely, but with western price tags if not higher and considering the cost of manufacturing in India/Asia the products are not worth the money. It’s surely tailored to not-well informed Western clients or the ones who only come to Goa and haven’t had the opportunity to compare prices in the rest of India.

Babu Huts
Sea facing café and restaurant with excellent juices and real espresso. Staff here is super friendly and will go the extra mile to make you happy. Also a perfect budget accommodation choice (see below in the dream section).

READ

Most of the hotel and resorts have a few bookshelves of books left behind by other travellers. However, if you find yourself in need of a specific title, head to:

Broadway Book Center

Address:  Ashirwad Building, 18th June Road, Next To Rizvi Tower, Panaji

Literati

Address: E/1-282, Calangute -Candolim Road, Near Snip Salon, Gauravaddo, Calangute

A History of Goa, by Rev. J A J Da Costa

 

 

EXPLORE

Beach Life

(In the North) Anjuna and Vagator were until recently the preserve of the hippies and party people, but these days you’re just as likely to rub shoulders with independent, more affluent groups of young domestic tourists and foreign backpackers. The cooler, more in-the-know crowd of global travellers and neo-hippies have migrated north to Pernem’s beaches of Morjim, Asvem and Mandrem. Here the vibe is relaxed and low-key in the day, with more exclusive boutique resorts to hang out in, and cool clubs to party in during the night. Arambol is its own little world; the beach might not be much to look at but the beach-life is varied and retains traces of the hippy days of old.

Bike Ride

Nothing really beats the wind on burnt cheeks and through the hair as a bicycle or for the wilder one a scooter ride through paddy fields, hills and coconut groves. If you leave the chilled beach life (see section above), you will see that Goa has so many unspoilt and (almost) unknown areas. Even if you have no plans or direction, rent your favourite two wheeler and go for a ride. It will make you feel free like when you were back at 16 and it was so cool to ride without a helmet. (I did in fact ask for one, but I was told there were none, erm… Alright.

Three on a bike? Yeah, at least! Watch the video! 😛

Old City

If you are in Goa for the beach life, a day in the old city will be enough. To get an understanding of the Portuguese influence here, take a walk around and make sure to visit the Menezes-Braganza House and the Figueiredo Mansion (where the food is also excellent). There are plenty of churches and cathedrals in this part of the city and when you will be done with that make sure to head to the Latin Quarter of Fontainhas to see how the bygone age and one of the most delightful areas to stroll in Goa.

Asanas, Chakra and other ways to clean the Mind 

Similarly to the other holy cities I visited in India, Varanasi, Bodhgaya, Varkala etc, Goa has a huge yoga culture that dates back a few centuries melted with a wave of disillusioned westerns who plant their tends and life here to teach yoga at exorbitant prices. Personally, all the lessons I attended in India where run and organised by local, Indian people. Why on earth would I go to the other side of the world to participate to a lesson tought by americans, Australian, English as I used to in London? Nope, I didn’t fall into the trap and carefully selected lessons that were run by locals  (and at local prices),

Beyond yoga, pilates, chakra release and meditation in Go, there is all sort of real or fakish spiritual activities you can think of. I’m not judging, but do some research before booking your appointments and ask around as charlatans are as numbered as the waves of the ocean. Or just pick another activity for your stay; kite-surfing being a cool one.

Saturday Night Market – Arpora

Held every year, between December and May, the Saturday night market is a better version of the market in the day, a smaller version of Chandni Chowk in Delhi with thousands of different things you can find including pashminas, baggy trousers and cheap hippie clothes and jewellery. With a variety of street food options and bars it can be a good option for an alternative Saturday.

EAT

La Plage 

Even before setting foot to Goa or India, people told me about La Plage. It might be I’m a little bit fussy when it comes to food, but I wasn’t amazed by it. Don’t get me wrong, the French cuisine twisted with an Indian/Asian influence was good and very tasty, but it wasn’t a Michelin kind of menu or nothing extremely innovative either, or worth the overpriced menu. Worth a try for sure.
Ph. Credits: Krishin Jethwani

Sublime

Opened three years ago in Morjim, like La Plage, Sublime is also considered one of the best restaurants in Goa. Run by Chef Christopher Saleem brings his international experience to a delicate, playful and flavourful menu in a real fusion of global ingredients and technique. Beautiful setting and interesting live show, but once again I wasn’t impressed by the menu nor the meal (both considering the reputation and the prices). Worth a try for sure, but if you miss it, you haven’t missed much. Oh, staff service was really poor, polite, but not trained and it was quite surprising considering we were almost in high season!
Ph. Credits: Happy Trips

L’Amore

Despite the Italian name, this isn’t an Italian restaurant or at least among the very large menu, Italian pizza and dishes aren’t their best. Go for some Indian classics and you will find yourself coming back here night after night. Ph Credits: Tripadvisor

DREAM

Yab Yum, Ashwem, North Goa. Part of Tripzuki Network

I had heard of Tripzuki through some friends who had mentioned they had the coolest accommodation in India. I had a look online and I was impressed by the number and diverse accommodation they have in their portfolio. Tripzuki, a young, hip start-up provides travellers in India with local expertise, advice and inspiration, underpinned by a gorgeous collection of unique, well-run, ‘boutique’ hotels, all of which are directly bookable via their website.

Set in a coconut jungle just off one of the best and most tranquil beaches in North Goa, this intimate, eco-friendly boutique resort is the perfect place if you wish to enjoy the vibe in peace.

The hobbit-like, long-haired, eco-conscious 14 huts are itself a great attraction of the Yub Yum, in fact when I moved there I quickly extended by stay by a couple of nights.

One of the things I loved the most there, was the fact I had no need to wear shoes or flip flops, in fact these where forgotten by my hut for the entire stay: the lovely sandy path takes you from the entrance gate to the beach, the restaurant and the reception. Even to go to the nearby restaurants /café you can forget your sandals and just enjoy being bare foot for a while, especially at night when the sand is enjoyable cold.

Yab Yum isn’t a luxury resort, but it’s the perfect place if you are looking for peace, privacy and a very good vibe.

On top of the huts there are also 5 cottages (with A/C) by the beach, but personally I turned down one of them to try the adventure of being in a hairy beach-hut. Oh! If there is one thing I like to spoil myself with when travelling is breakfast in bed or in my bedroom. So, when I found out that at Yab Yum, a rich and generous breakfast is served just outside your dome, every morning, well, I knew it was going to be looove!

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Hampi’s Boulders, where Genius meets Nature

Hampi

If you haven’t heard of Hampi, don’t worry, you are not alone. I didn’t either until some Indian friends told me about it and showed me some pictures. It  took me about 3 minutes then to change my route and plans (once again!), and decide to go and see this beautiful city with my own eyes. Thankfully, I was invited to stay at the best and most magnificent resort I have ever seen and below there is a little photo essay to show you why, you should stay there too!

About Hampi
Hampi is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India located near Hospet town in the Karnataka state. Today, Hampi is a laid back village by the banks of Tungabadra river, but this was the capital of Vijayanagar, one of the greatest Hindu kingdoms in India’s history.
Hampi is probably more peculiar and fascinating in its current, ruined state, and in fact it attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Dotted around the hills made of boulders, rice fields and valleys there are more than 500 monuments, including temples, palaces, pavilions, elephants bastions, water tanks and much more.
Walking around Hampi is like stepping back in time, every corner is a surprise and if you keep your eyes open you might find yourself in a hidden village among the boulders…

Hampi’s Boulders
Hampi’s Boulders is the  first and only luxury option in the area. But it is not luxurious in the traditional sense of the word, but completely quirky and surely memorable. Hampi’s Boulders is an ‘eco-chic-wilderness’ resort that offers a choice of 13 themed rooms, but by far the best are the Star and the Crocodile Cottages with their royal furnishing, river views and outdoor showers. Nestled on the banks of the Tungabadra river, Hampi’s Boulders is situated 7 kms from the world heritage site of Hampi and it’s the perfect location for travellers who love nature, want to travel ethically and want to stay away from the tourist buzz of the village.

On top of a playground-like park, there is also a stone-carved swimming pool, barbecue and beach volley facilities. They also organise a wonderful “Walk of the Island” where you will enjoy unique and stunning views over the entire surroundings as well as Hampi ruins.
Don’t miss the opportunity to sit on one of the large boulders at sunrise and don’t forget to walk along the river at sunset; you can be lucky enough to spot some otters,  crocodile and all sort of tropical animals here.

Bangalore ain’t just IT!

bangalore style

If I say Bangalore, what are the first things that come to mind? I bet it’s the followings:
huge call centers, IT towers, tecchies and engineers all around, right?
Well, that’s surely what I thought when I was almost forced to pass through the city on my way from Kerala to Hampi.

OH! I was so wrong. Bangalore, probably because of IT and its huge English-speaking, tech-savvy manpower has become so much more in the recent years. The main business city of Karnataka in fact, it’s also a cultural and art hub with an impressive number of galleries, cultural centers, cinemas, restaurants and lots of fun stuff to do. Unfortunately, I had a train ticket booked, otherwise I would have spent there much longer than two day.

So, the best way to enjoy your stay in this varied Indian central state is by landing in Bangalore for a few days of fun and then moving on to Hampi (next blog post) for some chill-out time. Due to time restriction I did not manage to visit Mysore as well, but I’ve heard great things about it. If you are in fact going there, please make sure to stay at the brand new Zostel.
Here’s your:

Bangalore’s Creed

COFFEE

Social Offline
After visiting Social in Delhi, I had to check the one in Bangalore too! I actually came back here twice. For dinner and drinks with a bunch of friends, but I prefer it as a daytime hangout place. With free wifi it is also the perfect spot if you, like me, are working on the go.
Cappuccino and Elvis Presley Waffles is my favourite Social combination.

OM Made Café
Lovely, lovely, lovely rooftop cafe with a great view over the city. It’s meant to be great for sunset too, but I actually spent a lovely afternoon writing there with a bite and a couple of coffees. Delicious beans, overpriced and not super amazing food. But the place is worth a visit for sure! 

Koshy’s
This is the true Bangalorean hub for artists, writers, actors and anyone who feels a bit arty inside. You should totally try the caramel custard along with a cup of tea.
Ph Credits: Bobby Koshi

READ

Blossom Book House
Hands down to Mayi Gowda who moved to Bangalore to study engineering and to sustain his studies he started selling books and magazines on MG Road. Fast-forward to a few years and he is now the proud owner of the best bookshop in Bangalore.

Books

EXPLORE

Freedom Park
Interestingly enough, this large venue was formerly the Central Jail and it was only opened to the public in November 2008.

Cubbon Park
Spread across 300 acres this is the place you need to come for your walking, running or yoga exercises. Come here at weekends and you will e surrounded by happy families with their ice-creams and balloons. Great place for people watching and street photography as well as refresh yourself from Bangalore’s traffic!

KR Market
KR Market, also known as City Market, is the largest market in Bangalore.
Curious fact: It was the first locality in the whole of Asia to get electricity and it is also considered to be the largest flower market in Asia.
Ph. Credits: The Girl Who Clicks

EAT

The Egg Factory
This is truly an egg factory as the name suggests! I never seen SO many different options to cook an egg and the taste is also great. Oh, their menu is super cool too! Ooops! I stole one as a souvenir guys! 😛

Ph. Credits: Rachel Prianka 

Nagarjuna restaurant
A classical south-Indian restaurant that serves all-you-can-eat kind of dinner on banana leaves. Mainly frequented by locals on a night out, it’s a nice place for some spicy and tasty food.

Ph. Credits: Burrp

DREAM

The Laika Boutique Stay is a small boutique hotel located on Bangalore’s Mahatma Gandhi (MG) Road. Laika, the lovely owner who runs the hotel received the property from her grandmother several years ago. For decades, the place was left in an abandoned state and shape, but one day, Laika, gifted with incredible entrepreneurial and spirit and incredible energy decided to turn the property upside down and opened this fantastic boutique hotel with a warm, homely feeling. Without showing off, the rooms are stylish and with contemporary design blended with heritage features. There are eight and all are equipped with air-conditioning, wi-fi, television, telephone, 24-hours hot/cold water. The ground level has a beautiful garden, common dining area with an attached kitchen.
Here you can easily get comfortable around one of her two living room’s large wooden table or work a bit on your laptop with the help of superfast internet connection. (The fastest in India I found! Ode to the IT industry!)

Laika and her team also organize tailored tours to Hampi and Mysore as well as to other destinations. Breakfast was also one of the most amazing I had in my entire trip in india, with all sorts of deliciousness from southern and central India, as well as continental options. If you, like me, fall in love with Laika’s dishes, just ask her to show you the secrets: she also hosts mouthwatering cooking class in her own kitchen!

You can book your stay at Laika’s little paradise here

If you are not an airbnb user yet, get your discount here

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