I don’t normally post my monthly travel recaps on my site, I save that for my newsletter. This past month however, was a special one. Many milestones were achieved and buck list items ticked. I have much to cover and commitments to fill but in the meantime here is a recap of my busiest travel month ever:
So. Many. Miles.
What a month. Never before have I covered so much ground in such little time. 3 continents, 10 countries, and over 32,000 km traveled – all in 30 days! A pretty big difference from last months 1 country and 2,500 km. Here is the breakdown, short and long, of my busy travel month.
I went from the sand dunes of Namibia to stuffing my face with tapas in San Sebastian before visiting my childhood nanny in Austria. From there it was a buck list stop to Pilsen, Czech Republic for a tasting of my favourite beer from the source then a short hop to Japan where I ate sushi, took a cooking class and photography course before visiting Osaka for the first time. From there it was off to Korea where I toured the DMZ, ate kimchi, and saw the sights. The end of April took me to the Great Wall of China (another bucket list tick), had me sampling peaking duck and Beijing street food, then returning to Hong Kong.
That was the short. Before I get to the long (and I mean long) here is the short-short:
And now the long.
Don’t worry, there are tons of pictures.
Playing in the Sand
My busiest travel month ever was kicked off with a somewhat impromptu trip to Namibia. I say this because it was not on the itinerary but a meeting with a Legacy Hotel director made it a must visit stop. Although Legacy Hotels put us up for a couple nights, flights and a car rental set us back a bit $$$ wise. Still, the experience and scenery was well worth it – even a terrible sore throat and fever couldn’t stop me from enjoying the trip. We spent one morning touring the sights in the capital of Windhoek before driving ourselves across the ever-changing landscape to Walvis Bay. There we took an incredible Living Desert Tour that has become a highlight of 2015 for me. Much more to come on the blog but for now here are some pictures of my time in Namibia:
Joburg Round 2
From Namibia we made the LOOOONG trek to Barcelona via Joburg and Dubai. Since my 1st visit to Johannesburg was spent doing laundry we made an effort to see a bit of the city. We got as far as Mandela Square which turned out to be a giant mall for tourists.
Emirates for Days
The long leg continued with a trip on Emirates massive A380. Although we flew economy Emirates treated us well and made for a comfortable journey. I will be posting a recap on the best and worst airlines I have flown on as well as one on how to make the most of your flight. It’s on the list.
I hate to backtrack but a return to San Sebastian Spain on this busiest travel month was just what I needed. We spent 3 cozy days at the Hotel Parma relaxing and catching up with my original European travel partner who was in town with his wife. We drank wine and ate tapas and then repeated. It was awesome.
My next press related stop wasn’t until the Czech Republic so I took this as an opportunity to go somewhere new. Looking at the map the only place in Europe I hadn’t been between Spain and Czech Republic was the tiny country of Lichtenstein so off we went. It was a short drive from Zurich and a short stay but all you really need to see Vaduz and its surroundings is a day.
Another awesome stop was visiting my childhood nanny in Austria. We hadn’t seen each other in over 25 years so it was a special visit. I didn’t know what to expect so when Elfriede picked us up at the train station with a bottle of champaign in her purse I knew we were in good company. In 3 days we became well versed in Austrian culture and had a wonderful time with her and her friends.
Home of Pilsener
Thanks to Czech Tourism I had a great day lined up in Pilzen, home of Pilsner Urquell. In the middle of my busiest travel month ever we toured the historic brewery and drank Pilsner unfiltered and unpasteurized straight from the source. We also took in some of Pilzen’s sights – a European 2015 Capital of Culture. Prague has become incredibly touristy so Pilzen was laid back in comparison.
Again, back tracking is not ideal for me but if it includes a return to one of my favourite countries in the world I let it slide. Also, Tokyo was the second leg of my ridiculously cheap flight I booked to Africa. Although I had been to Tokyo before there was still much to see and do – one thing being the famous Tsukiji Fish Market.
Last time we couldn’t quite get up early enough, possibly from drinking a small bar dry in the Golden Gai district. To ensure this didn’t happen again I enlisted the help of Tokyo Foodrink Tours for an insiders view of this must-see sight. Turned out to be good timing as the market will be closing down and moving locations in preparation of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games. If you are planning a visit to Japan hit this market before it moves!
Extended Education in Tokyo
Post fish market tour included an evening with Eye Explorer Tokyo – a photo walking tour of the electric districts of Shibuya and Shinjuku. My higher-learning continued with a sushi making class thanks to Tokyo Sushi-Making Tour. This fun lesson was a great way to spend a grey day in Tokyo. I will have posts on both of these but in the meantime here are some pictures of these great classes:
Being a first timer to this city I reached out to All-Star Osaka Walks for some help understanding Japan’s 3rd largest city. My inability to read instructions lead us to the wrong meeting point and a missed tour. It was around here that my busiest travel month started to catch up with me. Sadly this wasn’t the 1st travel goof I pulled this year. I intend to share a list of these travel mistakes in an effort to prove that these slip ups happen to everyone, even a seasoned traveler such as myself. Until then here are some pictures of Osaka from our self guided tour. Don’t ask what is what.
What we did find while in town is Osaka is a food lovers destination. Being near Kobe doesn’t hurt, nor the birthplace of instant ramen noodles. We splurged on some beer fed meat and made our own cup of noodles before teaming up with Eat Osaka to get a better understanding on what makes the area so delicious. Along with a locals take on the Osaka food scene we got to make several dishes. Full review and a recipe to follow!
The next press related events on my busiest travel month brought me to Korea for the first time. There I met up with “Shrek” from DMZ Spy Tours for a peak into North Korea. Of course this was done from a safe distance in the demilitarized zone but super interesting non-the-less. At one point you can see a small village in North Korea that has no paved roads and minimal electricity – a crazy contrast to the ultra-modern city Seoul has become. Here is a brief look at a fascinating day. Again, more to come on the blog.
Understanding Hyanguemjurye Culture
So turns out South Korean’s like to drink…a lot. So much so that it has become a part of their work culture. Obviously my kind on country. I got a fun look at Hyanguemjurye with O’ngo Food tours. We visited several bars and restaurants eating and drinking along the way.
And the rest of Seoul
While in Seoul I teamed up with Here Korea, a great private tour company that took me around the city and showed me the sights. It was a a great day and a really long one as there is much to see. Here is a sample:
Then there was China
What can I say about Beijing? Hot, crowded, loud, smoggy, Beijing. It was interesting to say the least. I had heard that rural China was difficult to navigate as a tourist but after experiencing Beijing I’m not sure I could ever make it out of town. People were not the warmest I have met and the amount of public spitting was disturbing. Then again it felt a little like home as Vancouver’s Chinatown has its share of pushy and hacking. There was also the Great Firewall of China which included blacking out some of the TV news reporting on Hong Kong. Crazy.
On the plus we spent 3 incredibly comfortable nights at the Penta Hotel Beijing, a welcomed change from our stuffy accommodations in Korea and Japan. Also I had a great street food tour with Hias Gourmet where I sampled some awesome eats. Then there was peking duck for my birthday which was AMAZING and I had a tour of the Forbidden City and Great Wall of China that I got paid to take. Winning!
Maybe China isn’t so bad after all.
More on that in the coming months but for now:
Return to Hong Kong
I fell in love with Hong Kong on my first visit and that was only an extended layover. When it became the cheapest hop between China and Thailand I gladly booked a stay. While in town we took in a street food tour with Eating Adventures Hong Kong where we sampled dim sum from the cheapest 5* Michelin restaurant in the world. Other Hong Kong highlights included watching Hong Kong Island light up, visiting the Bruce Lee statue, wandering Mong Kok in search of a camera repair place open on a national holiday, tea time, and riding the historic double-decker tram.
After a month like that? Not much. To follow up my busiest travel month we have settled in a cute 1 bedroom apartment in hot and humid Chiang Mai and don’t intend on leaving it too often. I have fallen more than a little behind in my posts and need to catch up so get ready for a lot of Cape Town and South Africa.
Once that is all straighten out I hope to work on my site and finally bring it up to a more professional standard. This has been on the list for a while but I haven’t had time to look at it. Hopefully now is that time.
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