Travel

Hitch-hiking on Bolivia’s “Death Road” and through the Rainforest

Hitchhiking through Bolivia may not be the brightest idea but doing it on the death road, one of the most dangerous roads in the world is purely crazy!

But this is exactly what I did one summer.

I travelled the road from Yolosa to Rurrenabaque on the back of freight trucks.

My travel companion was not entirely impressed by my idea of saving money. Never mind I thought - I was paying for everything else. We had no plans and no maps, we did not even know the names of the places we were about to visit!

We just wanted to hit the road and go with the flow. The strip between Yolosa and Yucomo is one of the most dangerous roads in the world. Part of it is called the “Death Road” and every word of it is true.

The road is no wider than 3,2 meters, unpaved and on average 100 people die on it each year. The worst accident occurred in 1983 when a truck slipped into a steep roadside gorge killing 100 people at once.

Leaving La Paz

We left La Paz in the afternoon one sunny day. The ticket cost 10 bolivianos each, about a quid to Yolosa, 4 hours from La Paz. We waited until the last minute to buy the tickets. One gets a better deal just minutes before the bus leaves. That's because the drivers want to fill the last remaining places with passengers. The bus did not look very promising, rather like a vehicle destined for scrap but we hoped for the best. I prayed to God to keep driver awake as we descended over 3,000 meters from the capital to the Bolivian rainforest.

After about an hour our hearts started to beat slower as the altitude sickness was wearing off. This was the first sign of our descend to the valley of death. On the side of the road crosses left by family members were reminders of where we were. As the bus carried on flying us down to the valley the view was becoming ever more exotic. Lush forests carpeted the hillsides and a myriad of waterfalls showered down under the road as we crossed over bridges and drove through countless tunnels. From the arid and oxygen poor heights of La Paz we arrived to the abundance of water and fresh air!

The Hotel for the Night

We got off the bus just before sunset and made our way on foot to the next hotel which was about 2 hours walk away. The road was very quiet after sunset as no-one dares to drive on it at night. There are no signs and railings indicating the edge of the road: it is VERY easy to fall. We reached the hotel just after the restaurant closed so we had to make do with the bread we brought with us and put ourselves away for next day’s adventure. The picture in the gallery is of the "hotel".

Stopping the First Truck

The following morning we decided to walk a couple of hours to immerse ourselves in the beauty of the countryside and to listen to the birds’ singing. The only other time I heard voices like that was when I used my computer to make funny noises when I clicked on something. Although the scenery was wonderful and the birds were singing beautifully, each time a truck passed the dust almost made us suffocate.

When we could not cope with the dust any more I waved off the first truck coming. The driver was kind enough to stop for us - first time lucky! I asked if he would take us, and he asked where to, to which I said “until you stop”.

He said he would takes us to a place but the truck was so noisy I did not understand its name! So we just got on the back of the truck without knowing where we were actually going. Only hours later did we find out from the other indigenous travellers with whom we shared the back of the truck that we were going to Caranavi.

Caranavi and a Tasty Lunch

It was a four hour ride on the back of the truck, the first time for my Chilean friend, the second for me. I did something barely comparable once before in Romania, although that was nothing in likeness to what we were doing in Bolivia. The road was absolutely horrendous and the truck was shaking the soul out of us both. We jumped every time it drove into a pothole or sprung on a rock - but we loved every minute of our adventure!

Our ride arrived to Caranavi at noon, just on time for lunch. The other travellers warned us to take care of ourselves in this town because there is a lot of crime and robbery. I hid my valuables to a safe place in my rucksack and looked for somewhere to eat.

In contrast to her forecast, no danger ensued - everybody seemed helpful and friendly. They sold us bread at the local rate and we had lunch in one of the cheap restaurants with the locals. I am sure they did not overcharge us because we sat at the same table with other locals and they paid the same as us. So in the end not only did they not rob us of our valuables but we were also dealt fairly and squarely.

Hitching the Second Ride - Almost to Death

After lunch we made our way to the end of town and asked truckers to take us. Unfortunately none of them wanted to as they were travelling with family members. In the end we had to walk for the second time that day. For hours only taxis passed us and we were giving up hope that we would get anywhere close to a town that day. But then we spotted a police checkpoint just when we started to contemplate taking the expensive option and get into a taxi. At each checkpoint truckers wait to be inspected and one of them here offered to take us to the next town. It almost proved to be a deadly ride for us.

By then it was raining heavily and not only our clothes got soaking wet but the road underneath the truck as well. The mud made it very slippery and dangerous to drive on but it did not seem to bother the driver. He was driving at a good 30-40 miles an hour in the deadliest hairpin turns.

His carelessness paid dividends: when a bus came unnoticed from the other direction he had to pull off to the side quickly and he lost control. The truck slipped and only our luck saved us. A big rock stopped the wheel slipping any further and we could quickly get off the back where we travelled with a load of bricks.

Saving the Truck

We spent the next two hours putting rocks in front of the wheels to stop the truck slipping any further. We begged other drivers to stop and pull us out but none wanted to help their fellow trucker. At this point we began to worry that the heavier rain would wash the truck into the ravine. But then we got lucky because just before darkness fell one big lorry stopped and pulled our vehicle to safety so we could carry on to the next check point.

There the driver told us it would be better for us if we got in a bus for the night because it can get pretty cold during the late hours.  We took his advice and after dinner with him we parted and waited for a bus. The next bus came an hour later and following some haggling he promised to take us to Rurrenabaque, a jungle “resort” for foreigners heading to the Wadidi National Park.

This was a slightly more comfortable bus so our hitch-hiking challenge ended in style. 

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The Dazzling Story Behind the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel tower is one of the most famous icons in the world. It's the crown jewel of France and is one of the leading drivers of French tourism.

It's also one of the architectural wonders of the world.

For almost forty years it stood as the tallest man made structure in the world. Its bright lights in the evenings make it a stunning sight to witness.

 

Here are some facts and figures making up the story of the Eiffel tower:

Why was the Eiffel Tower Built?

There are many historical reasons why this magnificent structure was built. The most well-known and the true reason is that it was built to cheer up the world exhibition commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the French revolution. The French revolution is a very important event in French history, as it was responsible for abolishing dictatorship and welcoming in democracy.

The French people and officials wanted to remember the 100 year anniversary by doing something different for their country. They wanted to improve the quality of life in Paris and all over France. Many suggestions were given suggesting that the country build a new and beautiful building to commemorate the anniversary.  A number of designers, engineers and architects presented their designs ideas. Among them, the design of Gustavo Eiffel was selected as the winner. It was opposed by many people, but with the determination of Eiffel the design won out.

Another reason it was built was due to the promising nature of its design. The height of the Eiffel tower allowed for practical experiments related to air pressure, temperature and radio telegraphy. In fact, the major reason for its design was so that it could be used as a radio transmission tower. After the expiration of its first lease, many people wanted to demolish it, but politicians wanted to retain it for radio transmission.

One of the other reasons that the Eiffel Tower was built was to create a history that illustrated the purpose of the Paris Exposition.  During this time, the Eiffel Tower would have been the tallest building in the entire world. This swayed many leaders in France to choose this design over others and ultimately erect the building as it stands today.

 

Designing and Construction of the Eiffel tower:

The construction of the Eiffel Tower involved tremendous effort from the Eiffel and with his companions; Maurice Koechlin (a structural expert) and many other metal experts. After much debate, the final design was ready. It involved 18,000 pieces of puddle iron, a kind of wrought iron used in construction, and 2.5 million rivets. More than 500 workers worked for 2 years to assemble the framework of this iconic tower.  At the end, it stood at a height of 10,000 feet and was the tallest building in the world (though this is no longer the case).

 

Parisians Reaction to the Great tower:

Initially, many Parisians literally hated the tower. They considered it to be structurally unsound and an eyesore in their city. The famous novelist Guy de Maupassant hated it so much that he wanted to avoid seeing the tower and would therefore dine at the restaurant in the Eiffel Tower so that he could avoid looking at it directly. 

 

What is the Eiffel Tower Today?

The Eiffel Tower is now the most important landmark in France. It has become a permanent feature of the Paris skyline.  A major part of Paris' revenue is generated by tourism geared towards visiting the Eiffel Tower.  Many people from many parts of the world come to see it and it's become commonly referred to as the Tower of Love. 

The scenic beauty from the top is enough to drive you mad. A trip to the Eiffel Tower is something that you'll remember for the rest of your life!

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The Sulfur Miners of Mount Ijen

In the summer over 4,000 people visit the Mount Ijen, a volcano mountain on the island of Java in Indonesia, during the night to see the "Blue Fire". A fire that is the result of the highly toxic sulfur that is a rich resource in this volcano crater.

Not only night photography can be interesting to pursue there, but also the day has a lot to offer for us photographers.

I spent 5 weeks with a local family in a small village and want to share my experience of documenting the sulfur miners and share some tips if you are interested in a trip there yourself.

 

About Mt. Ijen

Location of Mt. Ijen

The Mt. Ijen is on the far east side of the island Java. The biggest city near the Mt. Ijen is Banyuwangi, roughly 1 1/2 hour driving distance from the city center. Java is also home to the capital Jakarta and other bigger cities like Yogyakarta and Surabaya.

There are multiple options to visit Mt Ijen depending if you come from the west or east. If You have been in Jakarta and are interested in more impressions of Java, then a road-trip might be the right choice for you to visit all the other points of interest. Coming from the west a stay in Bondowoso might be recommended, although the trip to Ijen is significantly longer.

Other options include flying to the airport of Banyuwangi from Jakarta, or if you are in Bali, using the ferry to reach Banyuwangi. Bali is only a few hours away from Mount Ijen, so if you want to have a short change in perspective, leaving Bali for a day or two to visit Mount Ijen can be an option for you.

Nearby is also the Mountain Raung, which might be more interesting if you are looking for interesting hiking tracks.

 

Staying near Mt. Ijen

The City of Banyuwangi is roughly a 1 1/2 hours car drive away from the base camp of Mount Ijen. Personally, I found that distance to be too long and preferred a rather short drive.

Instead of staying in the city, there are a lot of homestays or smaller Inns that also have great services for people visiting the mountain. I had the lovely opportunity to stay with a local family for 5 weeks so that I could visit the mountain multiple times.

The advantage is, that you are staying with a local family that can provide the best service for visiting the mountain. Tourism is a big economic driver nowadays and a lot of families that were sulfur miners themselves, working every day in the crater of the mountain, now serve as tourist guides.

Of course staying in a small village in the Indonesian jungle doesn't offer the luxury of a 5-star hotel, but you can experience the local life and the people are more than welcome to any foreigners.

So my tip would be to search for a homestay near the city Licin and take a tour to the mountain from there - check out a few options here.

 

Attraction of Ijen during the Day

I'd say 90% of tourists come during the night because they want to see the "Blue Fire". Which is fair, it is a really beautiful attraction, but I believe that the Mount Ijen also has its attractive side during the day.

You are able to oversee the crater and all its surroundings, spectating the workers and the sea. The nature is on the one hand very beautiful, but also very surreal at this volcano. Looking at the sea it looks like one of those interesting places where you just want to jump right in and cooldown after a long walk to the crater.

In reality, you wouldn't survive swimming there for very long. The sulfur also made the water highly toxic and swimming obviously wouldn't be a great idea. Same applies to the "fog" which is often highly toxic sulfur smoke as well. Gas masks are mandatory for this trip, but at least the sulfur is noticeable due to its strong smell and less likely to be confused with harmless fog.

 

Hiking to the Top

From the "Basecamp" it is about a 1 1/2 hours hike to the top of the crater. Be aware though, that there are some very steep passages that require some basic physical fitness. By no means, is it a hike that you should take if you are injured, ill, or simply don't feel like in the physical constitution for this effort.

On the other hand, there is no age restriction and basically, anyone can make it to the top. There are places you can rest on the way and after around an hour, there is also a Warung that sells soft drinks, sweets or water. Be aware though, that the opening hours can be very sporadic, so it is recommended to carry some food and water yourself.

In any case, I would recommend taking a local tour guide that leads you to the top. Often times gas masks are needed, which the guides can provide. Their level of English is very basic but communication shouldn't be an issue.

After you have arrived at the top of the crater, you have the choice of going down to the ground level and witness the sulfur yourself. This is where the fun for me begins, but also the more exhausting part.

Going down the crater requires even more physical attention. If you think that the hike was already too tiring, then I would refrain from going inside the crater. There are no handrails, no clear path, and one simple misstep can cause a very serious accident.

It is no joke that there is this sign at the top, trying to prevent any tourist from going any further.

 

Photographing the Sulfur Miners

My goal as a photographer was to document one of the hardest jobs on this planet. The miners, working in the crater carry around 70kg of sulfur from the bottom of the crater to the top.

They don't do this ascent to the top once, but up to 4 times a day, bringing home more than 200kg of sulfur. They can make up to 500$ a month with this straining job, which might not sound a lot for a job that is very dangerous to their health, but in Indonesia, this is already a good amount of money to support a family.

Photographing the Sulfur miners itself is pretty easy. They are hard-working people but in general also very open to the tourists. Keep in mind though, that you are in their working space. Therefore you should respect their work and not get in their way while descending yourself.

This can be a difficult task at times because the path is so narrow that there isn't any space for two people. Then it is just better for you to back off and let the miners pass.

Of course, with 70kg resting on your shoulder, you wouldn't want to wait for some tourist either, so they always should have the right of way.

While they also don't request any money for the photos, some of them sell goods made out of sulfur. If you want to support them, you might consider taking home a sulfur souvenir.

The descent takes around 30 to 45 minutes depending on how busy the path is and in which direction the wind blows the sulfur smoke. It is advisable to test the gas mask beforehand to make sure you are ready to handle it correctly when needed.

On your way down, You can find different places that just invite you to rest for a minute and take some pictures of the scenery.

Once you are on the ground level of the crater, you can either go to the left, where the sulfur pipes are, blowing the smoke into the air, or you can go to the right side to get close to were the miners actually get the sulfur. Make sure to talk with your guide beforehand where you want to go.

Getting close to the actual mining should be very carefully considered. My guide didn't want me to go there because of the dangers involved. The smoke burns your eyes and the gas-mask doesn't protect you 100% from the harm of the smoke.

At the mining ground, the worker will also ask for a small fee if you want to photograph there for the team. It is a fair game since they try to get you as close as possible and show you how they work, so I didn't mind paying some little extra.

Once you captured your images, you can begin the ascent again and have a look at your photographs and this surreal place from the safety of your home.

 

Gear Advice

I didn't mind too much about my gear as I see it as working equipment. But be aware that there is a lot of smoke. I wouldn't advise changing any lens when being near the crater because the smoke and dust will only harm your sensor.

Therefore take one lens with you that you want to use and don't change lenses.

A UV-filter will protect your lens from the dust and minor rubble or scratches. Keep a cleaning tissue with you, just in case you want to clean the LCD-screen or just the camera itself.

After going to the Mount Ijen, all my clothes were covered in sulfur dust and so was my camera. The FujiX100F that I used was very fine with it though and didn't make any trouble. If you are afraid of your super expensive gear, consider going there with a smaller camera first and evaluate yourself if your gear can withstand the smoke.

All in all, it was a memory for life to be there and photograph and if you are in Bali or Indonesia, you should see that impressive crater yourself. Meet local people and dive into a whole other world, that you would never see otherwise.

 

Travel tip shared by Sebastian
streetbounty.com

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Guide to Backpacking by Motorbike

Searching for the location, checking the motorbike or preparing enough money is some of what you need to do before the backpacking trip.

 

Backpacking by motorbike is not too difficult, especially when you prepared the plan. Here are some experiences.

Guide to backpacking by motorbike

Research the roads

First, you need to know about the location you will drive to. Using Google Maps to test and measure distances and asking someone who knows about the place are good ideas. Doing this helps you understand the routes with bad roads and prepare for the journey to be more careful. For example, you should avoid highway 1A – where there are some of parts under construction, bad roads and traffic jam.

Google Maps can display any roads you might drive past in detail.

 

Checking and maintenance of motorcycle

Before you go, you should take your motorcycle to check tires, chain gear, bearings and change oil. If any parts have problems, you need to replace them immediately. From experience, being stuck on the side of the road with the broken motorcycle is the worst.

 

Packing right

Calculating how many days you will travel to bring suitable clothing is also important. For example, a pair of pants can be worn for two days but with shirts you need to change every day to ensure sanitation. Note that clothes must be comfortable, a little loose and durable. Backpacks used should be large and able to hold many items.

 

Protective clothes

  • Raincoats: This item is essential but often missed. The most convenient one is the raincoat including pants and shirt, avoid buying batwing type ones.

  • Protective clothes: One of the most common protective items is gloves. You can buy them online with prices ranging from 500,000 to 600,000 dong/pair. In addition, the helmet should be used as a full-face type (covering the entire face) or at least the one covering 3/4 of the face. Note the use of normal helmets should be restricted because it is easily overturned due to strong winds and you might suffer from tinnitus while driving.

  • Dustproof glasses: You should buy large glasses or use safety goggles to prevent dust and wind causing dryness and redness. Normal sunglasses are mainly used to drive in the city.

  • Shoes: When driving, you should wear shoes that help you easily control the brakes. Additionally, you can prepare a pair of rainproof shoe covers to ensure safety in all weather conditions.

 

Food

The list will include cakes and drinks. When you give your legs a break, you should eat in order to charge energy to always keep your body in good condition and alert.

 

Finance

  • Gasoline: You'll need to budget gasoline per person. For motorcycles, you can calculate a liter of petrol to run an expected number of kilometers. For example, if driving 40 km will consume a liter of gasoline, the amount of depreciation deducted will be 30 - 35 km/ liter.

  • Eating: Budget how much you expect to be eating along your journey.

  • Accommodation: For the hotel, the cost is about 150,000-200,000 VND per night.

  • Total: Cost of food a day in combination with the hotel will fall about 300,000 dong, with the extra costs incurred (if any) of 50,000 and gas money. You can estimate the average budget per day and then multiply the number of days in the journey to know the total amount to prepare.

 

Mental preparation

It is also important. You should anticipate the worst situations like broken motorbike, rainy days, running out of gas or other unexpected problems. Once you prepare well, when the bad situations unfortunately happen, you are calm enough to figure out the way to solve the problems. In case it happens in reality, you just assume that it is the experience you get after the trip. There is no need to think too negatively.

 

On the road

You should drive within the allowable speed limit. Before passing the truck, if the road does not have dedicated lane for motorcycles, you will have to turn left, turn on signal and honk. Be aware of all of the road rules.

 

Time

Because you are backpacking, you will likely have more time to stop and take pictures or sightsee the landscapes. So, it is necessary to calculate the time properly if you do not want to arrive in the place so late.

 

There may be some tension, but after each journey, you will have many exciting experiences to look back on.

Backpacking helps you have more time and a feeling of freedom, but sometimes, it will give you sense of unsafety on the road. That's why it is extremely important to prepare well and know what you are getting yourself in for.

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Scottish Islands to Visit Instead of Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye is the focus of many a trip to Scotland but with literally hundreds of islands there is so much more to explore. See our top picks for any tour of the Scottish Islands.

I mean, yes, the Isle of Skye is beautiful. Yes, it’s full of wildlife, dramatic coastline and intriguing history. But, it is only one out of hundreds of incredible Scottish Islands – 790 to be exact – each one more spectacularly beautiful than the last.

So here are 8 alternative Scottish Islands to visit if you want to escape the crowds this summer and experience the wild and unspoilt beauty of the Scottish Isles.

 

8 Alternative Scottish Islands

1. Islay

The ‘Queen of the Hebrides’ is probably best known for its whisky production. Despite its size, at just 600 square kilometers, this tiny island is home to eight working distilleries – it’s certainly the Whisky Capital of the Hebrides.

Visit if: You never say ‘no’ to a dram or two.

Don’t miss: Bowmore, the oldest distillery on Islay, founded over two centuries ago in 1779.

 

2. Jura

This island is famed for being where George Orwell retreated to write 1984 and literary buffs can still make a pilgrimage to the remote croft house where he lived. Orwell wanted to get away from it all and you can see why he chose wild, untamed Jura where wild deer outnumber people more than 10 to one.

Visit if: You’re a novelist having an existential crisis.

Don’t miss: The Corryvrecken Whirpool, one of the largest permanent whirlpools on earth and one of the most dangerous stretches of water around the British Isles.

 

3. Harris

You might be surprised to learn that most visitors travel to this Outer Hebridian Island for its beaches. The dazzling white sands and turquoise waters surrounding the largest island in the Outer Hebrides are reminiscent of the Caribbean. With dozens of beaches to pick from, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Visit if: You’re a bit of a beach bum.

Don’t miss: The volcanic islands of St Kilda, the most remote Islands in the British Isles.

 

4. Orkney

Actually Orkney consists of around 70 Islands but I’ll ignore that. I’m going to leave it to the poet and storyteller George Mackay Brown, who lived on Orkney at Stromness, to sell you his island home. He wrote ‘The essence of Orkney’s magic is silence, loneliness, and the deep marvelous rhythms of sea and land, darkness and light.’

Visit if: There is a hint of whimsy in your soul.

Don’t miss: The Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae which is thought to be older than Stonehenge and the pyramids.

 

5. Iona

Iona is a mystical Island accessible only by foot-passenger ferry from Mull. The Island is infused with religious devotion and is known as ‘the cradle of Christianity’ in Scotland. Iona Abbey was founded by St Columba in 563 and continues to be an important site of worship and pilgrimage.

Visit if: You are in search of peace and restoration.

Don’t miss: The Fairy Hill or Hill of Angels which has been the site of pagan and Christian rituals for centuries and has been strongly associated with the world of the supernatural.

 

6. Arran

One of the most accessible islands, you can drive to Arran from Glasgow in a couple of hours. Despite being so close to the hustle and bustle of the mainland you will still be able to experience the relaxed, whimsical atmosphere of island life as well as the dramatic scenery and eclectic wildlife of the Inner Hebrides.

Visit if: You’re looking for a taste of the Islands of Scotland.

Don’t miss: The spectacular Glenahdale Falls, accessed by walking through an Iron Age fort and Neolithic burial mounds known as The Giant's Graves.

 

7. Barra

Beautiful Barra is the most southerly of the inhabited islands in the Outer Hebrides. it was the strong hold of the Clan MacNeil and you can visit their ancient seat, the ‘Castle in the Sea’, sitting on a rock islet in Castle Bay.

Visit if: Your name is MacNeil

Don’t miss: The island’s unique airstrip on Traigh Mor Beach.

 

8. Mull

The third largest of the Scottish Isles and one of the most accessible as it is served by three ferries. This island boasts a huge variety of flora and fauna including Golden and White-tailed Eagles, Otters, Whales, Dolphins and Basking Sharks.

Visit if: You are a birder or a twitcher.

Don’t miss: The brightly painted waterfront houses of Tobermory.

 

If you’re tempted by any of these alternative Islands why not visit them with adeo Travel. You can visit by car on our Scottish Islands Self-Drive tour or a small group tour such as Orkney and the Far North or Iona, Mull and the Isle of Skye.

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The Best & Most Bizarre European Easter Traditions

The best thing about traditional holidays?  The weird, quirky and wacky variations of celebrations that everybody has for them!
 
As with most things, despite having no actual physical borders, each European country has managed to keep it's national culture completely different to their neighbours - which of course is what makes this continent so great to travel around!
 
Easter is no different and here are some of the bizarre European Easter traditions you can experience.
 

Easter Traditions in Europe

Don't Dance in Germany

Seriously.  Whether you're cutting shapes in a trendy 24 hour club in Germany or dancing the waltz in a elegant music hall - you're not allowed.  Due to the German tradition of Tanzverbot, dancing on holidays that are based on mourning or contemplation (Good Friday), is strictly banned.
 
Illegal in 13 out of 16 German states on Good Friday - but only in public parties.  So if you're more of a dancing-at-home-when-nobody-is-looking type person, you're fine!
 
 

Whipping Women in the Czech Republic

Men and boys traditionally whip women with a willow branch on Easter Monday to ensure their vitality and fertility as the willow tree is the first to blossom during spring time - which Easter heralds the start to.  While more symbolic nowadays, it is sill a weird sight.
 
 

Drenching Ladies in Hungary

Yep, again it's the women that get the flack of this one!
 
Traditionally, on Easter Monday, boys will knock at the doors of girls of marriagable age (that they probably fancy) and drench them in cold water from buckets.  This is supposed to symbolise youth, strength and to get them healthy for Spring!  Now, it is mostly just a sprinkling of eau de cologne and extends to all women of every age and even family members as a light-hearted, if maybe a bit awkward, nod to tradition.
 
 

Where did chocolate eggs come from?

This used to be dyed and painted chicken eggs that were given as gifts, but more recently morphed into chocolate!  The egg symbolizes the re-birth and fertility of the holiday with the bright colors representing the spring season.
 
Chocolate Easter eggs started in the 19th century in France and Germany.  At the start, the eggs were solid chocolate due to their not being the know-how of how to use moulds at the time with regards to chocolatiers.  Then in 1875, a certain John Cadbury cracked the formula and the rest is yummy history.

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Sisi`s Cupcake: One of the best Coffeetime Experiences in Vienna

I have a special need to write about one of the most amazing coffeetimes I`ve ever had on my trips. It was simply a "Glorious" experience and I will tell you why.

It all began in Vienna, when I was delighted to go with my husband in the Schönbrunn Palace: the summer palace that belonged to the Habsburg Monarchy. This place may also deserve an entire written tip, however, I will mention it right here. This palace is a one-day trip, with enough activities for everyone: from an art museum to a giant pine labyrinth where you can get lost and found. The views are just unimaginable in every angle you turn your face to. You can be here by yourself, making some sports, on a family trip, with your kids...you have enough for everyone`s taste. Opens daily from 8:30am to 5:00pm, even holidays! And what I would recommend since there`s a lot to see that`s worth it, is to buy a combined ticket called "Classic Pass" (18 euros) that includes 4 attractions, even the entire tour inside the palace where you can get to see every room, furniture and use that Habsburg Monarchy gave to every spot. I even stood up right in the very same room where Mozart gave his first concert at the age of 6 years for the empress...really something to me!

After a perfect day in heavenly Schönbrunn (...yes, it feels like heaven), you just need to do one last thing before you leave and THIS is my tip today: visit "The Gloriette" on the top of the hill. This is a spot that the empress asked to be build for her to spend some afternoons, whenever she wanted to get a bit away from the palace.  When you arrive to The Gloriette, enter it`s coffeeshop, sit back, relax and ask for a fine coffee or red tea in a glass, with the most glorious little cake called "The Sisi`s-Cupcake", in honour to the Habsburg empress Elizabeth, well known as Sisi.

It is not only a cake I can assure.

This cupcake was totally mouth-watering. When I saw the cake coming it just looked really nice, but then...It was love at first bite. I repeat: heavenly Habsburg experience! Taking this coffee, in this place, with a perfect view of dusk illuminating the palace`s perfectly symmetrical gardens and a view of Vienna on the background of my sight, was certainly the cherry on the top of my day ... just like the Gloriette on the top of that memorable hill.

I hope you can get to experience this once in your life. Just for the cupcake or just for the feeling overall. This was the best coffeetime experience I`ve had so far!

 

Written and contributed by Mariana Calleja
www.travelthirst.blog.com

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How to Get Standing Room Tickets for the Vienna State Opera

The Vienna State Opera (Staatsoper) has been at the centre of musical life in Vienna for over a century.

The process of getting tickets to one of these magical performances can seemed daunting, but it’s actually quite easy if you’re content with buying standing room tickets on the day of the performance. Standing room tickets are cheap (€ 4-6) and relatively comfortable for shorter performances.

 

Here’s how to get those tickets:

How many standing room tickets are available?

Standing room ticket availability varies. People can subscribe to buy standing room tickets before the day of the performance, and if they do so, fewer standing room tickets will be available on the day of the performance. That being said, there is a lot of standing room space in the opera house, so for a non-premiere performance you should be able to get tickets.

 

What do I need to get tickets?

You will need 4-6 Euros per ticket and a scarf. More on the scarf later. Opera glasses or binoculars if you have them. It's one ticket per person, so all the members of your party must be in line with you.

 

Ok! I’m ready! How do I get tickets?

Standing room tickets have their own box office at the Staatsoper building (U1, U2, U4 Karlsplatz). This box office is located on the Operngasse side of the building, under the arcade. Look for the sign that says “Stehplatz-Kasse | Standing Area”.

Tickets go on sale 80 minutes before each performance. They are general admission (i.e. there are no assigned places) so your position in line to some extent determines where you will be standing (more on this later). I would recommend getting in line 2 hours before the start of the performance. If you are queuing inside the building or are one of the first twenty or so people queuing outside, you have a good chance of getting tickets. They try to fit as many people into standing room as possible (e.g. they let you stand in the aisles).

 

Parterre, balcony or gallery—which should I choose?

Parterre standing room (4E):

The closest you can get to the performance, this section is located behind the last row of orchestra seats. The opera house isn’t that big, so this is quite close. This section is a good choice for shorter (around 110-minute) performances.

 

Balcony and Gallery standing room (3E):

The Gallery level is the highest level, and thus the furthest from the stage. Balcony is one level down. These sections are a good choice for longer performances, because the rows are staggered steeply enough that you can sit on the edge of the row behind you. Some people also feel these sections have better acoustics than the Parterre. You have a nice view of the huge chandelier as it slowly dims before the performance, and a view of the spectators. Try to get a place in the centre section. Places to the far left and right have particularly poor visibility.

 

Got my ticket! What now?

This is the important part!

When you have your ticket, go straight to an usher and ask for guidance to your section. You will have to queue there again while waiting for the theatre doors to open, and your place in this queue determines where you will stand. When the doors open, go in and pick your place.

You are entitled to the whole space in front of a monitor, i.e. you don’t have to share monitors (the monitor will show the text of the opera in your choice of English or German during the show).

Wind that scarf you brought around the railing and tie it — you are hereby marking your place. You can now go and check your coat and bags (this is compulsory for standing room ticket holders, but it’s free and very efficient), go to the washroom, grab a coffee or snack, or explore the opera house (staff seem very happy to let you explore, just keep your ticket with you).

 

That’s it! Enjoy the opera!

If you decide you like standing room, the Burgtheater and Akademietheater offer reserved standing room seats (i.e. you can buy them online before the performance date like a regular ticket) for around €4.

If you're not too keen on standing room tickets, then you can book the below tickets online beforehand:

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32 Things Not to Miss in New Zealand

Here are 32 of the best things to do in New Zealand, one of the world's most beautiful travel destinations.

I recently spent two months there, road tripping around both the North and South Islands. I fell in love with the country more and more every day. For such a small place, it has an incredible amount of ecodiversity and I was overwhelmed by the sheer magnificence and beauty of it.

It's the perfect place for a road trip!

Before you leave to explore New Zealand, we recommend getting a good travel insurance e.g. the awarded Travel Insurance by WorldNomads which you can easily purchase online for the exact time needed.

 

Here's my pick of the best of New Zealand:

Adrenaline!

New Zealand is famous for its adrenaline culture, from skydives to bungee jumps to white water rafting. Queenstown is the capital of adventure and a great place to get your adrenaline fill. It’s the place where bungy jumping was born!
 
If action and adrenaline is what you're after, then why not book a 12 day New Zealand Action Adventure Tour.
 

Queenstown Luge

This certainly isn’t as heart-stopping as a bungee jump, but the Queenstown Luge is one of the most fun things to do in Queenstown. It also affords amazing views across the lake and mountains.
 

Milford Sound

Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s most dramatic sights. It’s also one of the wettest with 182 days of rain per year! The best way to see the sound is on the water. You can do kayaking trips or take a cruise. Cruise Milford is great for knowledgeable guides and good prices.
 

Otago Central Rail Trail

Whether you join if for a couple of hours, or the full 150km track, the Otago Central Rail Trail is a beautiful way to see some of the central South Island by bike. You follow the old railway line from the days of the gold rush and pass through little historic villages along the way.
 

Hiking in Wanaka

Wanaka often gets overshadowed by Queenstown, but it’s a gorgeous place in its own right and the perfect place for hiking. Get the classic Instagram shot at the top of Arthur’s Peak or climb up to the glacier. Be sure to check with DOC /  iSite to see which routes are safe on any particular day. 
 

Driving the Mountain Passes

New Zealand is the ultimate road trip destination and some of the most gorgeous roads are the mountain passes, including Haast Pass and Arthur’s Pass on the South Island. Take your time and watch out for the brown signs that will tell you about viewpoints and sights along the way. 
 

Sunset on the West Coast

The rugged west coast is the perfect place to catch a sunset. Some of the best ones we saw were at Hokitika and just up the coast from New Plymouth. 
 

Pancake Rocks

New Zealand spoils you with natural diversity and the Punakiki Pancake Rocks are a perfect example. These unique formations are made even more spectacular by the powerful blowholes that thunder through the rocks at high tide. It’s nature at its most awesome.
 

Helicopter Ride on Fox Glacier

Landing on a glacier and taking a walk in the snow before heading back down to the sunshine is a memory you’ll never forget. Seeing the glacier from the air is an awesome way to get an understanding of the sheer scale of the thing. 
 

Lake Matheson Reflections

You need to cross your fingers for a still day on your visit to Lake Matheson. If luck’s on your side, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible view of Mount Cook perfectly reflected in the lake. It’s one of the most beautiful sights in New Zealand. Even when the water isn’t still, the lake is definitely worth visiting.
 

Swim with Dolphins in Akaroa

Akaroa is the only place in the world where you can swim with the friendly little Hector’s Dolphins. It’s a truly once in a lifetime experience. There are various cruises on offer throughout the day.
 

Cardboard Cathedral

After the 2011 earthquake destroyed much of Christchurch, the city set about re-building itself. An impressive transitional cathedral has been built, including 86 cardboard tubes, which has earned it the nickname “the cardboard cathedral”.
 

Wine Tour in Marlborough

New Zealand is famous for its sauvignon blanc and there’s no better way to sample it than taking a bike trip around the Marlborough region. The Explore Marlborough company is a great option as it includes a transfer from Picton to Marlborough, which allows you to enjoy as much wine as you like!
 

Kayaking in Abel Tasman

The Abel Tasman National Park is one of New Zealand’s natural jewels and the perfect place to hike or explore by kayak. Kaiteriteri Kayaks offer a great tour that combines half a day of hiking with half a day kayaking.
 

Visit Nelson

Nelson is the kind of place you can imagine living. It's in the perfect location next to the sea, small enough to have a great community, but big enough to have lots going on. While there, also head to some of the smaller places in the area, like the pretty Cable Bay.
 

Wellington Arts and Culture

Wellington is sometimes called the world’s coolest small capital and it packs in a lot of art and culture. Visit the Te Papa cultural museum or try to catch a gig or two while in town. It's also home to the Weta Workshop where you can take a tour of the world-renowned special effects company, most famous for Lord of the Rings.

 

Hiking in Tongariro

The Tongariro Crossing is one of New Zealand’s most popular day hikes. It’s not easy and requires a reasonable level of fitness, but the views are simply stunning. It's where some of Lord of the Rings was filmed, including Mount Doom.
 

Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo is the North Island’s answer to Queenstown and a great place to try some adventure activities, from bungee jumping to skydiving. Also be sure to visit the mighty Huka Falls.
 

Hot Springs

New Zealand has some gorgeous hot springs, including the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua, where you can relax in pools overlooking Lake Rotorua. It’s the ideal place to relax.
 

Indulge Yourself

Another great way to indulge in New Zealand is by taking advantage of its wealth of mineral-rich mud. The QE Health Spa in Rotorua has an awesome medicinal mud bath treatment that you can even enjoy as a couple.
 

Wai-O-Tapu

Wai-O-Tapu is Rotorua’s thermal wonderland where you can see some incredible natural wonders. There are colourful lakes, bubbling mud pools, and the Lady Knox geyser that explodes every morning.
 

Maori Village

Rotorua is the best place to learn about Maori life. There are two cultural centres, Te Puia and Whakarewarewa Village. The latter is a living Maori village where the local people show you around, and you can even try some sweetcorn cooked in a thermal pool.
 

Hobbiton

Lord of the Rings fans mustn’t miss doing a tour of Hobbiton, and even if you’re not a fan of Tolkein, you’ll still enjoy this. The film set has been left intact since The Hobbit was filmed and it’s fascinating to see how much detail went into the Hobbiton set. You feel like you’ve been transported to a magical land. 
 

Cathedral Cove

One of the highlights of the Coromandel Peninsula is the stunning Cathedral Cove rock formation. It’s a 30-minute walk to get there along the coast. Once there you can swim and simply relax in the natural beauty.
 

Hot Water Beach

Up in the Coromandel Peninsula, there’s a beach with a hot spring running beneath it. You can dig a hole and create your own hot pool! Shovels are available for hire, but be carful as some of the areas are scalding hot!
 

Escapade NZ

Do you fancy yourself as a bit of a Sherlock Holmes? While in Auckland, try Escapade NZ, a fun escape room where you have an hour to solve a mystery puzzle before your time runs out. It’s great fun for groups!
 

Glowworms in Waitomo

Waitomo is the best area in New Zealand to go on a caving adventure and see glowworms deep inside the earth. Glowing Adventures is a great option as it’s run by a family who have a cave in their own backyard. This means you can skip the crowds that head to the main Waitomo Caves.
 

Waipoua Forest

Waipoua Forest on the North Island is home to the world's biggest and oldest kauri trees, including the incredible Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest. Go and be awed by the magnificence of nature.
 

The Cream Trip

While in the Bay of Islands, a boat trip is a must. One of the best options is The Cream Trip by Fullers Great Sights, which follows the old delivery route that boats took to transport post and other goods, such as cream. This trip is great as it combines all the highlights, including sailing through the hole in the rock, stopping at an island, and having the opportunity to swim with dolphins. They also have a cool boom net, which you can hold onto while the boat pulls you along!

 

Sailing with R Tucker Thompson

Another brilliant option in the Bay of Islands is a full-day of sailing on the R Tucker Thompson tall ship, where you can climb the rigging and enjoy a day of cream teas, champagne and swinging off a rope right into the sea. During the off-season, the boat is part of a youth development programme that teaches teamwork and leadership skills. All the profits from tourism go towards funding the programme. 
 

Surfing in Raglan

Raglan is New Zealand’s premier surf spot and the ideal place to learn. There are tons of surf schools, varying from one day courses to several month intensives. It’s also a cool laid-back town to spend some time soaking up the beachlife.
 

Take a Road Trip

Undoubtedly one of the best ways to see New Zealand is by taking a road trip around the country. The scenery is spectacular, the roads are quiet and every few miles, you see something that makes you say “Wow!”. Spaceships Rentals has some cool camper vans that are known as “the Swiss Army knife of camper vans” as they pack so much into a small space. They’re more like a car than a van, and the prices are really affordable. For something bigger, Britz has some excellent options, including the classic HiTop, or the slightly cheaper ActionPod, which is like a converted van rather than a purpose-made camper. If you don’t fancy getting a camper van then Omega Rentals tends to have the cheapest car rental options.
 
We highly recommend to get a good travel insurance e.g. the awarded Travel Insurance by WorldNomads which you can easily purchase online for the exact time needed.
 
 
Travel Tip shared by Victoria Watts Kennedy for Travel Dudes
 
Victoria's New Zealand trip was organized and managed in association with Tourism New Zealand. Travel Dudes maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site.

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20 of the Best Local Dishes to Try in Bali

When you're traveling, it's always nice to try the local cuisines of the destination.  Local food is often much different from what you're used to at home, and can be a pleasant surpise from what you're used to.

Meals may smell and look unfamiliar and may even be made with ingredients that you've never tried before.  Therefore, it can be a bit scary at first, but in my opinion you should always err on the side of trying the local dish.

During my stay at Bali, I tried many local Asian meals. The assortment of dishes in Bali is great. The Balinese people really know how to cook.

They have a wide collection of main courses, but also know how to satisfy your sweet tooth, because they have plenty of delicious snacks, cakes and desserts. I would like to share my top twenty local meals from my time in the country, which you should try in one of the warungs of Bali.

 

Top 20 Local Meals to Try in Bali

1. Babi Guling

Babi guling, or suckling pig, is one of Bali’s most famous and important dish. The whole hog will be barbecued and served to eat. Previously, babi guling was served only during the important Hindu ceremonies. It was offered first and when the ceremonies were finished, the babi guling could be eaten. Nowadays, the babi guling can be found widely served at warungs and restaurants specialising in this dish. Most of the time, the babi guling is served with lawar and steamed rice. The skin of the pig looks crisp brown and the meat has a tender and juicy taste. It is not my most favourite and delicious dish I know, but definitely the number one dish which you should try in Bali, because it is the most traditional and local dish you can find on this island.

 

2. Satay

Satay (or sate) consists of skewers of meat flavored with spices. The meat usually consists of chicken or pork and is wrapped around bamboo, sugar cane or lemongrass sticks. The satay will be grilled or barbecued and can be enjoyed with or without (peanut) sauce. During the day and night, you can find a lot of food stands on the street which sell the famous satay. To be honest, I almost never ordered the satay on the street, but always chose to eat it in a local warung or street. When you order the satay on the street, you have no idea how long it is already waiting in the sun to be eaten or how well the satay is baked.

 

3. Nasi Campur

This dish can be found served at many warungs and restaurants throughout the island. The dish is mainly white rice served with many different elements of Balinese delights. This meal is very varied and you will never get bored to eat this. You can buy take away packages of nasi campur, but there are also plenty of warungs who offer all the different elements and you can choose your own nasi campur. You pick which sides you want. I always really liked this meal, because you can choose the Balinese delights you like.

 

4. Jimbaran seafood

Jimbaran is a city in the southern part of Bali. The city has plenty of beachside cafés where fresh fish is served. You can find different fresh caught seafood, ranging from shrimp, clams, crabs, calamari, lobsters and a wide assortment of fish. The beachside cafés are very cozy during the night and the different cafés which I tried so far, do offer an amazing quality of seafood. It is definitely worth to go one evening to Jimbaran to try the fresh fish.

 

5. Lawar

Lawar is a dish which is composed of very finely chopped combinations of various ingredients, usually containing fine chopped meat, vegetables, grated coconut and spices. Sometimes lawar is prepared using fresh blood mixed with the ingredients to strengthen the flavor. Lawar is usually served on top of banana leaves. There are two main types of lawar, white and red. The white version usually does not contain any meats or blood.

 

6. Nasi Goreng

Most of the people know nasi goreng. It is pre-steamed rice stir-fried with a combination of meats and vegetables. Usually it contains of fried eggs, diced beef, strips of chicken, onions and a blend of sweet soy sauce or kecap manis and hot chili sauce. Most of the time, the nasi goreng is served with sliced tomatoes and cucumber, fried shallots, shrimp krupuk crackers and mixed pickles.

 

7. Mie Goreng

Like nasi goreng, mie goreng is also a well-known dish. It consists of fried noodles, onions, prawns, chicken, pork or beef, chili, tomatoes, egg and other vegetables. Mie goreng can be found everywhere in Bali, namely at street food stands, warungs or expensive restaurants.

 

8. Martabak

Martabak is a crepe-like dish with a filling of egg and other ingredients, such as onion, beef and seasonings. The filling is incorporated while the pastry is still being fried in the large flat woks. It is delicious and can be bought at the many street food stands.

 

9. Terang Bulan

This is the sweet variety of martabak. It is essentially a thick pancake with a filling, such as chocolate or banana, sandwiched between two pan-cooked buttery layers. These are most commonly cooked by street vendors in the evening. The taste is very sweet, but I love it! It is really delicious.

 

10. Bakso

Basko is a soup containing Indonesian meatballs. You can find the bakso at the street food stands or in the warungs. Depending on the bakso stand, you’ll find some noodles, tofu, and some herbs thrown in the soup. I don’t really like the bakso. The meatballs taste different than I am used to in the Netherlands. You should try the bakso and form your own opinion about it.

 

11. Gado Gado

This dish is a vegetable salad covered with a peanut sauce. Mostly it has mixed cooked vegetables and tofu, but it is also possible to eat the vegetables raw. Although this dish is not originally from Bali, gado gado is served in many warungs and restaurants. It tastes very good.

 

12. Tahu and Tempe

Tahu (tofu) and tempe (boiled soybeans pressed and fermented) can be find in every warung. They are mainly used as ingredients of meals or are served as a main course dish. The tahu and tempe can be cooked or fried. I personally like the fried tempe very much. Both tahu and tempe are a vegetarian dish.

 

13. Sayur Urab

Sayur Urab is a delicious and healthy dish of mixed vegetables. It can be served hot, but it’s more common to eat it cold, because the owners of food stalls will prepare the vegetables and spices in advance and then mix them together to sell later during the day. The main ingredients consists of bean sprouts and green beans. Usually this salad is a bit spicy.

 

14. Bebek betutu

The translation of bebek is duck. With this dish, the chili and garlic stuffed duck is wrapped in a coconut tree bark or banana leave and steamed. It tastes delicious.

 

15. Ayam lalapan

As you probably know, the meaning of ayam is chicken. If you order ayam lalapan, you will get fried chicken with tomato chili sambal.

 

16. Cap cay

Cap cay is a popular Chinese Indonesian dish. It consists of stir fried vegetables like cauliflowers, cabbage, carrots , baby corn and mushrooms. Cap cay is a vegetarian dish, but in many warungs and restaurants you can order cap cay including  chicken, beef or fish. I always ordered the cap cay with chicken. I love it!

 

17. Ayam koloke

This dish is delicious! It consists of deep fried sweet sour chicken, pineapple and sweet chili sauce.

 

18. Pisang Goreng

Pisang goreng is a snack food made of banana or plantain being deep fried in hot cooking oil. You can buy it at the street food stands or order it as a dessert in a warung or restaurants. At the street food stands you can choose a topping. Most of the time you can choose between cheese, chocolate or blueberry. When you order pisang goreng in a warung or restaurant, it sometimes will be served with ice-cream. I love pisang goreng, it is very delicious!

 

19. Bubur Injun

This dish can be translated as black rice pudding. It is black sticky rice mixed with coconut milk. The Balinese people eat it as breakfast, dessert or snack.

 

20. Luwak Coffee

This last dish is not really something you can eat, but I thought it should definitely be on the list of the local dishes of Bali. This one you can drink. In Indonesian they call it ‘kopi Luwak’. Luwaks are  weasel-like animals and they eat coffee berries. The animals eat the coffee berries, but they only poop out the coffee beans. Their coffee-bean filled turds are collected and washed. The harvested coffee beans are then roasted over a fire. In my opinion the coffee tastes the same as other coffees. You can try the ‘kopi luwak’ at one of the many coffee plantations of Bali. It is a bit expensive to try, namely around 50.000 Roepia (€3,50) per cup. However, at most of the coffee plantations you can try different kinds of tea and coffee for free. Only for the Luwak coffee you have to pay. Definitely worth a try.

 

Well, I am really in love with these 20 local meals. I hope you like them as much as I did.

Which one is your favourite?

 

Looking for accommodation in Bali? Check out our Bali Acccommodation Guide for a few tips.

 

Travel Tip shared by Girls Wanderlust
www.girlswanderlust.com

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