“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before”
The Dalai Lama said this, and I’ve managed to take his words quite literally ever since.
Number five on the Bucket List is to Travel – everywhere I’m able, and a new place every year until I’m 60. It’s a big one, and I had to put an age limit on it because quite evidently – I wouldn’t ever be able to cross it off the list if I didn’t (and I’m all about crossing it off the list!).
I’ll still blog about my travel adventures of course, but here I can keep track of the travelling and see my worldwide footprints all in the one place! I’ll include where I visited and when, my favourite experiences and things I would beg you to do one day too!
Need more than that? You’re in luck! Now also blogging the adventures in much more detail than ever before at www.polarsteps.com/littleletterd!
The Mini Travel Log
Where: North & South Islands of New Zealand
How long: Six Weeks in April/May
Something new I tried: Cookie Man Ice-cream (The best!)
Favourite part: Seeing snow for the first time (We were lucky enough to catch an early snowfall)
Recommend: Travel to Dunedin. There you’ll have to ask a few locals for directions to a secret beach only reached by going through a man-made tunnel through the tall beach-side mountains. As rumour has it, the man who tunnelled through tough rocks with nothing more than a pick, did so to ensure that his two beautiful daughters would have their own beach where the boys couldn’t peep at them. It’s nestled in amongst the world renown beautiful landscapes of New Zealand and a trek you’ll never regret doing!
Where: Bali, Indonesia
How long: One week in June
Something new I tried: White Water Rafting through the Bali Rainforest
Favourite part: It would be a close tie between…Riding an Elephant and Cuddling a Lion Cub at the Bali Safari Zoo.
Recommend: Take an afternoon to head to the beach in Kuta. There’s a restaurant that overlooks the ocean at the far end of the main shopping centre opposite the Water Park. Have a drink (or two) at sunset and enjoy the live music.
How long: One day (Flew in for an interview) in November
Something new I tried: Navigating a big city by myself!
Favourite part: Travelling over the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Recommend: Being a tourist – on foot without an itinerary. There is so much to see in Sydney. The best way to experience it is to ‘go-with-the-flow’. Catch a train, see where it takes you. Do a little exploring and definitely get a tourist shot of the bridge and the Opera House.
Where: Montville, Maleny & Mapleton, Sunshine Coast Hinterland Australia
How long: Two Days in February
Something new I tried: Fudgey-BoomBahs Handmade Fudge
Favourite part: The breathtaking views of the coast line
Recommend: Locate Gardner’s Falls on your Map. A local secret for years before becoming a well known swimming hole, these falls are found deep in the rainforest between Montville and Maleny. If you’re daring enough, jump from the swing into the water hole. Otherwise, take a picnic and make a day of it in the shallows of the creek bed.
Where: Bagara, Bundaburg Australia
How long: Three Days in January
Something new I tried: Kayaking
Favourite part: Road-tripping there!
Recommend: Book in to see the Baby Turtles hatch at Mon Repos Beach. For years loggerhead turtles have called this beautiful beach home and return to lay eggs right on schedule each year. Be a part of the moment when these amazing little creatures hatch and make their journey to the waters edge. Be prepared to wait until 2am in the morning for a hatching and definitely remember to bring some food!
Where: The Natural Bridge, Gold Coast Hinterland Australia
How long: One day in September
Something new I tried: Walking through caves
Favourite part: Seeing the little glow worms light up at sunset!
Recommend: Travelling out to the bridge at late afternoon to be sure that you don’t miss the little glow worms. The whole place is magical at night, it’s not something you want to miss!
Where: Whitsundays, Queensland Australia
How long: One Week in October on a Cruise
Something new I tried: Caviar
Favourite part: Sunbaking on the back of the cruiseship, cocktail in hand
Recommend: Book in to climb the Crows Nest. Whether you’re a thrill seeker or not, this is a must do! At sunset, the ship allows you to climb to the very top of the Crows Nest and watch the cruise pull out from the Islands of the Whitsundays. Absolutely breathtaking!
Where: Japan (Tokyo, Lake Kawaguchiko/Mount Fuji, Hakone, Kyoto)
How long: 8 days in November
Something new I tried: Ramen, Snails, Octopus, Blowfish, and speaking Japanese!
Favourite part: Relaxing in the Onsen!
In Tokyo – Stay a night at the Cerulean Hotel with beautiful views and explore the busy Shibuya Crossing right across the road, splurge a little (or a lot) to dine at the Skytree Tower Musashi Restaurant (prepare to feel like a royal), spend the day shopping in the streets of Shinjuku and find a Robot Restaurant to have dinner at afterwards (you won’t regret it!), check out the animal cafes where you can enjoy a coffee and snuggle a bunny or hedgehog if thats more your choosing, visit the Tsukiji Fish Markets and make sure you try the sea urchin, find the Botanical Gardens in the centre of Tokyo City and go for a stroll – if you’re lucky, a Cherry Blossom just might be in bloom!
At Mount Fuji – Stay in a traditional Japanese hotel next to Lake Kawaguchiko. The views are amazing, and even more so at the top of the cable car where you can photograph the famous Mount Fuji until your heart is content. Make sure to take a walk around the lake at sunset, and if you visit in autumn, the leaves will make this an unforgettable activity.
In Hakone – Visit the local waterfalls in the midst of the rainforest, before heading up on the Skytrain to the top of Hakone Volcano. Hakone is a beautiful little town that requires to be best explored on foot! And make sure you test out an Onsen before you leave!
In Kyoto – Visit the famous Golden Temple which shines just as it’s name would suggest, ensure that you take the time to walk the busy streets of Kyoto Marketplace – there is plenty of food to taste and little one-of-a-kind purchases to make, take a day to dress up as a Geisha Girl at Maiko Hensin Studio Shiki (it’s an expensive experience, but when in Japan… and totally worth it!), hire bikes and adventure in and around the Imperial Palace in Kyoto – it’s like something out of a fairy tale and what’s better, its free!
And don’t forget to travel by Bullet Train at some point in your trip – it’ll get you from A to B in the blink of an eye, you won’t even believe it!
Where: Vanuatu (Mystery Island + Port Vila)
How long: 4 days in March
Something new I tried: Snorkelling (believe it or not, I’ve reached the age of 24 without ever doing it before!)
Favourite part: Snorkelling at Paradise Cove just of the shore of Vanuatu from a yacht! The rainbow fish on Mystery Island were like something out of a cartoon, and we even managed a sneaky swim with a reef shark (eeek)!
Recommend: Bargain with a taxi driver in Port Vila and strike an agreement to have him drive you around the entire day. Be sure to visit the ‘Blue Lagoon’ ($6 AUD Entry) + Eden Falls ($7 AUD Entry), and take in the small townships and local schools – there’s really so much to see, just ask!
Where: New Caledonia (Lifou + Noumea)
How long: 4 days in March
Something new I tried: Drinking coconut water straight from a coconut!
Favourite part: The bluest water and whitest sand (and investigating the unique trinkets that have journeyed across oceans to wash up on the shore!).
Recommend: Find the hidden caves on the island of Lifou and explore the depths of the rainforest. It will cost $10 AUD, and the locals there will happily accept both Franc and the Australian Dollar. You go it alone through the caves, and be prepared to use hands at times to navigate the terrain. While it is not a long walk, I highly suggest wearing hiking-appropriate footwear…thongs, as we discovered, were not the preferable option. And when you reach the hidden underground swimming hole, don’t be afraid to jump in!
Where: Manilla, Philippines
How long: 4 days in February/March
Something new I tried: Riding in a Jeepney (a metallic, kitsch-decorated open-doored bus utilised as a popular form of public transport in the Philippines)
Favourite part: Being the ultra-tourist and shopping at the Greenhills Markets located in the centre of Manila City. From everything phone-related, to the best looking knock-offs – this is every overseas shopper’s dream.
Recommend: Using the Philippines version of Uber called, GrabTaxi, for transport around the city. It was much easier, and much faster than using regular taxi’s – your hotel lobby should even be able to book one for you!
Where: Vigan, Philippines
How long: 10 days in March
Something new I tried: Banana Cues – think a lady finger banana deep-fried and caramelised.
Favourite part: Exploring and dining alfresco in Collado, an area of Vigan established by a 17th Century Spanish Colony with cobbled-stoned streets, horse and carriages. Each of the buildings in Collado have been excellently preserved and are decadent in historic features. Truely a snapshot into the past!
Recommend: Visiting the centre of Vigan City (now classified as one of the Seven Wonder Cities), where you’ll find the town’s large water fountain. Get yourself here at 7pm any night of the week, and grab a good spot for the Dancing Fountain Show. The fountain really comes to life for half an hour as it’s combination of electronic lights and music truely makes a statement. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I know you’ll be just as impressed!
Where: Melbourne, Australia
How long: 7 days in February
Something new I tried: Coffee without syrup! As I learnt very quickly, Melbourne looks down upon syrup in their coffees, which was confusing for me as an avid Vanilla Latte addict. Never fear though – add a little honey, and you’ll realise you don’t need syrup in Melbourne, because the baristas are in a league of their own!
Favourite part: Discovering all the gorgeous cafes hidden in the back streets. None of these cafes are on show, you’ll have to hunt for them! Some of the best food we found were served up at Higher Ground, White Mojo, and Rustica Brick Lane!
Recommend: Visiting the Old Melbourne Gaol ($28 AUD/Adult) which was home to some of the most notorious criminals of Australia’s history – join in on one of the daily tours to experience first-hand what it’s like to be processed as a wrongdoer back in the 19th Century. Also, put on a comfy pair of shoes and spend a day to just walk on foot through Melbourne’s CBD visiting local cafes, and Hosier Lane (the infamous lane of graffiti art) and Queen Street Markets – you’ll see so much more this way guaranteed!
Where: Fraser Island, Australia
How long: 7 days in July, and again in August!
Something new I tried: 4WDing through Ngala Rocks – a bypass to the northern Sandy Cape of the island notorious for swallowing 4WD’s into it’s soft sand. We had lost two wheel nuts the day before, and were quite nervous doing it on our own. But with low tyre pressures, and a whole lot of “well here goes nothing!”, we made it through unscathed with all four wheels still attached!
Favourite part: Swimming at Eli Creek and Champagne Pools – two breathtaking destinations you simply have to visit when you explore Fraser Island. Grab your best floatie (mine was a giant strawberry) and your GoPro, and you’ll never want to leave, that I can promise!
Recommend: Spending one or two nights over at Wathumba on the western side of Fraser Island. It’s like pulling up to the Whitsundays, pictures just don’t do this place justice! There’s a beautiful campsite there with the beach at your doorstep. If paradise is what you’re searching for, then look no further.
Where: Moreton Island (Tangalooma Resort), Australia
How long: 5 days in November
Something new I tried: Stand-up Paddle Boarding, and riding an ATV – both done at Tangalooma Resort for a small fee, but so worth it!
Favourite part: Watching the dolphins come into dock in the afternoons. Tangalooma Resort has a renown feeding program for the dolphins and keeps a log of attendance for the dolphins that make a regular appearance. You can only feed the dolphins if you’re a guest at the resort – which we weren’t, but if you head down to the dock at about 5pm, you be sure to see three or four early-birds arrive to frolic in the shallows. It’s amazing.
Recommend: Heading over to the other side of Moreton Island to visit Queensland’s first ever built light house – Cape Moreton Light House really is one of the most beautiful lighthouses I’ve ever visited. You’ll need a good reliable 4WD to get you there through the bumpy inland tracks, but make a day of it and pop into see the Blue Lagoon for a swim after exploring the old light house.
Where: Iba, Zambales, Philippines
How long: 10 days in February/March
Something new I tried: Helping out some of the local theatre staff at the hospital we were volunteering in a case where a woman had ended up with a rather large fishing hook in her eye socket (sorry if that’s a little too graphic to picture!). The way the hospitals are both run and constructed over there astounds me as a nurse, and I’m always keen to help out wherever I can!
Favourite part: The sunsets on the beaches of Iba are unreal! Heading down to the ocean every afternoon after a long day were most definitely a huge favourite.
Recommend: Catching a bamboo motor boat over to Isla De Potipot, a small island which is located about an hour out of Iba off the coast of Olongapo. The sand here is white, and the oceans clear blue to it’s depths. It’ll set you back 300 Peso as an entry fee (roughly $10 AUD), and you can hire snorkelling gear once you arrive if you hadn’t packed your own. While the island is small and can be walked around in just under half an hour, there’s plenty space for everyone and even on the busiest day of the week, you never feel overcrowded.
How long: 6 days in March
Something new I tried: It’s definitely a little cliche – but a Singapore Sling (because when in Rome, right?). Surprisingly, I’ve never had one of these before. But sunset at Clarke Quay made for the perfect occasion to tick that off the list.
Favourite part: There was two! 1) Hanging out with the Giant Panda’s over at Singapore’s River Safari (honestly the cutest animals!), and 2) Watching the Garden Rhapsody show amongst the Supertree Grove’s at Gardens by the Bay (there were tears of happiness, it’s like Christmas light hunting but a whole other level!)
Recommend: Buying a EZ-Link card for all your travel needs whilst in Singapore! There are many advertised ‘Tourist Cards’ which give you unlimited travel for 2-3 days, but you’d be wasting your money. The EZ-Link card costs $12 SD, which includes the price of the card, and enough load to get you started. You can buy these from any MRT station or even the airport. You can top-up your card at any MRT station, but only at a minimum of $10. For our whole week in Singapore (6 days), we used approximately $60 between the two of us – and that was with some leftover on our EZ-Link cards because it makes you top up when your card value drops below $4. The most expensive trip we took via MRT was about $1.83 SD. If you’re staying for about the same time as we did, I would recommend loading an additional $20 onto your card straight from the get-go to avoid the compulsory top-up. We used the MRT for all travel, multiple times a day. I think you could have easily travelled for the week on $25 per person!