Are you already bored of all the Year In Travel Lists that have formed a coup and taken over the travelblogosphere? Not wanting to disappoint here’s my addition, but don’t worry there’s no repeated copy/pasted content here or some long essay, but 15 (actual) instant moments I snapped which sum up my adventures in 2015.
Today is the day for the list with places I want to go to next year, but probably won’t because it’s either dangerous, way too expensive or for some reason an unrealistic destination.
Out of all Indonesian islands Java had always at the top of my to-go list. I would love to go to Jakarta and the village where my childhood friend’s family comes from. On top of all the cultural things, I would love to enjoy the delicacies like freshly steamed bakpao, anything drowned in satay and chocolate stuffed martabak (you can’t go wrong if you stuff anything with chocolate right?). But as I haven’t seen above-mention friend in five years it’s unlikely I’ll get invited to spend the summer there.
I’ve always (well ok, relatively recently)considered to combine the above trip with a few days in Singapore and a pit stop on the Rawa Islands, but it looks like that won’t happen anytime soon either. I really should rekindle that old friendship.
This year I conquered a mountain in Kotor, so next the logical hike adventure would be the Everest Base Camp hike in Nepal, but I have to be realistic and accept the fact that with in my shape I would need another two weeks to recover from the two weeks climb and a month is just a bit too long.
A few years ago I booked a trip to Barcelona with a friend who was flying from a different city to me, my booking was one of those 7 AM RyanAir flights, but my alarm didn’t go off so I missed it, and never really managed to rebook. Pretty much everyone I know has been there and I’ve had my share of wandering around alone but to quote Christopher McCandless (who you might know from the Into the Wild fame) ”happiness is only real, when shared.” So, I’ll have to wait till someone wants to join. Plus so many people I know have been pick-pocketed there and I can’t be bothered to walk around like an over stressed chicken and so putting a target on my back (or pocket), or playing it cool and getting a ‘told you so.’
I suffer from a terrible addiction of browsing random flight offers and during one of those overdoses I found out it was more cheaper to fly to Tehran than to Bosnia (it takes 3 times and 1 stopover longer though). So far my subtle hints haven’t reached the person I want to join me, but maybe a few more clues and they’ll get the hint, maybe by 2020 when there’s a Starbucks on every corner.
A trip to the moon seems a bit unrealistic, but if John Lewis would just tell us how the man on the moon got there and then we can we join him for a happy Easter celebration. Now, that would be a lovely present.
A road trip (preferably in a blue mustang, since we are talking about things that are likely to happen) from Kentucky to New Orleans combined with a bourbon distillery tour won’t happen either … it mainly has something to do with not having a driving licence. And flight to New Orleans are too inconvenient at the moment. Are any one the airlines going to fix this … because I see a market there.
What are some destinations you won’t be going to in 2016?
Any Harry Potter fans in London this week? If you haven’t been locked in an under-stairs cupboard for the past few weeks, chances are you’ve already heard about The Graphic Art of the Harry Potter Films exhibition, but if you haven’t then you have until Saturday to head to the Coningsby Gallery and enjoy the designs brought to you by Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, the graphic artists behind the amazing and magical art work of the film series.
The exhibition showcases graphic designs from the Harry Potter films such as the Marauder’s Map, The Daily Prophet, Harry’s letter from Hogwarts and pretty much every other graphic prop that lit up the screens over the decade.
Until Saturday, December 19, at The Coningsby Gallery. And if it couldn’t get any better…admission is free!
If I had to choose a favorite passport stamp, I would have to say my one to Bulgaria. I had spent over a year waiting for my acceptance to work at the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria and my subsequent security clearance. There was so much build-up and excitement leading up to the day I arrived in Bulgaria. However, I remember landing and driving through the capital city of Sofia thinking, “What the hell have I gotten myself into here?!” It was more due to culture shock and not understanding a word of Bulgarian or Cyrillic writing.
I spent three wonderful, unexpected, adventurous months in Bulgaria. After visiting over 30 countries in Europe, Bulgaria is my favorite country behind Germany (which will always be my second home). The scenery, the food, the people, the religion…I was in awe of everything. From the Balkan Mountains to Seven Rila Lakes and the Black Sea to the ancient cities of Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo (and capital city of Sofia!), there is something for everyone. Bulgaria’s beauty and culture are hidden European treasures and something I can’t wait to continue visiting in the years to come.
Globaloud | Anca
Passport stamps somehow always remind me of the border stories cause that's where the stamps are made. So here's the one.
Getting from Malaysia to Thailand, I chose not that frequent border – Satun. Mostly locals use it and there weren't any other foreigners at the time, except the two of us. Since it was a sea border, the boat threw us out in the middle of nowhere, literally. The border control started rushing us so they can close the office as soon as possible. That one taxi that was waiting in front of the port left pretty quickly.
Within 5 minutes, everything closed and everybody left the port. We were lost and started walking, but the road seemed endless and the night was falling down. We could only hear the monkey sounds, but really creepy ones that scared the hell out of us. It turned out that the city was miles away from that exact place.
I don't know how long we would walk if there weren't some nice people that passed and picked us up. They didn’t know any English, we didn’t know any Thai. They just realized we need to find a bus station and they did everything to drop us there.
House to Laos | Jenia & Sergey
Our favorite stamp is the one we received entering South Korea, after an overnight ferry ride from China. How cool is it to cross country borders on an overnight boat? We’ve done border crossings on a train, plane, motorcycle, foot, and bus – all multiple times. But, this was something special. A gigantic, multi-level boat – of cruise-ship proportions really. Complete with a movie theaters, spas, saunas, karaoke rooms, and even a fountain. In fact, it could probably be called a cruise ship, if it weren’t for the sleeping arrangements. You see we slept in bunk beds – stacked 3 rows high like on a Chinese train. Also, no free food and booze.
We were the only Western tourists on that boat; the vast majority of other passengers were part of Chinese organized tour to South Korea. This was our first exposure to being an attraction – and we were quite amused about being giggled at and asked to take pictures with. The evening we sailed from China, we sat on the deck writing in our travel journal, and as I turned around I realized that we had a very large crowd of onlookers who’ve gathered to watch us write in Latin alphabet. They were gleefully angling for better observation spots, poking each other, and taking pictures of us! “It’s all Chinese to me” expression turned on its head.
Another reason that we remember this stamp in particular, is that this was the only time we were stopped on the border to inspect our belongings. Apparently, South Korea is pretty strict about bringing food into the country. We had apples, oranges, and some other fruits from China. I also stupidly denied that I had brought in forbidden artifacts with me. Oops. We got off with a stern talk and promise not to do it again. Our first overnight ferry trip was a great success and we were on our way to explore Incheon, Korea with another adventure checked off in our passports.
I used to live and work in South Africa and, therefore, had a visa in my old passport. A year and a half ago I moved back to Germany, one of the reasons being that I wanted to have the means to travel more. Travel I did and very quickly I ran out of pages in my passport. Last February I was due to return to Cape Town for the first time for a photo shoot I was producing. I ordered a new passport with extra pages and it arrived just in time two days before I was due to fly (nerves!).
Standing in line at immigration always makes me nervous (no nothing to declare, but still!) and this time was no different. My first South African stamp as a non-resident made me a bit sad and terribly excited to be back at the same time. Definitely a more emotional stamp than many others, coming to my home away from home. And, of course, the first stamp in a brand new passport – that's like the first page of a book: full of possibilities and stories yet to be told.
The Sunny Side of This| Isabel
My favorite passport stamp of this year was Belarus. In all honesty, I never thought I would ever visit this country and now it has become one of my favorites ever. Of course it probably isn't a must visit destination, but it's one of a kind landscapes and history won me over. The highest hill is only around 300 meters tall, and Minsk has been rebuilt from the ground up like 8 times. And don't fool yourself thinking that this little country is irrelevant. It is one of the most geopolitical strategic places in Europe, it basically connects Asia and Russia with the Western world. Seriously, I could go on and on! Despite the fact that we stayed almost 6 hours on the border and dealing with customs (on the way in and out of the country), it taught me to see the beauty in people and in countries despite their political situation. I hope I never stop seeing the world with different eyes each time."
TraveladdictUK | Natasha
This passport stamp still brings a smile to my face. It’s the Maldives, where we visited in 2012. We went to celebrate a special anniversary. And to us, it was the holiday of a lifetime. I have never laughed so much or had such an amazing time anywhere else. And this was just an island in the Indian Ocean that we could walk around in forty five minutes. It was such a magical place that I could never return as I would never want to change my memories of our time there. Everyone should visit the Maldives at least in their lifetime. I just love this place so much!
Thanks so much for sharing your stories.
What is your most precious passport stamp or visa?
I've covered a ton of ground this year on food-related hotspots – so often that I've considered a re-brand to "Tea Ate Here". I haven't mentioned Brixton much, which is a shame as its markets are great places to eat, and I'm looking forward to sharing more reasons why you should head south of the river and enjoy the diversity of the area's culinary offerings. For now, here is a quick guide with some of my favourite globe-trotting-tastebud picks with a ton of polaroids to accompany.
Market Row and Brixton Village were both originally market arcades and since the late noughties (2007-) their restaurant offerings have gone from strength to strength. Although this also means the original vibe has faded – you see less and less of the butchers, random stores that sell 1001 things and Caribbean supermarkets, but that's for another blog … back to those favourites.
This is the birthplace of Franco Manca. Yep, the place with the pizza with a sourdough crust – simple, thin, crispy, and delicious. I'm a fan as they do a definitely-worth-trying 'white sauce' pizza, as in no tomatoes. They don't take reservations, so your best bet is to get there as soon as it opens, and pray (or enjoy a good queue).
Valhalla is my go to breakfast or lunch place as they do one hell of a mean sandwich. Sadly no Thor here, but their killer meatballs option is pretty much the same. Right?
If you haven't already been won over by its vegan cakes, Ms. Cupcake is where you should be. Although I'm not a vegan, I often stop by for a cupcake or cookie as they are light, not too overly sweet and perfect with a tea. If you think cupcakes are so 2013 then go for the cookie sandwich – Salted Caramel Pecan is the best tip for a cookie sandwich virgin.
Honest Burger is one of the original Brixton Market burger places, which has gone on a dramatic expansion across the city and is kind of losing its touch, but don't write it off, it's still worth trying one of their well seasoned and prepared burgers and the delicious rosemary salt chips (for that Sunday Roast potatoes vibe).
It took me a long time to get hold of a table at KaoSarn as it's usually packed – I imagine it's because of their reasonable prices and BYOD, and it was worth the wait. It's hard to recommend just one item from this Thai place, but you can't go wrong with the Gai Tod: deep fried garlic and pepper chicken, served with sticky rice and a hot dip. Perfect for setting your mouth on fire on a cold winter night.
In the 2 1/2 years that I have been wandering around SW9, the Mexican place has changed it's name more often than P Diddy – remember him? It is currently known as Jalisco, the food is very moreish and comes without the pretensions you often see at some more central Mexican places. Oh, and the mole is so good, you can just grab a spoon and down a bowl without it even touching a tortilla chip!
Put a few sea-containers together like Tetris, gather some hip street food vendors together, get the marketing ball rolling and you get Pop Brixton, a relatively new entrant to the area. It has its charm as everyone can grab whatever they want and still sit together. I recommend it for a lunch as it's super packed out in the evenings.
World of Wurst is the place for sausages obviously. The German variety though. I asked my German friend if she approves "Almost as tasty as the one my Tante Maria makes.'' So, there you have it – the unofficial stamp of approval.
One of the ultimate things on my wanderlist is a WOOFF experience on a vineyard in New Zealand. Until then I have the The New Zealand Cellar to turn to and enjoy the end product, without the 24hrs+ plane ride.
You by now know how much I love the small plates to share concept, right? Well these awesome folks at Kricket thought that too and brought us an ever changing menu of Indian small plate dishes to nibble on. The only issue I have with it? It's too hard to choose!
Have you been to Brixton and have any recommendations?