Indian Attractions to Experience In London

Indian Attractions to Experience In London

As I’m super busy with work this week, today we have a guest post from Angela, who is highlighting the best Indian attractions in London. Every time I’m in London I love finding really good Indian restaurants or just ordering Indian takeaway with friends. But the Indian influence in London extends so much further than just food- read on to hear more!

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While making your trip to London, it can be easy to be overwhelmed by the hundreds of years of English culture that permeate the city and its architecture. So much so that it can be easy to forget what a huge cultural melting pot the capital really is.

One of the biggest influences you’ll see is that of the Indian subcontinent. Just look at the profound effect on English cuisine. You hear England and you probably think fish and chips, and that’s definitely a big one, but many people would tell you that the national dish of Great Britain is chicken tikka masala. Did you know that the famous savory dish was invented in Glasgow according to the BBC? The UK fell in love with spicy Indian food so much that they put their own spin on it and now you can’t walk down the street without the aroma of turmeric and spice floating past your nose.

Through the people, the art, the food and the culture, the influence is in everything you see so it only makes sense to dive in and experience it for yourself. Here are a few picks to get you started on your Indian adventure.

 

London Indian Film Festival

As noted by BritishAirways, the London Indian Film Festival is the largest Asian film festival in Europe and will showcase the best the sub-continent has to offer in independent films at theaters all across the capital. The festival will be running from July 16-23. The event will also play host to talks and discussions with some of India’s most actors and filmmakers. It’d be tough to find a better opportunity to take in some of the most exciting art and artists from India on the big screen during your stay.

 

Southall’s Little India

Just as you should never visit New York without visiting its world famous Chinatown or Little Italy, the same goes that no trip to London is complete without making a stop by Southall, also known as Little India. Even the street signs are written in English and Punjabi. But there’s much more than just India in Southall. The area is home to a wide diversity of South Asian cultures including Pakistani, Tamil and many others. Get lost wandering the plethora of shops, swing by one of the many markets or visit one of Southall’s amazing mosques of Hindu Mandir temples.

 

Diwali

Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights and is celebrated every autumn all across the world. The Independent has a great breakdown of the history of the celebration and how it’s celebrated for those who aren’t familiar with the festival. It’s the biggest festival in India and the celebrations in London are just as huge. Pictures can’t even begin to prepare you for the incredible displays of lights that pop up during the festival.

 

Gymkhana

Of course I have to mention the amazing food at some point and this is the top pick for a restaurant you have to visit. There’s no shortage of incredible curry houses for you to see and there’s plenty of late night fare but for my pick it has to be Gymkhana. The restaurant is modeled after old Indian gymkhana clubs (think like American country clubs, but classier) and serves some of the best food you’ll find in the British Isles. The Telegraph reports that the eatery was awarded National Restaurant of the Year for 2014 so get in while you can still get a table at this very affordable and insanely delicious spot that’s quickly becoming one of the most popular places in England.

 

What is your favorite way to experience Indian culture or food in London?

The Best Adventure Activities in Jordan

The Best Adventure Activities in Jordan

Over the years I’ve become an increasingly adventurous traveler. I’ve gone canyoning in Vietnam, hiked the most active volcano in Bali, dived with sharks in Indonesia, paraglided in the Swiss Alps and endured a ten-day trek in the Himalayas. Not bad for a girl who used to be terrified of swimming pools.

So I was pleased to find that there are tons of world-class adventure activities in Jordan, from diving in the Red Sea to riding camels in the Wadi Rum desert. And although I was terrified for several of the activities (cough, camel-riding), I somehow managed to push through.

Here’s a summary of the adventure activities I’d recommending doing while in Jordan– even if you’re a scaredy-cat.

Diving in the Red Sea

While our initial itinerary didn’t include diving, when we headed Red Sea I requested we add in scuba. When in… the Red Sea, right?

Best Adventure Activities in Jordan

The Red Sea has some of the best diving in the world, so I was extremely excited to strap on my fins again. And thankfully I’m already a certified diver- I did both my open-water and advanced in Thailand.

As soon as I leapt off the dive platform I was freezing- the Red Sea is certainly chillier than the bath-water seas of Thailand.

As I descended I started to see familiar marine life: clownfish, angelfish, pufferfish and lionfish. At one point I even saw an enormous sea slug- I’d estimate about 18 inches.

During the dive two big schools of fish passed by, and I couldn’t help but think of the Jesus and the miraculous catch of fish Bible story.

But it wasn’t the sea life that appealed to me most in the Red Sea- it was the coral. Looking down I saw colors of coral I’d never seen before: from lavender to saffron to periwinkle.

Dive boat meal - Red Sea

Bonus- after diving we had an incredible Jordanian lunch of grilled swordfish, grilled chicken, hummus, baba ganoush, fattoush and of course, pita. Dive-boat meal = nailed.

Where to dive in Jordan on your trip:

While I didn’t have time to dive them myself, the best dive sites in Jordan are King Abdullah and Cedar Pride, which you can access from the souther city of Aqaba. Tip- if you’re already in Jordan I’d consider also diving in Egypt, which has some of the best dive sites in the world. 

Riding a Jeep in the Wadi Rum Desert

Wadi Rum, or in Arabic, The Valley of the Moon, is a desert that is straight out of Indiana Jones, or perhaps Wilfred Thesiger’s travel journal.

Best Adventure Activities in Jordan

After a glass of mint tea, we boarded the Jeep and turned on our cameras.

I loved the photos I captured in Wadi Rum. The desert looked similar to the American Southwest with dramatic red rocks and undulating sand dunes.

Best Adventure Activities in Jordan

But of course, historically it was a bit different than the American Southwest. Our guides even dropped us off to see ancient Nabatean petroglyphs- see the etchings of camels, ostriches and men hunting below.

Adventure Activities in Jordan

Best Adventure Activities in Jordan

Overall I’d highly recommend riding in the back of a Jeep in Wadi Rum, especially if you’re a shutterbug. Pro tip- photos will be much more atmospheric if you wear traditional red-and-white Bedouin headscarves. (And they’re super comfy too!)

 

Riding Camels in Wadi Rum

I won’t lie- after reading Liz’ post on falling off a camel in Jordan, I wasn’t sure if I was up for camel-riding. But as I’m so often afflicted with PTRD, or post-trip regret disorder, I knew I had to give camel-riding a go.

Best Adventure Activities in Jordan

When we first approached the camels my initial thought was, wow, that baby camel is adorable and dear god they are SO TALL.

Things were not looking good when Amanda mounted her camel and was promptly thrown off. I turned to Jessica and said, “We don’t have to do this! Should we do this?”

Jessica murmured and few words of encouragement (I was so freaked out that I don’t remember) and before I knew it we were moving.

Best Adventure Activities in Jordan

The sensation of riding a camel is quite different from riding a horse. You’re so far off the ground and camels rock you back and forth like a ship. Truthfully I never got used to the feeling and was a bit wary for both my body and my DSLR.

Dismounting was also frightening. To dismount the camel sits down in a fashion not unlike bowing.

But soon enough I was back on the ground where I belong.

Best Adventure Activities in Jordan

Overall I think this one camel-riding experience was enough for me- I think I’ll stick to horses.

Hiking in the Dana Biosphere Reserve

The Dana Biosphere Reserve is Jordan’s largest nature reserve, located in south-Central Jordan. After we dropped off our bags at Feynan Ecolodge, our accomodation for the night, we headed out for a hike in the reserve.

Best Adventure Activities in Jordan

 The reserve is beautiful, a rocky, moonlike landscape dotted with sandstone cliffs, acacia trees and Phoenician Juniper shrubs. It looked like a cross between the Serengeti and the moon.

Best Adventure Activities in Jordan

But as much I love the outdoors, I love ancient history even more. Which is why I was so stoked to find out about all the Palaeolithic, Egyptian, Nabataean, and Roman settlements in Dana.

“When the Romans ruled, they sent criminals to work in the copper mines here,” said our travel guide. “The conditions were so bad you wouldn’t wish it upon your worst enemy.”

Best Adventure Activities in Jordan

During the Roman era criminals were sent to Feynan to mine copper in tiny tunnels, some dying after only a few days. Skeletons have been discovered with their Achilles heels cut, ensuring the prisoners wouldn’t be able to run away.

By the end of the hike I was asking my travel buddies, “Do you think I have enough service to download The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire on my phone?” Julika, who is a medieval art historian, was even calling me out nerdiness. #NerdAlert

And even if you aren’t into Roman ruins, Dana has wonderful hiking. We finished off our hike by sitting down to watch the sunset as we sipped tea. All in all a magical experience.

Tips- when hiking in Dana make sure to wear good shoes and if you visit a Bedouin family, be respectful and don’t take a picture of the women’s faces.

Are you interested in adventure activities when you travel? Would any of these scare you?

I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board, but as always, all opinions are my own.

Saying Goodbye to the Backpacking Lifestyle: A Week in Hanoi and Halong Bay

Saying Goodbye to the Backpacking Lifestyle: A Week in Hanoi and Halong Bay

I have a confession. Despite its iffy reputation, I love backpacking.

And what do I mean by “backpacking”? Backpacking, by my loose and unofficial definition, is independent international travel on the cheap, typically done by young people from all over the world.

Hanoi

Backpacking has a lot of negative connotations- namely drunk teenagers partying on beaches. But I don’t think that reputation is always deserved- there are lots of young broke travelers who love to learn about local culture, languages and food.

And I’ve had some of the best memories of my life in hostels: cooking cheap meals in the communal kitchen, sitting down for a street noodles, cracking beers on the rooftop with travelers from all over the world.

Which is why remembering my time in Northern Vietnam, where I spent the last week of my four-month backpacking trip, makes me sad. Because I don’t know if I’ll ever go backpacking again- and even if I do, I don’t know if it will be the same.

Hanoi_Street_Scene

After traveling solo in Malaysia, I flew to Hanoi to meet up with Dylan, my English travel buddy. We spent a few days in Hanoi eating scrumptious street food like miến lươn, vermicelli noodles with eel, and bún bò nam bộ, spicy beef with rice noodles and peanuts.

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After a few days of eating street food and feigning interest in local monuments (Hanoi doesn’t have the best tourist sites, in my opinion), we headed for Halong Bay. There we embarked on the infamous Halong Bay booze cruise– a two-night, three-day boat trip around the bay.

I had pictured Halong Bay as a small bay you could circumnavigate in an hour. I soon discovered that Halong Bay is enormous– a beautiful bay with 2,000 islets and countless limestone karsts jutting out of the water.

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Normally I’m not a huge partier but as this was my final week in Asia, I embraced the backpacker scene. I played Kings Cup across multiple tables, swam with phosphorescent plankton in the bay, danced barefoot to Calvin Harris and Sam Smith, laughed along to lascivious drinking games “What Are the Odds” and “Most Likely To.”

I also destroyed my shoulder while tubing and probably needed a sling. But given the lack of medical facilities on a remote beach in Halong Bay, I drank a few extra 333’s to keep the pain down.

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Halong_Bay_Party_Boat_Sunset

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When we returned to Hanoi, my shoulder still throbbing, I eased my pain with a group of new friends I had met on the boat.

We spent the next three days in typical backpacker fashion: drinking 10-cent beer in the streets, dancing in seedy nightclubs, waking up hungover to Vietnamese street food. It was lazy and indulgent and ridiculously fun.

Hanoi_Partying

Hanoi_Partying

Hanoi_Partying

Hanoi_Partying

Looking back on that week, I know it’s clouded in nostalgia. While now all I remember is freedom and non-stop fun, then I longed for security and long-term friendship.

But the further I get into a settled life, the more I miss backpacking. I miss doing whatever I want every single day. I miss meeting people from all over the world, and listening to all different kinds of accents and languages. I miss meals costing $2 and tasting like heaven.

I found a quote recently that really resonated with me, particularly in regards to travel. “We take photos as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone.” Travel most poignantly reminds us that we can never recreate a moment- we will never be in the exact same place with the same people at the same point in our lives.

And if we try to return we’ll just be chasing ghosts- try as I might, I’ll never be a broke 23-year old wandering around Hanoi with a group of hilarious English and Australian travelers.

I wish I could think of something more uplifting as an end-note. But the longer I go without backpacking, the more I miss it.

What about you? Have you ever done a long-term backpacking trip? What do you think of the backpacker scene?

Where I stayed in Hanoi: I stayed at both Hanoi Backpackers: Downtown and Original. I much, much preferred Downtown as it more open and airy and close to lots of amazing street food.

What to eat in Hanoi: While I enjoyed the food in Southern Vietnam more than the north, I still relished every opportunity to enjoy my beloved Vietnamese food as much as possible. Hanoi street food is really good and normally costs $1.50 for a meal. The bánh cuốn, native to Northern Vietnam, was the best dish I tried.

Life After Travel: My Denver Apartment Tour

Life After Travel: My Denver Apartment Tour

After living in France with a host family and then backpacking the world for a year, I was ready for a place of my own. After all, I hadn’t had my own space in two and a half years! So I’ll admit- I got a bit, um… carried away.

I spent way too much money on my first adult apartment. Moving halfway across the country ain’t cheap- and neither is buying all new furniture, even on a budget.

But despite the money I spent, it’s still so nice to come home to a place I love.

Twenty-something Girls Apartment in Denver

I splurged on a few things: namely a $400 liquor cabinet and several very over-priced throw pillows. But besides that most everything was from Ikea and Target. I PROMISE.

And yes, I’ll admit my map obsession has reached new and ridiculous heights. Moving on…

 

The Kitchen

I love my kitchen. The backsplash of white subway tile, acacia cabinets, (fake) granite countertops… sigh.

Twenty-something Girls Apartment in Denver

Plus, my kitchen holds so many mementos my travels– a little mincemeat jar I bought in Dublin from an old man who said my Spanish was beautiful, a gorgeous blue and white fruit bowl from French Catalonia, a Spanish olive wood cheese board, white vintage bistro dishes I bought at a Parisian flea market.

Kitchen details in a Denver apartment

The mincemeat jar I bought in Ireland and a beautiful salad bowl I bought in Jordan. Why yes, I do love blue and white together.

I love to cook so my kitchen is fully outfitted with everything a chef might need, from a hand blender to Santoku knives.

I especially love to cook dishes from all different cuisines, so you’re equally likely to find me wielding a wok as you are battering up buckwheat crêpes. I also have lots of random ingredients like Iranian pomegranate molasses and Chinese black bean paste.

Working full-time? Please get yourself a rice cooker and Crock Pot. These two appliances have made weekday cooking so easy. My strategy is to double or triple a Crock Pot recipe on Sunday and then eat the same dish throughout the week.

Two of my favorite kitchen details are admittedly very Francophile: my mostly French cookbook collection and my French cheese prints, which depict some of my favorite cheeses from my time in France.

Kitchen details

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My AMAZING bialetti which I use to make moka, or stovetop espresso, and my cute tea kettle.

Toast corner

My toast-making corner with three kinds of bread, French butter and blackberry and geranium jam. Toast is my fave.

I’ve been thinking of sharing a full-kitchen post soon- would you guys interested? I love to cook so I’d love to recommend my favorite products and show off all my wacky ethnic cooking utensils.

Where I bought everything: Crock-pot  // Rice cooker // 6-Cup Stovetop Bialetti // Tea Kettle // Chrome Toaster // Cheese Prints

 

The Living Room

I honestly don’t spend a lot of time in my living room- I don’t really watch TV and the couch is stylish but not comfy.

Twenty-something Girls Apartment in Denver

My roommate is from Cleveland and I’m from Detroit, so we wanted to pay homage to our home cities with maps.

As soon as my map came in the mail all the way from Sweden, from an awesome start-up called Mapiful, my roommate ordered hers right away. The maps are beautiful quality and you can completely customize how zoomed in or zoomed out you are. Plus, you can have any location in the world custom-mapped!

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Cleveland and Detroit have never looked so good together, am I right?

Twenty-something Girls Apartment in Denver

So trendy with an Edison bulb lamp- ha.

My most ridiculous home purchase was by far this aforementioned liquor cabinet. But I had to have it because it reminds me of Mad Men and I really want to learn how to mix drinks.

Sadly, so far every cocktail I’ve concocted tastes like dish soap- my bartending skills are still a work in progress.

Twenty-something Girls Apartment in Denver

My favorite little corner of the living room is this chair, backed by a 12-piece NYC map. Perfect for reading except not because the chair is totally uncomfortable. Denver_Girls_Apartment_Tour_3

Twenty-something Girls Apartment in Denver

Where I bought everything: Overstock Coffee Table // Edison Bulb Lamp // Ikea TV Unit // Gold Urban Outfitters Side Table // American Furniture Warehouse Couch // Crate and Barrel Bourbon Cabinet // Mapiful Map Prints // New York City Map // Cream Ikea Chair

 

Balcony

I’m super lucky- my balcony is huge. When the weather’s nice (which it almost always is, because Denver) we open the doors and enjoy the breeze in the living room.

The chair below is my favorite chair ever- on lazy Sundays I often curl up there with a fluffy blanket and my Kindle. It fully reclines so it’s almost like reading in bed.

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I also adore this little propane grill I snagged on Amazon for $130. So far we’ve only used it for lamb burgers and jerk chicken, but we’re planning on using it tons this spring and summer. Denver_Girls_Apartment_Tour_7

Where I bought everything: Propane Grill // Zero Gravity Chair

 

The Bedroom

My bedroom is super minimalist- it definitely needs more color but I am forbidding myself from buying anything else.

Twenty-something Girls Apartment in Denver

My bed itself is the most comfortable bed in the entire world. It has two mattress pads- one super soft one and one heated. The heated one has controls on both sides, so if there are two people in bed they can change their own heat controls. How’s that for creature comforts?

Additionally I really love having a white bed- it feels so cozy and clean and reminds me of a hotel.

Twenty-something Girls Apartment in Denver

I also love these floating shelves, which came with the apartment. They’re decorated very sentimentally with antique perfume bottles (one I bought in Paris, one in Michigan), a jewelry box I bought at a Denver thrift shop, a silver mirror and brush I inherited from my great-grandmother and a small wooden box my best friend bought me in China.

Oh and that adorable rosewood whale you might be eyeing? I impulsively bought that on Etsy for $45 during the height of my online shopping addiction.

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Also sentimental- my eight-piece map of Paris. Love.

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I’m also lucky to have a walk-in closet with shelves. Normally it’s more organized, I swear.

Where I bought everything: Ikea Leirvik Bedframe // Pottery Barn Duvet Cover // Ikea dresser // Ikea nightstand // Heated mattress pad // mattress pad // Paris Map // Yellow honeycomb pillow // Grey honeycomb pillows

 

The bathroom

Frankly there’s not too much to say here- but my bathroom is spacious and has a few cute details.

Twenty-something Girls Apartment in Denver

A monogrammed mug with makeup brushes- God I am so basic…

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And a tray with perfume and jewelry.

So how much do you pay in rent?

I actually only pay $1750, which feels cheap after four years in Chicago. My roommate and I split it down the middle- she gets the bigger bedroom and I get the parking space. In addition to the apartment we also have a huge ski locker and laundry down the hall.

How did you decorate your first adult apartment? Did you go slightly overboard like me or did you hold back and save your money for more important things?

Mapiful provided me the Detroit map for review but everything else was purchased by me or my roommate. All opinions are my own.

My Favorite Moments in Jordan

My Favorite Moments in Jordan

Oh, Jordan. As you may have seen on Instagram, Amanda, Jessica, Julika and I could not have had more fun on our #GirlsGoneJordan campaign. While a lot of bloggers complain that press trips are awkward because they’re traveling with strangers, for us it was more like a work-trip with friends.

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Photo credit – Sateless Suitcase

Before jumping into more in-depth posts about Jordan, I wanted to share my favorite moments. Because there’s so much about my trip to Jordan- countless meals, laughs and just good old-fashioned travel moments- that I don’t want to forget.

Visiting Amman Citadel

I’m a sucker for ancient ruins, so I was stoked to visit the Amman Citadel on our first day in Amman.

Amman Citadel

Standing there, staring over the city, I realized that this was the first time in too long I had a. seen something older than 200 years old, and b. even touched my DSLR. That first day on Amman Citadel, I felt more like myself than I had in a long time.

But anyway, back to the citadel. The citadel dates back to the Bronze Age, around 1650 BC. Considering the amount of conquerors who have set foot there, it’s remarkable that it still stands: it was conquered by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and Muslims.

Amman citadel dome

Amman Citadel blue dome

Random fact- did you know that when the Greeks conquered Amman in 331 BC, they renamed the city, “Philadephia?”

I loved being able to see Amman in all of its sprawling, sand-colored glory, as well as spot the Raghadan Flagpole, one of the tallest flagpoles in the world.

VIew of Amman from the Citadel

And my favorite part of the citadel was this lone hand. And all of the spring wildflowers.

Amman_Citadel_hand

All in all visiting the Amman citadel was the perfect first day and a good introduction to the city.

Taking Camel Portraits in the Desert

Guys, I think I’ve found my calling- camel photography. Honestly I enjoyed taking photos of camels more than riding them- is that normal?

Wadi_rum_camel_saddles

I’ve always enjoyed portrait photography more than landscape or still life, but it had never occurred to me to apply human portrait photography techniques to an animal. Or a camel, specifically.

Wadi rum camels

Wadi rum camel

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Wadi rum camels kissing

Wadi rum camels

My favorite shot was this camel “portrait.” I took a tip from Steve McCurry to square the eyes in the center of the frame and I think it worked. In fact this photo was my most liked Instagram photo ever!

Wadi rum camel

Having Kohl Eyeliner Done by a Bedouin Girl

The Bedouins traditionally wear kohl eyeliner for aesthetic reasons but also practical ones- to protect the eyes from dust and bright sunlight. Similar to why football players wear eye black.

And as we had seen Bedouin men and women all over Jordan with their trademark kohl, I was excited to visit a Bedouin family and learn how to make it ourselves.

Bedouin eyeliner application in Jordan

Photo credit Sateless Suitcase. And props for for retouching my skin so expertly, ha.

To make the kohl, all you do is burn black cotton and olive oil underneath a pan for about 10-15 minutes.

After the kohl was finished, the teenaged daughter applied it on all of us. It looked beautiful and kind of Jack Sparrow-esque.

It was especially beautiful on Jessica and Julika because of their green and blue eyes. Amanda looked straight-up like a Bedouin girl and well, I just looked like a white girl with eyeliner.

Drinking Mint Tea with a Diplomat’s Wife at Dana Biosphere Reserve

Having tea at sunset in Jordan

After a leisurely hike in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, the girls and I took a tea-break with a knowledgable and sweet Englishwoman. Her husband was a diplomat in Amman, and she had been living in Jordan for three years.

It was so interesting to chat with her and get a woman’s perspective on gender relations in Jordan. She told us that while Jordan is a relatively liberal country, in most parts traditional values run deep. She also told us that homosexuality occurs obviously but isn’t accepted, and that most sexual education is next-to-nothing.

And as we chatted and sipped our sweet mint tea, we watched the sun set over the desert. Not the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.

Sunset in the Feynan Reserve

Sigh, I would love to be a diplomat’s wife.

Floating (And Near-drowning) in the Dead Sea

When we drove up to the Dead Sea I was shocked- the Dead Sea is beautiful. The sea is navy blue, surrounded by salt-stained white cliffs. I guess the name “Dead Sea” doesn’t conjure a beautiful image- but that’s just bad marketing.

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Once we made our way down to the beach I was surprised again- the Dead Sea was rough that day, with three-foot tall waves crashing to the shore. I had pictured myself floating in a flat and tranquil sea, not frantically swimming against the current.

The third surprise came once I entered the water- the Dead Sea was so much saltier than I had imagined. While floating on my back I turned over to wet my hair- big mistake. I was instantly blinded and my mouth tasted like burnt turnips.

I tried to compose myself and wait for the burning in my eyes to subside, but I realized it was getting worse and called for the lifeguards.

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Realizing how ridiculous all this was (I swam on swim team for seven years), I couldn’t stop laughing as two lifeguards pulled me to shore. Once we reached the sand one lifeguard held me up as the other doused my eyes with water.

After that… interesting experience, I covered my body in black mud from the Dead Sea. Being… me, I was a bit overzealous with the mud application and even put it on my lips. This photo will illustrate that:

Dead Sea black mud

Don’t I look just like Goofy, the Disney cartoon character?

And although I ruined my bikini, my skin did felt quite soft after I took off the mud.

Lessons learned: the Dead Sea feels like contact solution, tastes horrendous and is actually quite beautiful. And black mud is no friend to bikinis.

Smoking All the Shisha

As a high schooler who grew up in Metro Detroit, I smoked a lot of shisha.  So I was excited to smoke “hubbly bubbly” as they say in Jordan, in the Middle East.

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The first night we smoked shisha with our guides. I was pleased to find that our guide and I had the same favorite flavor, double apple. The other girls got lemon and mint.

We spent the next several hours failing to take cool pictures of each other and smoking shisha to the point of nausea. Also I gave the girls a smoke-ring blowing lesson, and they believed me when I said I could blow out a ship. (Gandalf reference- anyone?)

But this wasn’t our only shisha experience. On our last night in Jordan we all sipped Planter’s Punch and smoked shisha while watching the sun set over the Dead Sea. Needless to say it was a wonderful moment.

Buying Souvenirs

Why have an apartment if you’re not going to fill it with exotic souvenirs?

In Jordan I bought a ton of souvenirs: spices like sumac and za’atar, a traditional red-and-white Jordanian headscarf, salts from the Dead Sea, blue and white Palestinian pottery, kohl eyeliner and essential oils to wear as perfume: Jordanian rose, yellow musk, and camellia.

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But my favorite souvenir (and most expensive) was this silver necklace that all four of us bought with our names in Arabic. Whenever I wear it everyone assumes I’m Middle Eastern.

Necklace with name in Arabic

Having Fun with My Girls

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 In Jordan I laughed more than I had in months, and it was so nice to spend the week with fellow travel addicts who understand my life.

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Photo Credit – Sateless Suitcase

And it was so much fun to brainstorm and learn from each other. I learned a ton about social media and photography, and finally learned how to shoot manual and edit in RAW.

Whether we were playing poker with cigarettes and coins or coming up with puns for Instagram like “petra-fying” (Get it?) we were having a blast. And probably making fun of each other.

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Visiting Petra at Night

Petra at night

This moment was so beautiful and surreal it deserves a post of its own, but walking to Petra under starlight was one of the most incredible moments of my life.

Have you ever visited Jordan? If not, would you want to?

I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board, but as always, all opinions are my own.

Life Out West: Month 6

Life Out West: Month 6

While on my RTW trip I loved posting monthly updates as they’re so much fun to both write and look back on. So I figured why not recap my life out west too? Read about month 1months 2&3 and months 4&5 here. All these photos are from Instagram, @ashleyabroad– find me there for travel inspiration and mountain pics!

Amman_amphitheatre

Highs

A week in beautiful, fascinating, delicious Jordan.

Jordan_ruins

Obviously, Jordan was the highlight of April. In Jordan, I felt like myself again. I had forgotten how happy researching ancient ruins, learning tidbits of other languages and laughing my head off with friends makes me. Needless to say, I had an absolute blast and came back a better person.

I can’t wait to blog about Jordan and am really proud of the writing and photography I produced. More very soon!

 

On the upswing at work.

Sales is quite the fickle mistress, but when it’s good, it’s really good. I’ve been doing well at work since my revenue slump in February and am hoping to continue hitting numbers. Sales is tricky but I’m definitely growing more confident!

 

Feeling refreshed post-Jordan.

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was really unhappy before I left for Jordan. The honeymoon phase of settling down had rubbed off, and I was becoming increasingly tense and negative. Worst of all, I couldn’t stop snapping at friends, coworkers and my boyfriend. I was feeling so bogged down by my schedule that I even considered quitting blogging.

I came back from Jordan with a new perspective- I realized that I need to practice gratitude for my life in Colorado. And while I don’t want to live in the states forever, it’s pretty wonderful right now. Also I need to be kinder and more patient with others even if I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed.

I also realized that I had become far too materialistic. As a frugal minimalist who loses everything, I’ve never cared much for material possessions. But over the winter I’d started buying things to mitigate my discontent, which is never a good path. Now I’m striving to be more conscious of my spending and only buy things I need. (No more trips to Sephora! For real.)

 

A relaxing weekend away with the boyfriend.

Buena Vista

I finally understand what people mean when they say “stay-cation.” Last weekend my boyfriend and I headed to a B&B in Buena Vista, a tiny 2,000 person town surrounded by mountains. I love B&Bs because you get good value for your money, have the opportunity to meet locals and duh- there’s free breakfast.

We spent the weekend hiking trails, drinking IPAs at the town’s only brewery, taking photos of the mountains, reading and just relaxing. It was so lovely.

 

Hitting the gym (and the hiking trails!)

Another thing that’s making me happier? Working out. I’ve been hiking a few times a week with friends and my stress levels have plummeted. Who needs the gym when you have the Rockies?

 

Lows

While April was a very, very good month in which I traveled a lot and mentally turned a corner, there still were a few minor lows.

Raging jetlag.

Dear god. Getting home from an international trip at 10 p.m. and waking up at 5 a.m. to go to work was so. rough. It turns out jetlag and office jobs do not mix at all- I was almost falling asleep at my desk for days.

But the worst was playing softball the night after getting home at 9:30 p.m., which for me was 6:30 a.m. I forgot my softball softball, threw a fit and acted a mess. Not my finest hour.

 

Not knowing what to do with my life.

As always, I’m unsure of the direction I want to pursue. Stay in Denver for two years because I work for a great company and have great friends? Move to Shanghai? Hack it all in and travel Central America and work on my blog and new site?

So many ideas for my future are swirling around in my head, and I feel torn. I wish a genie could tell me which decision would make me happiest. Ugh.

 

Missing my family a lot.

I’m really close with my family, so seeing them so infrequently is difficult.

When I was traveling my mom always said she wanted me to move home so we could be closer. But funny enough, I saw my family so much more when I traveled full-time- on average 2-3 months a year! It makes me sad that I can only see them a few times a year but I really can’t think of a solution.

 

Dreaming of Blogging.

Jordan reenergized me so much blogging-wise that I would kill for a solid week to blog 12 hours a day. Alas, the weekends will have to do.

 

Most Liked Instagram photo:

Camel

This adorable camel portrait with 150+ likes!

Something to Ponder

“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” – Bob Goff

Tieks by Gavrieli: My Favorite Travel Flats

Tieks by Gavrieli: My Favorite Travel Flats

On most of my backpacking trips, I packed only two pairs of shoes: flip flops and running shoes.

Which of course meant I had nothing to wear in dressier situations. In Asia I was even turned down at several clubs for not having proper footwear. (Like at the Skybar in Saigon. Ugh.)

So on my most recent trip I decided to pack a pair of black Tieks (that I won in a travel blog giveaway, funny enough) to accompany my flip flops and trainers.

And I was so glad I did.

For one, having a pair of stylish, comfortable shoes in Europe is a must (please never wear tennis or hiking shoes in public in Europe, mkay?). And secondly, they take up almost no space in your backpack.

So this year I ordered another pair of Tieks in burgundy- perfect for a wine lover, non?

Tieks

Tieks

Why Tieks are perfect for travel:

a. They’re stylish, and look good anywhere from European cobblestones to Southeast Asian clubs.

b. They’re comfortable, thanks to the padded sole.

c. They’re well-made, with soft but durable Italian leather. And they last- they don’t wear out quickly like most ballet flats.

d. They’re extra portable because they fold up into themselves! (See first image).

And okay fine, I love the box they come in. And the myriad colors. (I not-so-secretly would love the leopard. Next pair.)

Tieks

But Tieks aren’t just good for travel, they’re also great for everyday life– I wear both my burgundy and black pairs to the office all the time.

Tieks_Venice Tieks also make great gifts for those you love very, very much- hey, they ain’t cheap! My best friend pictured above in the ballerina pink Tieks I gave her for Christmas. Photo taken on our trip to Venice last year.

Tieks_Venice_Canal

TIeks_Venice_carnevale

 

Which color Tieks would you choose? Comment below!

A note of caution- Tieks are made of real leather so don’t get them wet. They definitely can handle some moisture but won’t do well in two feet of snow! Also order down if you’re a half size- I’m an 8.5 and I wear an 8 in Tieks.

My Two-Week Itinerary for Malaysia

My Two-Week Itinerary for Malaysia

While I didn’t know much about Malaysia before visiting, I quickly came to love it.

I journeyed to Malaysia overland from Thailand, and instantly the landscape changed: better, cleaner roads, no billboards, women in colorful headdresses, verdant rice paddies and wild, red-earthed jungle.

Second only to Singapore, Malaysia is the richest country in Southeast Asia, making public transit a breeze and the level of English impressively high. The high level of English made meeting locals much easier than in other parts of Southeast Asia, save Singapore.*

Melaka_Market

Malaysia is also extremely diverse, but I soon found that Malaysia is less of a melting pot and more of a stew. Malaysia is composed of three main ethnic groups that rarely intermarry: Malay (60%), Chinese (23%) and Indian (7%). Interestingly enough, these ethnic groups grow up speaking different languages, practicing different religions and eating different food.

For example, when I referred to a group of Chinese-Malay girls I had met as Malay, they retorted, “We’re not Malay! We’re Chinese.”

Malaysia isn’t a typical fixture on the Southeast Asian backpacking trail. It’s fairly expensive for Southeast Asia and the alcohol isn’t cheap.

That being said there are pockets of the backpacking scene- Reggae Mansion in Kuala Lumpur, for example, as well as the Perhentian Islands.

If all you want to do is party, Malaysia is not the place. But if you’re interested in fascinating culture, hundreds of years of history and some of the best meals of your life, I’d whole-heartedly recommend Malaysia.

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Here are my recommendations for a two week Malaysia itinerary if you have limited time. I’ve also noted a few things that weren’t worth the hype (in my humble opinion) so you won’t waste your time.

Note- the recommended accommodation is geared towards budget-conscious travelers like myself, so if you’re not interested in hostels or guesthouses then skip that part!

Penang

Penang

It’s no secret that I loved Penang– between the beautiful Peranakan mansions and the splashes of street art all over the city, I fell hard for this little colonial city. I would highly recommend between 2-4 days there.

Eat:

Eat at hawker centres such as CF Hawker Centre and Red Garden Food Paradise for a wide variety of food and a mostly local experience.

Make sure to try Penang’s most famous local dish, Char Kuey Teow, saucy, stir-fried noodles with shrimp, bean sprouts, eggs and Chinese chives.

Also if you’re craving Indian head to Little India for dinner- I ate very well there!

Stay:

I really liked Roommates Penang, the self-titled “coziest guesthouse in Penang” for its central location, glacial AC, historic Chinese shophouse facade and reasonable price (RM 28, or $7.70 USD for a bed in the standard dorm). It could use a common room though.

Do:

While in Penang visit the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, an opulent mansion that will teach you about Peranakan history, the Clan Jettiesthe historical docklands where Chinese-Malay clans have lived for more than a century and see all of the street art around Georgetown– I loved Ernest Zacharevic’s work in particular.

Cameron Highlands

Two_Week_Malaysia_Itinerary_Cameron_Highlands

Two_Week_Malaysia_Itinerary_Cameron_Highlands_1

While I personally didn’t really get The Cameron Highlands (truthfully I found them a bit boring), a lot of people love them. I will admit that they are a good place to escape the heat and take pictures of verdant tea fields, so head there if you’re dying to cool-down (totally reasonable in Malaysia.)

Kuala Lumpur

Two_Week_Malaysia_Itinerary_Kuala_Lumpur

KL decidedly doesn’t have the best reputation- it’s not a beautiful city by any means, and is terrible for pedestrians, with lots of highways and shoddy sidewalks. That being said I loved my time there and found the contrast of colorful colonial architecture and 70s skyscrapers kind of charming. Plus, the food is AMAZING.

Eat: Two_Week_Malaysia_Itinerary_Curry_laksa

All of the street food. I spent a week there eating solely from dirt-cheap hole-in-the-wall restaurants and couldn’t have been happier. I’d particularly recommend trying curry laksa, chicken rice (of course) and fish head bihun.

Stay:

Backpackers, get theeselves to Reggae Mansion.

I’ve stayed at 60-70+ hostels in my travels and NO JOKE, the Reggae Mansion is my favorite ever. It has three storeys, spotless cubby bunks (a must for privacy), great AC, a movie room, a hilarious owner and a rooftop bar where you can party, try karaoke and smoke shisha. My travel buddy and I stayed an entire week.

Do:

As a lover of Islamic art and architecture I enjoyed the Islamic Arts Museum. The Museum was very peaceful with few tourist and had centuries-old qur’ans, traditional clothing and tiles on display- well worth a visit.

Two_Week_Malaysia_Itinerary_Batu_caves

If you’ve never been to India you might enjoy the Batu Caves, a Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Murugan that was built in 2006. Personally I found it a bit crowded, dirty and crawling with macaques. But if you’re interested in Hindu deities it might be worth a stop.

Note- ladies should cover up with a shawl and long skirt or you’ll have to rent a sarong at the gate.

Melaka

Melaka

While I didn’t adore Melaka quite as much as Penang, I still enjoyed the beautiful riverside city. Melaka was colonized by the Portuguese, Dutch AND British, so naturally has lots of history.

Eat:

The Jonker Walk Night Market is a bustling market with tons of great eats- I had really good turnip cakes and pork buns there.

The best food I tried in Melaka was satay celup, which I had at Ban Li Xiang. If the idea of dipping food-on-a-stick into a vat of bubbling peanut sauce appeals to you, head there.

Finally I really like The Daily Fix, an adorable hipster coffee shop. I especially loved the vintage decor and free wifi.

Stay:

No recommendations here- I ended up staying in a charmless guesthouse as I wasn’t able to find an appealing hostel.

Do:

Walk the riverfront at sunset, visit historic St. Paul’s Church and stop by Cheng Hoon Teng, a beautiful Chinese temple where I worshipped with my hosts.

Despite my interest in colonial history I wasn’t a huge fan of A Famosa, the only remains of a Portuguese fort, or the Dutch graveyard, where most of the graves are actually English.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Obviously, this itinerary is just a suggestion and I haven’t been everywhere in Malaysia by any means. If I could go back I would visit the Perhentian Islands or Langkawi for beaches, Borneo for jungle and orangutans and Sipadan for some of the best scuba-diving in the world.

*(And while I’m all for speaking foreign languages, I speak three fluently after all, the level of English in a foreign country DOES matter if you care about meeting locals. You can’t speak every language unfortunately!)

Have you ever been to Malaysia? Where would you recommending going?

Roommates Penang and Reggae Mansion generously hosted my stay for two nights each. As always, all opinions are completely my own.

How to Balance Blogging with a Full-time Job: Advice From the Pros

How to Balance Blogging with a Full-time Job: Advice From the Pros

For the first two years of my blogging career, I churned out 2-3 posts a week rather easily. But once I moved to Denver and started a full-time job, I floundered. How on earth do people have the time or energy to do this after work? I wondered, with barely enough energy to watch Scandal.

While I’ve since figured out a blogging strategy (schedule posts on Sundays, draft posts during lunch at work) I still struggle to get posts out as consistently as I once did. Which is why I wanted to start this series on “Balancing Blogging”, and hear from bloggers who balance their blogs with full-time jobs, teaching abroad, au pairing or school.

Today we’re hearing from bloggers like me, who balance blogging while working full-time. I’m so excited to share with you all of their wise advice so take it away ladies!

How to balance blogging with a full-time job

Image Courtesy of Sateless Suitcase

Balancing_Blogging_With_Fulltime_Job

Blog // Twitter // Instagram

 

Welcome, Whitney! So have you always blogged and worked, or at one point did you have more time for your blog?

I’ve always blogged and worked. Or blogged and studied (back when I was a student).

What’s your advice on balancing blogging and a full-time job?

I wish I had some sage advice but if truth be told… it is a challenge. The difficulty lies in balancing work responsibilities, blogging, AND having a social life. Not to mention finding the time to create NEW content. I’m not going to have a lot to blog about if I’m always stuck behind a computer screen… that’s for sure!

I think the secret is utilizing the time that you already have. I don’t want to sacrifice all of my evenings or my sacred weekends but I do have time. My employer gives me an hour-long lunch break. During the winter when I tend to hide indoors a bit more, I can easily squeeze 30 minutes of writing on my break.

I also try my hand at multi-tasking. For example, in between loads of laundry I usually end up editing photos or adding the finishing touches to a post. It’s all about time management and finding the “lost time” that we can reclaim. Some of my best ideas come to me during my morning commute. Since I have the luxury of riding transit this means I’m free to jot notes on my smart phone that I can fine-tune later.

It’s not going to look the same for everyone but I guarantee that you have time hiding somewhere. You just have to look for it!

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Blog // Twitter // Instagram

 

Have you always blogged and worked, or at one point did you have more time for your blog?

I’ve always blogged and worked, but it was much easier to do when I lived in Paris and my job involved me being offline and outside, often running around the city. Back then, it was enjoyable to come home and spend six hours on the computer crafting blog posts, after being out all day for work.

These days, when I have a job that already requires working on a laptop 8+ hours during the day, it’s difficult to come home and spend even more time staring at my computer screen. I want to see friends, read a book, just turn my mind off — and that really makes blog productivity go down.

 

What’s your advice on balancing blogging and a full-time job?

Small steps. I used to get all my blog posts done in one fell swoop — choosing photos, editing them, writing and rewriting — and most posts took around 6-8 hours (because I take a lot photos and am a perfectionist, an exhausting combination).

Now I try to do a little bit each night after work — so I’ll take a few days to organize and cull photos, a couple more to edit them, and a day to write the post. My output may be smaller, but this way I make sure I don’t burn out while still making progress on the blog.

 

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Blog // Twitter // Instagram

 

Have you always blogged and worked, or at one point did you have more time for your blog?

When I first launched Let Us Wanderlust in September 2013, I’d left behind my career in Australia to pursue a life of travel on the road. I spent six months travelling full-time all across Canada and around the US and would blog about my adventures 3-4 times a week, using my 7 inch tablet to write posts, edit pictures and engage on social media.

With constant lack of wifi and no computer, it was a real challenge at times, but the memories I managed to capture over those six months were well worth the struggle!  Since returning home to Australia 9 months ago, I have settled back into the 9-5 work routine and I blog three times a week.

What’s your advice on balancing blogging and a full-time job?

Balance is something I am in constant pursuit of in all areas of my life, including the amount of time and energy I invest in my blog, so I don’t purport to have all the answers here! In fact, my word for 2015 is balance, as it’s something that seems so hard to strike but is so worthwhile striving for.

My best advice is to be as organised as you can when it comes to blogging. I carry a notebook/phone with my at all times (even when at work!) so I can jot down post ideas as they come to me, I write posts in advance (not every one, but I try my hardest to strive towards that!) one weekend a month or on a day off from work, and I use a planner to help me plan out my post schedule.

I have played around with various online editorial calendars but nothing works better for me than a planner and post-it notes – I can move posts around without my planner looking like a hot mess! Being organised and having a plan really helps me find balance between blogging, my full-time job and all the other things I’m doing in my life. It also allows me to take a step back from the online world as much as possible so I can just enjoy my life with the people I care about. Because at the end of the day, that’s what matters most to me.

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Blog // Twitter // Instagram

 

Have you always blogged and worked, or at one point did you have more time for your blog? 

I had more time to write when I was still a grad student, but I ever since launching my blog back in 2012, I’ve put quality over quantity.

I know some of the long-established bloggers advise newbie bloggers to write at least four articles per week, but even as a student I didn’t have that much time to spare. Still, in my first year of blogging, I tried to stick to a writing schedule that had a photo essay planned for Mondays, and a longer piece of travel advice, stories, or other musings due on Thursdays.

When I started working as a medievalist in the fall of 2013, I had to cut back the number of weekly posts. However this also resulted in me feeling less pressured into my strict schedule corset. Today, I rarely ever post twice a week, but I only share meaningful pieces created out of real inspiration unsuppressed by the need to “just get something out there.”

What’s your advice on balancing blogging and a full-time job?

Honestly, I still haven’t figured this out entirely, but since my hours at work are quite flexible, I’ve often found myself writing for my blog in the mornings while having breakfast — morning coffee and creativity just go so well together!

This is probably the best balancing advice I can give: Find a day, or a time of the day, that fits into your work schedule, but that also leaves you with enough time to think and be creative. Also: Try to get away from the computer screen every once in a while, especially if both of your obligations involve working on a PC. Sometimes I feel like all the technology is sucking the life out of me, and I can’t think of anything to write while staring at a blinking cursor on an empty page any longer — but I don’t stress myself out, or force myself to write.

Instead I just read random fiction, go for a walk, or just people-watch in a café. Clearing your head and giving your eyes a computer screen break really does wonders for creativity sometimes and it will absolutely pay off for your day job and your blog!

 

Blog // Twitter // Instagram

 

Have you always blogged and worked, or at one point did you have more time for your blog?

I’ve always blogged and worked. I had a different blog before Pies + Travel that I basically never updated. Once I started traveling more consistently with my partner, I knew I had to get serious about blogging so I created Pies + Travel for my ongoing travels, but also to highlight a few pie recipes I had from my 50-pie challenge and bits that I love about Atlanta. It’s been fun so far and I really love connecting with people all over the internet and the world.
I like the posting frequency I have right now since it’s perfect for my work schedule. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to blogs, just be yourself and do what you love.

Balancing_Blogging_With_Fulltime_Job_3

Blog // Twitter // Instagram

 

Have you always blogged and worked, or at one point did you have more time for your blog?

In some capacity I’ve always blogged and worked, it was just much less than I blog currently. I guess the crazy profession of a marketing copywriter demands an alternative creative outlet more often now, which is something my blog provides. Or, it could be I have less free time and therefore the pressure to get it done wins. Nothing like good ol’ time constraints to light a fire under my bum.

What’s your advice on balancing blogging and a full-time job?

Weekends are obviously key for getting an arsenal of posts on deck for the upcoming weeks that you can schedule. During the regular work week, I maintain social media accounts for my site and often find myself typing away on new posts during The Real Housewives at night (this is a judgment-free zone). The hubster and I have a minor obsession with traveling, so I’ve tried to utilize the down time at airports or on planes to whip through some words. Sometimes the people watching and Bloody Mary’s distract me. I can’t help it!

Blogging and working full-time isn’t a perfect science. I try not to be too hard on myself when work gets busy and I can’t muster up creating what I think is a worthwhile post. I just do what I can, when I can.

Helpful tip: I’m running my 2nd half-marathon this month insert < AHHHHH!!! here> and find that during training runs, I often think of great topics to write about. So I have an ongoing “Post Ideas” document on my Google Drive where all of my crazy ideas are housed. It’s been great in a pinch when I know I need to write something and I’m not feeling inspired.

 

Thank you to all the ladies who contributed to this post! There were so many contributors that a part two is coming soon. Also needed- bloggers who balance blogging with au pairing, school OR teaching English abroad!

. . . . . . . . . . .

What about you? Do you have any sage advice on how to balance blogging with full-time job?

Solo Travel in Melaka: My Favorite Experiences

Solo Travel in Melaka: My Favorite Experiences

On my four-month world trip I did very little solo travel. Which frankly was fine- after two months of traveling solo in Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia, I was burnt out on being alone.

So I felt torn when my travel buddy, Dylan, wanted to go to Singapore when I was dead-set on Melaka. I was concerned about both traveling alone and traveling alone as a woman in a Muslim country.

But despite my doubts I booked my bus trip to Melaka and vowed to meet up with Dylan in Hanoi.

Melaka

It turned out my worries were for nothing- traveling solo to Melaka worked out perfectly and I came to adore the historic and food-obsessed city. Melaka was ruled by the Portuguese, Dutch and British- how could I not find it interesting?

Here’s a little recap on the my favorite experiences in Melaka.

Melaka_Tourism

Eating Everything the Jonker Walk Night Market

In typical backpacker style I spent my first day in Melaka combing the streets in search of a hostel with a thirty-pound backpack. Always a good time.

So by the time I’d found a room, I was ravenous- hence why I ate all of the following at the Melaka Night Market.

Melaka_Food_Market

Two_Week_Malaysia_Itinerary_turnip

The best thing I ate was this little barbecue pork bun. So tiny but so tasty.

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Melaka_Food_Market

Two_Week_Malaysia_Itinerary_Melaka

I’d highly recommend visiting the Melaka night market- I loved not only the food but also the bustling energy and ample photo opportunities.

Strolling the Magical Riverfront

The riverfront in Melaka was oh-so-romantic, dotted with old-fashioned street lamps and shuttered, red-roofed buildings.

Two_Week_Malaysia_Itinerary_Melaka_riverfront

Melaka_Riverfront

While romantic riverfronts are uh, less enticing when you’re on your own, I still enjoyed snapping photos at sunset and savoring the cool river breeze, always a welcome feeling in crazy-humid Malaysia. Melaka_Riverfront_Night

Meeting a Local Girl and All Her Friends

Melaka

As you guys may have noticed, what interests me most about travel is local culture, something that can be hard to experience in Southeast Asia. So I was thrilled when Grace, a Melaka-native, reached out to me via Instagram and offered to meet me for coffee.

At coffee we clicked instantly, and soon I met all of her sweet and welcoming friends. Why can’t that happen in every city that you visit solo?

Trying Satay Celup for the First Time

On my second day in Melaka I told my host that I wanted to try satay celup, and suggested we go to Capitol Satay, a local satay joint I had read about.

“Uh no, that’s just for tourists. No one from Melaka goes there.” Melaka_Satay

So instead we headed to Ban Li Xiang, a restaurant on the outskirts of town. Ban Li Xiang, 万里香, which apparently translates to, “food so good you can smell it a thousand miles away.”

Here are the steps of eating satay celup, the perfect food for all of my fellow peanut sauce addicts:

  1. Walk over to refrigerator filled with various foods on a stick: quail eggs, eggs, liver, prawns, beef, chicken, etc. Melaka_Satay_Celup
  2. Wait for the large vat of peanut sauce in the middle of your table to heat up.
  3. Plop sticks into the peanut sauce, and wait for them to fully cook. IMG_0690
  4. Devour sticks, dripping in peanut sauce.
  5. Have waiter come over and count the sticks, and pay based on how many sticks you ate.

Having Indian Brunch

One morning the girls insisted we go out for Indian brunch. While I had just spend six weeks in India and even the idea of dahl made me feel nauseated, I reluctantly agreed.

But I’m glad I did- this brunch was bomb.

Melaka_Girls I loved the food- both the chai and roti prata were on point. IMG_0702

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Like the satay celup restaurant this brunch-place at Limonbongan cafeteria was on the outskirts of Melaka, as all the good food spots are. Hard-core foodies- definitely rent a car when in Melaka!

Worshipping a Buddhist Temple

While I’m not religious, worshipping a Chinese Buddhist temple was fascinating. The girls taught me how to pray there step-by-step, something I never would’ve known on my own.

First you touch the balls inside the dragon’s mouth for good luck.

Melaka_Chinese_temple

Melaka_Chinese_temple_Interior

Melaka_Chinese_temple_Ritual Then you take a container filled with sticks and shake them a bit, and pull out the longest one. Each stick coordinates to a fortune which you then look up in a book. Melaka_Chinese_temple_Fortune My fortune was the questionably translated fortune below:

Business just kept to what it is to be, not to go too far

Work harder for your merit and future undertaking

Be sincere in your household affairs

Marriage afraid of being cheated

Do not interfering other people’s affairs when you are out

Be cautious when you are driving

Illness, seek doctor treatment quickly

Health will be at risk during old age

 

And after you read your fortune, you burn it. I wasn’t entirely sure of the reason why, but I followed suit anyway. When in Melaka. Melaka_Chinese_temple_Fortune_Burning

Despite my apprehensions I truly had an amazing experience in Melaka- I adored the architecture, food and of course the people. Thanks to Grace and her group of friends for showing me around- it made my visit to Melaka that much better!

Have you visited Melaka?