Back when Facebook was boring and MySpace reigned supreme memes were what all the cool kids did to express themselves. When Chris from Aussie on the Road tagged me to participate in the A to Z of Travelling my inner 15-year-old jumped at the chance to take part.
So let’s start at the very beginning because it’s a very good place to start…
A: Age you made your first international trip
At the tender age of 19-months, I was bundled in a big jacked on my first ever international flight to Hong Kong. Why Hong Kong? Wait a moment, let me ring my Mum and ask her… “Because we wanted to go away during the Christmas break and Hong Kong has always been an appealing destination for travellers – a shopping mecca and with lots of things to see and do.”
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where
Ach! I’m actually not much a beer drinker – that’s blasphemy because I’m an Aussie, right?
I developed a particular love for Magners cider whilst in Ireland; and whilst the Guinness in Dublin was fresh as it could get I really enjoyed the Christmas beers from Nørrebro Bryghu in Copenhagen. It tasted like a Christmas pudding in my mouth! But I think I’m still a few more drinks off of being a seasoned beer drinker!
C: Cuisine (Favorite)
I like food… a lot. I’m just not very good at eating it (I’m a lazy chef… if I can’t make it in 20minutes – pfffft!!!) I love Mexican, Italian, Spanish, Thai… ohhh, it just goes on.
Of the places I’ve visited, and despite having only eaten Chinese food ONCE in the four trips I’ve made to Hong Kong, I love me some dumplings, beef and vegetables, ooh don’t forget spring rolls!
My second favourite would have to be Macanese cuisine from Macau. The tiny island which is now part of China when Portugal handed it back to the Chinese but the flavours haven’t changed.
Macanese blends Portuguese and some very light Chinese spices to create delicious food. The chicken dishes are the most popular so go try them!
D: Destinations: Favourite? Least Favourite? Why?
A favourite destination is a toughie. It’s a close tie between Hong Kong and New York but I think New York edges ahead just slightly. There’s just something about the city. Yes, it’s big and busy with horrendous traffic but something is happening around every corner. From a Doctor Who themed bar (I don’t even watch the show but can’t wait to check-it-out!) to art exhibitions. The free Staten Island ferry or even just spinning around in Times Square at 3 am in the morning and having cops laugh at you – to me New York is magic.
Least favourite? I’ve never had a place I hate but Los Angeles is currently sitting in the last place on my list. Maybe it was because I travelled there at the beginning of my teenage phase, or maybe it was because it doesn’t gel with my personality, but it seemed to be all concrete fake people and no culture. I do want to go back through – the Farmers Market is awesome and I’d really like to see the city as an adult.
E: Event you experienced that made you say ‘Wow’
For me, it’s the small things that make me go “Wow!” not a singular experience.
The history of Derry/Londonderry in Northern Ireland made me go “Wow”, Times Square always makes me go “Wow”, flying into a new city often makes me go “Wow” (I have a thing for flying just above the cloud cover. It’s like a whole new world up there!), Discovering a love of Macanese food in Macau makes me go “Wow” and even the first Starbucks Frappachino when arriving in the states make me go “Wow” (Australia has all but run Starbucks out of the country. They only really exist in the super touristy areas.) Even the kindness of strangers makes me say “Wow” since our society grows up being taught that strangers are bad.
F: Favourite mode of transportation
Gotta agree with Chris’ answer on this one. Hands down my favourite mode of transport would be a plane.
Big, small, my Dad flying it or a proper pilot. I don’t care just get me in the air!
For me, it’s everything about an airplane. The thundering noise a Cessna 6-seater makes when starting the engine, the really shitty airplane food, the funny feeling you get in your stomach during turbulence and take-off, and best of when a plane skims the clouds and you feel like you are sitting on them.
Someone, please get me on a plane stat!!!
G: Greatest feeling while travelling
The unpredictability of travel.
I used to be an amazingly anal planner. EVERYTHING would be packed a fortnight in advance. EVERYTHING would be printed off, highlighted and colour coded; and then I went to America.
Over the four months that I was in the states working as a summer camp counselor I learned that I could chill and everything was going to be alright. I learned that we didn’t have to plan our weekly outings whilst we were still on our previous weekend’s outings. Come Friday we could get in the car and decide where we wanted to go. I learned to be spontaneous again.
Man, that is amazing!
Somehow I ended up in Florida… then Chicago… all booked at the last second. Same goes with my flights next week. I was meant to go to Thailand to see some amazing bloggers (sorry Ally, Lauren, & Amy and Kieron!!!) but work and other matters got in the way. This means I’m heading to Hong Kong… and all I know is that I have to be there by December 25th.
H: the Hottest place I’ve travelled to
My hometown of Adelaide, South Australia is probably the hottest place I’ve ever been. When a heat wave is over 3 5degrees Celsius and in summer it will often reach 40 – 44 degrees, South Australia is defiantly the winner.
As for places I’ve actually travelled. None has compared. Where the summer camp was based in New York was pretty hot and humid, I’m used to dry heat so nights were a killer for me; though I was shocked to see the Americans consider 25+ a heat wave. Come to Australia mates!
I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where
Anywhere in Asia you’ll find amazing service. Of course thanks to me being a sucker for Hong Kong I’m going to choose Hong Kong as the best particularly at a hotel like the Intercontinental or one of the local restaurants. Everything is always topped up, tables are cleaned within seconds, food is (generally) fast and the waiters and waitresses are actually nice. (Honourable mention to the Spaghetti House in Tsim Sha Tsui 😉 )
J: Journey that took you the longest
London -> Hong Kong -> Melbourne -> Adelaide
Delays leaving London (did manage to drink plenty of complimentary champagne and fall asleep though!), delayed further because we needed more fuel to fly around closed airspace in Europe, delayed leaving Hong Kong (because of the delay leaving London) missed my connecting flight home because the plane landed late, had to take a 6 am flight home from Melbourne.
Did I mention I can’t sleep on planes? :/
K: Keepsake from your travels
I keep far too many things and I justify it by sending them all home. From postcards which I haven’t written on, shamrock stockings in Dublin to a present one of the girls in my bunk made me whilst at summer camp – I’ve kept them all!
I have one which is probably the most memorable though.
Dog tags are a very American thing. Whilst there was a bit of a fad a few years back in Australia they were never really as big as what they are in America.
When visiting Dorney Park, a theme park in Philadelphia, as part of a camp day excursion all of the kids seemed to be gravitating towards one particular stall which imprinted dog tags as a keepsake.
The kids were getting ones which read things like ‘I love Justin Beiber’ or ‘Bunk 6A Juniors 2010 ROCK!’ but I wanted something a little more meaningful.
I collected four different colours – red for me, green for hippy Jos, blue to match Pods eyes and green for hockey Steve – and had something very simple imprinted on them.
“Every camp has a legend. Silverlake 10.”
(The first line of our alma mater, the location and the year.)
My tag is now hanging on my pin board, a reminder to text or email them and remind them how much I miss them all!
L: Let-down sight. Why and where?
Cotroversial but I am constantly disappointed by Sydney, in particular, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.
Sure it’s nice to see once and I’m always excited to catch my first glimpse of them when I fly into the city but by the time I navigate the city and bask in their greatness down in Darling Harbour I remember that it’s just a giant hunk of metal and that they are really not as spectacular as the postcards and the snap happy tourists make them out to me. Sydney is a beautiful place to visit but it’s just not that impressive! Why not travel South to Melbourne and experience the coffee culture, the myriad of art scenes, or AFL (I’m biased though… I don’t understand rugby!) Or how about the virtually unexplored wild nature of Tasmania. Although colder than its Southern counterparts the scenery and virtually tourist free scene makes it for an interesting place to visit.
What I’m trying to say to people who may travel to Australia at some point – don’t stop in Sydney (or Sydney and the Gold Coast) because the other capitals have so much to offer if you just take a closer look.
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel
I don’t remember when I fell in love with travel. I was too young for it to really register. Travel has always been a natural chapter of my life. From flying with my family between Adelaide and Melbourne for work or being dragged along on other trips around Australia or the world. Travel and I have always been ‘involved’ but it’s really been since 2008 and an eye-opening trip into Southern China and experiencing some of Macau’s religious culture that I became a committed travel-holic!
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in
Ooh, this one’s a toughie. Whilst the Swissotel Sydney is grand, and the Hilton Melbourne is gorgeous, my favourite hotel which I keep going back to has to be the Waldorf=Astoria in New York City. I’ve stayed there 3-times, the fourth happening in a matter of weeks, and stayed in everything from the standard room, to the suites or even the Walforf Towers – the best rooms in the hotel!
Not only does it have the best service but everything about the place screams old world charm and you feel like Blair Waldorf (Gossip Girl) from the time you walk in. The person playing the piano throughout the day in the main lobby, the fabulous shining banisters, the wooden or marble everything.
The room rates are also affordable (by New York standard) – over Christmas we paid US$280 per night for four people. Not too shabby. And it’s fun to celebrity watch – John Mayer was staying there when we were once and there have been a couple other spottings as well.
And there’s a Starbucks in the lobby for hot chocolates for breakfast – perfect!
O: Obsession. What are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?
Street art! It’s a recent ‘hobby’ turned obsession, especially when exploring the laneways of Melbourne. At every corner there is something new screaming “photograph me!” and so I do.
P: Passport stamps. How many and from where?
In total or just this passport? Alright, just in my current passport I have 22 (in most cases it’s one for landing and one for exit.)
In order since 2012 I have stamps from:
Hong Kong (I went back!)
USA (Los Angeles)
The Netherlands (Amsterdam)
So 14 stamps from 9 countries in this passport.
…I’m a little annoyed I didn’t get stamps for Germany or Northern Ireland!
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where.
I haven’t really been to too many quirky attractions. To me the whole of the Amsterdam red light district was quirky! There were condom shops but the condoms were characters or had faces and uhrm.. well, I would hope that no one would actually use them, there was street art depicting the human body and… well, I’ll leave the rest for you to work out. =P
R: Recommended sight, event, or experience.
I’d defiantly recommend working abroad. Yes, it can be hard but it can also be one of the most rewarding things you do when travelling. I have a friend who went to the UK and worked for just 6-weeks because that was how long her school holidays were; I’ve spent 4-months at a US Summer camp and then worked for 3-months in the UK. Being able to settle down and use a place as a base for your travels is indispensable and in the case of working out in the Catskills in New York state, being able to travel outside the city and become ‘a local’ in the neighbouring town was a pretty cool experience.
Don’t fancy working abroad? Why not visit Copenhagen for J-Day and try the Christmas beer?!
S: Splurge. Something you have no problem forking over for while traveling.
Good food or a nice piece of clothing!
T: Touristy thing you’ve done
I love doing touristy things. I believe you should do a good mix of both when travelling!
I’m a sucker for those Big Bus tours found around the world. To date I’ve done them in Hong Kong, New York and London and plan on doing them in other countries when I get the chance. Why do I do them? Because they give a good quick rundown of the city. You can mark out where you want to go, possibly discover things you want to see that you never see before and you can always hop-off them to explore an area.
I also did three Orlando theme parks in three days, have been to four Disneyland’s, climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge and take far too many photos of everything my computer is almost out of memory!
U: Unforgettable travel memory
Oooh… toughie. I have far to many unforgettable travel memories. Some of them range from personal (being kissed in Times Square) to nerve-wracking (driving down the Great Ocean Road to the 12 Apostles then panicking when we had to drive 200km home through pouring rain with a speeding truck right up our clacker!) and even just silly (eating key lime pie from as many pie shops/restaurants as we could in one day in Key West… needless to say we felt sick that night!)
V: Visas. How many of them and for where.
In total or in my current passport? 😛
I’m too lazy to dig up all my old passports (yes, I have kept them all!) but in my current passport I have:
2x Special Economic Region visas for the Peoples Republic of China (visiting ShenZehn from Hong Kong)
1x J1 Working Visa for the United States of America (working at an American Summer camp)
1x YMS visa for the United Kingdom (which I am currently wasting being in Australia!)
I hope to be adding at least one more visa to my passport (visiting ShenZehn again) by the end of the year. 🙂
W: Wine, best glass while traveling and where.
The wine in my hometowns backyard is the best in the world. I’m from Adelaide, South Australia which means I’m surrounded by the vineyards of the McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and of course, the Barossa. I really should do a proper wine tour so I can find which is my favourite region!
X: eXcellent view and from where
I wish I had a photo to share but you aren’t allowed to take cameras up there. The Sydney Harbour Bridge climb was easily one of the best views I had ever seen.
Also, two other views which get an honourable mention would have to be both the Staten Island ferry with a view of New York and the Statue of Liberty, and the Star Ferry with views of both sides of Hong Kong from Victoria Harbour.
Y: Years spent traveling
My first domestic flight was at 9-months old.
My first international flight was at 18-months-old..
That takes the tally to just shy of 22-years of travelling and there are many more coming!
Z: Zealous sports fans and where
Australia is a sporting nation. From cricket to AFL, rugby or tennis, we love to cheer our sportsmen on.
Second to the Aussies have to the be Irish. I went to an International Rules game between Australia and Ireland in Limerick and though it was the smaller of the two games (the bigger being held in Croke Park, Dublin) the fans were so passionate supporting their boys in green. It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to go to a game when they play in Australia.
But nothing beats the roar of the 120,000 people at the MCG on AFL Grand Final day.