Nineteen years later and I’m still discovering places in my home town that I never knew existed.
Lover’s Leap is one of the forgotten gems of the Otago Peninsula, located a mere 25 minute cruise from the hub of Dunedin, New Zealand.
Those who embark on the trek will be treated to the stunningly resplendent views of Sandymount carpark before a short stroll through rolling farmland to reach the Chasm (keep an eye out for the sheep!). After soaking in the monumental (and arguably formidable) abyss, negotiate the sloping and rugged coastline towards the 225m crag of Lovers Leap.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for my Dunedin vlog! As I prepare to farewell my home of nineteen years, I have been collecting footage over the past handful of months to celebrate the delightful city Dunedin is. There will be some clips of Lovers Leap thrown into the mix, so if you find yourself drawn to the jaw-dropping landscape of the Otago Peninsula, be sure to treat yourself to this upcoming montage.
(verb.) to delay or postpone action; put off doing something until you’ve had coffee.
As a third-year university student, I think that it is fair to say that coffee is my best friend. In saying that though, my love affair with coffee did not fully begin until I travelled to Vietnam in late 2016. I had experimented with caffeine early in the year as part of am attempt to demonstrate my transition into official adulthood, but had conceded defeat after I realised that drinking coffee was like drinking burnt charcoal. Nevertheless, it was impossible to travel around Vietnam – one of the coffee hotspots of the world – without trying the stuff.
Whilst coffee was only introduced to Vietnam in 1857 by the French, it has become one of the country’s biggest exports. In fact, Vietnam is the second-largest producer of coffee in the world! Didn’t expect that from a wee nation tucked away in Southeast Asia, did you? If you’re interested in learning more about how Vietnam transformed into one of the globe’s leading coffee giants, you might be inclined to check out this BBC article.
Vietnamese coffee is prepared by coarsely grinding Robusta beans through a French drip filter known as a phin. While the beans are weighted down, hot water is added and slowly trickles down through the phin into the cup. Voila! It’s as simple as that.
Whilst I do not consider myself a caffeine expert by any means, I do enjoy a bit of good old fashioned research, and the consensus is clear: Vietnamese coffee is some of the best coffee in the world. What makes Vietnamese coffee — or ca phe, as it is called — so iconic is its incorporation of sweetened condensed milk. Think think and dreamy with “notes of nuttiness” to throw your tastebuds into a stimulated frenzy. I’m not going to lie; condensed milk certainly provides a helpful hand for developing an appreciation for coffee for those who are put off by the traditional bitter taste. This is especially convenient in this case, as the Vietnamese like their coffee strong.
One of the reasons I decided to visit Vietnam — or Southeast Asia in general — was the low cost of travel there. Consistent with this, you will not find yourself emptying your pockets to purchase a cup of joe. Depending on the quality of the Robusta beans and the overall price of the venue, you’ll probably find yourself forking out between 20,000 – 70,000 Vietnamese dong for a glass. This roughly approximates to NZD$1.25 – $4.40 (or USD$0.90 – $3.00).
1. Pour the condensed milk into a glass to line the base of the cup
2. Load a stainless steel phin with the coffee grounds
3. Place the coffee-laden phin on top of the glass
4. Wet the coffee in the filter with 20 ml of hot water
5. Pour another 120ml of hot water over the coffee grounds
6. Wait approximately 8-10 minutes until all of the water has drained through
5. Mix the coffee with condensed milk and enjoy!
Which country do you think produces the best coffee? Share your thoughts, and I’ll be sure to put it up to the taste test when I travel there! Furthermore, if you are intrigued by the different foods and drinks cultures have to offer, you might want to check out my blog post on 5 Foods That Will Make You Go WTF (and 5 Foods That Won’t) 👌
Perhaps the most adventurous New Years Eve I ever spent was celebrated in the island of Rarotonga. Rarotonga – or Raro, for short – completely smashes the stakes when it comes to competing for the most beautiful tropical destination. I don’t think I could express it better than the following description from Lonely Planet below.
“The most populous of the Cook Islands is stunning in its natural beauty and physical drama. A halo of flame-orange coral reef encircles the island, and Rarotonga’s sapphire-blue lagoon is trimmed by sparkling white beaches. Beyond the reef, breakers foam and crash like distant thunder. Rarotonga’s settlements are nestled on the coastal flatlands, with the island rising spectacularly through lush fields and rural farmland to the mountainous and thickly forested interior. These silent, brooding peaks dominate the landscape from every angle. Rarotonga has plenty of history, too, with ancient marae (traditional meeting places) and monuments to explore, and some of the best-preserved coral churches in the South Pacific.”
I traveled to Rarotonga at the very beginning of 2016. At the time, I hadn’t yet gotten my shit together and created the Ginger Passports, and any footage I captured on film was eclectic and poorly executed. Because of that, I did not have enough clips to put together a full-length vlog, but the ones I did were just too gorgeous to go to waste. And so the idea dawned on me that I could create a 30 second ‘trailer’ of sorts to try and showcase the lush resplendence of Raro in half a minute (also check out my favourite song as the soundtrack).
Tailoring in Southeast Asia is vast and world-renowned, although perhaps nowhere as much as Hoi An. Hoi An – a small town in central Vietnam – is known for many beautiful things, among which include a thriving tailor industry. Over 700 tailors reside here, with the trade often existing generations upon generations back within a single family.
If you’ve read any of my other blog posts from Southeast Asia, you’ll know that I am unapologetically suspicious of anything that doesn’t quite stack up. So when I discovered how little it cost to get six items of clothing made at various tailors across town, I was skeptical about the quality of the garments I would be receiving. Yet after doing some research, I was quickly reassured that I would not be sacrificing quality for price. The low prices are attributed to the low cost of living (and consequently wages) in Southeast Asia.
In saying that, you should always be vigilant of tailors that are prepared to rip you off. Despite the cost of tailoring in Southeast Asia being low, there are still those that will try and sell you inferior fabric or overcharge for substandard service. Although I didn’t encounter any tailors that I was unsatisfied with, I have heard from a handful of travellers that there is an outrageous number of tailors who actually do not produce garments in their own shops.
If you are being accompanied by a tour guide, be wary that they may take you to certain tailors regardless of their quality of service simply because they receive a commission. This happened to me thanks to one shady tour guide, but luckily the tailor we ended up at was absolutely superb 👌
So how can you tell which tailor to invest in? Unfortunately, simply consulting TripAdvisor won’t always suffice. Tailors often pay companies to remove negative reviews and replace them with fake positive ones for the sake of improving business. Instead, I recommend engaging in some good old fashioned research. If you have the luxury of time, go exploring and investigate the different tailors on offer in Hoi An. If you have a particular design in mind, keep an eye out for tailors with fabrics to cater to your needs. Not all tailors have an abundance of materials on hand, so if you are looking for something special such as leather or chiffon, it pays to do your homework in advance. Furthermore, inquire about the experience of the tailors. Generally speaking, there is a reliable correlation between years in the industry and service satisfaction.
The Tailoring Process
You walk into the tailor shop (without a reservation)
You decide on the design(s) you would like madeA question I often receive is whether you need a preconceived idea in mind of what you would like made. There is no right or wrong answer to this; you can either bring a picture of a garment you would like made or you can collaborate with the tailor to create a design using their ideas. I myself have experimented with each option and have been ecstatic with the results of both (if not more so with the collaborated design).
Your measurements are recorded with photographs taken if need be
You will be required to make a deposit on your orderIn my experience, this is typically 50% of the total price. In return, you will receive an itemised receipt as proof of order.
You will return for your first fitting where you will try on unfinished garments
The tailor will make chalk marks and/or insert pins where changes need to be made to ensure the clothing is the right sizeThis step may be repeated a number of times depending on how long it takes to get the perfect fit. This generally depends on the difficulty of the design and the fabric used.
Once the garment(s) are all finished, you will return for the final fittingReaching this final part of the process can take from between a few hours to a few days. When you are satisfied, you will pay what the deposit did not cover and the tailor will package your purchase in plastic sleeves.
Bonus Tips and Tricks
☞ Capitalise on the fact that they are tailors!
So you want an A-line skirt. Fantastic! But why are you traveling halfway across the world to buy one? The whole idea of tailoring is to order something original, so make the most of the opportunity.
☞ Be flexible!
As I mentioned above, not all tailors have the materials you may specifically request. To ensure you will be happy with the final product, endeavour to entertain all ideas and avoid a fixed mindset.
☞ “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”
Cheesy proverb aside, if you are utilising the service of a tailor, it is only fair that you reciprocate. A little positive feedback on Tripadvisor goes a long way for small businesses (if you are satisfied with the experience, of course). This is especially the case as tourists rely on such means to finalise their itinerary. Tailors will also give you their business cards so that you don’t forget their name, and won’t be subtle in their hints for you to leave a good word or two on their social networks.
I visited a variety of different tailors in Hoi An, but perhaps my favourite was Two Ladies. There, I had the most stunning forest-green coat with a satin lining made that makes me feel somewhat like a Tolkien elf. I brought a similar style back home in New Zealand about a year previously on sale, where the original retail price was NZD$900 (approximately USD$630). In Hoi An, I paid around NZD$50 for the new coat (approximately USD$35) and — although I’m no couture expert — I am convinced that the quality of the latter is far superior.
“Behind a bend… the entire town of Bangkok appeared in sight. I do not believe that there is a sight in the world more magnificent or more striking; this Asiatic Venice…”
Ludovic Marquis de Beauvoir
As the capital city of Thailand, Bangkok is one swarming, electrified, confused hub. No matter where you are, there’s always somethinggoing on, and it can be difficult to know what to do if you only have 24 hours in this introduction to Southeast Asia that has been described as an “attack on the senses”.
Bangkok isn’t a city that has an iconic skyline like Paris or New York, but that’s not to say it’s not worth the climb. If you’re especially motivated (unlike me), then I would recommend setting your alarm for 6am to catch a breathtaking Thai sunrise. Or, alternatively, if you’re like me and jet-lagged out of your mind, sunset does the trick as well 👌
Practice Your Bartering Skills
Make like the tourists and catch a tuk-tuk to weave through the zig-zagging streets of Bangkok. Although the tuk-tuks here aren’t as crazy as they are in Cambodia, it’s nevertheless an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.
There isn’t a set price for a tuk-tuk ride, and you will be expected to barter with the operator to determine a price. As someone who hates being assertive with a passion, I had been dreading this ever since I set foot off the plane. For the most part it went without a hitch, but I’m not going to lie; being a young and unaccompanied white woman in the middle of Bangkok definitely draws attention to yourself, and there were many times tuk-tuk operators tried to take advantage of me. When I rejected the exceedingly high price one requested, he gestured towards my wallet and made a rude comment about me being a rich white tourist. I tried to explain to him that I don’t just carry around wads of cash in my pocket, but it was no use. In times like those, you just have to walk away and trust in the fact that there is always going to be someone else just down the road who will take you where you want to go without trying to scam you of all your money.
Recline with the Buddha
There’s countless places you can wile away hours of your time in Bangkok, but if you’re looking for somewhere cultural, I would highly recommend paying a visit to Wat Pho. Located by the river in the Old City, Wat Pho – or Temple of the Reclining Buddha – used to be the first public university in Thailand with specialities in religion, science and literature.
As it’s name suggests, Wat Pho features the gold-plated reclining Buddha that measures a whopping 15 metres tall and 46 metres long. 46 metres! I’ll just let that sink in for a moment. Also be sure to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and knees; it is a sign of respect in Thailand not to expose skin in these areas whilst in sacred places.
Explore the Asiatique
Just a nifty ten-minute (and free!) boat ride down the river from Saphan Taksin BTS station lies the Asiatique. This riverfront bazaar is the ultimate night fusion market. There are more restaurants and shops than you can count, with different live performances on offer to entertain you every night. If you’re looking for some retail therapy, then you’ve come to the right place; with over 1,500 boutiques selling everything you can imagine – and for prices that seem too good to be true – you’ll be shopped out before long. Even if you’re not the biggest spender, it’s certainly an experience to simply meander through the warehouse and take in all the sights.
Don’t forget to buy a ticket for the ferris wheel to see some stunning views of Bangkok lit up at night, and if you’re looking for something a little bit quirky, why not book in a session at the fish spa? Wallow in a small tank whilst flesh-eating fish nibble at your toes for an eccentric Thai experience. If your excuse not to do this is that you’re too ticklish, then don’t worry – if I can stick it out for 15 minutes, then so can you!
Expand Your Palate
If an evening at the Asiatique hasn’t exhausted you, then finish off your day by dropping by some street food stalls on the way home. After all, who doesn’t a love a sneaky midnight snack? Thai street food is dotted all over Bangkok, and vendors operate well into the night. I’ve had some of the most succulent fresh fruit I’ve ever from these stalls, including fruit with names I can’t even pronounce.
If you’re feeling adventurous (or still adrenalised from the fish spa), then this is the best place to expand your palate and try some bugs. Yes, you heard me right: bugs. Grasshoppers, beetles, worms, crickets… you name it. Oh, and don’t worry – they’re seasoned.
To quote Buzzfeed, “… whenever you tell a person you’ve never been to Disneyland, they go through at least seven different stages of stunning disbelief before telling you that you have to — no, listen: YOU HAVE TO. Get in a car and drive to Disneyland, because every second you waste not being at Disneyland is apparently crushing your soul into tiny bits of magic-less oblivion.”
As someone who has visited the happiest place on earth both as an eight year old and as an eighteen year old, I feel that I am somewhat knowledgeable in terms of experiencing the amusement park from two very different walks of life. As an eight year old, my Disneyland experience consisted of stuffing my face with candy floss, queuing for an hour for Space Mountain, wanting to vomit said candy floss as I was hurtling through the nauseating galaxy of said Space Mountain – and repeat. It was only as an eighteen year old that I realised Disneyland is more than just a fantastical sugar rush for kids.
I’m a bit of a sucker for design, and — much to the delight of my friends — insist on stopping every time we pass a building so that I can take a picture. As cheesy as it sounds, ‘reading’ the Disneyland surroundings is an adventure in itself; you can learn as much from the environment as you can from the experience. One of my favourite aspects of the Disneyland architecture is that of the Main Street; here, you’ll find homage to Second Empire Victorian with a nod to Hollywood art deco.
(If this bores you, you may find yourself rethinking your appreciation for architecture when you’re waiting in line with nothing to entertain yourself except for the buildings around you.)
Escapism is defined as “an inclination to retreat from unpleasant realities through diversion or fantasy”. As human beings, we all experiencing adversity and the pressing weight of society at various points in our lives. In order to secure a satisfactory level of well-being, we all need a chance to release and ‘let down our hair’, so to speak. If Disneyland can’t do that for you, then I don’t know what can.
Stepping through the front gates is the phenomenological equivalent of stepping through a portal and into a magical and exquisite world. Everything is insurmountably better; Disneyland even seems to defy the laws of physics. Even as a temporary relief, the amusement park is an important source of happiness for those who seek it. If you approach the experience as an opportunity to escape reality, then you can be sure you’ll be getting bang for your buck.
Downtown Disney is the cuisine hub of Disneyland. The best time to visit it is at night when you can enjoy a refreshing beer beneath the beautiful lights of the boulevards. However, that is not to say that Disneyland itself has nothing mouth-watering on offer. In fact, I have compiled a short list that you should make your mission to try the next time you hear your stomach grumbling.
Come on, you can’t discuss an amusement park and miss out the rides. Plus, I’m a firm believer that you are never too old for a rollercoaster, and that anyone who claims otherwise needs a good old dose of faith, trust and pixie dust to cheer them up. Although you’ll find more adrenalised rides at California Adventure right next door, one that ranks right up there for me is Space Mountain. Think a fast-paced rollercoaster. In the dark. Surrounded by a nebula of exploding stars. It’s a Trekkie’s wet dream.
If you are more disposed towards taking it slow, I recommend you check out the highly acclaimed Pirates of the Caribbean, an indoor “swashbuckling voyage” where your boat will drift past intricately crafted gun and sword fights. On that note, don’t forget to make a reservation at the Blue Bayou. This restaurant is located within the Pirates of the Caribbean complex and specialises in Cajun and Creole cuisine.
What I’m trying to say is that if you are planning a trip to Los Angeles, don’t completely write off Disneyland as catering solely to children. If you approach it from with right attitude, there is as much joy to be experienced as an adult as when you were a kid. From the architecture to the escapism and from the food to the rides, the happiest place on earth no longer has an expiration date.
Are you an adult who has dared to put on the mouse ears and venture into Walt Disney’s fantasia? What was your experience like?