South Africa Part 5

DSC_1815On my fifth trip to South Africa, I spent barely any time in Johannesburg and in South Africa in general. Mostly we were in Mozambique, again the details of which will come later! We spent a large portion of the week in the car, but the three days in Mozambique were so worth it! We were in the middle of nowhere and that was perfect. For three days we were separated from the world, completely off the grid. It was the best way to de-stress from school and work. It reminded me how great it is to get away from everything sometimes.

If you are renting a car, which you need to, rent a big and durable car. You don’t know what kind of roads you will take and you don’t want to get stuck somewhere!

It is important to mention, again, that for a trip across South Africa, planning is very important. You should know where you are going, because getting lost a) is not fun and b) isn’t really safe. You never know where you can accidentally end up, so planning well is just safer in general. Another tip, plan a backup route. Even though the backup route is more important for Mozambique, you never know what roads might be flooded or closed or if a cows will block your path. Bring your GPS, but don’t rely on it too much. It is always better to actually know where you are going and some roads don’t even show up as actual roads on a GPS.

IMG_2277

Also, when crossing borders, plan for spending a lot of time and prepare your nerves for complicated discussions with the border control if you are getting tourist visa into Mozambique. Be prepared for the fact that they either barely speak any english or they don’t speak it at all.

When we got back to South Africa, we were so exhausted from our relaxing trip to Mozambique, to the point where none of us actually wanted to do anything. The last couple of days we spent relaxing. The only new place we visited was Sandton City Shopping Centre, which is a huge mall, great for clothes, shoes, jewelry and they have great places for brunch!


READ MORE:

South Africa Part 1

South Africa Part 2

South Africa Part 3

South Africa Part 4

 

Mt. Rokko

Mt. Rokko was another fun trip, one that I definitely suggest you do on a sunny day! When I went, I experienced all sorts of weather, everything from sunny with clear blue skies, to rain, to snow. If you go in the spring, definitely be ready for colder air on top and sudden changes in weather. You can either drive up there, take a cable car or public transportation.

IMG_8158

When you get to the top of the mountain, you can see all of Kobe and Osaka under you. It is absolutely amazing! Hopefully the air will be clear enough so you can see how far the two cities span, because only from the top can you see how huge the area is.

There are several things you should stop by and see when you are up on Mt. Rokko. First, there is a Music Box Museum. There you can see music boxes of all shapes and sizes and even buy one or make your own. You can also sit down in their cafe and if it is warm enough outside, you can take your coffee out by the lake.

Another stop you can make is the Botanical Garden. Sadly, I couldn’t go there because it was closed. But I heard it is amazing, so I recommend you visit, and let me know how it is :)

IMG_8172The last stop we made was by the observatory. It’s at the top of the mountain with the most stunning view. There even is a small tower you can climb to get the best view. There is also a little gift shop, selling lots of different Japanese sweets! An added plus of stopping by the observatory is the food. You can either go for the buffet or the Japanese BBQ (Yakiniku). We went for the Yakiniku, because it is absolutely delicious (and gluten-free)!

IMG_8171

From the observatory, Arima Onsen, a hot springs town, is about 3 km, so I suggest stopping by there after Mt. Rokko, because it is an adorable little town!

If you are in Osaka/Kobe, Mt. Rokko is definitely worth the trip, whether you drive or take the cable car!


READ MORE: 

Japan

Himeji


Kyoto

I was only in Kyoto for a couple of hours and I wish I could stay there longer and explore. There is so much to see in the city, so I definitely recommend spending at least one night there, so you can see all sides of the city.

DSC_4092

First, we wanted to see the Imperial Palace, but what we didn’t know was that you have to go on guided tours. And more importantly, that there are only two guided tours of the main palace a day, at 10am and 2pm. We got there at 10:15, so unfortunately, we didn’t have time to go for a tour. We did, however, go on a tour of the Sento Palace gardens.

DSC_4099

TIP: in the summer and in the winter you have to reserve tickets for the tours!

TIP 2: bring your passport everywhere, as they want to see an ID when you go on the tour

DSC_4171

The Sento Palace was amazing to see. I was there in early spring, so the trees were barely budding and only two trees were actually blooming. But I could already tell that the gardens will be magical when everything is in full bloom. The tour guide, I’m sure, was amazing, but I didn’t understand what he was saying, since everything was in Japanese. I also gave up a little on the audio guide, because the monotone voice bored me a little. It was very informative, but it was hard to listen to that, when the stories looked so much more interesting when spoken. So, instead of listening I took lots and lots of pictures, from all angles! It was nice and sunny, which brightened all the colors and made me fall in love with serenity of the place. I imagined how amazing it would be if I could just bring my book and read by the lake.

DSC_4235

After the tour we just drove a little further into the center, parked by the Kamo river and walked around for a little bit. We got lucky and saw a couple of Geishas walking around and even one that just became a Geisha, ceremoniously completing her training. When we saw her, she was surrounded by photographers. So naturally, we joined them and took lots of pictures of her too :)

DSC_4279
We continued walking through the little streets of Kyoto, slowly looking for a place to eat. Finally we found this Yakiniku (Japanese BBQ) place, called Ryū an, that was absolutely amazing. Each table was separated by sliding walls, which made the place really intimate. When we told the waiters that I was allergic to gluten, they were very careful to check that all the food they served me was gluten-free. The food was
so good, so I definitely recommend!

Kyoto was so much fun! Definitely wish I could spend more time there and really explore the city. There are a lot of temples and shrines that I didn’t get to see, so hopefully next time!


READ MORE: 

Japan

Universal Studios Japan


5 things I never leave at home

IMG_5758I am usually the person who has everything in their purse – need contact solution? check. Nailpolish? Check. Tissues? Pens of various colors? Extra 50 hair ties? Check, check and check. I’m the person who goes away for a weekend with a suitcase (bigger than those tiny carry-on little things), a giant purse and possibly a laptop bag (due to the large amount of things I have in my purse, the laptop sometimes doesn’t fit). And if I’m flying on a long haul flight, add a travel pillow and refillable water bottle. But what are the five items it all boils down to that I can’t live without? Important documents aside, here’s what I never leave at home:

  1. iPhone and charger. This goes without saying. I make sure to update my apps to include a dictionary from English to the local language of where I’m going, possibly a tour guide or map. I try to have a lot of things prepared on my phone, just in case. There are also times when I don’t bring my laptop, so iPhone has to do all the work.
  2. Extra battery pack. Especially with my iPhone getting older and it’s battery life decreasing all the time, you never know when you’ll need to recharge and won’t have access to an outlet. I originally bought mine when going to a music festival, but bring it everywhere now.FullSizeRender
  3. A book (or two…or three). Ok, I’m not the best at judging the correct amount of reading material. On beach vacations, I read a book a day. If I’m traveling for the sake of exploring, I barely read. So it depends on what you’re doing, but I always have a few books of different genres with me in physical copies. And the rest I have as e-books, but I don’t like to rely on having a power source to read (also, electronics and beaches, pools, rain, sand etc. don’t mix well).
  4. Fluffy/warm socks. These are an essential for flights. I basically use them as in-flight shoes. I don’t want to wear my shoes for long haul flights, but I also don’t want to walk around the cabin barefoot or annoy my fellow passengers. So I opt for fluffy socks, which keep my feet warm and safe from whatever may be on the airplane floor. Tip: a plastic bag to put them in after use is always a great idea.
  5. Notebook and pens. You never know when inspiration will strike. I also like to jot down notes about interesting events or things we encounter. Everytime I forgot to bring a notebook, I ended up buying one at the airport (or train/bus station) on my way to my destination.

And, as we’ve said many times before, do not, under any circumstances, forget earphones. Personally, I use them only for the plane/train/bus parts of my travels because babies cry, people talk loud and it’s nice to be able to drown that out. Once I hit the ground at my destination, though, I rarely wear them so that I can enjoy the sounds of the place I’m visiting as well.

I hope that my tips helped you and let me know in the comments what you can’t leave for a trip without!


READ MORE: 

Dubai: first impression

Three Days in Munich


25 flights in One Year – How to survive constant travel

In the year 2015 I flew 25 times. Most of these flights were from Boston to Prague, but there were a couple of awesome new destinations, like Turkey. Spending so much time on airplanes can be difficult, so here are some travel tips that might make traveling a little easier.

IMG_7096

What to bring

  • Travel documents
  • Neck pillow
  • Lotion
  • Chapstick
  • Book/magazines
  • Noise canceling headphones
  • Extra battery/charger or both
  • Adapter
  • Fuzzy socks
  • Warm sweater
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Pens – for immigrations forms
  • Face cream
  • Hairbrush for airplane hair

 

Pack all this in a carry-on bag that won’t break – purses with broken straps are not fun when you’ve got a 10 hour journey ahead of you.

Bonus tip: if you’re going on vacation or traveling with an airline that’s famous for losing luggage, have one complete outfit ready in your carry on, possibly a bathing suit (again, if you’re going on vacation) so that in case your luggage does get lost, you can still enjoy your first day at your destination.

IMG_6478

Airport

  • Get there early! Don’t get too cocky, you never know what can go wrong
  • Have all of your documents ready for check-in and passport control
  • Have all of your belongings ready for security check, so have all of your liquids in a plastic bag and have your laptop out
  • Don’t wear jewelry, so you don’t have to take everything off at security

On flight

  • Watch movies – great time to catch up on what you have missed
  • Be polite! The flight attendants will be even nicer to you if you ask them politely
  • FLUIDS! HYDRATION!
  • Bring a snack in case the airplane food is less than desirable
  • Every once in a while, stretch (but not so that you annoy your co-travelers)

Jet lag

  • Sleep on the plane
  • Hydrate
  • Try not to nap after you get to your destination, it will just make it more difficult to get used to the local time

I hope these tips are useful! Add more of your own tips in the comments!

 


READ MORE: 

Swiss Air: Thoughts and Experiences

Emirates – worth the hype?