Five-month round-the-world trip
This photo brings back many fond memories. It was taken during the first leg (Amsterdam to Hong Kong) of my five-month round-the-world trip in 2008 as the plane flew past the coast of Estonia. I’ve called this photo “The Moment” because it symbolises the start of a life-changing journey that began in 2008 and which led me onto a new and exciting path as a travel blogger.
Read about the trip that changed my life.
Getting over my ‘Jaws’ complex
Swimming with sharks at Lang Tengah island, Malaysia. “I was out snorkelling on my own and a single barracuda and some parrot fish kept me company throughout. I got to see the big shark – it swam past, just five meters or so away, and strangely, I just stared and enjoyed the moment.”
Read about my trip to Lang Tengah Island.
The wonders of Angkor Wat
Visiting the temples of Angkor in Cambodia. “As we reached the top, the heavy rain seized for a moment and we got to enjoy the fantastic views over the Angkor Wat complex. At that moment, I didn’t care that I was completely drenched and that my shoes were flooded up and covered in thick mud, the view of the misty, jungle-covered hillsides, the broad plains below with their mosaic-like rice fields and the majestic towers of Angkor Wat just breaking through the tree-tops was simply breathtaking.”
Read about my visit to Angkor.
Adventures in Whitsunday Islands
Whitehaven Beach in Australia’s Whitsunday Islands. “The beach is a wide arc with an inlet on one end, with sand so white, I needed my sunnies to protect my eyes from the glare. The sea was an astounding spectrum of turquoise and blue.”
Read about my adventures in the Whitsunday Islands.
Bewitched in Bora Bora
Bora Bora is everything I thought it would be… and more. I’ve seen pictures of it in countless publications, documentaries and travel programmes but it’s not till you’re actually here that you begin to fathom just how magical this place is. I mean, I’ve been to many places around the world that have similar surroundings but Bora Bora just has, let’s call it, the ‘X-factor’.
Read about my trip to Bora Bora.
Mysteries of Easter Island
“It still is very much a mystery why these statues were built [on Easter Island] and how the locals managed to erect such huge statues (the largest are more than 20 meters long) and haul them many miles from the quarry to the ahu. Various theories were introduced during the next few days but I like the one that says that aliens created them during their stay on Earth.”
Read about the mysteries of Easter Island.
The spectacular bus ride across the Andes
When everyone was back on board, the bus continued on its journey…..and what a journey it was! Lunar landscapes, multi-coloured rock faces, gigantic volcanoes, dark blue lagoons, lush oases and towering sand dunes more or less sum it up. The 10-hour bus ride from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, across the Andes, to Salta in northern Argentina brought us past all these features AND MORE! There were times, as I looked out the window, that I thought I was watching some sort of science fiction movie as the bus sped along, as the landscapes were so surreal, so unearthly.
Read about this spectacular bus ride across the Andes.
Adventures in the Atacama Desert
Valle de la Luna in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. “The colourful valley spread out below us while the Andes formed an impressive backdrop. As the sun slowly dipped below the horizon, the colours of the valley changed from ochre to a bright orangy-red. The shadows of the Salt mountains grew longer and soon enveloped the valley and reached the feet of the Andes. From there, the shadows rose up the flanks of the Andes. It was so magical and so surreal that I had to pinch myself to convince myself that I was actually witnessing this spectacle.”
Read about things to do in the Atacama Desert.
Patagonia: Home of the Gods
Patagonia is indeed a rugged and daunting place. It’s a huge area that’s divided by countless channels, fjords, ice-fields, glaciers and the southern end of the mighty Andes mountains, making large parts of the region quite inaccessible. Then there’s the extreme weather. The wind is relentless and can bring with it rain, hail and snow at any time of the day throughout the year.
Read about my tour of Patagonia.
My first skydive!
My first and only skydive! “I used to have nightmares involving an endless fall into an abyss. This was exactly what it felt like. The adrenaline rushed through my body in waves and I felt numb.”
Read about my skydive in Costa Brava.
Dining at El Celler de Can Roca
Our 15-course lunch kicked off with an excellent cava and caramelised olives (stuffed with anchovies) served hanging in the branches of a bonsai tree. There was no serpent tempting us to take a bite, nor did I feel like Adam (or Eve) but it was a brilliant metaphor. The olives hanging in the tree were an invitation to partake in a meal of ethereal delights.
Read about my unforgettable meal at El Celler de Can Roca.
Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage
One evening after dinner, one of the deck crew came running into the lounge and excitedly told us to look outside. As we opened the windows, I noticed the ship slowing. I looked out and was treated to scenes no one will easily forget. In the distance, we saw several pods of humpback whales lunging: coming up from the deep with their mouths open and gobbling up the herring near the surface. As they breached the surface, they snapped their jaws close and disappeared into the water.
Read about my cruise through the Inside Passage of Alaska.
Meeting the world’s greatest chef!
Ferran Adriá is considered by many to be the world’s greatest chef. In the past decade, his three-star Michelin restaurant El Bulli, near the Costa Brava town of Roses, was voted the world’s best five times over and won a dazzling array of accolades. He single-handedly transformed the culinary landscape in Spain and introduced a multi-sensory culinary experience that was unique anywhere in the world.
Read about my meeting with Ferran Adriá.
Hot-air balloon flight over Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum, Jordan. “The balloon rose quickly to a height of 3,000 feet and I was stunned! The scenery that unfolded was absolutely breathtaking! Strangely enough, I didn’t experience any fear (like I usually would from great heights). The surreal landscapes below and the soft breeze in my face kept me occupied I guess and I felt perfectly safe.”
Read about my hot-air balloon flight over Wadi Rum.
Mesmerising visit to Petra
The Treasury in Petra, Jordan (image courtesy of Jordan Tourism). “In the square directly in front of the Treasury, hundreds of candles cast a warm glow on the faces of the people who had come to experience Petra by night and to listen to a Bedouin musical performance. The crowd’s excited chatter quickly dissipated when a Bedouin man appeared. He took out a flute from his pocket and within moments mesmerised the crowd with his hypnotic tunes.”
Read about my mesmerising visit to Petra at night.
Floating in the Dead Sea
There it was! I stood at the edge of the cliff and marvelled at the scenery. It was one of those unforgettable travel moments. A place I’ve read and heard so much about and finally… I’m here at the Dead Sea! Stretching from below me to the distant horizon was its blue expanse, famous the world over for the ‘floating in the Dead Sea’ experience, but also for being the lowest point on Earth (the ‘sea’ is 420m or 1,400ft below sea level), its extraordinarily high level of salination (it’s more than 8 times saltier than the average ocean) and for its numerous mentions in the Bible.
Read about my Dead Sea floating experience.
Sleeping in the Snow Hotel in Finnish Lapland
Each year in late-November, a thousand truck-loads of snow and massive blocks of ice carved out of a nearby river are used to create a winter wonderland like no other: the Snow Village in Finnish Lapland. Situated in Lainio, deep in the forests near the ski resorts of Ylläs and Levi, the Snow Village is a place where local snow and ice sculptors let their creativity and skills run wild and the result is simply phenomenal!
Read about my stay at the Snow Village.
Ice-floating experience in Finnish Lapland
Floating in an icy pool in a frozen lake in Finnish Lapland. “I closed my eyes. Tiny snowflakes drifted onto my face. I tried to register a sound but there were none. Just silence. My body felt weightless, like I was hovering in mid-air, yet I knew I wasn’t. It was a strangely soothing feeling as I felt my muscles quite literally unwind, from my fingers right down to my toes. The sensation of total relaxation surprised me, considering where I was at that very moment..”
Read about my ice-floating experience in Finnish Lapland.
Seeing the northern lights
Once outside, I was greeted by the most magical sight I’d ever seen. Long curtains of light seemed to descend from the dark sky in hues of green, yellow and pink. They moved slowly in a series of swirls, performing a sensual dance in the sky. I was simply awestruck.
Read about my experience seeing the northern lights in Finnish Lapland.
Exploring Rio de Janeiro
Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro. “The beaches in Rio like Copacabana and Ipanema are famous the world over. Any city that has such gorgeous beaches at its doorstep has a big plus in my book! And Rio is absolutely blessed in this respect. The beaches are fabulous and the people-watching is unparalleled.”
Check out my photos of Rio de Janeiro.
An unforgettable week in Emilia-Romagna
With its forest-clad mountains, endless beaches along the Adriatic coast, historic towns such as Bologna, Modena, Parma and Ravenna, world-famous automotive industry (think Ferrari, Ducati and Lamborghini), colourful festivals and terrific cuisine, Emilia Romagna has a lot to offer visitors. Despite its numerous attractions, the region remains relatively off-the-beaten-path for many visitors to Italy.
Read about things you must do in Emilia-Romagna.
My first solo road trip
I finally made it onto the highway and in no time, I was whizzing past the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city. Melbourne’s imposing skyline faded below the horizon as I headed further afield. My pangs of fear had quickly changed to excitement. Here I was, in the car on my own, with a lady’s voice as my guide, and my iPhone was belting out my favourite songs! How awesome is that?
Read about my first solo road trip in Victoria, Australia.
Cruising around the Galapagos Islands
After my first day on the islands, I was really happy that I decided to go. The Galapagos Islands are truly magical – from the pristine beaches and spectacular sunsets to the vast diversity of unique flora and fauna, the islands were simply breathtaking. In addition, it opened my eyes even further to the fragility of our ecosystem and the importance of care and conservation.
Read about my experiences on the Galapagos Islands.
In the Mashpi cloud forests of Ecuador
I fell asleep in the van at a certain point and when I opened my eyes, I found myself in a mysterious, mist-shrouded forest with giant anthuriums, mosses and towering trees. The car soon came to a halt and as the mist cleared, I spotted a futuristic-looking building with large windows, almost completely encapsulated by the forest. This was the Mashpi Lodge! Situated on a ridge 900 meters high and overlooking a broad valley, the lodge was designed as a cocoon of luxury in the clouds.
Read about my stay at the Mashpi Lodge.
Wildlife encounters at Phinda Game Reserve
Someone in the van yelled “STOP” and the driver hit the brakes. We trained our eyes on the patches of tall grass that lined the road, alert for any movement. Several moments later, we saw the grass shift ever so gently again. Binoculars were whipped out of bags and as we zoomed in, we noticed a sleek body with distinctive spots, striding confidently through the grass. Our first wildlife encounter was of a cheetah!
Read about my safari at the Phinda Game Reserve in South Africa.
Rejuvenation in Vorarlberg
What I saw, as I opened my eyes, surprised me. It wasn’t as though I’d been led blindfolded down this road. I’d seen this scenery before. What surprised me was how vivid everything looked: the bright green meadows that stretched out before me, the towering granite peaks in the distance that glistened in the morning sun and the thin veil of mist that cloaked the foothills of the mountains. The silence remained but I felt very much at ease now, as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Read about my visit to Vorarlberg in Austria.
Helicopter tour of Cape Town
The brand new, futuristic-looking Airbus helicopter gleamed in the late afternoon sun – we were so lucky with the weather! We climbed into the helicopter, buckled up and put on our noise-cancelling headphones. I was so excited I could scream!! Haha! We were soon airborne and the breathtaking views unfolded as soon as we left the ground!
Read about my helicopter tour of Cape Town.
Road trip in Brazil
At the height of its wealth in the 18th/19th centuries, Ouro Preto was the capital of Minas Gerais and attracted artists and scholars from around Brazil and Europe. These days, its rich colonial past can still be observed, particularly in its ornate churches. Decorated in gold and featuring sculptures by the famous artist Aleijadinho, these 18th/19th century churches are literally breathtaking. I couldn’t take photos inside the churches but believe me when I say that I have seldom seen such incredible baroque interiors, all draped in gold!
Read about my road trip on the Estrada Real in Brazil.
Matera – Italy’s ancient cave city
I walked up the cobble-stoned road towards the Cathedral square. Ahead of me, I could see the towering Cathedral, cloaked in the warm, pinkish glow of the setting sun. Several people stood at the edge of the road, staring ahead in silence. Curious, I stopped to look at what they were staring at. As soon as my mind could register what I was seeing, I gasped. My audible reaction was met with smiles by the others standing there. In front of me was one of the most extraordinary towns I’ve ever laid my eyes on: Matera.
Read about things to do in Matera.
Feeling like a rock star in Monaco
After a short wait, I was ushered into a van which brought me to the helipad. It was a swift seven-minute flight but the views were stunning and while I sat in the helicopter, I chuckled at the thought of arriving in Monaco like a rock star!
Read about my visit to Monaco.
On the frozen canals of Amsterdam
A cold front that originated in Siberia brought howling winds and bone-chilling temperatures to Western Europe in early-March. Nicknamed the ‘Beast from the East’, the cold front resulted in freezing temperatures that lasted about a week. Daily reports in the media kept everyone informed on the state of the ice around the country, and as soon as the authorities gave the green light, ice-skating marathons were organised and people all over the country took to the ice.
See the frozen canals in Amsterdam.
Safari at Gondwana Game Reserve
The light was fading quickly but we were determined to find them. Our guide expertly manoeuvered the jeep around a tight bend and stopped. Silence reigned as the dust settled. I surveyed the surrounding bushes before turning my gaze to the mountains, bathed in a soft pink light, in the far distance. We sat in silence when suddenly, we heard the crack of a twig. He came, slowly but surely, into view and we gasped in awe. The lion casually strolled past us, seemingly without a care in the world.
Read about my safari at Gondwana Private Game Reserve in South Africa.
Seeing Mount Everest
The plane broke through a layer of clouds and the peaks of the Himalayas, glistening in the morning sun, were immediately visible. I pinched myself as we approached the mountains. It felt so surreal! I reminded myself that I was looking at the view from my plane window of the Himalayas – the highest mountains in the world! It was a dream come true!
Read about my flight over the Himalayas.
Strolling in the streets of Kathmandu is a crazy, multi-sensory experience. The colours, scents of spices, temples, shrines, flags, honking taxis, cyclists, rickshaws and the odd cow greet you as you explore the city.
Read about my impressions of Kathmandu.
A stunning sunset in Kuala Lumpur
It was a very cloudy day so I wasn’t expecting much in terms of the sunset but as the sun retreated below the horizon, the colours changed gradually, and then dramatically. The result was a surreal urban landscape, with a plethora of towers framed by a blazing red sky! The lights from the surrounding buildings, streets and traffic below looked like a sea of shimmering gems. It was perhaps the most incredible view of Kuala Lumpur I’d ever seen!
Read about this incredible view of Kuala Lumpur from Vertigo Bar.
An indulgent weekend at Lanzerac Wine Estate
I entered the suite (208) and I’m quite sure I gasped (audibly). The bellboy smiled and said this was his favourite room. He proudly showed me around, stopping briefly at the mini-bar (which is included in the room rate and is replenished daily) before leading me to the living area, the massive bedroom and ditto bathroom. He opened the sliding doors which opened out to a gazebo and a private pool with a view of the vineyard and the mountains. I was in awe! My first thought was: I wished my house looked like this!
Read about my stay at Lanzerac Wine Estate.
Chilling in style at Constance Prince Maurice
The first thing that struck me was how beautiful the landscaping was, with pristine lawns, shady trees and elegant palms. We were greeted by the front desk staff with big smiles and a cocktail in the breezy lobby. Just ahead was a gorgeous infinity pool which seemed to spill over into the lagoon.
Read about my stay at Constance Prince Maurice.
Road trip around Réunion Island
Réunion Island is located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar and southwest of the island nation of Mauritius. Known for Piton de la Fournaise, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and its breathtaking mountains and calderas, Réunion Island is home to an incredible diversity of landscapes and micro-climates, a melting pot of cultures, bustling towns and stunning beaches.
Read my Réunion Island guide.
Cruising the Danube River with Avalon Waterways
When I was invited to join an eight-day Active & Discovery Danube River cruise with Avalon Waterways from Budapest (Hungary) to Linz (Austria), I didn’t hesitate for a moment. It turned out to be, arguably, the best river cruise I’d ever been on! A bold statement I know but I say this based on my prior experiences and how impressed I am with Avalon Waterways.
Read about my Avalon Waterways Danube River cruise.
The spectacular Jewel at Changi Airport
When I first saw pictures of Jewel, a spectacular mall at Changi Airport in Singapore, I gasped! The image of a massive dome and a vortex-like waterfall surrounded by a lush tropical forest seemed absolutely surreal, like something out of a science fiction movie. I knew, there and then, that I had to see this with my own eyes!
Read about my visit to Jewel Changi Airport.