Tag Archives: europe

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Budapest: Europe’s Hidden Gem

Budapest, Hungary, is a fascinating place, with its imposing, gothic architecture and cute streets, that are lined with tired apartments and fresh roses. When you enter Europe’s hidden gem, you get the feeling that this is the best kept secret going around. The city feels forgotten, and the homely isolation of the quiet streets, with its small shop fronts, bars, and supermarkets, makes you feel as though you’ve stepped into familiar territory. A parallel universe of your home perhaps, only in a chic European city that somehow takes a backseat to the likes of Paris and Milan, even though it offers so much more value, and authentic culture, to its guests.

Budapest Parliament House

I’ve visited family a few times over the years in a small village, called Zalaegerszeg, and the polarity between the two has been striking. Budapest is the grand locale of a city on the come up – when you see those films with romantic European street corners, and a life of hard knocks, what you’re really seeing is Budapest: More beautiful than Paris, more character than Venice, more edgy that Prague, and better value than anywhere else in the world. Simply put, Budapest reigns King for those visitors who hopefully, have woken up to the painstaking reality that Europe doesn’t only comprise of France, Italy, Spain, and Germany. Europe wouldn’t be the same experience for me, even remotely, without places like Hungary, Greece, and Malta. The vibe from France, particularly, is missing what Hungary has. Put that down to its westernised culture, or its godspeed thrust towards cosmopolitanism… I don’t know. It’s not an observation you describe, but rather one that you feel.

Thermal Baths Budapest

Zala, on the other hand, is a remote village that places you at the end of the world. This is the best place to reside if you want to get away from it all. Farm land, kind people, great wineries: This is Hungary’s version of the remote countryside, and it sure doesn’t disappoint. Only a little while away is Siofok, in Lake Balaton, one of Eastern Europe’s premier party destinations. The world’s biggest DJ’s and singers come here to keep the party rocking, beside a bright blue lake surrounded by wineries, cafes, restaurants, clubs, and bars.

Budapest Statues

Next time you’re considering Budapest, consider these two other places too. If you have a trip coming up, or know somebody who does, make sure to mention this post or tell them to investigate Hungary further. It costs little, and the rewards are immense. Having travelled throughout Europe on five occasions, all for extended periods of time,  I feel confident in saying that Budapest should be in your top three destinations in Europe, ahead of Paris and Venice.

There’s only so long that a best kept secret keeps, well, a secret. Go there while you still can!

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The Beach Film: Inspiration For Backpackers

The Beach film has inspired a generation of backpackers to circle the globe, in search of adventure, cultural understanding, and to break away from the monotonous routine of an office cubicle.

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The Beach film is also responsible for the avalanche of backpackers who find their way navigating the mean streets of Bangkok, the alarming roadways of Phuket, and the picturesque beaches of Koh Samui. Backpackers can find beauty in every corner, on every street, and in every locale that they frequent and explore, but more often than not, they’ll agree that Bangkok is a hectic, polluted city, that Phuket’s exploitation of the sex industry (including the illegal side) ruins it completely, but that all is salvaged once Koh Samui welcomes their arrival.

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The Beach film is perhaps best known for flinging travellers and tourists towards Koh Phi Phi Don, as they hitch a boat towards the beaches of Maya Bay – the famous location where The Beach film was shot. Although the film has received questionable reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, one has to look beyond what the critics say, and reflect on what this cult film does for the legion of backpackers who relate to Richard (played by Leonardo DiCaprio).

Richard embodies the typical backpacker, who is in search of something more, in search of something  different, more visceral, more real. They wait for it to hit them. They go out with a group of friends, or they go out with their partners, or perhaps, on their own; whatever number accompanies them, they search for their own piece of paradise – something which is as much mental as it is physical. Legions of backpackers just like Richard come to Maya Bay in a ritualistic, rite of passage journey – let’s call it the backpacker’s mecca, because that’s exactly what it is. But backpackers soon find that the mecca is just that – overrun with hoards of people, leaving nothing to the imagination of what this place was like when Richard, Etienne and Francois discovered it.

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The great, leaping metaphor of The Beach film is that it compels travellers to get out into the world, and discover their own piece of paradise. I’ve found on my journeys that more often than not, deviating from the beaten path has been more rewarding than trampling the weathered roads. This isn’t about being elitist, and pointing the finger at somebody and saying “Hey, you, the Eiffel Tower sucks compared to the Catacombs,” or approaching Greek Island hoppers and laughing, telling them “You don’t know the real Greece until you’ve weathered the long road to Serres, Thessaloniki, and the remote areas of Rhodos.” Because what I’ve come to find is that, like Richard from The Beach film, people travel for their own reasons. I often wonder what backpackers say about Australia, using this line of reasoning, when ousting Bondi Beach, Byron Bay, and the Gold Coast from their list of special places Down Under.

the beach film

I wonder this because sometimes, these places are popular for a reason. You would, in fact, be hard pressed to find a beach as amazing as Bondi in New South Wales, or a rainforest as sublime as the Daintree. If The Beach film taught backpackers anything, it’s exactly that: Paradise is whatever paradise is to you. Paradise is not a universal place, it’s a personal refuge that suits our ideals, values, and ethics.

The only thing that ruins paradise, as The Beach film projects, is that paradise can only be kept a secret for so long. Once the crowds come, the development comes, and special places end up being overcrowded by hotel conglomerates and cruise ships. It sucks, but understanding that everybody has the equal right to travel in whichever way they please, I can’t argue with it. I don’t want to be unfair, and exclude people from the opportunity to experience something special for them, simply because it doesn’t match or agree with my thoughts on the situation.

the beach film

The Beach film has inspired me to travel all over Australia, Fiji, Switzerland, France, Malta, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Spain, The Netherlands, USA, China, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore. It’s the reason I’m leaving in 7 weeks to backpack through Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Galapagos Islands, Brazil, Colombia, San Blas Islands, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Cuba, and the Caribbean. Damn, I might just chuck Belize in there for good measure too ;) The Beach film is the reason for this, which is why I have dedicated a post to the movie.

The Beach film has done more than that though, and I’ll share those thoughts with you all over time. My question is this: Have you seen The Beach film (if not, hire it now), and if so, has it inspired you to travel? I’d love to know the places you’ve been to, so feel free to leave a comment and share your own piece of paradise – if you dare….

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The Craziest Hotels In The World!

How cool are these hotels?!

1. Äscher Cliff, Switzerland

Website: myswitzerland.com

Website: myswitzerland.com

2. Hotel Kakslauttanen, Finland

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Website: kakslauttanen.fi

3. Ladera Resort, St. Lucia

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Website: ladera.com

4. The Manta Resort, Zanzibar

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Image credits: Genberg Underwater Hotels

Image credits: Genberg Underwater Hotels

5. Rayavadee Krabi, Thailand

Website: rayavadee.com

Website: rayavadee.com

6. Shangri La, Paris

Website: shangri-la.com

Website: shangri-la.com

7. Hotel Ristorante Grotta Palazzese Polignano a Mare, Italy

Website: grottapalazzese.it

Website: grottapalazzese.it

8. Conrad Maldives, Rangali Island

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Website: conradhotels3.hilton.com

Website: conradhotels3.hilton.com

9. Panchoran Retreat, Bali

Website: panchoran-retreat.com

Website: panchoran-retreat.com

10. Hotel Ubud Hanging Gardens, Indonesia

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Website: hanginggardensubud.com

Website: hanginggardensubud.com

11. Attrap Reves Hotel, France

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Website: attrap-reves.com

Website: attrap-reves.com

12. Katikies Hotel-Oia, Greece

katikies.com

katikies.com

13. Hotel Le Sirenuse, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Website: sirenuse.it

Website: sirenuse.it

14. Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

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Website: icehotel.com

Website: icehotel.com

15. The Cambrian Hotel, Adelboden, Switzerland

Website: thecambrianadelboden.com

Website: thecambrianadelboden.com

16. Dedon Island Resort

Website: dedonisland.com

Website: dedonisland.com

Website: homesteadresort.com
Website: homesteadresort.com 

 

18. Villa Escudero, Philippines

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Website: villaescudero.com

Website: villaescudero.com

19. Hotel-Restaurant Öschinensee, Switzerland

Website: oeschinensee.ch

Website: oeschinensee.ch

20. Astarte Suits Hotel, Greece

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Website: astartesuites.gr

Website: astartesuites.gr

21. Montana Magica Lodge, Chile

Website: huilohuilo.com

Website: huilohuilo.com

Know of anymore? Leave them in the comments below!

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Granada: Is This The Greatest Place Of All Time? Read Why!

Spain: You blew my mind.

For close to 10 years, I was convinced that no country or destination in the world could come anywhere near Greece, in terms of its culture, the aura which glides effortlessly over you as you sip on a Frappe, and the iconic world of ancient history, beautiful islands, and mean Athenian streets that shift from beauty to trash in one block. But I loved it, and I still do. This is why it’s so hard for me to say this:

Spain might just be better, and Granada? Jesus Christ. I will never forget Granada.

Alhambra at night
Alhambra at night

Granada, Spain, is a culturally rich town with ancient architecture, free tapas for every drink you purchase (and by tapas, I mean meals, so effectively you never have to buy a meal when travelling through here), and rows of shisha bars with a distinct Moroccan influence.

A typical teahouse in Granada: no alcohol, just sweets, coffee, and shisha!
A typical teahouse in Granada: no alcohol, just sweets, coffee, and shisha!

Home to the famous Alhambra palace, Granada is a real gem that every traveller to Spain should put at the top of their list! Isolated streets quickly become dark, and suddenly at midnight you find yourself in the thralls of action-packed nightclubs, lively bars, and a diverse mix of travellers who are out on the town for the same reason as you – to explore!

Tapas in Granada...They go overboard and give you a hearty meal! Nothing wrong with that....
Tapas in Granada…They go overboard and give you a hearty meal! Nothing wrong with that….

Granada is that kind of place that, when reflecting on how much of a great time you had in the Spanish heat, discovering little shops in twisting alleyways with art, hand-carved chessboards, and world class bars, makes you sad. Travel should make us happy, but when you long for a place that really got you buzzing, it’s hard not to feel deflated when you’re away from it. Post Travel Depression is a very real construct.

Granada streets make you move to a Spanish beat!
Granada streets make you move to a Spanish beat!

Do you have a place that leaves you longing for it? Spain and Greece have done this to me the most, although in truth, I miss everywhere I have been.

Still, there’s a magic in Spain and Greece that for me, cannot be surpassed. It’s captivating, and the thought of these ancient destinations never truly leaves you.

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http://www.facebook.com/backpackeradventures 

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Malta

Malta: A Place You Have To Visit!

Backpacking Europe was one of the greatest times of my life. I had just graduated from university, and was ready to really start living. I viewed my time in high school and university as a mandatory prerequisite of life, and in truth, an obstacle to overcome before I could start my real education: Seeing the world.

Without doubt, formal education is nothing compared to real life experience. Formal education is largely a rote learning process involving facts and figures, the memorisation of principles which can be applied to real life scenarios, and an ability to basically master lateral thinking. It doesn’t, however, prepare you in any way whatsoever for the real world.

Enter Malta.

Lazy Days in Malta: There is no other place like it on earth.
Lazy Days in Malta: There is no other place like it on earth.

This Mediterranean island is an eclectic mix of Italian, Greek, and Phoenician influence, with a wonderful coating of Islamic rule to measure. The island’s architecture is ancient, weathered, and sunburnt. Italian cuisine is the main food choice, and the servings are very generous. Crepe stalls line the streets, serving chicken, onion, mushroom, and mango chutney crepes that are to die for! Football is more present here than anywhere else I have visited: Huge sports bars line the esplanade, complete with print-out rosters of that week’s games for all major codes (English Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1, Bundesliga, and of course, the Maltese Premier League).

The view from above the city. Need I say more?
The view from above the city. Need I say more?

The waters of Malta are some of the best you will find in the Mediterranean. Gozo, Sliema, St. Julians, and the Blue Grotto are particularly memorable, due to their crystal clear waters and rustic surroundings. Imagine large imposing cliffs, that have been worn by the weather, showing dry desert cracks and dusty grounds, blowing over a steep cliff and breezing across blue diamond waters. Imagine that stepping back from these cliffs, you find a city with a Middle Eastern architectural influence, Italian cuisine, and a plethora of alleys leading to the types of dark, interesting, and inviting corners usually reserved for Hollywood movies.

This is that place. It exists. And it is called Malta.

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Gozo, Malta: Rockpools to swim in while watching the majestic ocean sway!
Gozo, Malta: Rockpools to swim in while watching the majestic ocean sway!

I often find that travellers overlook Malta due to its difficult positioning in the Mediterranean. I find this to be a huge mistake, as there is so much on offer that isn’t talked about enough in backpacking circles. Sure, we had to take a dodgy work ship with the worst food imaginable to get there, but once we arrived, boy was it worth it!

The streets had a rustic, weathered feel that transported me back one hundred years. A lot of cities in Europe are ancient, but Malta’s cities actually feel ancient. In terms of nicknacks to buy, Valletta’s streets have very cool items to purchase that will remind me of the quaint, dated aura the island emits, which penetrates your soul with good vibes and fun times.

31 Paceville

If you want to head out for a fun night of partying, then look no further than Paceville: I promise you, this gives Mykonos and Ibiza a genuine run for their money. In fact, imagine removing all of the drugs from Ibiza (is that even possible?), switching the scenery in Mykonos to sepia-tone, and squeezing in some dashing Italian influence, and you have Paceville! The nightclubs boom thunderously with the latest hits, while staff practically throw free drinks in your face just so you enter. It’s clear that the clubs are competing fiercely against each other, so ultimately it’s you, the customer, who ends up winning.

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I’m actually surprised at how much the world raves on about party islands, such as Mykonos, Ios, and Ibiza. These places are fun, that’s for sure, although in recent years I believe Ibiza has gone downhill due to the massive drug influence. But how come Paceville isn’t mentioned in the same breath, when it deserves similar treatment? It’s a mystery to me, but alas, travel is about finding hidden wonders, and if you want a place to really rock out in, that feels special because it isn’t as commercialised as other places, then look no further: Paceville, Malta, is your next destination!

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BREAKING NEWS: PARADISE HAS BEEN DISCOVERED!

Have you ever wondered about the concept of paradise, and if such a place really exists? Is paradise real, or is it a subjective interpretation of perfection, according to one’s ideals and values?

Today I’m going to challenge the latter (against all logic), and tell you that paradise is a real place! While of course, all us travellers have a preferred destination that simply does it for us, I believe there is another place on earth which everybody can appreciate, and that once travelled, explored and experienced, leaves the person in question yearning for more. Paradise is real, believe me, I have been there four times! So where is it, you ask?

It is here:

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Santorini, Greece!

For me, after being around the world and seeing so many beautiful, idyllic places, I can’t see how this isn’t paradise! While I’m a new travel blogger on the scene, I’m by no means new to travel: Starting in 2005, I have travelled overseas every year in search of something mesmerising, flawless, and touching. I discovered it in Santorini, Greece, and I implore each and every one of you to go out there and do the same.

Sometimes I’ll share a great deal of knowledge about the places I’ve visited, and other times I’ll refrain from spoiling it for all the first-timers out there. This is a time when I don’t want to ruin Santorini’s many surprises for anyone, but if you’d love to know more about the hidden alleyways, the delicious cuisine, the remote taverns, and the beautiful hiding spots on this wonderful Greek island, get in contact with me and I’ll help you to organise an itinerary you won’t forget!

Is there a place you’ve discovered that holds true in your heart? A place that screams at you to come back, and never leave? Or have you been to Santorini, and love it as much as I do? Comment and let me know, I’d love to learn more about my fellow travellers! 

Check out the Santorini image gallery for more photos on the home page now! I’ve rounded up a few different shots of what I think conveys Santorini’s beauty, paradisiacal qualities, and liberating charm :)