Tag Archives: europe

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!

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.

the beach film

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.

the beach film

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.

the beach film

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….

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!