Tag Archives: holidays

The Beach Film

Latin America: The Journey Begins

Latin America, here we come!

We depart for Chile Monday morning from Melbourne, with a stopover in Sydney. From there, it’s a 12 hour flight to Santiago, and once in Santiago, we will be hiring bikes to explore the poetic capital by wheel! Some of history’s greatest ever poets resided in Chile, such as Pablo Neruda and Ruben Dario, who flicked their poetic prose down south in Valparaiso. This is where we will be celebrating Easter – Latin America’s street art capital:

Real street "art" - not substandard graffiti!
Real street “art” – not substandard graffiti!

 

After celebrating Easter in Chile, we will be catching a bus across the Argentina border into Mendoza – the world famous wine region. The weather is in the mid-20s everywhere we’re visiting, until we go “to the end of the world” a.k.a Patagonia, down South at the tip of Antarctica, where it will be below zero. We decided to prolong our stay in Patagonia, since Sam wants to climb the Perito Moreno glacier, and I want to hike Monte Fitz Roy – two amazing journeys that will take upwards of 10 hours to complete.

We’ll keep you posted with photos and travel stories soon! Leave comments or questions below :)

 

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Patagonia: Pure Adventure!

In four weeks, we leave for Chile before crossing the border into Argentina. First on the agenda is Mendoza, a region made famous by the wine it produces, and the trekking, water rafting, horse riding, and snow sports it has on offer. After this, we will be making our way to one of the harshest, most isolated places on Earth: Patagonia.

Perito Moreno

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Patagonia is located at the very bottom of Argentina, and is home to the Perito Moreno Glacier, and Monte Fitz Roy. Fitz Roy has a reputation for being an extreme hike, despite its average height, due to the sheer granite faces present long stretches of arduous technical climbing. In addition, the weather in the area is exceptionally inclement and treacherous. Bear Grylls did an episode here, which showcased just how unpredictably dangerous the terrain can be. Crevasses hidden beneath the snow appear at random throughout the mountain, which can drop down into pure darkness. Instant death, or at least a painful one, is virtually guaranteed.

Monte Fitz Roy at sunset
Monte Fitz Roy at sunset

Only recently, famed climber Chad Kellog was killed on the mountain when a boulder struck him on the mountain. The area is stunning, and arguably one of the most beautiful, most remote places you can find on earth, but there’s a risk in such harsh conditions. But that’s what travellers live for: To explore new horizons, to see new places, to experience culture, and ultimately, to live freely.

We’ll be updating Backpacker Adventures during our South America and Central America journey over the next six months, and invite you to leave any advice, thoughts, or questions you may have!

Hitting the open road again! It's the only time I feel "at home"
Hitting the open road again! It’s the only time I feel “at home”

Have you visited Patagonia, or know of anybody who has? This will be my first time in South and Central America, so leave me some tips if you like! If anybody happens to be around, some Argentinian wine and travel story trading would be most welcome!

Happy travelling! :)

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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!

the beach film

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.

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.

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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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Hook Island

Trust Me, It’s Paradise! Hook Island, Australia

“The Beach” film inspired this journey, I’m proud to say. My friends and I were searching for everything Richard was looking for in “The Beach”. It’s harder to find your own piece of paradise than you would think. There are two major components of the backpacker trail that contribute to its culture, and the discoverability of new hidden gems:

1. Being Around Other Backpackers

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2. Being A Lonely Backpacker

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3. Sharing Your Lonely Backpacker Experiences With Other Backpackers, Thereby Making Those Experiences No Longer Lonely

Some would argue that ironically, while the purpose of backpacking is to see places on a budget (and not waste money on unnecessary expenses, like a triple digit hotel room that you only sleep in for six hours a night and literally spend no time in), and to discover secrets that nobody else you know has discovered, the camaraderie nature of backpacking means that secrets are spilt, and places spoilt. Alas, it is a vicious cycle of staying ahead of the curb when you’re out on the open road.

Hook Island, Australia, offered us a remote location, our own perfect beach, not a soul in sight for the entire time we camped there, and the type of tranquility most people would spend a fortune for. This is what backpacking can offer you: The chance to go off the beaten path, and find your own piece of paradise.

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The part of Hook Island we stayed in was abandoned. Around the other side of the island were snorkelers and a couple of boats on day trips, but the part of the island we were on was isolated – nobody came here. At one point, we saw a boat pass by in the distance but other than that, the beach was ours.

With a white coral beach (that isn’t that comfortable to lie down on), bright blue, refreshing waters, large natural rock formations leading into the ocean (which gave us the perfect stargazing opportunity), and only a small fire to keep us warm at night, we were in paradise. The boat operator who dropped us off warned us that if we found ourselves in trouble, that “there’s no way of contacting anyone, but generally if you kayak out into the ocean and find a boat, people are pretty helpful.” A mild concern, but what could possibly go wrong?

Paradise

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For starters, on several occasions I would kayak into the shore with my friend, hop out of the yellow, plastic vessel, and see a shark circling behind us. On two occasions this happened. At night, sharks would regularly swim in as close as 1 metre to the shore, their fins cutting through the water like a wicked blade. Some of the sharks weren’t too big, others seemed a lot larger, but all of them were a decent enough size that they could rip a deadly chunk out of you. This is when we recalled that there is no help, and our phones were in a dead zone. If something were to go wrong, then in the middle of the night, one of us would have to bash through rough, open ocean until we found a boat. That would be impossible, as it’s easy to tip in a kayak in the open water from even the slightest of winds, or smallest of waves.

Luckily, nobody was attacked at any point, but it was unnerving looking behind us on occasion and seeing a fin pop up next to us. In fact, on the very first day within five minutes of getting dropped off, a large, black shark swam up and down the shoreline, only a couple of metres from the sand. We had been found out. We had intruded on its domain, and if we entered the water we risked our lives. This didn’t stop most of us from going swimming though, even though we had clearly seen a few sharks nearby. I stayed on the beach at times, since somebody had to protect all our belongings from being torn to pieces by two metre long goannas! It was strange waking up to a prehistoric beast resting next to the tent, staring at you, but it was the type of experience many people wished they could have, but often don’t. I’ve found with Australia, more so than any other place in the world, that you can really get up and close to some crazy-looking animals and fish. They just exist there. They aren’t too hard to find.

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After a few days of camping, stargazing, listening to Bob Marley while sipping on Jamaican rum, kayaking around the open ocean, and hiking up a dangerous, dry river bed (and being swamped by majestic blue butterflies), we decided to head back to Airlie Beach. The boat ride to and from Hook Island is very rough, so for all the travellers out there contemplating the journey, avoid standing up unless you want to become airborne like I did, and come crashing down on your face. One guy cut his head and elbow open on the fall, and the wounds didn’t look too good.

When we arrived back, the boat operator asked us if we had any trouble with sharks.

“No,” we replied, “we were stalked by a few, but nothing happened, how come?”

“Well, there has been a lot of sightings of large tiger sharks and bronze whalers out that way, up to five metres long. They were right where you were camping.”

This freaked us out, since anybody who knows anything about sharks, knows that those are two of the most aggressive species out there, which are regularly responsible for deadly attacks. Given the amount of people who have been eaten all around Australia lately, I wonder how close we were to joining that unfortunate list. Sharks are fast and it’s almost impossible to see them coming, so I would say that based on the facts, it’s a stroke of luck we didn’t swim into any trouble.

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All in all, Hook Island offered a remote camping experience, complete with interesting (but dangerous) hiking up rugged rocks into the mountain. As advised, it’s the sort of place where if something goes wrong, you’re out of luck and it’s going to take a combination of several good fortunes in order to get help; but the tradeoff is the type of tropical isolation that comes with castaway freedom, the knowledge that there really is no plan B if something bad happens, and that it’s truly up to you to make your new habitat work in your favour.

Between blistering hot sun, ocean predators, tropical perfection, and the adventurous mountain terrain, which contains ancient Aboriginal cave paintings, I suspect that if Australia were more marketable, or less Westernised, Hook Island would be a highly successful location for a sequel to “The Beach” film.

Valparaiso

On Our Way to Chile! Stop One of South America 2014!

So the adventures continue well into 2014! 

And so they should. Ever since travelling overseas for the first time in 2005, my life has changed for the better: Seeing new places, having fun with new faces, and absorbing culture on a molecular level which has enhanced my mind and nourished my soul.

To all my fellow travellers out there, I know you feel the same!

In April, we will be flying from Australia into Santiago, Chile, where we will travel, explore, and experience everything the good Chileans have to offer! Valparaiso has really caught my eye, and for those of you who haven’t heard about this port side city, imagine a colourful plethora of street art that illuminates the buildings. Imagine true street artists decorating a quiet, Latin American neighbourhood, then picture yourself immersed in the southern city.

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There are very few places in the world I have visited, where a city has literally been painted with such artistic fortitude. I stumbled across this city by chance, actually: Originally we weren’t sure if we would tackle Santiago, followed by a few wine regions, and then thanks to the power of random Google entries and an inkling that Chile MUST offer more than well, wine (not that there’s anything wrong with wine, believe me…), this is what we stumbled upon:

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Valpo

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If that’s not enough to make all you backpackers take a second look at Chile, I don’t know what is! I’m excited to see this all for myself, immerse myself in the street art scene, and discover more great artwork that I can share with you all on Backpacker Adventures! 

Have you been to Chile before? Or have you almost skipped over a country you didn’t think was worth visiting, only to discover, like I did, at the last minute that something truly astounding was waiting to be explored? Let us know in the comments below, we would love to hear from you!