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A Ray of Hope in Greymouth

In direct contrast to my petition for Auckland, everything I had heard about Greymouth was true.

There is nothing to do in Greymouth.

Arriving in what appears to be something of a forgotten city (despite the fact that the Tranz Alpine Express leaves from here on a regular basis), it felt like stepping back in time. Even the McDonald’s wasn’t open 24 hours, which is always a worrying sign in this day and age. I had read, and even heard from family and friends, that Greymouth consisted of one main street and little else, with very few redeeming factors. As I have previously stated in my Auckland post, when I hear things like this it makes me even more determined to enjoy that particular place; to find the hidden gems that have apparently been lost on other people and prove that every cloud has a silver lining.

Walking the uninspiring streets to the hostel, I had almost given up hope. How could I find something memorable in what was reminiscent of an old English factory town stuck in the 1970s? Perusing the menus of the local eateries, my heart sank even further. Good food is everything to me, but the choices seemed very limited and unappetising. One less-than-delectable pizza later and I had a terrible feeling that Greymouth and I were not going to get along.

That was, until, I saw the sunset.

Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia: Part 2

balloon ride over cappadocia
What I loved about our particular pilot was how he knew exactly where to dip in the valleys so that you could get close to the rock formations.

balloon ride over cappadocia

All of the holes you can see that are carved into the side of the rock were homes for pigeons, who were considered to be very valuable in the years before artificial fertilisers came to pass (pigeon poop was used as a fertiliser for crops back then. Too much information?) The entrance to some of the pigeon holes were decorated with painted symbols and drawings and we managed to get close enough to snap some photos.

10 Things You Should Know Before Travelling to Vietnam

The facilities are good, use them

Before I got to Vietnam I had visions of squat toilets all over the country, like that of many other South East Asian destinations and so steeled myself for having to ‘hover’ on a regular basis.

This turned out to be a misconception and the only squat toilet I encountered was at a service station at the side of the road. Apart from this, the plumbing tends to work in much a similar way to Greece: don’t block the pipes by flushing the toilet paper down; instead use the bin provided and everything will be fine.

As with anywhere in Asia, arm yourself with plenty of tissues and antibacterial gel in case you’re caught short with no supplies. You may also be charged to use toilets if they are situated at popular tourist sites. Don’t be cheap and think you can get away with paying the minimum price unless you are male and are used to using public urinals. I made this mistake and was shown to an exposed toilet bowl with no door that could be seen from the street!

It WILL rain – there’s no best time to visit Vietnam

If you are travelling from one end of the country to the other, it will rain at some point during your trip. The seasons vary throughout the country and I encountered rain in both Hoi An and Hue. Even though it was still warm, the rain was heavy at times, but don’t let it dampen your fun.

Ponchos can be bought for a minimal price when you are there (the thinner plastic ones are good just for walking around whereas you should invest in the thicker, longer ones if you’re planning on riding motorbikes and cycles a lot).

Also, don’t bother packing an umbrella – it just adds to your baggage weight and even the lowest class of hotels tend to offer them free in the rooms. Note –  Make sure you return the umbrellas before you leave as you will be charged for them otherwise.

The trains never run on time

Once you’ve spent a few days in Vietnam you’ll realise that the Vietnamese are a laid-back people, who are never in a rush to get anywhere. This translates to their public transport system also.

Having used a few sleeper trains during my stay, it became custom to never expect to arrive at your destination at the intended time, even if you had set off within an hour of your departure time. Just go with the flow and be ready and alert to leave the train at your station when you arrive because they don’t hang around for long and you never know where you might end up if you have to stay on the train until the next stop.

My Essential Items For A Round The World Trip

While I’m taking a three month break from my travels here in the USA (I know, who would’ve thought you’d need a break from travelling….my life is so tough. Sigh.), I’ve had time to think about everything that has been invaluable to me this last year. As I was clearing out my backpack ready to re-fill it again in March, there are some items that will definitely be making the cut the second time around, simply because I used them at least once a week, if not more.

Here’s my essential items for a round the world trip.

Hiking Boots/ Shoes

If you had asked me before I started planning this trip whether I would ever been seen dead wearing a pair of sturdy hiking shoes, the answer would have been a categorical “no”. I have always despised the clumpiness (for want of a better word) of them, and they have always seemed so sturdy that they would leave you in pain at the end of a long walk.

However, having to bite the bullet and realise that flip flops really weren’t going to help me survive many different terrains and temperatures was one of the best purchasing decisions I’ve ever made.

I’ve worn my hiking shoes for dog walking, hiking, transport days (because who wants to carry a heavy backpack and daypack and run for a bus wearing sandals?!) and so many other things in between. Although I still don’t necessarily like them for the fashion aspect, I appreciate how warm and dry they keep my feet.

essential items for a round the world trip

Compression Bags

I honestly thought these compression bags would have been a duff purchase and that they would end up tearing or getting thrown away due to lack of use. However, they have actually been a Godsend for all of my more bulky clothes, particularly when I switched to a colder winter climate in Europe and needed to buy warmer (and thus thicker) clothing.

I also use one of the bags to store my underwear and swimwear in, so that it doesn’t get lost in and amongst my other clothes and shoes.

After 11 months, the bags are starting to show a little sign of wear, but as long as they’re still doing their job, they’ll be coming with me again this year.