Saturday, November 01, 2014

How A Travel Destination Becomes A Plan - Taiwan Is Next, For Example

"Do you just blindfold yourself in front of a map, and point!?!" was the reaction of a good mate this week when he asked about my next travels. I am headed to Taiwan next week for 10 days, after having the idea grow on me as a place to visit...and then I had some time available for another trip. Why not!?

Usually a potential travel destination comes up from someone else's travel photos or stories I hear or see. And then often, once a place has popped up as a vague idea like this, it seems to come up in so many other places - blog posts, news stories, mentions by someone else. The power of persistent suggestion works for me! Riga and Iceland and two other such places that have persisted now for awhile - just have to get to that side of the world again!

As an idea plants itself, my next steps are usually visual - Google Image for one, is an inspiration tool for me. If I see enough places of interest to fill a week or so of exploring, the travel idea grows legs. In this case, the mix of modernity and old Chinese culture appealed with such a search.

Many of the photos online look like a cross between China and Japan - the temples, and city sights, and the food! I loved going to
both those countries!

Seriously, Google Image is to blame for many of my travel ideas. The developing plan to try and get to the Marshall Islands early next year is another such example.

Taiwan will be a new country for me, which is always an exciting prospect, so the plan solidified around a period of time I needed to take off work around the coming family wedding.

So once the Taiwan plan was hatched, I did some cursory research about flights, and about how to get around the country. I did some more research via Twitter, and the travel blogger resources posted there for everywhere.

Quirky and beautiful is usually what I am after, with some iconic country sights, plus some interesting places. Posts about the Toilet Themed Restaurant and other such bizarre dining experiences, the Cat Village, a town all about Paper Umbrellas, the idea of the Museum of World Religions has sparked my interest, as has the stunning sights within the Taroko National Park down the East coast. Then the vibrant street art examples found in Taipei had me booking those flights!

I then bought a Lonely Planet, and read this on the flight to work last rotation, to get an idea of where I might want to go, and how long to stay at each point. I don't always buy or take a guidebook, but often find it helpful to have an overview of places, as starting points. Plus, it's great to have a pocket of information about what you are looking at with you already when you are travelling. Key considerations for me are travel options for around the country, to allow me to see both city and countryside in the time I have - and based on my reading, it seems the super fast train will be perfect for this. I also want to be sure that I can see most of the things that my research has pointed me to - I hate leaving things or wants not done, or not able to be attempted!

After just visiting the tallest building in the world in Dubai, I am still pretty keen to see the unique looking Taipei 101, which used to hold that title. It looks pretty amazing at sunset, from Elephant Hill, I have read and seen. Plus there are an host of temples around Taipei to check out. The Night Markets for food have been noted almost everywhere as something not to miss.

I fly off later this week, and am very much looking forward to it!

jouljet's questions
How does a new travel destination become a plan for you?
Do you have any Taiwan tips for me for the coming weeks?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Pakistan Plays Australia In Dubai

A tour for Australia to play Pakistan in the UAE sounded like the perfect excuse to catch some cricket, and visit my first Arab land in my travels, in the absence of tours getting to travel to Pakistan in the current, ongoing political climate. I managed to get along to just the first 2 days of the test, around my other commitments around the world!

The Waving The Flag group caught a mini-bus from our hotel to the ground. The Dubai International Cricket Stadium - or Sports City as it had emblazoned on all signs, was by the highway loops in the desert inland from the Dubai Marina. An unusual view coming into the cricket group - sand and desolate space. Despite the free entry to the ground for all patrons, our small group was half of the attendance for both days, sadly.

The Aussies lost the toss, and were send out into the field in the blazing heat - with a cracking start! A wicket each from pacemen regulars Johnson and Siddle in the first 4 overs gave our Aussie flag wavers something to jump out of our seats and make some noise about.

But that's really where Australia left it, with the Pakistani batsmen having their way with our 2 debutante bowlers, piling on the runs. The first day ended with the score at 4/219.

Day 2 was much of the same - hot and many runs from Pakistan. The most interesting part of the days play was seeing the blood spill from Zulfiqar Babar, after receiving a sharp ball to the glove. He retired hurt as a result, and then shortly after at Tea, the "home side" finished their First Innings at 454.

The Australian openers got a start before losing their first wicket, and the end of the day's play had Warner set for a Ton on tour the next day.

I was flying home for Days 3, and probably Day 4 too, and upon hearing the scores, wasn't too sad about that! Pakistan finished the game on Day 5, defeating Australia by 221 runs. The next test begins in Abu Dhabi this week...the Aussies hoping for a better show!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Views Above And Across Hobart

Tasmania has just been listed by Lonely Planet as one of the top regions of the world to visit in 2015. In my visit to the Apple Isle of Australia in the middle of this year, I took the chance to pop down to Hobart to visit 2 of my favourite people in the world - and they showed me these amazing Winter views of their city.

Mount Nelson was the first of the high points. Driving up to the Signal House, we got out into the chilly morning air - so fresh! - and took in the cloud covered valleys below. Further outward, the view included the point where the Derwent River mount meets the sea, off into the horizon.

Next, we made our way up the windy roads to get to Mount Wellington. Here, the morning sun once again gleaned off the waters below, and highlighted the clouds lingering around the river valleys.

Stunning, natural views of Australian landscape. Fresh air, Aussie bush smells and colours. One of the many reasons for Tassie to make such a worldwide travel list!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Beautiful Building In Neighborhood Athens

Athens was such a surprise to me - I am not sure what I was expecting, but it had it all. This gorgeous building was in the neighbourhood of the AirBnB apartment that I stayed in, and caught my eye. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

On Top Of The World - The Burj Khalifa SKY

From the highest viewing platform in the world, inside and out on a balcony of the tallest building in the world, you can see for miles and miles. The spread of Dubai's buildings, the sea and the desert, all at your feet.

I had agreed to going along to the At The Top experience with the girls, which reached the 124th floor; but then heard that a higher level was just opened at the Burj Khalifa a mere 5 days before we rode the elevators to these heights. 148 floors up, with an outdoor viewing platform, and an added view at the 125th floor - the At The Top SKY. So I did both!

The difference between the two was immediately obvious (apart from the price tag), when we were ushered into a plush Departure Lounge within Dubai Mall for the SKY experience at our designated visit time, and introduced to our personal guides. We were served Arabic coffee and stuffed dates, before we were split into smaller groups to take the ride up.

Walking past the crowds lined up for the At The Top experience, we were taken through the Fast Track lane, past the many screens and boards of information about the building of the great building, and to the specific elevator to the 125th floor. Once at this level, just 1 minute and 20 second after leaving the ground floor, we changed lifts to ascend to the 148th.

Greeted by a plethora of staff at this lounge in the sky, offering juice refreshments and morsels of treats such a tiny macaroons and baklava, we then took in the sweeping views from the floor to ceiling glass windows.

Taking a seat by the window and enjoying the service was the height of luxury, much of one half of this level felt like a posh hotel lobby, rather than an observation deck.

Taking ourselves away from the beautiful seating, we all started working our way along the windows in an anti-clockwise direction, picking out the bits of Dubai we had become familiar with from our touristy days prior.

We could see the buildings of Sharjah, and Bur Dubai, and then worked our way along the sea edge view.

Possibly the only vantage point of The World was found here, other than boarding a light plane for the experience. The World is the man-made island formation off the Dubai coast, a resort to resemble the continents of the world.

Looking out towards the Dubai Marina skyscrapers, and the iconic Burj Al Arab, we had the sinking sun as a backdrop for this, making the view even more magical.

Reaching the other side of the building, we could venture out onto the balcony and feel the heat whilst looking down on the world below. Here, the decked balcony had seats to comfortably enjoy the view - and railings along the edge, if needed! Watching the traffic flow around the spiderweb of roads, and the movement around the Dubai Mall fountains, felt like eavesdropping on the world below.

Once we had had our fill of the cracking view at this level, and enjoyed another juice to cool off, we took the elevator back down to floor 125, for some more views.

This level is pretty much empty space, letting the outside vistas speak for themselves. From here we could look down to the balcony on the 124th level, and all the people taking in the city views from there.

The shadows the Burj Khalifa made upon the ground all that way down below were very impressive.

The very top level available to the public (we were told there are office spaces and the like all the way up to the 160th floor) was far superior to the 124th experience. The higher level wowed, when I actually expected it to be fairly similar. Well worth the added cost, for the extra ear-popping elevator experience, and breath-taking views - in addition to the personalised service right through the experience.

Jouljet Notes
Serious Tip: Tickets for either level should be booked in advance online or at the ticket office in Dubai Mall, slotting into a specific time.
Time Spent: The information stated that we would have just 30 minutes at the top level, and then as long as we liked down on 125. In reality, no one moved us along from floor 148, and we enjoyed a generous amount of time up there, taking in the views.
Cost: The At The Top SKY experience is 400DHS, or around $124
Quirky Tip: It helped to have a bit of an internalised map of Dubai from my day of being a tourist in the city, which meant I knew what areas and buildings I was looking at from all the way in the sky.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Booze For A Cause, On My Birthday

A combination of some of my favourite Melbourne things are coming together on Monday night - one of my favourite bars, Los Barbubos, is hosting a Scarf fundraising event. This will support the initiative to assist young people struggling to find employment to develop skills and confidence in the hospitality field. A real leg up to people who need it, to get their working lives started.

Oh! And there is a food truck!

It also happens to be my birthday, so that sounds like the perfect way to gather and mark the occasion! See you there! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hanging Around - Kids In Honiara

These kids were just hanging in this tree in the afternoon I happened to visit the US War Memorial in Honiara. The memorial has many marble upright slabs, telling tales and displaying the names of those lost in battles that have occurred around Guadalcanal - the main island of the Solomon Islands.
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