Sunday, July 31, 2011

Highlights from Hong Kong's First Restaurant Week

It's no secret that I love food.You can imagine my excitement last month when I heard that Hong Kong was going to launch Restaurant Week 2011 in mid-July.

Unfortunately, I regret to report that I was slightly disappointed by the first Hong Kong Restaurant Week. Although a good number of restaurants were participating, only a few were on my "top list" of places to try in Hong Kong. Undeterred and always happy to eat, I made my way to several Hong Kong Restaurant Week meals and had a few lovely meals.

Here are some of the highlights!

Bloom of Lily & Bloom 

From the moment I walked into Bloom, I was instantly enamored with the industrial meets country-cottage aesthetic that, strangely enough, recalled the days of Prohibition era speakeasies. Maybe it was all the iron fittings in contrast next to hanging pots of plants and candles, I'm not sure. Perhaps I'm not really describing it accurately, but whatever. Bloom looked amazing and I loved it!

My ceviche appetizer was slightly less citrus-y than how I normally prefer it, but a great way to start my meal, nonetheless. Unfortunately for me, it came in a rather small tumbler. I suppose a small helping does exactly what an "appetizer" is suppose to because it certainly did whet my appetite for the rest of my meal!

The main course of tender pork medallions was deliciously accompanied with a plum compote. At first glance, I was afraid that my unnaturally large stomach wouldn't be completely satisfied but the serving size proved to be just perfect. I was very happy by the time I had polished off my plate!

But of course, there's always room for dessert!

The dessert of white macadamia nut cookies with warm chocolate sauce was, no doubt, the highlight of the meal at Bloom. The cookies were crisp around the edges and soft in the middle, had just the right number of macadamia nuts, and that chocolate sauce! Warm and richly decadent, I was practically drinking the chocolate once I gobbled down the cookies!

The entire dining experience at Bloom was a fabulous one. The service was excellent and the food was an absolute delight. I'd definitely come back to Bloom! Besides, I saw their hamburgers. I'm DEFINITELY coming back!

Cafe Deco Bar & Grill

Another dinner I was looking forward to was Cafe Deco Bar & Grill for the stunning views overlooking Hong Kong from Victoria Peak. Unfortunately, the night of my reservation was filled with rain and mist that overshadowed all of Hong Kong. Luckily, the main course of wok-fried tiger prawns and trevally with a citrus glaze and was tasty and pretty enough to distract me from the poor views. By the time I had thoroughly enjoyed my main, the clouds temporarily lifted and I was able to catch my view of the Hong Kong skyline. A very lovely dinner! 

All in all, Hong Kong Restaurant Week fell a bit short of my expectations, but it still provided a couple of stand-out meals and dining experiences. I'm hoping to see new improvements and developments at the next Restaurant Week as the event gains popularity.

Have YOU got a Restaurant Week or top-notch dining experience to share?

© Connie Hum 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

#TTOT Roundup: Beach Travel

Every Tuesday it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Follow the #TTOT hashtag to see what all the commotion and Tweets are about! There are two sessions to join, one at 9:30am GMT and the other at 9:30pm GMT. 

Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT:  

Q1 via : Where's the world's best beach? Why that one?
  • : Binalong Bay/Bay of Fires! Un-freaking-believable
  • The beach at ko pha ngan in thailand. i love beach parties and there they have the best ones
  • One of our fave beaches is in Zanzibar. It's just so peaceful and relaxing
  • : Every beach, every inch of every coastline, is the world's best beach. Don't take any for granted
  • Would love to visit the Maldives someday. Have seen gorgeous beach photos from there
  • : The Bahamas are really beautiful too if you like lovely white sand beachs and turquoise waters

Q2 via : What is your ultimate beach accessory? Why?
  • : Sunscreen. Pale skin. Lobster only looks good on a plate
  • : Someone to rub suncream on your back
  • : Anything fruity and laced with liquor
  • : My camera...can't stare at photos of the exotic beaches I've been to whilst at work without it
  • : I'd LOVE a personal cabana boy if we're being honest
  • : That's gotta be salong. Convenient for almost everything on the beach!! One of the best purchase on the road
  • : Bucket and spade! 

Q3 via : Give us your best beach photo -- make us jealous!

The Cassis Calanques, France by 
Boracay, The Philippines by
Table Top, Cape Town, South Africa by
Sunset at Koh Phangan, Thailand by 
Fernando Noronha, Brazil by
Goa, India by connvoyage
Q4 via : Most over-hyped beach you've ever visited? Why?
  • Pattaya. And the islands around. Disguting beaches with fat Russians and English middle aged men. Found a condom in the see as well
  • : Bondi? Am I allowed to say that? Its just a normal beach, right? Do you have to be a surfer to truly appreciate it?!
  • : Waikiki Beach, Honolulu is up there too. Really skinny bit of (imported) sand with big high rise hotels along it
  • : Mykonos... go to Santorini instead
  • Secret Kalalau Beach on coastline hike. Totally not worth the long trek when best view is before you started
  • : Kuta Beach in Bali,,, no doubt about that

Q5 via : What are your top three favorite beaches, why?
  • : So far Gili Trawangan, Lombok. Its the best place to party at night and relax during the day.The other 2 are yet to be discovered
  • :  Zanzibar Paje Beach, Koutsi beach on Andros, Su Giudeu Beach, Sardinia all because of its emptiness & beauty 
  • : Three most favorite beaches? Hvesta in Iceland, Cadiz in Spain and the whole south coast of Croatia 
  • : Rose Island, Bahamas / Redondo Beach, Northern California / near Discovery Bay, Jamaica
  • : HARD question, going to give destinations instead. Bahamas, Outer Banks and Hawaii

And there you have it, "Beach Travel"!

Next week's #TTOT topic is: "Lakes & Oceans" submitted by Boz23. Submit your questions HERE! And don't forget to tune follow the #TTOT every Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT!

As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

Have YOU got anything to add to the Beach Travel discussion? 

© Connie Hum 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Guest Post: Fringe Serendipity in Adelaide, Australia

Summer Guest Blog Series: Favorite Travel Memories
Certainly some of my best travel memories stem from little twists of fate and/or chance encounters. Here, Caroline shares how a blast from her past comes up to meet her in Australia and the incredible travel memory that results!

The South Australian capital wasn’t even on the itinerary and after my boyfriend’s car flooded in Melbourne, it was doubtful we would make it back to Sydney, let alone to Adelaide, 451 miles (726 km) to the west. But when our luck turned around, we ventured down the Great Ocean Road and decided to keep going.

When we drove through town, it seemed like a smaller version of Melbourne, complete with tramlines. But it has one thing Melbourne doesn’t: the internationally acclaimed Adelaide Fringe Festival.

Actors, comedians, artists and performers of all varieties get together for two weeks of displaying their craft. I had heard of the festival because of its connection to Charleston’s Piccolo Fringe Festival, which I had written about for the Charleston City Paper back in college.

When we checked into our hostel, Annie’s Place, I noticed tickets on the bulletin board for a show called Wanderlust going on for the Fringe Festival. I was surprised to realize we had randomly arrived during the yearly festival and the show sounded familiar, but I eventually forgot about it.

The next morning at breakfast, I noticed a mid-30s guy tinkering on his laptop in the common area. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him. Later, I heard him talking to someone in the kitchen about how he was here in Adelaide to perform his one-man show. Then it clicked. “What’s your name?” I interrupted. “Martin Dockery.” I did know him from somewhere. I had interviewed him via email for the newspaper’s annual Spoleto Festival preview issue about his performance of Wanderlust there 8 months prior. Now here we both were on the other side of the world, meeting in person.

I never got to see his show in Charleston because I had already left for Croatia, but I was given a second chance when Martin offered us tickets. That night we arrived at the venue, called the Garden of Unearthly Delights, which had a sort of carnival freak-show vibe.

Wanderlust is the story about Martin’s decision to leave his temping job to go to West Africa in search of an epiphany. Sound familiar? His philosophy was right up my alley and his humor is over-the-top in the style of vintage Jim Carrey. If you get the chance to see one of his performances, I definitely recommend it.

I couldn’t believe that a newspaper interview I had almost forgotten about gave me the chance to experience Adelaide in a way I otherwise never would have.

Caroline Eubanks is a freelance writer, travel blogger and bartender from Atlanta, Georgia currently spending the year traveling around Australia. Read her blog at

Want to submit a guest post to Connvoyage? Get details HERE!

© Connie Hum 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

#TTOT Roundup: Volunteer Travel

Every Tuesday it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Follow the #TTOT hashtag to see what all the commotion and Tweets are about! There are two sessions to join, one at 9:30am GMT and the other at 9:30pm GMT.

Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT: 

Q1 via : Is voluntourism a good or bad thing, and why?
  • : Voluntourism projects should be set up with an exit strategy, so as not to make communities dependent on volunteers 
  • Voluntourism is good thing.It helps tourist to build long relationship,gain cultural knowledge & understand community needs
  • : t's a bad thing if you're being exploited or you are exploiting
  • : Do your research. Don't take away paid working opportunities for locals in the area
  • : It is unfortunate that too many commercial organizations have jumped on the money making bandwagon
  • Voluntourism can be a good thing because it educates people about communities, cultures and needs arout the world

Q2 via : Can volunteer travel make a difference? How?
  • : Building projects make a long-lasting difference in a community. Handing out food is only short-term
  • : Education on various things is probably the best people have to offer, providing it's objective and doesn't impose opinions
  • : You can enrich lives by volunteering abroad. You also make a difference by spreading awareness
  • Opens new relationships that can span the globe I appreciate the volunteers who expect no credit or recognition in return
  • : Any help no matter how small is still help! If it can make a lasting impact on any given community, then it makes a difference 
  • : It allows you into the real lives of locals that your average tourist will never experience

Q3 via : Which websites / blogs can you recommend for finding free opportunities? 
  • : Use social media ask the great twitter travel community
  • Universities are a good network too get involved with and for contacts
  • : Sometimes the best opportunties are just found from going to a location and asking around, in volunteering and just travel itself 
  • : AIESEC internship program - great org to start! Lots of great NGO partners
  • : Another good site is The Ethical Traveler 
  • : In North America, Sierra Club offers numerous volunteer opportunities usually in natural settings
  • : The site Idealist has tons of volunteer opportunities worldwide. Some are free, others aren't

Q4 via : Where and how have you seen voluntourism make a positive impact? 
  • : Turtle conservation with charity&community in Costa Rica. Got food & accommodation in village-total reinvestment into community 
  • : Wildlife rehabilitation
  • : I think things like medical camps supported by unis are great! People with the correct skills are helping others 
  • : Did some volunteer work fixing a hospital in Croatia at the end of the war.Seen some environmental projects here in Iceland as well 
  • : Tanzania we paid for and helped locals install a rain water tank and guttering on the school roof, they had no water supply 
  • : Recently in the US, voluntourism really helped comeback of New Orleans & Gulf Coast
  • : Not in-person, but translating loans for entrepreneurs worldwide is one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done
Positive impact = Seeing kids hard at work learning

Q5 via : What would be your perfect volunteering experience whilst traveling?
  • : Helping to build a village/town for displaced people/refugees. It breaks my heart seeing people forced from their home
  • : Perfect volunteer job? I'd love to work in an orangutan orphanage in Borneo
  • : Having a budget for your own volunteer project. Travel & see where you could help. Then stay & do it!
  • : Teaching impoverished children a trade and helping them discover that they aren't limited by their circumstances
  • : Anything where I could make a concrete donation to a community, like a house, playground, or classroom built
  • I think playing with the kids did more good that the actual tutorials, in the long run anyway
Play time can be just as rewarding to you as to the kids you help!

And there you have it, "Volunteer Travel"!

Next week's #TTOT topic is: "Beach Travel" submitted by LifeOutofaSuitc. Submit your questions HERE! And don't forget to tune follow the #TTOT every Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT!

As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

Have YOU got anything to add to the Volunteer Travel discussion? 

© Connie Hum 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Guest Post: A Dingo Ate My Birthday Cake

Summer Guest Blog Series: Favorite Travel Memories
I've found that some of the best travel memories can stem from days where you lease expected it. Jayne's celebration of her 23rd birthday in Australia highlights how a bad day can turn into something fun and memorable in a blink of an eye! Or in Jayne's case, a little Bon Jovi, chocolate cake, a hidden stash of champagne, and even a dingo!

I was in a foul mood. When I found out I would be spending my 23rd birthday, MY special day, on a sand island with no bars, nightclubs or even toilet amenities (for goodness sake!), I threw a rare and embarrassing tantrum. As we journeyed down the East Coast of Australia with the aim of arriving in Sydney in time for Christmas, unless I changed my date of birth, I was going to have to spend my birthday on Fraser Island - the largest sand island in the world. All through the briefing I remained less than impressed as the instructors described how we should ward off dingoes with sticks and bury our toilet in deep sand pits. As my team mates loaded up the jeep with snacks, booze and camping equipment I barely helped out (I told you I was being embarrassing). We piled into the back, whacked Bon Jovi on the stereo and headed for the ferry. By the time we arrived on the island I had started to sing along. As we sped along the coast, a convoy of jeeps with an endless stretch of golden sand in front of us, I started to smile. As we raced to the other end of the
island in time to catch sight of some dolphins frolicking in the surf I began to get excited.

That night we pitched up our tents and the boys of the group took charge of cooking dinner. I was told to sit back and relax. My two wonderful and patient traveling companions had sneaked a bottle of champagne onto the island without me realising, I popped the cork and whopped with joy. When they then unveiled a chocolate cake and party hats I was completely bowled over. Next came out a giant birthday card which had been signed in advance by the nine kind people in my group who had only seen me sulking thus far. I snapped out of my mood immediately. As we tucked into goon and tinnies in true Aussie spirit, the music got louder, the drinking games more raucous and slowly other campers began to gravitate towards our group. We started with just us merry ten but very soon had tripled to a cheery 30 - we partied until a dingo stole the last of the cake and our faces (literally) hit the sand!

The next day, a bit worse for wear to say the least, we set off to find the infamous Lake McKenzie, one of over 100 freshwater lakes on the island. A bumpy ride, we worried if our heads and stomachs could handle it. Thankfully we soldiered on and it was really worth it. Truly an oasis in a sand desert Lake McKenzie was a sight to behold and an invigorating dip was just what our hangovers needed. We posed for group pictures and, despite my teenage tantrum, those people became my friends for life. On reflection I can see that, even though I couldn't shower, my 23rd birthday was my best yet.

Travel obsessive does not even cover it. Jayne Gorman loves to travel, enjoys writing about travel and can often be found passionately speaking guessed it – travel! Travel blogging is Jayne's hobby, passion and career – she recently took up the role as Social Media Specialist for Flight Centre UK. Jayne's lifelong ambition is to visit all 7 continents but whilst she saves for Antarctica, Jayne has set herself the slightly smaller challenge of visiting 40 countries before she turns 30. Jayne is currently 26 and has visited 36. You can find out what happened in the 36 already discovered and find out where the next 4 destinations will be on Jayne's blog, 40before30. You can also find Jayne on twitter (a lot!).

Want to submit a guest post to Connvoyage? Get details HERE!

© Connie Hum 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Seven Links Project

I cannot express how EXCITED I am to be invited to participate in Tripbase's Seven Links Project! THANK YOU so much to the always FABULOUS Caroline of Caroline in the City for extending the Seven Links Project invitation to my eager hands! 


Maybe I'm a bit obsessive about food, but my post about food in Hoi An, Vietnam was absolutely marvelous and has my vote as my most beautiful one! The flavors and tastes of Vietnamese food still linger in my mind like a long-lost lover. Oh, what I'd give for one more night in Hoi An...


Who doesn't love a good love story? No one, apparently! My Love Story series, chronicling how my current boyfriend, Matt, and I met and fell in love while traveling in India, was an instant hit with my readers and prompted two follow-up installments! The love story continues, though the series has taken a hiatus for the time being as Matt and I slowly settle into our new life together in Hong Kong.


The post that caused the most uproar and backlash has to be my account of the 14-day Annapurna Circuit trek I did in the Nepalese Himalayas, regrettably entitled, "Trekking to Hell and Back: The Annapurna Circuit." I was trying to be cheeky and refer to my lack of mental and physical preparation as the worst decision of my life, but an unfortunate case of semantics and misunderstandings caused much of a stir with the Nepalese community. Much to my embarrassment, I took personal offense and responded rather defensively, which led to further attacks... I wish I could erase this blog but I think it's an important post and hey, it's part of my experience and I think it's still worth sharing. 


Volunteering is one of the most rewarding things I've ever done in life. Unfortunately, I had a really bad experience where the "volunteer organization" I was to work with in Kathmandu for six months turned out to be a total scam. I survived the ordeal and came out all the smarter and wiser for it. Then I wrote an article to help other potential volunteers so that they could avoid any volunteer scams. I hope that it's been helpful.


Based on stats alone, the American Eagle Outfitters post, by far, received the most hits. Of all time! Yeah, I'm pretty surprised by that. I find it strange, given that I wrote this post as a fluff piece; something completely NOT what I usually write about, being primarily a travel and food writer. Still, it was a really fun night and I guess lots of people (particularly those in Hong Kong, according to Google Analytics) were interested.  


Come on! It's a FABULOUS recipe about Indian spiced chai! More people should care about this! 


I turned 30 last November and I did some self-contemplative soul-searching during that time. The result? My post, "Follow Your Heart, That's What I Always Do," where I talk about how following my heart has led to all the amazing things I've experienced in my life so far. I have absolutely no regrets in life and I'm proud of everything I've accomplished thus far, including writing this post! 

Did YOUR favorite Connvoyage post make it into my Seven Links?

© Connie Hum 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

#TTOT Roundup: Capital Cities

Every Tuesday it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Follow the #TTOT hashtag to see what all the commotion and Tweets are about! There are two sessions to join, one at 9:30am GMT and the other at 9:30pm GMT.

Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT: 

Q1 via : Which capital city has the best sights to see in the space of 24 hours?
  • : Amsterdam! Easy to walk around, explore the city & visit major sights in 24hrs
  • : Hanoi, Vietnam: favorite Asian city. Walkable center, magic turtle, street beer
  • : Singapore rocks in 24 hours, a great stop over 
  • : Wellington! Considered as one of the best little capital in the world!
  • : Las Vegas because everything is open 24/7
  • : Tokyo is a very cool place to be. And it is a 24 hour city in addition to being a capital! 
  • Copenhagen. It's buzzing with activities from dusk till dawn
Picturesque Copenhagen

Q2 via : Which city that isn't a capital city should receive capital status and why?
  • : Hong Kong, so much more vibrant and cosmopolitan than Beijing
  • : Sydney because Canberra is a total let down; like a real life version of 'The Truman Show' 
  • : Rio de Janeiro, instead of Brasilia
  • : LOS ANGELES! Best beaches, best entertainment, chill people, mountains to snowboard, SUN 365 days
  • : Sydney and Melbourne were both smart enough to not want the politicians in their city!
  • Istanbul. It was a capital for nearly 2,000 years and 3 of the world's greatest empires. It's just wrong it's been downgraded
Istanbul, not Constantinople!

 Q3 via : Which capital city should be called capital of the world ?
  • : I could go for Bhutan where the gov't is more concerned with Gross National Happiness
  • : Geneva would make for a nice world capital. Lots of chocolate at hand
  • : I believe the USA considers itself the Capital of the World
  • : Djibouti, Djibouti! Just because the name is awesome
  • : I think Istanbul would be a good choice for Capital of the world. Spans two continents cosmoplitan, good choice
  • :Maybe Rome, just to throw back to the times when it actually was the capital of the world?
  • : Funny that the Brits think London and the Americans are going for NYC strange that huh?
NYC gets my vote!

Q4 via : Practicalities aside, put together great meal made from dishes from 3 different capital cities
  • : Amatriciana from Rome, ceviche from Lima, cheese course from Paris
  • : Chicken Satay (Bangkok) Paella (Madrid) Gelato- of course! (Rome) - I actually changed my answer 4 times here  
  • : Gyoza (Tokyo), gulash (Budapest), hokey pokey ice cream (wellington)
  • : But I couldn't live without my junk. American hotdog, Brit fish&chips main and a famous French Can. sugar pie
  • : Steak from Argentina, Chips from England & Vodka from Poland
  • : Beijing dumplings, Washington Prime Rib and Paris Creme Brulee
  • : Massamann Curry, Greek Salad, Guinness. Now there's a whole mashup of flavor right there!
  • : Koshary from Cairo, fattah from Beirut, sweets from Istanbul!
Egyptian koshary, yum!

Q5 via : If u could only visit 5 capital cities in lifetime what would they be? repeats vs. 5 diff ones?
  • : Santiago de Chile, Havana, Seoul, Tokyo (revisit) Cape Town (revisit), Belgrade (revisit)
  • : Berlin, Bern, Cairo, Moscow and Vienna
  • : Buenos Aires, Brussels (return), Baghdad, Beijing, Tokyo
  • Paris, Athens, Cairo, Rome, Ankara. I heart me some art history 
  • : Wish List: Moscow, Seoul, Talinn, Istanbul, Lagos
  • : Papeete, Yaren district, Jamestown, Longyearbyen, N'djamena
  • : Tokyo, Baghdad, Jerusalem, Moscow and Kabul. Very mystical places I think

And there you have it, "Capital Cities"!

Next week's #TTOT topic is: "Volunteer Travel" submitted by OysterWorldwide. Submit your questions HERE! And don't forget to tune follow the #TTOT every Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT!

As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

Have YOU got anything to add to the Capital Cities travel discussion? 

© Connie Hum 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Guest Post: All Aboard the Queen of Denmark’s Private Yacht

Summer Guest Blog Series: Favorite Travel Memories
I'm a strong advocate for talking to strangers, especially while traveling abroad. You never know what adventures will come from it! Allie's favorite travel memory is the perfect blend of talking to strangers and the amazing experiences and memories you can gain from it.

During the fall of my junior year of college, when I was studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, every night out was an adventure. There was no telling what sort of dive bar we would end up at or what sort of characters we would meet. Adventures ranged from Danish rappers performing at overcrowded nightclubs serving champagne mixed with Kool Aid to Scottish pubs, karaoke bars, and late night hot dogs on the pedestrian shopping street. My best night out, however, started out with boredom.

Uninspired by the prospects ahead of us, we began our night at the bar near our school, filled to the brim with American students craving the comforts of home, like beer pong tables and 10 shots for 100 kroner. Quickly growing tired of this and seeking something different, the majority of our group went home while one other girl and I refused to call this a night. We strolled for a few blocks before walking into Heidi’s, an entirely Danish bar right around the block from Rådhuspladsen. Refusing to be intimidated by the extremely local nature of this bar, we grabbed some Carlsbergs and took a table by the window.

We sat down and began to take in our surroundings. The older Danes at the bar, clearly regulars here, engrossed in conversation with the bartenders. The group of young women, enjoying a girls’ night out. And the group of young, attractive, blond men at the table right next to us.

Maybe this night wouldn’t be as boring as we thought.

As groups of young people of opposite genders seated in bars are wont to do, we naturally struck up a conversation with these Danes, hoping to make some native friends and learn more about the culture in which we were immersed. Talking to them was more interesting and enlightening than we ever could have imagined, because they weren’t just regular Danes.

These were members of the Royal Danish Navy who happened to currently be serving as the sailors on the Queen Margrethe II’s private yacht!

Hardly believing our luck, we wanted to spend as much time with these guys as possible and hopefully wrangle ourselves a hangout the next day, perhaps on said yacht. Beer after beer was purchased, everything imaginable was discussed, and we stayed up talking with them at this bar until after 4 am. When we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer, we bid the sailors good night. As we were rising from the table, Michael uttered music to our ears: “Hey, do you guys want to come and see the ship tomorrow?”

Now, how do you say no to that?

The next afternoon, my friend and I headed across the harbor via harbor taxi to where we knew the yacht was docked (it had been pointed out to us when we first arrived on our inaugural tour of the city, so we knew what it looked like). The sailors told us to meet them “by the submarine”, and we weren’t quite sure if this submarine would be in the water or on land. Entering the dockyards, we suddenly felt very civilian, as everyone around us was dressed up in uniform. Taking turn after turn, we realized we had absolutely no idea where we were going, and began to question everything the guys had told us the night before. Self-doubt pouring forth, we began to wonder if these guys were even sailors at all and were just using that as a good pick-up line (which we would have to give them credit for – it was). And just when we were about to turn around and head home, we found the submarine. On land.

Across from the submarine was the very ship we had been looking for. Our sailor friends (indeed, actually sailors) were standing in front of it, dressed to the nines in their naval whites. They walked us up and down the length of the ship before inviting us on board. We strolled down the decks, stood on the bow, and even got to go down below to see their living quarters. The queen’s stateroom was off limits, even for them.

We spent a few minutes being starstruck and taking all sorts of pictures before bidding our sailor friends bon voyage – they were shipping out later that day, not to return for months. This was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity that I never would have had, had I not taken the risk to visit a truly Danish bar and strike up a conversation with some strangers. Let this be a lesson in spontaneity and risk-taking: you never know whose boat you’ll end up on!

Allie just graduated from college this May and is now a grad student in Boston studying public health. Allie's semester in Denmark was her first taste of international living and she can't wait to get more of it. Allie is turning 23 this year and has been to 23 countries. Allie's hope is to keep that record going. Follow Allie's adventures at Travel Unraveled or Twitter.

Want to submit a guest post to Connvoyage? Get details HERE!

© Connie Hum 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

#TTOT Roundup: Train Travel

Every Tuesday it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Follow the #TTOT hashtag to see what all the commotion and Tweets are about! There are two sessions to join, one at 9:30am GMT and the other at 9:30pm GMT.

Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT: 

Q1 via : What country would you recommend to travel by train? 
  • : China!! Huge country, diverse scenery, affordable trains. The headache u get when buying tickets is worth the ride 
  • : It's gotta be my Albanian train trip I've raved about way too many times. I called Forgotten Railway. Amazing and super cheap
  • : Italy, because the meals served in the dining cars are to die for! 
  • : Bosnia, if you have time. Train unreliable, gorgeous ride
  • : Transiberian is also an interesting experience, if long journeys don't scare you
  • : India. A complete cultural experience. Sensory overload from the second you arrive at the station
    Trains in Turkey are so nostalgic!

    Q2 via : What are your essential tips when packing for train travel?
    • : TP or at least pocket tissues are a must! But mostly things to pass the time - book, camera, cards, etc.
    • : Food, there is no better way to make your new compartment buddies happier
    • : Warm socks b/c it can get drafty with doors open etc - nice to feel comfortable 
    • : Pack sense of nostalgia, a sense of adventure, and a sense of humour
    • : A travel pillow, blanket, stretchy pants & good book 
    • : Dark sunglasses. I like staring at people when they don't realize I'm staring at them
    • : A pen and paper, write and sketch/illustrate as much as you can! Great for train rides

    Q3 via : What is the most beautiful route you've traveled by train?
    • : Boden - Kiruna - Narvik in northern Sweden/Norway in the midnight sun
    • : North Vancouver to Whistler on a sunny day is gorgeous - mountain, ocean & canyon views
    • : English Riviera to St Ives at dawn
    • : The overnight train from Cairo to Luxor, specifically waking up in the morning to see the Egyptian countryside passing by 
    • : Japan. Convenience and the unexpected diversity of Japanese culture made it special
    • : Train travel through New York state in autumn was a great surprise. Scarlet leaves, river views - much better than by road
    • : I really enjoyed north India journey between Delhi and Rajasthan  
    Train station in India, empty at dawn

     Q4 via : Which railway route would you like built, that doesn't yet exist?
    • : I'd like them to fill in the missing gaps between Cape Town and Cairo
    • : Underwater in the great barrier reef......pipe dream!
    • : San Francisco to Honolulu. How hard can it be?
    • : Highspeed rail line from Beijing to London ( via Delhi) That might be a reality soon. 2 days might take
    • : Trains that goes to the beach, honestly so I can say to my boss I took the wrong train 
    • : You should be able to take a train from Vancouver to San Diego   
    • : PLEASE bring back trains in South America. ANYWHERE. Sad that continent is pretty much train-free

    Q5 via : 3 ways to improve travel by train?
    • : Let's have reduced prices, free wi-fi and cosy stations!
    • : Making train travel cheaper than driving would be a great start
    • : Perfect toilet faicilities, timetables that every country actually sticks to and something that silences screaming babies
    • : Faster, Cheaper, More Alcohol
    • :1) Make every seat 1st class, 2) Serve everyone giant peanuts, 3) Build loop-the-loops into the track 4 interest

    Traveling first class in London

    And there you have it, "Train Travel"!

    Next week's #TTOT topic is: "Capital Cities" submitted by Kelly Dean Ottawa. Submit your questions HERE! And don't forget to tune follow the #TTOT every Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT!

    As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

    Have YOU got anything to add to the Train Travel discussion? 

    © Connie Hum 2011

    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    Guest Post: Japan Temples

    Summer Guest Blog Series: Favorite Travel Memories
    Japan is a top travel destination for many travelers and although I haven't made it to Japan (yet!), Barbara's guest post below and her photos from the temples in Kyoto, especially of the Golden Pavillion, sure do inspire me to hop on the next plane to Japan! 

    My precious memories of my trip to Japan include beautiful temples and shrines. They are numerous and each has a distinct personality. Kyoto is a city with over 2000 temples and shrines so it is a good place to see many in a relatively short time. Kyoto is also a friendly city and easy to navigate. It is convenient and fast to take a train and walk to many of the temples in the city. For temples outside the city, it is easy to find day tours which take you there. There are tour companies located in and around the train station.

    Whichever temple you visit, you are likely to see rows of white paper twisted on what look like clotheslines. These are pieces of paper on which you write a request or a prayer. The slips of paper are in a box near the temple. You are free to take one, fill it in and tie it to the line. You can hear the paper prayers fluttering in the breeze. No matter if you believe or not in the power of prayer it is impressive to see this manifestation of faith by so many believers. In case you’re wondering… yes, I left a prayer. I’m a writer and believe in miracles. This is a perfect combination for me. In the picture below, you can see the lines of prayers at the front and side of the Heian shrine (Kyoto), also called the orange and green shrine (for obvious reasons).

    At the Kiyomizu complex (Kyoto), you follow a winding path up the hillside, a path lined with handicraft, souvenir and pottery shops. It is fun to shop as you climb and then, where the shops end, you begin to see the numerous smaller shrines on the way to the top of the hill. One of these is a small shrine with an open facade where you can see little statues with red capes or bibs and orange bonnets. These are called mizuko jizo, statuettes representing aborted, stillborn or miscarried babies. Some have toys placed beside them. Jizo, one of the bodhisattva (enlightened being) in Buddhism, is the protector of these “returned” children, also called water children. The figurines are bought by the woman or the family and placed in special shrines such as this one for a certain amount of time, until a formal ritual and offering is made for their souls. After this, these unborn will be able to pass across the river separating the living from the dead. It is a jarring sight, yet comforting.

    The last Kyoto temple picture I have to share is of the famous Golden Pavillion- Rokuon- Ji Temple. It was built by the Third Shogun of Ashikaga in 1397. He wanted it to be a peaceful site and in his will specified that it become a Zen temple. The second and third stories are covered with gold-leaf on Japanese lacquer. In the footpaths around the temple, you pass rock gardens, ponds and smaller shrines. It is absolutely stunning.

    Barbara Bunce Desmeules, a native of Montreal, is a high school librarian who doubles as a freelance writer. She has written about topics as varied as: living in a Korean monastery, spa life, mixing and muddling drinks and haute cuisine at the CIA(culinary institute of America). She has 2 essays published in a recent anthology: Prose To Go: Tales from a private list. When not reading, writing or working, she travels and shares her experiences at: 

    Want to submit a guest post to Connvoyage? Get details HERE!

    © Connie Hum 2011

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