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A Sneak Peek

By on Nov 13, 2012 in Travel Coloumn | 0 comments

Over the last couple of months you might have noticed my travel posts have slowed down on the Travel Project. First up, I’m still writing, still travelling and still enjoying being part of this awesome travel blogging community. However I’ve been working on a brand new project which I wanted to share with you today. A project that I’m hoping will bring Travel Bloggers from all around the world to the forefront of travel content. A couple of months back I was searching for posts on Oman. I noticed when searching Google that I found it really hard just to find all the travel blogging posts relating to this Middle Eastern Country. Either the posts weren’t SEO’d very well and never appeared, or the giants like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet had monopolized it so well that I would have to start heading to page three and four. I visited a few of my favourite blogs, however found nothing – Oman is a bit of a random destination I suppose. So it got me thinking, “how could I search every blog in the world at once?” And what if there was a way to bring the worlds blogs together for the benefit of our growing profession? One giant collaborative sharing program. As individual bloggers we may struggle to stand out (especially considering over 1 million travel posts are released daily) however collectively we could be a force to be reckoned with. With all this in mind, I set to work designing a new platform that I believe will bring travel bloggers to the party – allowing us to compete with the likes of the big travel sites for the better of our profession and for more visibility. It wouldn’t matter if you couldn’t write SEO content, you only posted once a week or if you have 10  followers – as every post would be just as important as another. I wanted to provide a platform for the world to find our travel posts. I also thought that as Bloggers represent the BEST and most honest source of information, readers will be rewarded with content that isn’t outdated or full of PR rubbish! So I want to introduce to you our new site – Trip’inion.  The site is not live yet and still in Beta, however as of this afternoon I will be begin taking our first fifty signups into the beta program ready for the initial launch in the coming month. I’ve offered this first on the travel project, as many of the people who read this site have great blogs in my opinion, are valuable members of the travel community and I would love you all to be part of this. You know all those times when a site starts up and you wished you were part of it right at the start – well this is one those moments! If you’re interested, head over to www.tripinion.com to find out how it works and if you’re still keen, just hit the signup button. Please feel free to share this post and thanks for all your...

“I think we should plan a holiday”

By on Oct 22, 2012 in Travel Coloumn | 0 comments

This morning at breakfast, Niki said the magic words: ‘I think we should plan a holiday”. After the initial dance around the room in a Gangnam style pony trot (I know you’ve tried it), my mind then turns to the destination. Oh the possibilities! My mind wanders to Kenya, Iceland or even the Philippines. I think of daring adventures, mountains to climb, food to try and the crazy shit that’s going to happen to me as I go travelling. Instantly my brain goes into overload and I start thinking of all the amazing places that we could travel to. Then a little voice pops up and like most husbands, I start wondering what I can get away with here? Does she mean a romantic week in the Victorian Alps or could I persuade her to do some insane trekking in Nepal? This is dangerous territory for any man – play it right and I could be off on an epic adventure, play it wrong and I’m going to be hauled into some spa resort in Daylesford saying “I don’t think it’s a good idea to be waxing there!” It then gets even better! Niki confirms my inner most desires, “Let’s leave Victoria” she says. At this point I’m dancing two  legged cow hind style (think gravy boat ad) to “I like the way you move”, all whilst declaring that she is the love of my life. This is it, a new project for me to think about! Weighing up my options, I decided to offer a small selection of countries that would be suitable for our relaxing adventure: Antarctica, Cuba or Argentina. Just before I get them out Niki thoughtfully says “I’ve heard Tasmania is good this time of year”……insert an awkward silence here…….before continuing on and saying “Yeah its cheap, off the mainland, and you’ll love it Peter.” Falling off my Gangnam pony, which had stopped mid routine. I coughed, apologized, and questioned if I have misheard  as “I thought you said Tasmania?” I hadn’t heard wrong. Back tracking, I could see my epic plans fall before my eyes and not to mention the waxing pain coming my way.  I needed to make her idea sound great yet give her a real viable alternative – New Zealand. My first pitch was “Tasmania is nice, but hey lets go to New Zealand instead, they have hobbits!” Niki gave me a deep intense look that questioned my sanity, before shooting me down in a glorious ball of flames. Epic fail on my behalf for thinking that I could persuade her with my geekiness. Mumbling under my breathe something along the lines of “you might of won the battle…”,  I asked her to leave it with me under the premise of going away to cost Tasmania up. Hopefully buying myself some time for my second attempt at persuasion. I wonder how much flights to New Zealand cost….. What do you think – Tasmania or New Zealand? Lets us know...

Top 5 Markets to Visit in South East Asia

By on Oct 16, 2012 in South East Asia | 0 comments

Street Markets are one of my favorite places to visit whilst travelling in South East Asia. I enjoy meeting the unique characters, sitting down with the locals to eat the most exotic local delicacies and not to mention finding some great souvenirs to take home with me. The markets in South East Asia can vary in quality as well as product and produce depending on the region you visit. The hardest choice you will have when travelling through the region is to pick which ones to visit. From epic warehouse sized markets selling over priced “genuine” knock offs in big Asian Cities, to the smaller traditional markets in regional villages where you can buy everything from spices to buffalo. So with this in mind, I wanted to share with you my five favourite markets in South East Asia that are great for people-watching and shopping alike.  1. Luang Prabang Street Market, Laos After the sun sets on the main street of Luang Prabang, the red and blue tents of the night market take centre stage as the indigenous Hmong women flock to the town to sell their locally crafted and purchased wares. Surrounded by Wats and Temples, the market sellers intricately lay out their antique lookalike snuff bottles next to one off pieces of handmade jewellery, which wouldn’t look out of place on the streets of Paris. Walls of colorful paper umbrellas surround you in every direction as you search for fisherman pants in your size. And no visit is complete without a pair of Hmong pants – just watch the first ten washes or so as the colour runs out. There are no crazy hawkers or intense crowds to deal with at this night market, just a very chilled out and relaxed vibe. The traders love a good conversation and it can provide an insight into the local indigenous way of living. Off the main road, the side alleys are full of freshly caught fish prepared on bamboo leaves  accompanied with steaming bowls of fragrant rice. Just pull up a seat with the locals and tuck into some amazingly delicious food. Once you’ve finished, try your hand at a street game, from popping balloons with darts to card games. All of this is why Luang Prabang market is my all time favourite in South East Asia and worthy of the arduous overland journey it takes to get there. Also don’t forget to checkout our etiquette guide about visiting indigenous communities in South East Asia for some handy hints and tips about visiting the Hmong. Best Buys: Paper umbrellas, snuff bottles, freshly cooked fish and Hmong clothing  2. Malacca Night Market, Malaysia A secret gem, the night market in the Portuguese town of Malacca in southern Malaysia is full of trinkets, local produce, cheap fashion and even the kitchen sink. Whilst not everything on sale will warrant a place in your luggage to take home, it’s a great place to dive into Malaysian street food and sit back and watch the world go by. A community market at heart, the vendors wind themselves along Jalan Hang Jebat – a short stroll from the central square. Surrounded by world heritage listed buildings, the street is rich in history with fascinating Chinese and Portuguese fused architecture. Whilst the vendors have interesting wares, the shop fronts also sell a range of oriental products including Chinese medicines, artwork and housewares. Best Buys: Antiques (Fake or real Ill leave it up to you to decide), trinkets, electronic gadgets and cheap oriental souvenirs.      3. Ubud Art Market, Bali Very touristy and slightly claustrophobic, the Ubud Art Market in the central mountains of Bali in Indonesia is an old favourite of mine. The market is known for is locally created art work, Balinese handicrafts, and its growing boutique fashion scene. Many of the products are crafted in the out lying villages then brought to market to be sold. You will need your bartering skills at this market as the Balinese start high with their price, but its worth noting that your money often goes directly back to helping the local villages – so don’t barter too aggressively. It’s best to stay in Ubud when visiting as you will be able to get up early or visit late in the afternoon to avoid the loads of tourists that arrive by  bus. Also, dont forget to try Pork Sucking at Ibu Oka, the best in all of Bali – the locals can point the way. Best Buys:  Local handicrafts, artwork, wooden statues, Babi Guling (Suckling Pig) and colorful gifts      4. Lantern Market in Hoi An, Vietnam If you’re anything like Niki and think that your life would be complete if you were surrounded by thousands of colorful Lanterns, then the Hoi An Lantern market in Vietnam is for you. Popular with the locals and travellers alike, this market in the streets of the old town of Hoi An comes to life at night as paper lanterns of all shapes and sizes light up the balmy evening. The streets fill with children as they run and play, the local river becomes a place of mystical creatures, whilst young couples canoodle on the ‘love’ bridge. The relaxed Hoi An Night market is a mix of street hawkers and historical shop fronts selling local artwork, boutique homewares and everything in between. After a night of shopping, I would recommend...

Going Gluten Free in Dubai

By on Sep 29, 2012 in slider, United Arab Emirates | 0 comments

A quick post today for those of you out there who have a gluten allergy (including Niki) and want to know what gluten free options are available in Dubai. Niki and I recently did a short stopover in the Emirates and after having failed to find any information about eating Gluten Free in Dubai online, we decided to do a little research on the ground. And we are very pleased to inform you that there are some good gluten free options available in this modern city.   Niki and I stumbled across arguably your best sources of gluten free and free-from foods in Dubai at two supermarkets. The first gluten free supermarket is the Organic Market and it is located on the Lower Ground Floor of the giant Dubai Mall. The Organic Market, with its three aisles dedicated to Anti Gluterians, has arguably a better selection than Sainsbury’s or Woolworth’s back home. The gluten free selection includes ready to eat meals/snacks, frozen goodies and a range of ingredients in case you were planning on doing any cooking whilst traveling. The rest of the Organic Market is comprised of Free From Foods including dairy and sugar free, Health Supplements and a small cafe. The cafe, which specializes in Middle Eastern fare, is a little pricey however the staff were knowledgeable and most of the buffet was gluten free. So not only did Niki get to enjoy the local delicacies, she got to so without making herself ill!   Another option we found was Spinneys, a large international supermarket with 31 outlets across Dubai. Whilst not particularly a gluten free specific outlet, it does have a huge international range of food and beverages. So if you know your brands, food and ingredients, you will be able to find a good selection of foods that are gluten free. If you don’t have time to shop at the street souqs (market), there is plenty of fresh produce here as well. Finally, and I’ll be honest with you as we didn’t find a lot of information on this, there are some gluten free options in the street markets as well. From delicious falafels dipped in Houmous, to the old safe bet of hot chips. We mentioned Niki’s gluten intolerance to a local Kebab Vendor in the Gold Souq thinking that he would have no idea what we were talking about, and low and behold he brought us an off the menu plate of freshly cooked chips, salad and falafels. So it’s always worth asking! Best of luck with your travels to Dubai and if you find any other great restaurants or supermarkets that are gluten free, please leave a comment below with the...

The Pirates of Halong Bay

By on Sep 28, 2012 in Vietnam | 0 comments

My tour bus driver has just been arrested…this was going to be one of those days. That’s what I’ve loved about Vietnam so far, its ability to throw a curve ball and sometimes you duck and miss it, other times it hits you square in the face. Today Niki and I joined a tour which we purchased through et-pumpkin to the majestic, mystical, mighty, magical and any other descriptive word starting with M, Halong Bay. About 3 hours from Hanoi, this world heritage listed site is known for its thousands of giant karsts and islands that dot this secluded bay. This was one of our honeymoon treats; however the local police had different ideas. See, we were picked up in a mini van, yes a rather large minivan, but nevertheless a minivan. Unfortunately though the local police viewed our transport as a small bus rather than a large minivan and promptly arrested the bus driver for driving a “bus” through the old quarter of Hanoi. Apparently there are laws regarding this. So as a small army, *cough*, sorry police truck rocked up, a couple of guards got out and told the driver to drive down the road to the station and hand himself in.  So he did. An hour later, not having even left Hanoi, we found ourselves still sitting in our large minivan watching our poor driver making dozens of phone calls, sorting out a bribe, *cough*, sorry a fine, being reprimanded for his mistaken confusion that his minibus was in fact a bus, with this all concluding with our driver jumping back in the van as if nothing happened and continuing along our way to Halong Bay.   The drive was pretty straight forward by Vietnamese standards, with a rest stop at the Humanity Centre. What, you’ve never heard of a Humanity Centre? Well, if you think it’s a place where good people, do good deeds, to help people in need, you would be absolutely wrong! It was a pottery and souvenir house, because “the only way to save humanity is to put a big arse statue in your garden”. I’m still not sure how we would get any of those statues home. Arriving at the pier in Halong Bay to board our beautiful teak Junk was an exciting moment. I felt like I was a pirate boarding a mighty vessel to drink some rum and find me some loot. When I turned to Niki and went “arhhhhh me lady, heave the sails, stow the ropes, lock up the whores and get me some rum” she simply said “I’m not with you and walk away”. I dropped my head in disappointment; I hadn’t even shown her my eye patch yet! We were joining the crew of the Halong Phoenix Cruiser, an opulent teak Junk big enough to fit about 25 people on board. We chose this boat as it was a good price at $100US per person, was small enough that it didn’t feel like a party boat yet big enough that you could have a good chat with people. Once we received the welcome spiel and our complementary fruity drink, we were assigned to our cabins.  Our a/c cabin was honestly amazing, with beautiful teak furnishings, an oriental atmosphere, a marble bathroom and a big 4 pane window that opened onto the bay. This was truly the way to sail and I felt like I had just added a tick to my list of things to do before I die. Looking at the other boats sailing by, ours was easily the most impressive and elegant.   After lunch, which had never ending delicious food, Nic and I decided to go kayaking. Let me get this right out from the start: Rule No. 3 of being married – Give your wife her own Kayak Okay, so Nic and I have a rather turbulent history when it comes to Kayaking, some may even say explosive, the word apocalyptic also comes to mind. See a year before we went to Laos and kayaked down the Mekong in a double kayak. The person in front controls the pace, the person behind controls the steering, or something like that. In this simple setup is where it all falls apart us – both of us want to steer and both of us want to set the pace. In the confusion we go no where, paddles start flying all over the place, insults start getting thrown around, a misguided paddle hits my head, water gets thrown at Niki and inevitably we both sit there saying nothing, sulking and seething whilst we get closer and closer to hitting a whole heap of rocks. Needless to say Halong Bay was no different. However getting past our wedded bliss, the kayaking was truly mesmerizing and tranquil as you slowly passed local water villages, spiritual grottos and colourful birds fluttering around the karsts. The rest of the afternoon was spent swimming and jumping off from the top level on the Junk, which isn’t for the faint hearted. I was living out every pirate and lost on a tropical island fantasy I’ve ever had. That is until I lost my balance as I was jumping from the top deck and landed sideways in the water. All I remember as I fell sideways was “shit, this wasn’t the way I was meant to die”. Nursing a few sore ribs, the evening finished off with Niki...

A His and Her Review of the Lowepro Passport Sling Bag

By on Sep 27, 2012 in Travel Advice | 6 comments

Recently we purchased the Lowepro Passport Sling Bag to house all our camera gear for our travels around Asia and Europe – an upgrade from our Crumpler Seven Million dollar camera bag. However the decision to purchase the bag, as well as our constant bickering about the pros and cons after using it for the past 12 months has led me to writing a review of the Lowepro Passport Sling  Bag…with a slight difference. I’m going to share my take on it and my wife’s view as well, which will hopefully lead to a balanced review. This review starts late last year when Nic and I invested in a descent camera setup – a sweet canon 60D with lens, filters, tripods and various other bit and pieces. The question that eventually came up was how to house all this stuff. We had previously used the Crumpler Seven Million Dollar bag – great if you’re just shooting locally but bulky, large and cumbersome when travelling away from home. We came across the Lowepro Passport Sling Bag and were immediately at odds over this bag. These differences on opinion is what led us to some serious discussions on a bag, me sleeping on the couch and my wife seriously pissed off with me… so let’s introduce to you the Lowepro Passport Sling Camera bag, the centre of our disagreement.   Overview of Lowepro Passport Sling Camera Bag The Passport Sling is from Lowepro, a reputable camera bag manufacturer and the sling varies in cost from $70AUD anywhere up to $120 depending on colour and the style you go for. I’ve placed a small promo clip from Lowepro to give you an intro to the bag. The Sling is made from a nylon fabric, has a durable zip system and a solid strap. Inside is a solidly built padded camera compartment that is held in with industrial strength Velcro and can be easily removed if leaving you camera gear at home. The bag also has some room for other valuables and can be extended by unzipping along the front to allow for an extra 30%. Unfortunately the Lowepro Passport Sling  Bag is not waterproof as Nic and I discovered when our room was flooded in India and the bag tends to stain and mark easily. The sling can be simply cleaned though and we just place it in the washing machine on a delicate wash (remove the compartment first).   What We Can Fit Into The Lowepro Passport Sling Bag   Niki and I both considered the Lowepro Passport Sling  Bag to be a Mary Poppins bag – you’ll be surprised what you can fit in there. Here is a list of everything we can in store in there before unzipping: Canon 60d Body with 18-55mm lens attached Canon 75-300mm lens Point and Shoot Camera Battery Charger and connection Leads Spare Battery and 3 x SD Cards Cleaning Cloth and Lens Blower 100 Page Guide Book Camera User Guide Water bottle and Purse Travel Wallet and Passport Pens and Paper/Notebook Small Scarf and at a push a small light jumper Mobile, Sunglasses and Keys Extend the Bag and you’ll easily be able to fit a solid jumper, souvenirs from your day’s adventure and lots of other little bit and pieces. Peter’s Review of Lowepro Passport Sling Bag Let me get this out the way, I never wanted the Lowepro Passport Sling Bag! My first thoughts of the bag was that it was a sling bag that would be uncomfortable to travel with and be more suited to a photographer crawling through the inner suburbs of Melbourne than a backpacker trekking through the backwaters of Borneo. I like to choose gear that is practical, sturdy and sensible. Gear that quickly goes in when I have to rush for a flight and gear that has a purpose to warrant its place on my back as it’s hauled around the world.   What I liked about the Lowepro Passport Sling Bag First of all it is a great little unisex bag if you use it for what it is was intended for, and in my opinion, inner city photo shoots or small comfortable travels away for a short period of time. It’s fashionable for any city and doesn’t look out of place if you were in a pub shooting the latest gig or down at the local art gallery. The colour range wasn’t too out there, unlike the bright red Crumpler that says “Hey you, come rob me, I’m housing the latest apple product in here”. I liked that I could hide things in it – great for sneaking that extra long lens into a sporting event (Australia Open). It’s also great if you want to carry other things around with you, such as notepads, bottles of water etc. Security is good on the bag as you can wear it on your front to protect it from wandering fingers and the bag looks like any other bag, which helps mask the fact that you’re carrying expensive equipment with you. And as for the size, it amazing how much you can get in there! Cost wise, we paid about $80AUD which isn’t bad as far as camera bags go.   What I don’t like about the Lowepro Passport Sling Bag My main concern about buying the Lowepro Passport Sling was that it would become my wife’s...