A: Age you made your first international trip
When I was in high school, Mum took the whole family on our first overseas trip, being a visit to the USA, to go to Disneyland! So I was just 14! We went to the touristy things in LA, like the Rodeo Drive city tour, Universal Studios, and a couple of days at Disneyland, but we also made a day trip down to Tijuana, Mexico, which was a real eye-opener for us all.
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where
You cannot really beat Guinness from the tap, poured within range of the brewery, and I was taken to Mulligan’s in Dublin by some (amazing) locals. They says it’s the pub with the best tap Guinness anywhere, and who am I to argue with their extensive research!
C: Cuisine (Favourite)
My favourite food from all around the world, and the one I have out-of-the-blue cravings for, is the Fish Amok in Cambodia. Made in such different ways around the country, this curry fish dish baked and served in a banana leaf is the goodness of the ‘bodge!
I have recently found a recipe posted online, which sounds pretty spot on. Although I would rather just go to Phnom Penh again, and have it there again!
D: Destinations. Favourite. Least Favourite. Why.
My favourite (Top 5) city destinations have included New York City, Tokyo, Rome, London and Phnom Penh. NYC, Tokyo and London for all the amazing things a big, big city has to offer - so much going on, all the time, so many different neighbourhoods to explore. Rome for the history, and the big city elements. Hard not to love a place with the Colosseum! And then Phnom Penh will always have my heart, after living and working there for 6 months.
These 5 will most likely always have repeat visits for me, whenever I can include them in a trip.
My favourite little town destination is Luang Prabang, in Laos. This is where I would be if I ever wanted to run away and disappear from the world! Such a lovely little tucked away place!
I guess Ho Chi Minh would rank as my least favourite place, if I had to choose one, only because it was just a larger, busier, dirtier version of Phnom Pehn when I lived there, and crossed the border for a weekend visit.
E: Event you experienced that made you say ‘Wow’
The ANZAC Dawn Service at Gallipoli comes to mind immediately here. Such a reverent experience to be part of, and mark the spirit and loss of those fallen soldiers at Gallipoli, but to also mark the contribution of Aussie Defence personnel in all battles, past and present.
F: Favourite mode of transportation
It’s hard to beat train travel in all forms, including the tube in London and the various Metros across Europe. Of course, the ultimate trip was the train across Russia, Mongolia and into China on the Vodka Train. The changing scenes out the windows, the people met and fun had onboard, the stops along the way. This is really one of those life experiences to be savored! But then even the simplest pleasure of a sunrise in the mountains on a train also makes this mode magical. Train, hands down!
G: Greatest feeling while travelling
I love the feeling of freedom, and the knowledge that I can work out how to get around within any culture on my own, that travel gives you. This was highlighted to me in my recent trip to Sri Lanka, and figuring out how to get back to Colombo from Galle all on my own - after a long time off the travel trails! Reminded me of all the things I love about travel, and experiencing real life out there in a different country.
H: Hottest place I’ve travelled to
Sri Lanka wins for this question as well. The hottest I have ever been is sitting in the stands in the sun at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in Colombo in 2004 for the test match between Sri Lanka and Australia. So, so hot! The only saving grace was the service of beers in our seats, by the Lion Man with a keg on his back.
I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where
Having pina coladas delivered to us while we were swimming in the ocean at Playa Ancon, in Trinidad de Cuba will always be the most amazing hospitality service I have ever experienced. Loved it!
J: Journey that took you the longest
The train from Russia to China took us 3 weeks, albeit with many stops along the way. The longest single journey would be my flight over the top of the world, from Bangkok to New York City, being 17 and a half hours.
K: Keepsake from your travels
I started buying an ugly, sticky-out magnet from the places I visited in my early days of travel, as a bit of a piss-take gift for Mum. Now this trend has really taken off with my sisters and I, and Mum now has a fridge full of amazing, hideous magnets from all corners of the globe. The bigger, most sticky-outy, and uglier, the better! I think Mum has not cottoned on to the aim of this little gift purchase now, and takes it all with a grain of salt. But now I think it's actually a bit of a work of art!
I also buy the occasional art or artifact or replica piece from different places, if it catches my eye, with the vision that when I grow up I will have a house filled with amazing things from my travels. My plate from Turkey is one such thing.
L: Let down sight. Why and where?
I think there is certainly something I have seen and thought "is that it?", but totally can't think of anything specific...
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel
I think despite all my trips beforehand, to the USA mainly, my 6 months in Cambodia definitely ignited my wanderlust. The experience of emerging yourself in a city, a culture, a language (although, not very well!), and spending time with locals from such different life experiences was a real turning point for me in terms of a wish to see and do so much more.
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in
I splashed out on a hotel in Bangkok after a month of travel. I don't recall offhand what it was called, but was a 5 star with all the trimming. This was a treat for the last night, before heading home. But with all the poshness of it, I arrived into the lobby a filthy, bedraggled backpacker after a day of hard travel.
I had left the beach of Sihanoukville in Cambodia that morning on the back of a moto to the Thai border. During this ride the sky opened up, delivering a torrential downpour that soaked me to the skin. Which included my passport in my back pocket. Once the rain stopped, the sun returned to bake me for the last little bit before the border crossing, and then I took a local bus for the rest of the journey to Bangkok.
I remember being horrified that a porter was going to carry my dusty, soggy backpack for me after check in, that I insisted on carrying it myself up to my room. I am far from a 5-star traveller! I did enjoy the rooftop pool, though, and the full breakfast buffet!
O: Obsession. What are you obsessed with taking pictures of while travelling?
Looking through all my photos from my years of travelling, it seems light fixtures, lamps and lanterns feature heavily. I will usually use them as a frame to capture the place I am exploring, and go out of my way to have them in the photo. I had done this fairly unconsciously, although it has amassed a pretty amazing collection!
This one is taken along the canals of Venice, on our weekend trip from London, back in 2006. So pretty!
P: Passport stamps. How many and from where?
Being an Aussie means you get a chance to work on filling your passport pages with a new stamp almost everytime you leave the country; I guess a reward for the distance you usually have to travel to get anywhere!
So, those are the stamps from my second passport ever. In my current one I have 10 stamps.
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where
Weird, political or topical, art, is something I seek out when I travel. The Aussie Big Things on roadtrips here in Australia has been become a bit of a quest, and then our trek to see all the art installations in Prague.
This is the Big Oyster, from our Nullarbor roadtrip, which is located in Ceduna, South Australia.
R: Recommended sight, event, or experience
A White Xmas! So, so magical, for someone from the Southern Hemisphere. Our visit to Sweden, and that falling snow on Xmas Day will always be one of the most amazing travel moments for me!
S: Splurge. Something you have no problem forking over for while travelling
I will always try and cram in all the things I want to see in a trip, and will pay accordingly to not skip somewhere just cos of the cost. I remember making a splash in my budget to include the Plain of Jars on my 10 day trip to Laos. We also laid out a bit of cash to see the Terracotta Warriors in China...a point of ridicule now, given that we missed the train that would get us there, by 3 minutes!
T: Touristy thing you’ve done
I do them all, as many as I can manage. I don't really understand going somewhere and not seeing or experiencing that place's claim to fame. Would the ball drop on NYE in NYC count as the MOST touristy?
U: Unforgettable travel memory
Seeing in the Millennium in New Orleans was one of the greatest NYEs ever!
V: Visas. How many of them and for where
Well, in the photo collage above of my old, expired and full passport I have my J1 Working Holiday vise from the USA, several entry and exit visas before the actual Multiple Entry Visa that let me work in Cambodia for 6 months, a couple of full page entry visas into Vietnam, and then my UK 2 year Working Holiday.
In my crisp, new little blue book, I have full page visas for Russia, Mongolia and China, after the Vodka Train. So 12 all up!
W: Wine, best glass while travelling and where
I like wine, and I like to drink it, but I am no expert. I would have to say the South African wines in the Stellenbosch region here, but to be fair our winery tour was a very big day, and I certainly could name any wines or rank any for your recommendations! Great day though, with some spectacular views!
X: eXcellent view and from where
I don't think you can beat the view of the Melbourne skyline coming into view through an airline window, after a long trip away. Will always be home to me....no matter how far, nor for how long I roam!
Y: Years spent travelling
I would say 12 years here, since I set off on my working holiday to Nashville during our Summer of 1999-2000.
Z: Zealous sports fans and where
Despite being a massive sports fan myself, and spending a lot of time with a bunch of like-minded sports fans all around the world, I think the Barmy Army has to get the vote for the most zealous and most impressive sports fans. Their humour, their tenacity regardless of how the English team are going on the field, is to be admired.
Wow, those are some great memories!