Byron Bay vibes

Byron Bay is that hippie town on the east coast that everybody goes to once and will fall in love with instantly. On my previous Aussie trips I did parts of the east coast and whenever I met fellow travelers that heard I made it to Surfers Paradise, the next approach was if you liked Surfers, you will love Byron. I was excited and ready to be surprised when I boarded the plane in Sydney with destination Ballina.

Yes, you can fly to Byron very cheap either to Ballina or Gold Coast airport, Ballina being the closest one, only 20 min drive from the airport to Byron Bay town center.

Touched down in Ballina, took a shuttle and reached Byron Beach Resort, which was going to be my home for the next four nights. The location is great, just opposite Belongil beach, which I prefer over Main Beach, because it’s not crowded and it’s a better match if you just want to relax.

The town is maybe 20 min walk away, but bikes are available for rent or a free shuttle runs often to town and back.

Belongil Beach is perfect for daytime, sunset watching and at night for chilling under millions of stars. But the action , aka party, happens in the town.

Railway bar and Cheeky Monkey are the most popular bars for those that love live music and alternative vibes. The truth is that live music is impossible to avoid in any case in Byron -not that anyone would like to avoid it – because quite talented baskers are all around the town playing guitar and singing to the eager public. They do a good job and they keep the spirit of Byron Bay alive.

The iconic lighthouse is proudly standing on the top of the hill and can be seen from pretty much everywhere in town.

Bush walks, biking and running trails, they all lead to the beautiful lighthouse and just behind it a short trail will lead you to the most easterly point of the Aussie mainland.

For the sunrise I got up at 4:40 am, took the shuttle from Byron Beach Resort – they organize sunrise tours on specific days of the week – and walked to the lighthouse with half closed eyes still to capture the moment when the sun pops out of the Atlantic and rises over it, lighting up the town.

It wasn’t an easy job to get up at that time, considering that the previous night was a bit long, but it was certainly worth it. Surprisingly many people have been up there and we all together stayed speechless when the sunrise started to happen. It was beautiful!

Walking around the lighthouse I discovered that a big number of people choose this place for morning yoga and meditation or dog walking. I don’t blame them. You get stunning views and definitely a good boost to start a great day.

Byron is the place where I could keep on extending and extending my stay thanks to it’s laid back atmosphere, chilled out people, super friendly locals and fellow travelers and in my case also because I met wonderful swiss people that woke up my beautiful memories related to Switzerland.

I didn’t end up extending my stay, after 4 days I went to Brisbane, but in 4 days can’t back to Byron for the night not because Brisbane is not great, but because Byron is just a bit cooler if you’re after relaxed time by the beach.

This time I’ve chosen to stay at Byron Holiday Park, all ready for new adventures, hence I booked a tent instead of a room.

The staff at The Aviary are extremely friendly and my tent was more than comfy. It rained a bit at night and some birds made weird noises cause yea, it’s Australia, but the experience has been awesome. I’m about to check out soon and I know for sure that I’ll return again here and I’ll claim a tent. But by then I’ll tell you about some daytrip options that are easily doable from Byron Bay.

Nimbin

Nimbin could be considered the little sister of Byron, it’s smaller, even more chilled out and even more hippie and colorful.

Not that I’d have any interest, but involuntarily I saw how easily you can get marijuana there, just on the street and without any cover.

Some people walk their white camel as others do their dogs.

I spent around 3-4 hours in Nimbin, which happened to be the meeting point for catching up with a friend from Brisbane, but liked it. Nimbin seemed to be interesting place at daytime, I can imagine how much more interesting it becomes at night.

Crystal Castle

You may go to Crystal Castle if you want a little bit of spiritual experience, to relax and get yourself together. The experts there will introduce you to the world of the crystals, pointing out the healing effects that each type of crystal has and you can also participate in some demo activities that run daily.

However, even if crystals are not your cup of tea, the place is beautiful, more like a botanic garden type of park with nice plants and flowers, bamboo trees and Buddha statues.

Write your wish on a paper and tie it next to thousands others, maybe, maybe it comes true. Get your lunch at the restaurant that offers great nature landscapes. Buy a souvenir at the shop. Believe it or not it’s easy to spend half day there just wandering around and taking in the scenery.

Minyon Falls

If you made it to Crystal Castle, Mynion Falls it’s just a short drive from it and it’s quite nice, I assume even nicer if it rained the day before. If time allowes, hiking all the way to the base of the falls is an option, where a dip in the fresh water is a must.

Broken Head Nature Reserve

Broken Head nature reserve is near Byron Holiday Park and it has a nice and calm beach, a possibility to do a walk along the coast with views over the Three Sisters Rocks.

Relaxing and gorgeous, the surroundings of Byron Bay are just as appealing as the town itself.

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Tips for Hong Kong

1 – Hike up to The Peak for the sunset.

The Peak is possible to reach in several ways. The famous and overcrowded peak tram is the most popular option, which the less fit people choose. Similar to that is the bus, which offers less spectacular views but you still don’t have to do anything else than sit. On the other hand, outdoors lovers will most likely opt for hiking. The route that I took starts from the Hong Kong University metro station and its called Morning Trail. It took me aprox 75 min to reach the top in a regular rhythm, not too fast, not too slow. From the metro stop you first need to make your way up through some stairs until you actually reach the beginning of the trail itself. It’s an easy hike and along the way you’ll meet many Asians being involved in all kind of sporty activities.

If you’re more lucky than I’ve been, you’ll arrange to go on a clear sunny day and watch the sunset and I recommend you to stay a bit longer until it gets dark so that you can admire the lit up skyscrapers of the city.

In this case you’ll catch the panorama at daytime, sunset and night view as well.

There’s plenty to do up there, you won’t even feel how time flies. From shopping to eating or just hanging out, it’s all possible.

If you’re not a night hike fan you can take the bus down and go all the way Central. You’ll see the same skyscrapers but from a different angle.

2 – Check out Lan Kwai Fong 

Hong Kong never sleeps. It’s like New York of Asia, at every hour of day and night you find something to do. Lan Kwai Fong district is the place to be for fun and entertainment at any day of the week. As a taster I went just for a walk there to get an idea of the place. Loved the street art and instantly fell in love with the vibe. I knew I’d return the next evening to make the most of it.

3 –  Take the boat to Lamma Island for a daytrip

The boats depart from the central pier aprox every half an hour. The ride takes more or less 40 min and although I went on a Saturday the island was peaceful and relaxing. Some organized groups would pop up here and there, but in general it was a quiet place, the kind of spot you’d like to go for a getaway from the busy rest of Hong Kong.

It’s beautiful nature will attract mostly the outdoors lovers as some easy bush walks are possible to do there and the view is stunning.

The beach is clean, so it’s the water. It wasn’t the warmest day but I still took a dip and the water was really nice .

The atmosphere on the island is authentic and a great location to try out the local Hong Kong food selection.

The market is full of food and spices that I don’t even recognize neither after the color or smell. Fish can be found in every form

and size, after all the islanders are experts in fishing.

They are also skilled in driving the tiny vehicles adapted to the roads of Lamma Island, making me smile when I spotted the firefighters truck.

It’s easy to spend a few hours on the island before heading back to the main island.

4 – Ride the Star ferry to Victoria Harbour

Another must see location in Hong Kong is its beautiful Victoria Harbour. You can head there by the world famous Star Ferry, which is in itself an attraction. Victoria Harbour is beautiful both at day and night, offering stunning views of the city and several attractions nearby, such as Hong Kong Museum of Art, Kowloon Park or Tsim Sha Tsui district. The latest is the perfect place for shopping whether you’re after famous brands or random boutiques. I felt that in Hong Kong you can find absolutely anything you’d desire, you just need to search well for it. It’s a very vibrant city and in particular Kowloon and Tsim Sha Tsui are always on the move, being filled with dozens of locals and tourists.

5 – Go on a different kind of bus tour 

For experiencing the city in a different way you might look into some special events such as a double decker bus tour with free drinks. Two hours of fun and tour of the city from the top of the bus might turn out greater than you’d think. If the warm up did it’s job it’s always a good idea to move the party to Lan Kwai Fong, where it’s located the best rated shot bar in Hong Kong, called Geronimo. Plenty of other bars and clubs all around and the night is long, usually lasting until early morning hours.

6 – You haven’t been in Hong Kong if you haven’t tried Dim Sum

Hong Kong is a fabulous place to eat food from every corner of the world, but nothing compared to Dim Sum, which happens to be local. It does worth taking a stroll along some side streets to find good Dim Sum restaurants.

7 – Sip on a glass of wine at a rooftop bar

Plenty of skyscrapers with rooftop bars and spectacular views. The hard choice is which is the best? All of them are amazing, this city looks great from every angle.

8 – Visit Man Mo temple

Hong Kong has many other temples which may be more impressive, but Man Mo is nice and easy to reach. Located in Soho, between the busy streets of the city, it’s a place to go to get yourself together for some minutes and just enjoy the silence.

9- Walk and shop at Fashion Walk

The famous Fashion Walk, at Causeway

Bay station is busy and for sure a big

attraction for shopping addicts. All the big names can be found just one after the other.

10 – Do some sport in Victoria Park

Centrally located, Victoria Park is a great place where to let the steam out and jog or join a sport activity class together with the locals.

With all these options don’t forget to dance to the beat of your own drum . of

Bangkok

Sitting at the airport in Bangkok to board for Chiang Mai… and was thinking : how different it seemed Bangkok in comparison to my first visit one and a half years ago. It’s a city which goes through constant changes in a ridiculously fast rhythm, but the fact that the government restricted drastically the street food vendors it does really make a difference. 


Khaosan road during the day became way more quiet than it used to be, but as the dawn sets it comes to life and at night is the same: a lot of street food, music, people and happy vibes. Halloween boosted up even more the whole atmosphere and scary looking, bloody faced monsters were roaming around last night.


For a first time thing I’ve finished my dinner with a fried scorpion, which was crunchy and completely tasteless but a funny experience. 


For the braver ones there’s also tarantula and snake.

And for drinks with a view there’s the rooftop bar from Sofitel So, facing Lumphini park. Loved it!



Belgium in 6 days

Belgian beer and chocolate attract for sure many tourists from all around the world. Most of them land in the capital and unfortunately many don’t make their way out of it to the less well know towns. Belgium is not just about Brussels! Just a 20 minutes train ride from the airport and we are in:

Leuven
This cute university town is my first stop in my Belgian backpacking trip. On a Sunday it’s very quiet and relaxed,but I don’t mind as the weather is nice and I can soak up the sun in the Botanical Garden of Leuven next to a Belgian beer.

  
Leuven is a university town and you can notice this while walking around and seeing at every corner the bars and restaurants advertising their special student menus at low,student prices. Though no student on a Sunday! “The city is empty of students during weekend” – locals say – ” here,in Belgium students still like to go home for the weekend and spend time with their parents.” Nice of them I would say… I have to just imagine how crowded it gets during the week and the now almost empty Oude Markt probably is murmuring.

  
I can still notice some movement around the city hall: a huge group of elderly tourists posing with the beautiful landmark. Conclusion: Edit come back on a weekday if you want to see the other face of Leuven!

  
Brugge

Before going to Brugge I watched the movie In Brugge and the town is so small that I didn’t need any direction to find the places presented in the movie. It’s loaded with tourists facing their cameras in every direction, because in every direction there is something pretty. Brugge, although is very touristy, was my second favorite town in Belgium. With it’s canals and those eye catching medieval architecture, Brugge steals your heart in an instant. 

 Walking around Brugge is more than relaxing, it’s a real cuddle to the soul and also a perfect ambiance to endulge in the delicious variety of Belgian chocolates. You can find any shape and flavor you desire, just at a hand stretch towards the chocolate and of course your wallet.
 
Ghent

From the second favorite I made my way to the first favorite. Ghent has the perfect vibe, the friendliest Belgians, the funniest Monday night out and I bet that many other – est-s. I didn’t expect so much from this town, I’m sure that also the company made a difference, but man,I really liked this place! You actually have the impression that you are wandering around a big city ’cause it’s active and full of energy. If you ask me to describe Ghent in one word, I’ll just say: alive. Let me add also: divers. It has chill riverside, busy shopping street, medieval castle, artistic grafitti and my super awesome friend, Cindy. 
   
 

+ 10 for Ghent!

Antwerp

Biking in Belgium is a pretty popular way of getting around and Antwerp is a good place to do so. It’s a rather small town but with fairly enough to offer and a gorgeous train station.

   
  

 

You would think that the pics above are from a cathedral,right? Well, that’s the main station in Antwerp. It’s ranked as the worlds most beautiful train station and no doubts about that.  

Not only the train station is beautiful in Antwerp. The city hall and various buildings in the central area worth checking out too.

   
  

 

We are in the country of beer, so let’s pay a bit of attention to this detail and find out that Belgium has more than 375 types of beer. Basically you can treat yourself for a whole year every day with a different kind of beer and that still leaves  you for New Year’s Eve with at least another 10 different flavores to try out. Cool, no?

  
Brussels

Arriving to the capital might sound exciting, but in fact it isn’t. For me Brussels was rather disappointing and from far not the prettiest place in Belgium. Such a pity that many tourists visit Brussels only and miss so much by not checking out the others.

However, Brussels is a city as any other capital, with it’s multicultural mix and the best waffles in the world. 

Grand Place is not as grande ( = big) , but not too bad for hanging out , there are many shops, restaurants, bars and waffle vendors closeby. 

  
Mmmm, did I tell you that in Brussels you have the best waffles in the world? Right, I did, but it’s hard to focus when you remember that taste. Don’t – and I mean DON’T – skip that! Waffles are a must! 

Ok,getting back to Grand Place – which is still not as exciting as waffles – it’s nice to walk around and make your way to the famous Mannekin Pis.

 
Of course, Atomium is nice to see, there’s also a cute park next to it with lots of rabbits jumping around freely in the grass.

   

 And you can admire the beautiful flowers all over, but after that rush out of Brussels and discover the real beauty of Belgium. In less than an hour train ride you reach:

Liège

Laidback, small town, perfect for a daytrip from Brussels. Besides the center there’s not much to see or do, but it’s great for a day when the motto is : “take it easy “. 

 For church lovers there are a few to check out, as I had enough time I walked in a few and were quite nice, all just a few steps from each other.

The Liège Guillemins train station is another masterpiece Belgians are proud of, being also in the top 12 most beautiful train stations in the world.

 
  


In order to put an original print on the whole trip I ended it in a Romanian restaurant in Liège. No matter where I am, for me the best food still comes from home, so I’m sorry Belgium, you might have the best beer and waffles and fries, but my yummi ciorba de perisoare doesn’t have any comparison grade. Though it’s not much appreciated by locals, says the restaurant owner.