The internet has made travelling so easy. Our travelling options are no longer limited to itineraries set by travel agencies. All we need are our travel dates, a click of a few buttons, a swipe of a credit card and a travelling booking is confirmed. With the efficiency and convenience of technology in hand, I dare say that we are getting a tad too dependent on the internet for travel recommendations.
If you enjoy travelling and exploring new places with a slower and carefree pace, you may enjoy these tips that Jia and I swear by.
Make The Tourist Centre Your First Stop
Always drop by a tourist centre to get a walking map of the area before you start exploring. The suggested walking routes in these maps will always take you to places of interest, so it is a really easy and fun way to explore a brand new town or city without a tour guide. Information brochures are filled with good-to-know tips about the city and who knows, you may even find discount coupons for popular attractions or theatre shows.
Join A Walking Or Cycling Tour
It is relatively easy to explore and navigate a new city on your own if you are armed with a trusty map and good walking shoes. Since most maps don’t go into details about the significance of historic buildings, we suggest joining free walking tours offered by the city’s enthusiastic locals. It is a wonderful way to learn about the place from the perspective of a local and it is always great to make new friends in new places!
If your budget allows for it, go on a cycling or Segway tour to cover more city ground and get a little more active.
Check Out Local Produce
Make exploring a farmer’s market over the weekends a top priority when you travel. You can try different local cuisines from stalls or food trucks, pick out fresh flowers and even buy some homemade jams as souvenirs. Depending on the type and size of the market, you may find different types of knickknacks and collectibles.
Attempt To Speak The Language
A good way to quickly soak up the culture of a new city is to speak their language. You don’t have to be fluent to be understood. All you need is some words to get a basic conversation started. Travelling is all about learning too, right?
Pack A Cute Dress
A pretty dress can come in handy if you chance upon a cool restaurant or simply for a day that you are feeling extra dressy. This will come in handy if you tend to only pack jeans, t-shirts and sneakers. And don’t leave out scarves! They are versatile, lightweight and can easily glam up any outfit.
Alight At Unexpected Places
Exploring small towns on the map makes a road trip fun. Whether you are stopping by to refuel the car or to take a toilet break, try to squeeze in some time to take a look around. Some small towns have the coolest antique shops or old and traditional bakeries. You will never know what you will find!
Do you have any interesting travel tips to share? Let me know!
Kyushu is located in the southwest of Japan and is best known for its active volcanoes, sandy beaches and natural hot springs. If you are planning to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, Kyushu is the place for you. We flew to Kagoshima, the southern tip of Kyushu and drove clockwise towards Kumamoto and Fukuoka and then back down to Kagoshima. We drove approximately 1000km in 10 days! It was quite an experience. My boyfriend and I love long road trips as it reminds us of fond memories when we were in the USA. Our holidays usually include long scenic drives outside the city!
We packed our trekking gear for this trip because we were eager to scale some mountains and volcanoes. Unfortunately, we did not manage to trek up any volcano because of a recent eruption and earthquake. So we drove around and took plenty of pictures instead. Kyushu in the summertime is filled with lush greenery and clear blue skies. A local told me that summer weather gets better in September because the humidity is lower!
Explore // Trekking up active volcanoes
This would have been the highlight of the trip, if not for the recent earthquake. There are many volcanoes and mountains in Kyushu, so put on your hiking shoes and climb away. The largest active volcano as well as the most prominent one is Mount Aso, located in the Kumamoto Prefecture. It is said that the central crater group of Mount Aso includes five different peaks - Mount Taka, Mount Naka, Mount Eboshi, Mount Kijima and Mount Neko. I can only imagine trekking up all five different peaks. What a majestic volcano!
Be reminded to check the volcano's main website and daily weather forecasts if you are planning to hike around the area. Since these are active volcanoes, expect occasional eruptions and entry restrictions due to the emission of toxic volcanic gases. Safety first!
Do // Indulge in natural hot springs
Kyushu is home to many natural hot springs, or also known as onsen in Japanese. You will find many hot springs as you travel around Kyushu, but the city of Beppu in Ōita Prefecture, Northeast of Kyushu, is probably the king of hot springs. If stripping down to your birthday suit while dipping in hot water with strangers is not quite your thing, you would be pleased to know that Kyushu has many public hot spring foot bath areas as well. Foot baths are perfect for relaxing aching calf muscles after a long hike or long hours of shopping.
During my trip, I overcame my fear of public nudity and visited different hot springs everyday. I came home with softer and fairer skin! Woohoo! Though the effects did not last very long, I am still fairly amazed at the wonders of natural hot spring water. To be honest, I was very hesitant to bare it all at a hot spring, but trust me when I say that the pros outweigh the cons. No one is going to remember you anyway! The hot water will surely melt away every bit of anxiety, stress and fear.
Though I did not visit Yakushima Onsen, I did try the volcano sand bath at Ibusuki Onsen! The idea of being buried in hot volcano sand sounded extremely daunting at first, but I really just went with the flow. We were told to quickly remove our slippers and lie still on hot sand while the staff piled on heaps of hot volcano sand. I laid still for a total of 15 minutes, the recommended time, and I was completely soaked in perspiration when I came out. Goodbye toxins! I highly recommend pairing the sand bath with a good soak in the onsen. Ah, life is good...
See // Spend a day with flowers at Nokonoshima Island Park
Located off Fukuoka, Nokonoshima Island offers a quiet respite, ideal for a day of tranquil getaway. The garden was almost empty by the time we got there at 3pm. Most tourists have gone back to the city and we had the garden to ourselves. It is true that Spring may be the perfect season to visit the garden, but we still saw a variety of blooming flowers to admire and take a selfie with in early September.
Nokonoshima Island Park offers many quiet and serene picnic spots and I wished I brought along some snacks and a mat. Besides from admiring the lush greenery and sea of flowers that the garden offers, we spent our afternoon lazing on wooden swings, chasing fluffy rabbits, talking about life and watching ferries create big waves in the ocean. This could possibly be one of my favourite dates! :)
Eat // Sumptuous Japanese Breakfasts
What is a trip to Japan without big and hearty breakfasts? On most days, I was stuffed to the brim like a turkey at Thanksgiving dinner. But hey, I am not complaining. I love big, sumptuous breakfasts! The variety of each breakfast never fails to amaze me every morning and I was thinking of Totto-chan the whole time. If you are familiar with the book, Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window, you will know that her mum would pack her lunch with "something from the ocean and something from the hills".
On the first day, I spent an hour in and out of the onsen and I came out hungry and I looked almost like a dehydrated plum. Note to self and everyone else - always hydrate before and after going to a hot spring! Thankfully, there was a food stall near the onsen and I ordered a bowl of cold somen. Oh, believe me when I say that the somen was the best tasting thing in the whole wide world. I kid you not!
Thank you, Kyushu, for being such a dream. I'll be back in December!
What do you think of natural hot springs? Yay or Nay? Tell me all about it!
Asides from design, food and cute animals, Jia and I love travelling. Strangely, we have yet to go on a long trip together, especially since our travelling styles and sightseeing preferences don't differ much. We are considered laid-back travellers who prefer to travel without a tight schedule and crazy checklists. Think along the lines of gigantic mountains, gentle oceans and lakes, spring flowers, wild animals, park benches and we will be there with a flask of hot drink, snacks and a book. It is no surprise that a cool and cheery Spring day is our definition of good weather and absolute happiness.
We would love to travel and explore more corners of the earth, if not for exorbitant airfares and the cost of accommodation. We may not have that kind of money to jet set around the world but dreams don't cost much, especially if it's a Pinterest dream! Travel photos on Pinterest makes me salivate at the computer screen and it tickles my wanderlust dreams. Therefore this month, we put together some travel destination pins that left us weak in the knees and dreaming of the next flight out.
Grüner See (Green Lake), Austria
Min: I was so disappointed to learn that scuba diving is now prohibited in the Green Lake. Because of that restriction, I can only imagine the beauty of pristine emerald waters and green meadows underwater. The disappointment is real for a scuba diver like me. But hey! At least the absolutely breathtaking view of the lake makes up for the diving since it is surrounded by the Hochschwab Mountains and forests!
Min: It was that same fruitful moment as when I spotted Cape of Good Hope on the world map in my room, that I spotted Greenland. To me, Greenland is terribly underrated. All hype and eyes are currently on Iceland and while I don't deny that I am very much drawn to the beauty of Iceland as well, I would really like a trip to Greenland. The thought of being able to kayak near giant glaciers whilst being surrounded by serenity is seriously tempting and would be a dream come true.
Yakushima Onsen, Kagoshima, Japan
Min: For my birthday, my boyfriend surprised me with tickets to Kagoshima, Japan. It will be my first time in the Kyushu region and I can't wait to check out gorgeous mountains, lakes, hot springs and volcanos! Okay, I don't think I am that excited for hot springs because I am not quite ready to strip naked and soak with complete strangers. Meh.
Jeju Island, South Korea
Jia: I am finally heading to Jeju Island in November and after some hours of ogling at gorgeous photos while researching, I can safely say that I am totally ready to do some major sightseeing and trekking! As I will be visiting the island with my mom, I hope that I can find trails that would not be too tiring on her. More reading up is necessary and I got to finish it soon!
Morskie Oko (The eye of the Sea), Tatra Mountains, Zakopane
Jia: When I was living in Switzerland a couple of years ago, it was an unfulfilled plan of mine to visit Krakow, Poland and the nearby(ish) Tatra Mountains in Zakopane. Now that Min and I are firming up plans to go back to Switzerland, I have figuratively dusted off my plans and research for Poland. I definitely need to visit Poland soon to quell my wanderlust!
Jia: About five years ago, I discovered that most of the mountains I was painting during my childhood years of Chinese calligraphy and painting lessons belonged to a small village called Yangshuo in Guilin. Ever since then, it has been a travel mission of mine to visit Yangshuo but I just have not made it there despite my various trips abroad. It is time to buckle down and start realising this dream of mine!
Where do you hope to travel to next?
After a week of looking at the ocean and mountains in Cape Town, my boyfriend and I took a short flight to Johannesburg. Joburg has a different vibe from Cape Town - it is, after all the largest city in South Africa. Since our return, many friends and family members have been asking us about the general safety and security of South Africa. Honestly, we are aware that South Africa does not have a good reputation when it comes to safety. But even the safest place on earth can be dangerous, right? Just be sure to take the usual precautions and everything should be fine!
South Africans, based on my observations, are usually cautious and curious. They tend to look intimidating but they are mostly warm and friendly when the ice is broken. A cashier at a grocery store asked me to share my recipe after she saw the produce I bought. We spent 20 minutes talking and laughing and I gained a free Afrikaans language lesson! Though I was the only Asian lady in a sea of South Africans, I didn't feel even the least bit intimidated. Instead, I felt safe.
I love how travelling can change a person's perspective. I could go on and on about my trip to South Africa because I have too many good stories to share. My heart is warm and fuzzy, and I'm just beyond glad that my dream destination turned out to be a complete dream come true.
Warning: The post contains a lot of squeal-worthy pictures!
South Africa has been my dream holiday destination for as long as I can remember. I was extremely determined to make it to South Africa some day after I 'discovered' The Cape of Good Hope on the world map at six years old. Even though I have finally visited the country in May, I am still reluctant to strike it off my to-go-list and bucket list because I am waiting for another opportunity to be back in South Africa.
My love for South Africa grew leaps and bounds after we subscribed to cable TV at home. Every weekend, my dad and I would binge watch countless of documentaries on the National Geographic channel and marvel at the beauty of God's creation. When we finally get tired from watching the telly, we would often take a drive to a nearby nature park to bird watch, spot monkeys and listen to the sounds of nature. Such good memories!
Cape Town, I can't wait to be back!
The humans behind honey&gazelle Design Studio. When we are not frantically working, we share our mishmash of thoughts on design, life, and love here. Grab a cuppa and stay for a bit!