Tag Archives: thehealthyglobetrotter

There’s no place like home…

As much as I love to travel, there are times when it is good to be home. Right now is one of them. Having travelled across three Australian states over the last three days (at the time of writing) and with two packed trips coming up in the next month, it is nice to be home. Even if only for a couple of nights.

The immediate relaxation I felt when I walked through my door got me thinking, what are my favourite things to do in Sydney? There’s no doubt about it, I love to travel. But I really do appreciate this beautiful city I live in, so thought I might dedicate a couple of posts to the place I call home.

Sydney Sydney2

This is the view from my apartment, which may give you a small hint as to why it is so nice to be home.

One of my favourite things about Sydney is its proximity to the beach, especially with the number of coastal walks available. The Bondi to Bronte walk (or even further through to Coogee if you prefer) is one of the most popular.

I don’t do the walk as often as I would like, but make a point to do it whenever I can. I’d highly recommend it to Sydney locals and visitors alike. Here’s why:

Bondi1

Bondi6 Bondi5

Bondi2That’s right, the view is pretty spectacular. The walk from Bondi to Bronte is 4 km one way, or 8 km return. On a hot day pack plenty of water and always wear sunscreen – you’ll need it. 

So next time you’re in Sydney, pack some exercise gear and make the trip out to the beach to enjoy the walk. More information about the walk, including how to get there, can be found here.

The Healthy Globetrotter

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Inside the Aya Sofia (Hagia Sofia/Aya Sofya)

The Aya Sofia (Hagia Sofia/Aya Sofya) is, in effect, a fascinating museum. Having served as an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral, a Catholic Cathedral and a Mosque (all before 1935) you could be forgiven for becoming a little confused upon entry.

This is part of its charm – it’s not often you get to see competing religons in the same space.

Aya Sofia

Aya Sofia

I visited the Aya Sofia on my Dad’s insistence (and given how long the queue was when we decided to visit, we probably would have left if not for it).

Upon seeing the queue, we were approached by a guide offering to help us skip the queue and provide a guided tour – despite initial doubts, we readily accepted. The tour was great value. From memory it was around $20 each, though the cost to enter is $13 in any event and we literally avoided about 2 hours of queue time. Further, our guide was very knowledgeable and pointed out things we would have otherwise missed. If you can afford the extra spend, I’d definitely recommend finding a reputable guide.

Aya Sofia

Our guide began by taking us around the outside of the building, which (by comparison to the inside) is modest. It’s only upon entry that you realise what you’re witnessing. It is pretty spectacular.

But how spectacular? You see, there’s a bit of competition in Istanbul between the Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque about which one is well, more beautiful. Both are gorgeous buildings in their own right, however history tells us that when Sultan Ahmed commissioned the Blue Mosque to be built (around 1000 years after the Aya Sofia), he intended to design it in a manner which would outshine the Aya Sofia. So, did he succeed?

To be honest, I don’t know. What I will say is that the Aya Sofia blew me away. From the detailed mosaics (many of which have backgrounds of gold), the marble, the size, the competing religious graphics… All were just ‘wow’. By comparison, the Blue Mosque is (relatively) moderate in its decoration. However, the two buildings are so completely different, it is almost unfair to compare them. Coupled with the fact that the Blue Mosque is still used for its intended purpose, they have a completely different ‘feel’ to each other. We spent most of our time walking aruond Aya Sofia with our mouths open in awe.

I loved both the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia. I can’t recommend visiting them highly enough. Though I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about whether Sultan Ahmed succeeded in his quest. You can compare by seeing my photos of the Blue Mosque here and my attempt to capture the Aya Sofia in this post.

Aya Sofia

So tell me, what are your thoughts on the two buildings? As you can see, we were pretty pleased with our visit!

The Healthy Globetrotter

Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

Listening to my Dad has almost always paid off (ok, so I’m sure it’s probably always paid off!)

His advice on Turkey was no exception.

My whole family has spent time in Turkey and while they’d raved about it for years, I decided to go because it was a convenient destination. Not exactly on a whim, but a well-located stop over on a planned trip to sail the Ionian Islands in Greece.

When I told my parents of my plans, they were excited. Not just a “great, you’re going on holiday” kind of excited (which they always are when it comes to travel), but a rare excited that I don’t think I’ve ever seen them match for another destination. At this point in the conversation, my Dad took the phone from my Mum and insisted “You must see the Blue Mosque. And Aya Sofia. Magnificent buildings. You will love them. Go”.

He was right, I loved them both.

After my horrendous journey to Istanbul, my first stop was the Blue Mosque. This alone made up for everything that had occurred in the preceding five or six hours.

Technically named the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Sultanahmet Capii), those who haven’t visited often wonder why it’s called the Blue Mosque, it’s not exactly blue from the outside. However, once you’re inside you quickly realise why: It is simply the number of blue tiles on the interior. That said, I must admit I do think the white/grey exterior seems to take on a blue tinge in certain lights, though perhaps that’s just me!

Blue Mosque

Outside the Blue Mosque

As the story goes, Sultan Ahmed (I) commissioned a mosque to be built, reportedly designed to intentionally outshine the Aya Sofia (deserving of a post in its own right so I won’t go into detail here). He was only 19 at the time and it took seven years to build, though sadly he died just one year after completion at 27.

Whether or not the story about his intent is entirely true, it is fair to say the mosque has a big impact on the city of Istanbul. It was the first thing I saw on my way into Istanbul, and come to think of it, probably the last.

Here’s a little evidence of why it’s so spectacular!

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

I went snap happy in here. Couldn’t put my camera down kind of crazy. That’s not altogether uncommon for me, but it was pretty phenomenal.

Blue Mosque Blue Tiles

Blue Mosque with blue tiles

Inside the Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

A tourist mecca, this place is popular. Amazingly enough however, it’s still actively used as a mosque. Dress respectfully or you’ll be forced to pay to borrow scarves or other clothes (though given the heat when we visited, this was well worth it for us).

While it was certainly busy when we were there, it wasn’t as busy as we were expecting. This was because a group prayer session was scheduled shortly after our visit and we were asked to leave before it commenced (also be mindful of the ezan – the call to prayer – which occurs, as I understand it, at slightly different times each day). While this meant we had less time inside, it did allow us to have a few moments shared with far fewer people than normal, definitely something to consider if you’re planning a visit.

Besides, if we hadn’t been kicked out (read: asked politely to vacate), we may never have left. It’s pretty spectacular. A must visit on any trip to Istanbul.

Have you visited the Blue Mosque? Do you think it outshines Aya Sofia as Sultan Ahmed wished? I’ll let you know my thoughts when I share my photos of Aya Sofia

Until then,
The Healthy Globetrotter.

Running the World: Singapore Style

Staying fit and healthy while travelling isn’t always the easiest task. You’re away from regular routine, around delicious food and if you’re anything like me, switch to a holiday mindset as well. It’s pretty much a recipe for some weight gain (and an amazing time) unless you’re determined to avoid it. While I’m all for the amazing time, I am preferable to avoiding any excess “baggage” on the way home!

As I’ve previously posted, I love to run in new destinations to get the lay of the land and stay healthy while travelling. As an added bonus, with the help of a pocket camera or phone (I normally use an iPhone) you can capture the sights too. Often you’ll be able to see things you’d never have had the opportunity to if not for your run. Just another reason to pack your exercise gear and get moving.

So, without further ado, here’s the latest edition of Running the World. This time, it’s Singapore Style:

Merlion – Iconic Singapore. Taken while running across the esplanade

Singapore Skyline – the big white building is the Fullerton Hotel where I stayed

A word to those keen to join my Running the World fun – Singapore can get pretty warm, I’d definitely recommend taking some water with you for the journey.

Further, make sure you know your destination and assess whether it is safe to head out for a run at the time you plan (and if you’re new to exercise, take advice from a doctor before starting!)

Marina Bay Sands

I followed a path provided to me by my hotel, ending around Marina Bay Sands. As an aside, the shopping here is pretty great. It also has a “canal” at the bottom of the centre and little Venice-style gondolas you can ride on if you feeling up to an ultra-touristy experience.

Coming across the other side of the esplanade, this was taken just near my hotel towards the end of my run

Now you might be thinking what sort of run can I be having if I keep stopping to take photos?! Excellent point. However, a good way to still get a great workout in is by doing interval training. Running as hard as you can for a burst and then slowing down to a jog, taking a picture and then repeating the process!

Having a little fun outside the Asian Civilisations Museum, pretty much where I finished up my run!

Here I am at the end of my run, having a little fun at the Asian Civilisations Museum.

My advice? Exercise doesn’t have to be a boring part of your travels. It can totally add to your experience and is one of my favourite things to do upon arriving at a new destination.

So, where are your travels taking you next? Are you game to join Running the World?

The Healthy Globetrotter

The kindness of strangers: Istanbul

Not long ago, I was in Turkey and I loved it. However, having just seen Taken 2, I feel like a few of the Istanbul locals may have gotten a bit of a bad rap.* But here’s the thing: two of the kindest strangers I’ve ever met call Istanbul home.

Beautiful Istanbul… despite the start to my adventure I loved it here.

I’ve previously alluded to the fact that my arrival in Istanbul didn’t quite go as planned. It was only with the help of two strangers that I arrived at my eventual destination and able to commence what was an absolutely amazing trip.

Upon arrival, I caught a taxi from the airport to meet my friends at our well located apartment near the (Sultanahmet) Blue Mosque. My driver only spoke Turkish, but nodded when I showed him my destination and drove off in the direction of the city. After around 10 or 20 minutes, my driver made a call, spoke briefly to his friend and then handed his phone to me. Confused, I accepted it and raised it to my ear.

The friend explained in English what my driver couldn’t: There had been a major accident on the bridge into Istanbul from the airport, meaning that if we took a taxi the whole way to my apartment, I may be in the taxi for several hours (which would also cost me several hundred dollars). Instead, my driver wanted to recommend I take the ferry, saving me considerable money and time. It might not seem like much, but as an English speaking tourist in a foreign country travelling alone, I was a prime target to be taken advantage of. The driver could have just kept going and left me with the fare and hours wasted. He chose not to and I thank him for that.

Upon arrival at the ferry terminal, my driver didn’t just dump me at the curb. He took me all the way to the terminal carrying my backpack, showing me where to go and how to buy a ticket. As an added bonus, there were some fairly fabulous views on the ferry.

A nice surprise on my way into Istanbul

Views from my unexpected ferry ride!

The ferry ride went well and upon reaching the other side there were numerous taxis lined up to take me to my apartment. So the problem? No one would take me.

I asked almost 20 drivers to take me to my apartment. The responses I received ranged from “too close” to “I don’t know it”. I even offered to pay extra money on top of the fare to those that stated my destination was too close, but to no avail. All of them pointed me in the right direction – up a steep hill. I wasn’t keen but as I had no choice, off I set:

  • Without a map;
  • In 35 degree celsius weather;
  • With 15 kilograms on my back; and
  • Wearing clothes suitable for a Copenhagen summer and an overnight flight (read: jeans and a jumper).

I asked for help along the way, but it was fruitless. However, after approximately 45 minutes of walking around looking for my street, I saw a man standing outside a hotel. He was young and smiled at me as I approached. He probably thought I was a guest at his new hotel; I wasn’t. But it didn’t matter, he treated me like one. 

Where I found my saviour!… Image via: http://www.ayasultanhotel.com/en/galeri.html#

By this stage, it is fair to say that I was in a bit of state. Upon explaining my predicament, the man told me that while he didn’t know where my apartment was, we could use the hotel’s computer (and google maps) to find it. Inside the hotel, he sat me down (in air-conditioning: Best. Ever.) and asked someone to bring me some tea. He then looked up my apartment and gave me instructions to give my friend who he insisted come and collect me (thank you, Anurag). Beyond nice and this kind stranger wouldn’t even accept a tip

Picture me, sitting exactly where this photo is taken from. Looking like a complete exhausted mess. Image via: http://www.ayasultanhotel.com/en/galeri.html#

The cynic in you might think that my cab driver just had somewhere better to be and that my friend from the hotel just wanted a good review on trip advisor, but I choose to believe in the good in people. Yes, I could have been better organised, prepared for the weather and the walk, but the kindness of strangers saved me on this trip (and that ridiculous walk totally counted as my exercise for the day). I am so grateful for that!

We all need to be cautious when travelling, but sometimes you’ve got to have a little faith too.  Who are the nicest strangers you’ve met when travelling?

The Healthy Globetrotter

P.s. In case you’re wondering: Time taken from my flight landing until my arrival at the apartment? Over five hours.  Without water. On zero sleep. Yup, it was an ordeal. The take away? It didn’t ruin my trip. Remains up there with the best of them.

*Ok, so obviously the Albanians got a worse rap than the few Istanbul locals who were helping the Albanians, but i’m yet to travel to Albania. When I do visit, i’m sure i’ll meet some kind strangers there too and i’ll be sure to tell you all about it. 

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Cycling the world: Vietnam

I recently posted Running the World, explaining why I always pack my exercise gear, even on short trips. Here’s another reason: cycling.

Now, before I go any further, I am not a cyclist. I’m shamefully scared of cycling on main roads (why do buses and bikes have to share the same lanes here?!) and don’t own a bike in Sydney. That said, there are some great riding trips you can do around the world. I’m all for them when they occur in the countryside!

I travelled to Vietnam with Intrepid Travel. While I love travelling independently, their small group adventures can be very enjoyable, especially if you want to see a reasonable area in a short space of time. As part of my trip, there were several optional activities including bike rides. Without these rides, I wouldn’t have been able to see half as much of the country side in the same amount of time. Definitely worth the work out!

Incense!

Now, to be honest, taking photos while bike riding isn’t exactly easy. Further, as I was riding as part of a group, I didn’t have the freedom to stop the way I could choose to if I was running by myself. However, it does allow for some accidentally artistic captures!

Totally accidental but I love this shot! 🙂

I loved the scenery riding around different areas of Vietnam. It was truly beautiful. I especially loved taking photos of the workers in the rice paddy fields!

I also loved riding alongside a number of the locals. The people in Vietnam were beautiful, particularly so out in the country – away from the hustle and bustle of the city markets where I did find there was some pressure to buy, buy, buy! That said, I can’t exactly complain – I loved the shopping, particularly getting clothes tailored in Hoi An.

Often we were lucky enough to be out riding when many children were on there way to school. The kids were lovely, sometime oblivious to us, sometimes engaging. Either way, I found it fascinating.

School kids

I loved Vietnam and can’t wait to get back there. There is so much more to see and I’m excited to share more about my adventures there soon!

In the meantime, have you cycled anywhere around the world?

The Healthy Globetrotter

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Singapore Zoo

So as you’ve probably realised by now, I’m in Singapore. For me, the best thing about visiting a city more than once is discovering new things. The second has got to be the memories!

My current visit has reminded me just how much I loved visiting the zoo last time I was here!

For those that know me personally, this is probably not much of a surprise. I love the zoo and animals. How can you not? This is the very definition of adorable:

Baby!

Assuming you avoid all the ice-creams and chips that are usually on offer, the zoo (any zoo! In this case, Singapore Zoo) can be a really healthy day out. If you have the desire to see the animals (and the zoo is big enough) you can definitely get in a solid day of walking, all while enjoying the animals! With 2800 animals over 26 hectares, Singapore Zoo definitely meets my criteria. Win.

One of my favourites at Singapore Zoo were the rhinos. This one was beautiful. I loved that he had a little birdy playing on his back… that was until I realised that the little birdy was in fact picking at the poor Rhino’s skin.

Rhino! You might notice the “third love photography” – don’t worry, I’m not stealing photos, these photos have just come straight from my tumblr!

I know, I know, there are better ways to see animals. In the wild. On safari. But as I recently learnt during a Roar and Snore sleepover at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo (post coming soon!) the conditions animals are kept in at zoos worldwide have improved rapidly over the years. Further, many zoos (including Singapore) participate in critical conservation and breeding programs to help save endangered animals from extinction. In my view, that’s a worthy cause. Let’s face it, until such time as I make it to Africa (fingers crossed for 2013!) the zoo will have to do.

African Crowned Crane

Out of all the zoos I’ve visited in the world (and trust me, there has been more than a few) Singapore Zoo sits high on my list as one of the better zoos out there. In my view, it is pretty special.

Clearly designed to allow you to get up and close with the animals, that’s exactly what I did:

Zebra!

Hello little fella!

Pensive

Next time you’re in Singapore, I would definitely recommend the zoo! Though don’t forget to skip the unhealthy snacks that can come with a day out and focus on enjoying the fresh air and walks instead!

Do you have a favourite zoo?

The Healthy Globetrotter