Australia

the top 5 that did not disappoint

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So we’ve written a post about the top 5 places that underwhelmed us, then we wrote about the top 5 unexpected places and now is our top 5 that was everything plus more than we expected. We should also qualify that we have had lots of “overwhelming” moments on our travel but we narrowed it down to our top 5 for this post – which wasn’t easy.

5. Galapagos Islands

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The place where Charles Darwin came up with his evolution theory.

The place where there is abundance and diversity.

The place where animals and humans can swim together and walk together.

The place we would recommend to everyone in a heartbeat!

4. Uluru

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In the centre of our home country lies the monolith that is ever so famous. It wasn’t only seeing Uluru itself that made this the most jaw-dropping memory we have in Australia, but it was the entire experience itself; seeing Uluru during the day, seeing Uluru changing colours, watching the sunset, being under the stars in the red centre, understanding more about the Indigenous Australian culture and beliefs.

We published a photo essay recently on Uluru if you want to see more photos.

3. Yellowstone National Park 

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Being the first National Park in the world and with 9000 square kilometres to explore, one cannot really not pass up the opportunity to visit here. We visited in October and we had snow – lots of it. And it only made the scenery so romantically magical.

We were able to catch glimpses of different wildlife, we visited Ol’ Faithful Geyser and we were mesmerised by the sweeping landscapes and colours.

This is one of the first places we ever visited that as soon as we left, we said, “We’re coming back here again!”

2. Lake Titicaca

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Floating reed islands? The minute we heard about these many years ago, we knew we had to visit it one day. And when we finally did, we fell in love. It didn’t matter that we were 3000+ metres above sea level and that every few steps we felt out of breath. Because as we stepped on the reeds and realised that we were actually walking on a floating island, the moment was ingrained in our memories forever. Looking around us, we saw the local residents waving to us in their colourful sweaters – welcoming us to their home. On this planet, there are plenty of unique places to see and this is one of them.

1. The Hanging Monastery

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In the side of the cliff, 50 metres above the ground, there stands the monastery/temple that conjures up images of ancient China immediately.

This is the first place that we have visited in the world that brought tears to our eyes. We were so overwhelmed with emotion, peering upwards at it that we did pinch ourselves to see that we were really awake. Then walking through it was another thing altogether – held by what look like only wooden logs – we prayed that it was still architecturally sound. We held our breath when we saw it and we held our breath when we walked through it.

There you have it – our TOP 5 places that met and exceeded our expectations. Any surprises?

There were a few others that were close contenders such as Machu Picchu, Neuschwanstein Castle, Carcassonne, New York City…… plus many more!

Where have you been that you had high expectations of and it delivered? 

Leave us a comment.

a photo essay of uluru

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Once commonly known as Ayers Rock it is now better known by its indigenous name of Uluru.

Uluru is sacred to indigenous Australians.

This magnificent monolith that is located in the Australia Red Centre is 340 metres high and has a circumference of about 9.4 km.  Made from hard red sandstone, it doesn’t stay red all the time – Uluru changes colour during sunrise and sunset and is a sight certainly worth witnessing. It is at its brightest red in the middle of the day.

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We were fortunate to walk around part of the base of Uluru and looking up, is really something. An experience we will never forget. It still gives us goosebumps thinking about our time here as it really was so extraordinary and magical.

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Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park was listed as a UNESCO Heritage site in 1987.

To see the other UNESCO sites we have visited, visit our unofficial bucket list

Hope you enjoy our photo essay of Uluru 🙂

Have you visited Uluru? Or is it on your bucket list?

We welcome your comments here.

australia day – what will you be doing?

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Another long weekend is approaching us here in Australia. January 26 marks our official national day – what we call Australia Day. It is the anniversary of when the First Fleet landed in 1788 and it was only in 1994, that we consistently celebrated it as a national public holiday.

So what are we really celebrating?

The Australia Day Council explains it as:

On Australia Day we come together as a nation to celebrate what’s great about Australia and being Australian. 

And around the country, Australians spend the day attending community events, watching the cricket (if it happens to be on) or playing backyard cricket, having BBQs, going to concerts, splashing around in the pool or the beach, water sports and sailing…. etc the list goes on! Then to top off the cracking day, there are always some fireworks!

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But there is no right or wrong way to spend the day.

Regardless of what everyone is doing, there is likely to be food involved:

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  1. what Aussies fondly term “a sausage sizzle”: which are sausages cooked on the BBQ, then served with a bread roll, topped with barbecued onion. Sauces are optional.
  2. if not a sausage sizzle, then a BBQ of some sort.
  3. a picnic.
  4. a lamb roast, a leg of lamb or lamb cutlets… don’t forget the mint sauce: weeks leading up to Australia Day, we have regular TV advertisements for lamb.
  5. an ice-cold beer.
  6. at the community events, there is bound to be food trucks of all cuisines. There’ll be gozlemes, dumplings, hot chips, kebabs plus plenty of other choices.
  7. something entirely different because what’s traditional?!

And that is the beauty of being Australian. We are all different and we respect diversity. 

  • We might not all say G’day but a helluva lot of us say, “How ya going?” or “No worries.”
  • We might not all wear cork hats but we certainly love our “thongs” (for our American friends – they are what you call flipflops)
  • We might not all love cricket but there’s plenty of sports for us to choose from.
  • We might not all drink beer but we use beer to batter our fish.

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But Australia Day isn’t just about sports and food, there is a serious side.

On this day, Australians with outstanding achievements are acknowledged. There are 4 categories: Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year (60 years and over), Young Australian of the Year (16 to 30 years) and Australia’s Local Hero. To read more, visit the Australian of the Year Awards website.

Also on this day, citizenship ceremonies are hosted around the country. Those whose application have been approved, make their Pledge of Commitment at these ceremonies  then become Australian citizens.

The Australia Day Council say:

Though 26 January marks this specific event [the landing of the First Fleet], today Australia Day celebrations reflect contemporary Australia: our diverse society and landscape, our remarkable achievements and our bright future. It also is an opportunity to reflect on our nation’s history, and to consider how we can make Australia an even better place in future.

If you are in Australia, what are you doing on January 26? 

Or tell us about your National Day and what you do. 

Tell us how you celebrate.

This was a sponsored post researched and written by Wise Monkeys Abroad for eBay Australia

top 5 unexpected travel gems

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With the New Year almost a week in, we are back to regular blogging again. We had a festive/silly season break and it feels good to be back.

Towards the end of last year, we wrote a piece about our most disappointing travel sites and to introduce this year, we are sharing our top 5 unexpected travel highlights – places which we fell in love but hadn’t expected to.

In a world where information is so readily at our fingertips and the internet can reveal so much about a place – we avoid “researching” too much into a place we want to visit. We look for inspiration, we read about safety and basic introductory information, but we don’t read or look at everything we can about the place because we find that creates expectation and takes away some of the “unknown”. We tend to like the element of surprise.  And these are our top 5 unexpected travel gems.

(5) Pingyao

Enter through the gates of Pingyao and we were transported back to centuries ago. There are no cars inside, it is all pedestrian and bicycles.  Chinese history is oozing out of the walls and rooftops of this city and we LOVED it. It was our most favourite city during our time in China. As we walk along the alleyways and admire the well-preserved architecture, the only giveaway that we are in the 21st Century are the tourist shops.

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(4) Lyon

Before arriving in Lyon, we did little research as we were using it more as a stopover before we headed into Switzerland, not expecting to be so blown away by it. The history and its Roman past had us fascinated for hours. We have written only about a couple of the places we visited in Lyon; the Museum of Miniatures and Cinema and the street murals. There is so much there to see and still more we are yet to share about our time in Lyon. Do yourself a favour and add it to your list for next time you are in France.

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(3) Pergamum

When it comes to anything history, we love it! Visiting ancient ruins is one of our favourite things to do when travelling. Whilst travelling through Turkey, there are a LOT of ancient ruins to the point of possibly being fatigued by them. But there is no fatigue when it comes to riding a cable car and then exploring the ruins of Pergamum. The views from the top are just unbelievable across the countryside. What we found to be the biggest treat was walking amongst the columns and stones and remnants of life from thousands of years ago.

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(2) Tasmania

Often left off maps and forgotten as belonging to Australia, it is one of the places in the world where we want to come back to as soon as we have left. There is just something about it that makes us just want more. There is delicious, fresh local food! There is jaw-dropping stunning scenery. There is an abundance of wildlife and there is a touch of history. Whoever comes to Australia and doesn’t put Tassie on their list is crazy!!

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(1) Weliczka Salt Mines

Hands up if you thought “salt mines? – how special can they be?” We knew they were UNESCO Heritage, we knew they were important and a must-see. We knew about the history behind it but we were NOT by any means expecting to see what we saw. Climbing into a 3-storey shaft lift was only the beginning of one of THE MOST incredible places we have visited. An underground city, quite literally, that was carved out of salt.

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We love having these surprises so we try not to look at too many photos of a place just before we visit!

Now it’s your turn! We would love to hear about places that you didn’t expect to be so AWESOME 🙂