Category Archives for "Travel Experience"

Falling Back In Love With Cape Town On The CitySightseeing Bus

Falling Back In Love With Cape Town On The CitySightseeing Bus

Coming home is always a really amazing experience. The magic of seeing the mountain, taking a dip in the ocean, and breathing in the fresh air of Cape Town is so refreshing, but as locals, after about two weeks in the city, the excitement and idea of being home, and seeing friends and family wears off. Don’t get me wrong, we love Cape Town, but as long-term travellers, we are always looking for something new and different from what we know.

With a few major events planned for our current trip to Cape Town, we committed to spending six months in the city. And over the last four month, as locals, we’d become almost immune to the city’s beauty and vibe, and started taking for granted what we had access to – world class beaches, amazing hikes, and delicious food. This made me sad, and I knew that I needed to fall back in love with my hometown.

We recently celebrated a few personal milestones, and decided to do something that both of us hadn’t done before in Cape Town – taking a trip on the CitySightseeing Bus. As Capetonians we love being tourists in our own city, and this was the perfect excuse to do so.

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Like every other tourist that visits Cape Town in summer, we got up super early and headed to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens where we boarded the CitySightseeing Bus, and joined their Blue Route tour.

Tip: Coming for the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town, we decided to avoid the chaos of the V&A Waterfront and rather board the bus on route. Not only does Kirstenbosch have free, secure parking, but you can purchase your tickets online or directly on the bus.

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Boarding the bus was quick and easy, and we settled on the upper deck which has the better views. As we headed through the suburbs of leafy Constantia and Hout Bay, on a road that is almost carved into the forest, I could slowly feel myself being reintroduced to the magic of Cape Town – it must have been something about the fresh air, and almost being able to touch the treetops.

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As we passed the township of Hout Bay and headed towards the beach, the commentary became more and more interesting and I started to learn new things about my city.

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Heading over towards the Atlantic Seaboard, we were immediately hit by a cool sea breeze. As locals, we found the commentary a little redundant and extremely boring, so we pulled out our headphones and just enjoyed the views. With not a cloud in the sky and surprisingly no wind, The Mother City was making a conscious effort to impress us. How can anyone not fall in love with this city after seeing the mountains tower out of the ocean complemented by the pristine white sandy beaches? I surely felt like I was the luckiest girl in the world to call this city my home.

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We then headed along Beach Road towards the Green Point Lighthouse (sadly no mention of the fog horn which is located close by) and Cape Town Stadium, before heading to the V&A Waterfront. This was our first stop where we decided to hop on the CitySightseeing Harbour Cruise.

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With our two day pass, this cruise was free and an absolute pleasure. Taking us around the small harbour where we continued to learn about Cape Town, the V&A Waterfront and harbour itself. My favourite part was seeing the adorable seals floating on the water’s surface who were warming themselves by holding their flippers in the air.

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After lunch, we decided to take a loop on the Red Route tour which took us through the city, up to the Table Mountain Cableway and back along the Atlantic Seaboard to the V&A Waterfront. The one thing that all Capetonians know and do, is to avoid any and every tourist attraction during peak season in Cape Town. We do this to avoid the traffic and long queues, but being on the bus, I was forced to head up to the cableway. For me, not driving, it was an opportunity to take in the views from Table Mountain of the city below, and absolutely have my mind blown by Cape Town’s beauty.

Tip: If you don’t have a ticket to the Table Mountain Cableway, they are available on this bus. We strongly advise that you pre-purchase your ticket online or on the bus to avoid the crazy queues.

Exhausted and ready to head home, we changed buses again to get back on to the Blue Route, and headed back to Kirstenbosch Gardens.

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Looking back on my day on the CitySightseeing Bus, I fell back in love with my hometown. Having travelled so much over the last two years has made me come home, and not really appreciate what I have, where I’ve grown up, and the people that make this place so special. But being a tourist in my own city, and taking the time to explore made me love my hometown even more.

Mass Sky Lantern Release – Chiang Mai

Mass Sky Lantern Release – Chiang Mai

One of the most breathtaking moments during our entire seven month stay in Southeast Asia was experiencing the Mae Jo Sky Lantern Release. Once a year both tourists and locals head to the small town of Mae Jo about 30 minute scooter drive outside of Chiang Mai, to attend the graduation ceremony of an independent Buddhist group called the Duangtawan Santiparp Foundation.

Arriving early around 3pm, we quickly found a shady spot on the grass amongst the thousand of people that had already arrived. With delicious food on sale, we spent the afternoon chatting, eating, and learning about different Buddhist practices and traditions. As night falls the ceremony begins with the graduates and their families presenting themselves as other monks give them their blessings.

The night ends with an orchestrated mass sky lantern release that is absolutely beautiful and something that we will never forget. Carrying people’s wishes and hopes, the sky lit up with thousands of lanterns in a spectacular eyeful. This unforgettable moment is definitely something to add to your Thailand bucket list.

 

Commonly confused as being part of the annual Yi Peng Festival (also known as Loi Krathong Festival), this mass sky lantern release is an independent event not organised by Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) or the Chiang Mai Municipal Authority.
Even though entrance is free, guests need to dress respectfully and may not bring their own lanterns, but instead purchase them from the stalls at the event for 100 Baht each.

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If you have any questions about visiting Chiang Mai or the Mae Jo Sky Lantern Release, please ask us on Twitter (@FreemadicLife) or on Facebook.

Koh Samui Scooter Round Trip – Thailand

Koh Samui Scooter Round Trip – Thailand

During our stay on Koh Samui, we took a day off to do a scooter round trip of the island to visit and enjoy the different areas. We swam at pristine beaches, ate at a local restaurant, and enjoyed the views at multiple look out spots.

With over 15 years of experience (including driving in Thailand at the age of 16), and having a motorbike drivers license it was a no brainer for me to rent a scooter for the duration of our month long stay on Koh Samui. It was without a doubt the best way of getting around this beautiful island. Ever since visiting Thailand back in 2001, and exploring Phuket Island by scooter, I knew that I wanted to spend some time getting off the beaten track to explore the back roads, and find some hidden attractions.

 

Riding a scooter in Thailand can be an affordable, convenient and fun way of getting around. As exhilarating as it may be, this mode of transport does however come with significant risks and may not be the best option for everyone. If you’re deciding whether or not to ride a scooter in Thailand, make sure to read my post “10 Things To Consider Before Renting a Scooter in Thailand”.

When visiting Koh Samui make sure to venture beyond Chaweng and Lamai. And if you’re not keen on renting a scooter and driving yourself, then join one of the many 4×4 tours on offer.

If you have any questions about visiting Koh Samui or renting a scooter in Thailand, please ask us on Twitter (@FreemadicLife) or on Facebook.

4 Awesome Beaches On Koh Samui

4 Awesome Beaches On Koh Samui

Koh Samui is known to have some of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand, but to be perfectly honest, we often opted for the sandless, refreshing waters of our apartment’s infinity pools at Ban Sua Samui. Our apartment was not a beachside resort like most accommodation options on the island, so the pool with its incredible view was one of our favourite spots. However, during our month long stay (while not scuba diving off Koh Tao or exploring Anthong National Park) we did spend some time on the beaches showing off our bikini bodies, taking morning walks, and enjoying the vibe that travellers from all around the world come to enjoy. Here are four of the beaches on Koh Samui that we recommend exploring when you next visit this tropical island.

Chaweng Beach

With most resorts lined up along the beachfront, Chaweng Beach is the most popular, busiest and longest beach on the island. Packed with plenty of activities including restaurants, parties, bars, jet skis for hire, massage stations, and paragliding, it is easy to spend the entire day soaking up the sun on this beach. Because of its popularity, it is also home to many scammers trying to make a quick buck off unsuspecting tourists.

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Why We Loved It: We avoided Chaweng during the day and at night, but enjoyed a few early morning walks and swims before the crowds came out.

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Lamai Beach

About a 10 minute drive from Chaweng Beach, you’ll find Lamai – the second largest beach on the island. Even though less busy, you’ll find that this beach also has plenty of restaurants, cocktail bars, water activities to choose from. It is also the perfect place to go for a swim on a hot day.

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Why We Loved It: Every Sunday we headed to Lamai where we could enjoy a swim followed by a stroll through the weekly market. The food, atmosphere, and shopping is something that everyone on the island should experience.

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Silver Beach

Arguably the most beautiful beach on the island, Silver Beach is located between the bigger beaches of Chaweng and Lamai, hidden behind a row of resorts. We unfortunately only discovered this beach towards the end of our stay, and wished we had more time to spend on its sandy shores. With no public access, you’ll need to walk through one of the resorts, and down a flight of stairs before getting to this beach.

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Why We Loved It: Unlike other beaches on Koh Samui this beach was picturesque and tranquil – without the jetskis, bars, and all the other attractions that the bigger beaches have to offer.

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Coral Cove Beach

In a small cove between Chaweng and Silver Beach is Coral Cove. With calm waters, kayaks for hire, and a single restaurant, this beach is perfect for a family day or a romantic dinner. It is also the beach where we spent most of our time because it was the closest to our apartment.

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Why We Love It: Being one of the smaller, hidden beaches, away from Chaweng and Lamai, this beach was never crowded and offers some great spots for swimming and kayaking.

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Anthong National Park Tour: Island Hopping, Snorkelling & Kayaking – Koh Samui, Thailand

Anthong National Park Tour: Island Hopping, Snorkelling & Kayaking – Koh Samui, Thailand

Taking a break from work, and wanting to explore some more of Thailand’s aquatic beauty, we headed to Anthong National Marine Park. Promised a day of snorkelling, island-hopping, beautiful views, a delicious lunch, and kayaking, we were excited to head to this incredible area off the shores of Surat Thani Province.

Located in The Gulf of Thailand, the 102 square metre area boasts 41 undeveloped islands, as well as Koh Paluay which has been inhabited by sea-gypsies. The protected park can easily be accessed via Koh Samui and Koh Phangan with various tour companies. Please be sure to enquire if your tour includes the entrance fee to the park.

From snorkelling around Koh Woa, heading to a viewpoint of surrounding islands and the Emerald Lake on Talay Nai, as well as having a traditional Thai lunch on Koh Paluay, this national park has so much to offer its visitors.

If you have any questions about visiting Koh Samui or visiting Anthong National Marine Park, please ask us on Twitter (@FreemadicLife) or on Facebook.

Starz Ladyboy Cabaret: Celebrating Diversity on Koh Samui

Starz Ladyboy Cabaret: Celebrating Diversity on Koh Samui

Besides relaxing at beachside resorts, scuba diving with tropical fish, visiting temples, and exploring the jungle, another item on our Thai bucket list was going to a ladyboy cabaret. Dressed in flamboyant outfits, lip-syncing to popular songs, and dancing the night away, these transgender women or an effeminate gay male are one of the highlights of most tourist trips. Putting on spectacular shows on a minimal budget with no professional training, these ladyboys are truly impressive.

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Having never been to a ladyboy show before, we decided to head to Starz Cabaret on Koh Samui. With free entry (you will have to buy a drink which costs about 200 Baht each), we settled into our seats and waited for the show to begin. Taken aback at first with these women’s sheer beauty, we soon relaxed and got into the show. The professionalism (and sometimes lack thereof) made an entertaining evening of loads of laughter, uncomfortable situations, and often questioning if she was once a he.

But being a ladyboy is more than just dress up and being a cabaret performer, it is someones choice. Known as Kathoey – which directly translates to ‘lady boy’ – by locals, these woman are fully accepted into Thai society, celebrated for who they are, and even perceived as a third gender – which is incredible considering how taboo the subject of transgenderism is in most parts of the world. From waitresses, and factory workers, to hotel receptionists and chefs in popular restaurants, it often amazed us at how Thai people did not discriminate, but rather celebrated the diversity of everyone in their country.

Join Us In The Front Row

 

Starz Carbert is located on Chaweng Beach Road on Koh Samui and runs two nightly shows that start at 20:30 and 22:00.

If you have any questions about visiting Koh Samui or going to Starz Caberet, please ask us on Twitter (@FreemadicLife) or on Facebook.

Off-Road Jungle Buggy Tour – Koh Samui

Off-Road Jungle Buggy Tour – Koh Samui

With friendly staff, amazing views and a whole lot of mud, this full day, off-road jungle buggy tour was one of the coolest things we did on Koh Samui. We opted for a buggy as it seats two people and is closer to the ground (and mud), while the rest of our group went for quad bikes (ATV).

Join Us In The Front Seat

 

Driving this bad boy takes a bit of skill, but after 15 minutes behind the wheel, we got the hang of it. If you are new to driving a buggy or quad bike let the guides know as they are very patient, understanding and will allow you to take your time. The tour is definitely not for the faint hearted with a bunch of terrifying uphills all on dirt roads.

We headed up hills, through water and stopped at the most amazing lookout spots and a temple before stopping for a delicious lunch. After another hour of racing around in the buggy, we did a short hike (boulder hopping so wear walking shoes) to the stunning waterfall where we could take a refreshing dip before heading back home.

For more information on this awesome adventure visit the X-Quad Samui’s Facebook page.

If you have any questions about visiting Koh Samui or joining for this off-road jungle tour, please ask us on Twitter (@FreemadicLife) or on Facebook.

Scuba Diving Koh Tao & Sail Rock, Thailand

Scuba Diving Koh Tao & Sail Rock, Thailand

With average sea temperatures around 28 degrees, an abundance of extraordinary sea life, and up to 30 metres visibility, diving the Gulf Thailand is a remarkable experience. Heading out with Discovery Dive Centre in Koh Samui, we did eight dives collectively (Lara did two, and Sean did six) around Koh Tao and Sail Rock. With one shore dive off Koh Tao, and six boat dives, we were spoilt during our month long stay on Koh Samui with incredible dive conditions.

Watch us take the plunge and live our dreams scuba diving in The Gulf of Thailand:

 

If you have any questions about scuba diving the Gulf of Thailand, please ask us on Twitter (@FreemadicLife) or on Facebook.

Temples of Koh Samui

Temples of Koh Samui

More than just beautiful beaches and a romantic vacation destination, the island of Samui has a rich cultural and religious presence. With Buddhism practiced by most Thai people, there are various stunning temples on this island. Often seen as tourist attractions rather than a holy place of worship, these temples are frequented by tour buses and can get a bit crowded, but if you go early enough or on the off season, you can truly see these temples as they are meant to be experienced. During our month long stay on Koh Samui, we got the opportunity to visit various temples and here are a few of our favourites:

Wat Phra Yai (Big Buddha Temple)

Even though this Buddhist temple is on the small island of Phan is just offshore from Koh Samui, it is still accessible by road and is known as one of the most popular temples in the area. With a stairway decorated with mythological serpent leading up to a viewing platform and a 12 metre high golden Buddha statue, from the ground this temple is spectacular. On the viewing platform surrounding the base of the statue are giant bells that visitors can ring for good luck.

We spent all morning at the temple and extended our stay by enjoying a seaside lunch at one of the nearby restaurants. With the airport being so close by,  it is also an awesome place to watch aeroplanes coming in for landing.

Wat Plai Laem

Home to various elaborate statues and temple buildings, Wat Plai Laem is a Buddhist compound on the north coast of Samui. It is the perfect place to get a perspective of Chinese-Thai beliefs and get to view Buddhist art and architecture. Towering over the compound is the 18 armed Guanyin – the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion – with her nine sets of arms each representing a sector of Buddhism. With so much intricate detail, and impressive architecture we spent about three hours exploring this amazing compound and feeding the catfish.

Wat Khunaram (Mummified Monk)

Vietnam has The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Russia has Lenin’s Mausoleum, and Thailand has Wat Khunaram on the island of Samui which is home to the Mummified Monk. Yes, you can view the mummified body of Monk Luong Pordaeng who died in 1973. Seated in a meditative position, his body is on display in a glass case at this temple as per his own wishes and aims to bring awareness to Buddhism. Even though there is very little decay on the monk, today he wears sunglasses to cover his eyes. The temple itself is very simple yet, like all other temples, is beautiful.

Things To Consider

Dress Code

Like most religious places a dress code is enforced. Please dress respectfully when visiting these Buddhist temples by making sure everything between your shoulders and knees are covered. Most temples do offer free sarongs to those who are not appropriately dressed, but it is easier to bring your own cover-up.

In certain areas of temples it is also required that you take your shoes off. We suggest you wear flip flops or shoes that are easy to slip on and off.

Blessings & Donations

Most temples offer blessings that usually consists of a monk sprinkling holy water above your head before asking you where you from and, in our case, if we are in Thailand on our honeymoon. It is a very special moment to experience and an excellent opportunity to interact with monks that can often speak English. In return for a blessing we always gave a small donation to the temple.

If you have any further questions, please submit them to us on Twitter (@FreemadicLife) or on Facebook.

Table Mountain Cableway

Table Mountain Cableway

Table Mountain is without a doubt the most popular and iconic tourist attraction in Cape Town. Getting to the top of the mountain by cable car is an amazing experience and offers outstanding views of the city bowl and its surrounds. The rotating 765 metre long vertical cable car ride takes around four to five minutes and is worth every cent.

There are various ways to get to the cable station at the bottom of the mountain including the MyCity Bus, the CitySightseeing Bus, a metered taxi or your own private transport. Even though tickets are available at the cable station, our recommendation is to book your ticket online and make your way to the cable station as early as possible to avoid the crowds and to enjoy the top of the mountain while it is uncrowded.

Cost: Adult (Standard Price): R225 (Return) | R115 (One-Way)
Child (4-17): R110 (Return) | R58 (One-Way)
SA senior citizen (Fridays only at Ticket Office): R95 (Return) | R50 (One-Way)
Student (Fridays only at Ticket Office): R130 (Return) | R68 (One-Way)

Sunset Special Offer: Enjoy the sunset from the top of the mountain.
Adults pay R112.50, children (4-17) pay R55 and tickets only available from the Lower Cableway Station from 18:00 onwards.

Birthday Special Offer: You get a free return that can be used on your birthday.

Have you ever been to the top of Table Mountain or experienced some other impressive cableway?
Share your experience or video in the comments below.

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