Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

SOTM Tour: Month Four of Twelve

30

Kate and Mario at Kata Tjuta

It’s been four months on the road for the SOTM Tour! Our fourth month was one of the busiest of the trip so far. We traveled like mad, visited some incredibly beautiful places, took part in tons of activities, met up with countless friends.

This month also had some of the lowest points of the trip, as you’ll read below. While dealing with some setbacks made some of our travels difficult, this month was anything but boring.

It was jam-packed — in retrospect, a bit too jam-packed, we decided — and for that reason, it’s been a relief to get to Southeast Asia and have some much-needed downtime.

Here is the recap of Month Four!

Busan Markets

Destinations Visited

Busan and Seoul, South Korea

Darwin, Litchfield National Park, Kakadu National Park, Alice Springs, Yulara and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

Sydney (including Bondi, Bronte, and Manly) and Botany Bay, New South Wales, Australia

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Hosier Lane, Melbourne

Favorite Destinations

Melbourne. Is this the world’s coolest city? Very possibly.

Uluru. Mysterious, awe-inspiring, utterly breathtaking and fabulously romantic.

Bronte, Sydney. A lovely neighborhood highlighted by a delicious stretch of beach, beautiful homes, and Sydney’s best breakfast!

Adventurous Kate on the Bridgeclimb

Highlights

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I’m happy to report that the Bridgeclimb experience wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be — it was just beautiful, interesting, and a lot of fun. I’m so glad I went.

Swimming in rockholes in the Northern Territory. After a long, hot, sweaty hike, there is no better relief in the world than jumping into a swimming hole and dipping beneath the surface as the cool water rushes around you.

Australian breakfasts. Who knew Australia had the best breakfasts in the world? In the US and especially the UK, it seems like breakfast is an excuse for cholesterol overload — but the Australian breakfasts tended to be lighter, healthier, often meat-free, and delicious.

Swimming with crocs. At Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, I went croc cage diving for the second time in my life with a nasty, snapping croc named Chopper — and fed crocs, smooched a baby croc named Fluffy, even swam with young crocs! I have such an appreciation for these creatures now.

Kakadu National Park

The beauty of Kakadu National Park. Kakadu is probably the roughest, wildest, most untouched place I’ve ever visited — and there is so much incredible raw beauty. You almost expect to see a dinosaur poke its head around a corner.

Seeing crocs in the wild. As part of our three-day Kakadu camping trip with Adventure Tours Australia, we took a cruise in the Mary River wetlands, where we got to see about half a dozen crocs in their natural habitat, lurking beneath the surface. It was slightly terrifying and an adrenaline rush.

Market-hopping in Busan. Turns out that Busan is a great city for wandering around, eating delicious street food (I can’t get enough of Korean lemonade in a bag!), and checking out the wild fishing industry. The fish markets, in particular, are a brilliant place to photograph.

Watching the sunset and sunrise at Uluru — in style. Uluru is gorgeous and a surprisingly posh destination. I particularly loved riding camels to the Sounds of Silence dinner, where we ate great food and made lots of new Australian friends, and riding a Harley-Davidson through the desert at dawn with Uluru Cycles.

Cafe-hopping in Melbourne. What a great city to “just be” for a little while.

Meetups! We had meetups in Sydney and Melbourne and it was nice to meet lots of readers and reconnect with old friends.

Cameron SOTM Photo

Memorable SOTM Pic

While in the Northern Territory, we met up with the Best Job in the World contest winners at Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, where we proceeded to get up close and personal with LOTS of crocs.

This is singer-songwriter Cameron Ernst, winner of the Virgin Australia High Flyer contest. As Mario took his picture, one of the young crocs started dancing and grooving in the background! The perfect background for the ominous message on the sketchbook.

Cameron was actually told this quote by a guy in his hometown of Wichita, Kansas — and not in a nice way. Check out the full story here.

Breakfast at Three Blue Ducks

Best Thing I Ate

Oh my God, we ate SO well in Australia — particularly in Melbourne. Dumplings (so good we went two nights in a row!), absolutely perfect pho, kangaroo pizza, ice cream made from liquid nitrogen…

But above all, it was all about the Australian breakfasts. The best one that we had was at Three Blue Ducks in Bronte, Sydney, just around the corner from our Airbnb rental. Several of my readers told me to go there for breakfast, and were they ever right!

This was toast with avocado, two poached eggs, roasted tomatoes, and a tomato basil onion salad. As I ate this breakfast, sipping a flat white and listening to a 70s funk mix, I felt completely, utterly relaxed — more than I had been in a long time.

Bronte Airbnb Rental

Best Place I Stayed

This month’s best lodging was another Airbnb rental — Lise’s place in Bronte, Sydney. We had a very comfortable bedroom (with a bed long enough for my 6’2″ fiancé — not easy to find!), two bathrooms of our own, and lots of open space, including a spacious kitchen.

I’ve often found Airbnb to be the best choice for finding lodging in major cities — you’ll find deals for much cheaper than you’d pay for a hotel or even a private room in a hostel. But Airbnb is even more valuable in Australia, as hotels and hostels often charge like crazy for awful internet and laundry can be expensive as well.

When we were staying in hotels and hostels in Darwin, we paid $4 per device per day for crappy internet on that only worked a fraction of the time and $6 per wash or dry for laundry. At Lise’s place, we had free fast wifi and free laundry.

Bronte is a bit of a ways out of downtown Sydney — around 45 minutes by bus, or a bit less by bus and train — but I absolutely loved this neighborhood, its beach, and its colorful houses. Bronte is a beautiful place to visit, and I recommend walking the coastal path from Bronte to Bondi for great views.

For $56 per night, you cannot beat this. Here is the listing on Airbnb. It’s extremely popular, so be sure to book far ahead. Tell Lise that Kate and Mario sent you!

Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul

Challenges

Two new f-words entered my vocabulary this month: FLOOD and FLEAS.

The day that we flew from Seoul to Darwin, we had to wake up at 4:30 AM to catch the 5:37 train to the airport — and were caught in the biggest rainstorm either of us has seen in years. It was like buckets were literally pouring from the sky. The water was ankle-deep.

Seoul is a city of night owls, so the neighborhood was filled with crowds waiting in cafes or trying to catch a cab. There was no way in hell we could get a cab in that kind of rain.

After a 15-minute run-walk, we made it to the Hongik University station. EVERYTHING in our bags was soaked, down to the core, though not quite as soaked as the clothes we were wearing. (Mario actually changed on the subway platform.)

Then our soaked luggage had to travel for about 20 hours as we had a long layover in Manila, then once we arrived, we had a three-day camping trip scheduled before we had time to wash anything. Everything smelled.

We had to launder everything we owned — and a single wash or dry in Darwin cost $6. That added up to the most expensive laundry of my life.

As for the fleas, in Busan I developed hives and couldn’t figure out why — I haven’t been allergic to anything since I was a little girl. I thought it was detergent, then I thought it was shampoo, then I thought it was soap — but even after switching everything out, I would still be struck with hives all over my body as soon as the latest antihistamine wore off.

Over time, Mario and I started calling them “fleas.” We refer to anything itchy as fleas. And they certainly were itchy.

Then my lip swelled up. Twice. Then my face started swelling up. I’ve been to three doctors in Australia. (Interestingly, doctors in Australia are much more casual and go by their first names.)

After getting some prednisone and Zyrtec, the fleas are much better than they’ve been — though they do still pop up on occasion. I’ll continue to see how it goes. Whatever allergen it was is probably on its way out of my system.

Mindil Beach Sunset

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

With 196 likes, this shot of the Mindil Beach in Darwin at sunset was the most popular picture of the month. Crocs appear here in occasion, but that didn’t keep people out of the water!

Every Sunday and Thursday through the dry season, Mindil Beach comes to life with sunset markets selling food and crafts. Watching the sunset on the beach is a fun local tradition, and I’m glad we got to do it twice.

Salamis and Cheese in Sant'Agata Feltria

Coming Up in Month Five

I’m very lucky in that I get to visit three of my top five favorite countries this month: Thailand, Italy, and Cambodia! (The other two? South Africa and Japan.)

After one week in Bangkok, I fly back to Italy for a two-week residency at Blogville Emilia-Romagna in my beloved Bologna. I’m excited to be returning to the truffle festival in Sant’Agata Feltria, which I visited two years ago. I will also be speaking on a panel at the TBD Italy travel blogging conference in Rimini.

The only thing is that it’s going to be cold in Bologna in late October. Where am I going to be able to get a coat?! My fleece isn’t stylish enough for Italy!

Mario will be staying in Thailand, and he plans to head straight to Koh Chang, home to my favorite beach in the world: Lonely Beach.

On the 28th, I fly back to Bangkok, where Mario and I will meet up before flying to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on November 2. We’ll be spending the next few weeks in Cambodia.

Any suggestions for Month Five? Let me know!

Many thanks to Northern Territory Tourism and Sydney Bridgeclimb for their generous support of Month Five of the SOTM Tour. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Comments

30 Responses to “SOTM Tour: Month Four of Twelve”
  1. Anna says:

    I would have never thought Australia for a gourmand’s heaven. I guess you just showed me!

  2. Edna says:

    Shame I’ll just be missing you when you fly in/out of Milan (unless we can make that train station coffee work)! I’ll be headed to the truffle fest in Piemonte next week, we’ll have to compare truffle notes 🙂

  3. I like how you add the challenges part in your blog. It relates to me because even though I too face challenges, it is important to never give up and overcome.

    The picture of the best thing you ate looks delicious!

  4. Emily says:

    I hate it when you don’t have the opportunity to tackle wet/dirty clothes on trips and end up with a funky smelling pack! I am sure it’ll be something to laugh about later on 🙂

  5. Shaz says:

    I can’t agree more about the breakfast in Australia, it’s so delicious! Once I had porridge with rose water and pistachio, yum!

  6. Lynda says:

    This just made me super homesick! <3 Melbourne.

  7. Agh Busan, quite possibly my least favourite city in South Korea for a variety of reasons! I’m sad that you didn’t stop off in Daegu or Gyeongju 🙁

    Looking forward to reading your posts about Korea and seeing what you made of my favourite country in the whole wide world!

  8. Emiel says:

    Great to read all your adventures!
    For next month, spend lots of time in Siem Reap. Not only because the Angkor Wat temples are close by, but just because it’s a great city/village! When in Siem Reap, ask someone to bring you to the night market. Not the one in the city center, but a few clicks outside town (to the North, I think street 60 it was). Only locals, old-fashioned carnival, great fun! And of course khmer style bbq …

  9. Kalyn says:

    I am so envious of your trip, fleas included! I saw that you still might be roadtripping through the United States at the end of your trip.

    We plan to do that next year for an entire year! Any tips on how to avoid burnout? I am worried about planning too much ahead of time, or not planning enough and having to make too many decisions each day about where were are staying, etc.

  10. Looking forward to talking about your travels in person over dinner!! See you tomorrow in Bangkok, baby! Woot!

  11. Angela says:

    I just love reading your monthly summaries. It does sound like you are having an amazing time. Travel on!

  12. All of this in a month?! Sounds absolutely insane and incredible. I enjoyed this entire post but oh my god that picture of your breakfast. I need that in my life.

    Happy travels 🙂

  13. Katie says:

    I spent two months in Cambodia two years ago and I absolutely loved it. My favourite part of the country was the eastern province of Mondulkiri Province. We went to a place called the Elephant Valley Project where they rehabilitate old working elephants to their natural habitat. They whole area is lovely and lush. I’d highly recommend it.

  14. oggy says:

    Hello, I would like your help with some project. This project is an app that will help people and tourist all around world to connect and meet, go to drink, on concert or something else…this app will come soon but before that we will like to hear your opinion and ideas….so search Funility App and leave feedback. Tha

  15. Looking forward to reading about your travel experiences over the next 8 months of this tour.

  16. Stefania says:

    I never knew that Australia was a gourmet destination! And I love that picture of Kakadu National Park, it loos so unspoilt. It’s difficult to find a place like that in Western Europe…

  17. Phumi says:

    Started following your blog while i was teaching in Korea. So glad you finally went, love that place. But what i am really glad and proud about is that someone who literally travels for a living can consider South Africa, my beloved home, in their Top 5. i am so glad you got to experience both luxury and budget. its an amazing country and so glad to be home again. do come again 🙂

  18. I really like how you layout these posts. They are definitely my favorite ones to read! I am Australian, and boy do I eat my fair share of breakfasts. 🙂

  19. Sally says:

    I love your picture on the bridge climb. Did you take any other pictures there? Love to see them. Thanks for sharing your experience. Dumplings made my mouth water.. 🙂

    Sally’s recent post: http://www.howdoifindcheapflights.com/when-is-the-best-time-to-book-for-cheap-holiday-flights/

  20. Stephen says:

    Croc cage diving! Holy hell, I must do this when I get to Oz next year! However, I have to survive the full moon party and fire jump rope first. 🙂

  21. Annabel says:

    I’m glad you loved Australia! As a true blue Aussie girl, I’m constantly trying to convince travellers that Australia is ore than worth the long flights! It sounds like you had a blast here. Good luck on the next month!

  22. Christine says:

    Very cool post! We are headed to Melbourne soon to work and live for a couple months! Good to know there will be lots of delicious things to eat 🙂

  23. absolutely loved your photos from this leg of your adventure.

    Molly {Dreams in HD}
    http://dreamsinhd.blogspot.com

  24. Andy says:

    Wow, that looks like an incredible adventure! The croc diving bit in Darwin looks quite intriguing.

  25. Can’t wait to meet you guys in Phnom Penh. You should try out the eco toursim site of Chi Phat. I went there a few weeks ago and it was amazing. Did a homestay and jungle mountain bike tour. It was raining quite hard when I went so there were quite a lot of leeches, but they aren’t there when it is not raining and November is officially the start of the dry season. It is quite remote so you won’t get that many tourists there either. Any other tips I’ll give you over a beer. 🙂

  26. Emily says:

    MBK Bangkok has lots of coats

  27. Lucy says:

    Well this has nothing to do with travel but I couldnt believe when I read about your “fleas”! The same exact thing happened to me on one of my first trips anywhere ever by myself….Paducah,KY. Laughably I know, but non the less, mine started with my lip swelling up HUGE! Went t o the ER, got prednisone and antihistamine shots and went back to my rental. Unfortunately this has followed me on and off my whole life. Then I was 17 and now Im 32 and I have still not pinpointed a cause! The hives started after I got home and it went on for months then i went years with nothing then it would come out of nowhere. Good luck with that and if you havent tried an oatmeal bath, you should definitely. This helps more than anything. Aveeno colloidal oatmeal bath is what i used, its a powder that comes in packets and it really helps. Again, good luck!

  28. Mark says:

    When I asked in August 13, the head lifeguard in Darwin said they had not had any crocs @ Mindil Beach in 3 years… so, mildly safe?

    Also, for the solo female travelers out there Darwin is like raining men (drunk, military personnel/oil workers). It’s like a 8-10:1 ratio on a normal night.

    I personally disliked Darwin, but loved the National Parks…

Trackbacks

Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. […] hives came back. If you’re a long-term reader, you may remember when I suddenly developed hives in Korea back in 2013. I don’t have any allergies, so I have no idea what the cause was — I […]



Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!


nine + = eighteen