Incredible India Part 1 - Pune

 
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Contributor:
Andy

Nationality:
Australian 

Social Links:
Instagram: @andrewmarty_

Age Group:
30-40

Gender:
Male

Travel Style:
Casual, photography

 

Destination: Pune, India, May 2018

Inspiration:

India had always been a destination that I had planned to travel to, so when the opportunity to combine a trip with my love for sport, it seemed like the perfect timing! The Indian Premier League cricket tournament held each year has rapidly become the highlight of the indian sporting calendar. Through an association with Australian clothing company, Big Dogg Clothing, I had the opportunity to meet with many of the players and go to games.

I also took the opportunity to ensure I had time to dedicate to seeing the sights and experiencing the culture of one of the most fascinating travel destinations in the world. My first stop on a 18 day tour around India would be Pune.

Getting There:

I fly into Mumbai with flydubai. Where I can, I prefer to fly with flydubai as their rates are always the best and I dont tend to need add ons like inflight meals or entertainment, so I prefer to pocket the savings.

I had originally planned to fly into Chennai, however the team playing in Chennai had been forced to move their games due to ongoing protests that had begun to affect the cricket games. So, instead I moved my flight to land in Mumbai and transfer from there to Pune, where Chennai would now play their home game.

Landing at Mumbai airport was far less dramatic than I imagined. Perhaps it was because it was 6:00am, but there was almost no crowd and getting through immigration was really quick. As Australian passport holder, I require only an online visa to enter India - be aware you need to complete this process at least 4 days prior to travel and the online form is quite long. You dont really receive any offical visa or even a pdf - only an email which you can print and take with you.

I spoke to a lot of people about internal transport in India. I had initially intended to use trains as my main way of getting from city to city, however was warned against this for several reasons - there can be long delays, lots of cancellations, they are extremely crowded during holiday times (when I was there) and that using private cars can be far easier. In some situations, even the process of booking train tickets can be a frustrating process - see the review on Agra! So, with that in mind, I actually found using Uber to be a really reliable way to get around India! It was safe, relatively clean and not too expensive. I caught an Uber from from Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport (Sahar International) (map) to Pune for Rs3,600 ($50) and it took just over 3 hours. It was an easy drive and we stopped on the way for food. 

Local Knowledge:

I always like to stay connected when I travel - partly to keep up on social media and sports results (no seriously.....), but mostly to remain contactable for family. So I try and get a sim card in the country I land in and load it with internet data. India was one of the more difficult places I have found to get a sim card - so be prepared to use your home sim and pay for some roaming! The shop at the airport weren't open until 10am which was the first problem. Next even at teh shops in Pune, I required a letter from the hotel (police clearance form), my passport, the print out of my visa and a passport photo - so have all these things with you. Even when purchased, the sim card took 2 days to activate. The coverage from my Vodafone sim was average at best. The only positive was that the internet was very cheap!

Where To Stay:

I stayed at Hotel Saga Plaza (map) and found it to be overall very disappointing. The hotel is quite dated, with old furniture and fittings. The rooms are adequate and if you are just looking for a place to sleep it may be sufficient. The disappointing aspect for me was that the staff appeared to show very little interest in their guests, to the point of ignoring you at the front desk - which is not something i had encountered to that extent in many hotels before!

Depending on your budget and expectations, I would likely look elsewhere in Pune. For the same price you are likely able to find somewhere better.

What To Do:

Pune is largely an academic city, with many top Universities. As a consequence the city is home to a lot of younger people either studying or working.

I found the easiest way to get around in most cities in India was via rickshaw - they are cheap, easy to find and for themes part faster than anything else. 

I caught a rickshaw to the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum (map) - which is a quirky collection of everyday items used in Indian life  - everything from spoons, typewriters, doors, artwork and statues. Its an interesting look back at how cultures in Indian have lived over time. Cost is Rs200 for foreigners and extra to use a camera (Rs500). The museum is open from 10am to 5pm.

From there I went to Shaniwar Wada Fort (map)- a palace once occupied by the Peshwar rulers. It was built in 1732 and largely damaged by fire in 1828. The huge fort walls and remained as did the enormous gateway, which was built so large because at the time, the rulers would arrive to the palace on the back of elephants. It is an easy walk around the walls of teh fort and lots of local families come of an afternoon to enjoy the gardens. Entry is Rs200 for foreigners and the gates are open 9am to 5pm

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Somewhere unique to visit close to Pune, which I dignity have time for is the Osho Meditation Resort. There are a long list of conditions, costs and procedures associated with entering the resort as a day guest. It is a luxurious property based around the practices Oshu (Bhagwan Three Rajneesh) a flamboyant "guru" who advocated sex as a pathway to enlightenment!

There is a fun nightlife scene in Pune and somewhere nice to visit on a weekend evening is Classic Rock Coffee Company (map)- a really laid back venue that hosts a lot of live music, including from local performers. It has a very chilled atmosphere and is a great place o go for a drink with friends or to meet people.

Eating:

Pune is a great place to try some traditional Maharashtran cuisine. Definitely find a restaurant serving traditional Thali style meals - you are presented with a large metal plate and the server will come and offer a range of foods which are placed around teh plate and eaten by hand. The dishes are vegetarian and range from very mild to moderately spiced. You will generally have rice, a range of dal, vegetables, pickles, chutneys and breads. It is an experience in itself to not just try the food, but the serving and eating. I ate at Shabree (map) and the food was full of flavour - definitely worth a try when visiting Pune.

There are a number of street food options everywhere in Pune. For the most part during my stay in India, I resisted the temptation of trying the genuine street food from the small stands. I normally love sampling all sorts of street food when I travel, but since i had a tight schedule and cricket games to get to, I didn't take the risk!

Pune has quite a strong food culture with cuisines from all over the world.  It is home to India's only dedicated food magazine - Trofii, so this will be a good start if you are visiting Pune and looking for some culinary inspiration!. I was lucky enough to have dinner with the magazine's director & editor, Vidhya (Instagram: @vidhyatiwari) who shared a lot of insight into the food scene in Pune and India.

Must Do:

My favourite thing to do in almost any city I travel to is to get out and walk around. I will usually try to find out where the local markets are, as thats usually the best place to find as many local people and get a great insight into a city's culture.

Shree Shiva Chhatrapati Market (Pune Yard Market) (map), the local market in Pune is relatively small and is not somewhere to visit for vegetarians or those who get a little queasy. Compared to some other markets I would visit in places like Bangalore, this market isn't really a on the same level. But for me its more about getting out, walking the streets, meeting local people and chatting with them about their lives.

Must See:

My main inspiration to visit India this time was the cricket! So my first IPL really was a highlight! Due to circumstances, this match had been shifted from Chennai to Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium. The stadium isn't actually in Pune and the traffic getting from Pune to the ground meant I probably could've stayed in Mumbai and driven from there! That said, the experience of being in the crowd for a game featuring MS Dhoni's Chennai (who would go on to win the tournament) and Virat Kholi's Bangalore was unforgettable. The atmosphere in the stadiums is intense and the passion the fans have not just for teams, but for individual players is incredible. If you love sport and even more, if you love cricket, make a point of visiting India during the IPL!

Number 1 Travel Tip:

A huge concern for travellers visiting India is staying healthy! For the most part I avoided getting really sick by only drinking bottled water/juices/soft drinks (make sure the seals are genuine and haven't been refilled), not drinking ice cubes, avoiding salad and not eating at the small food stands. I still ate at a lot of local restaurants and cafes and had few issues.

I did take with me all the precautions in terms of electrolytes and immodium in case there was an issue, I got me vaccinations up to do date before I flew and was cautious about hygiene. Standards in India will range from genuine 5 star luxury to literally seeing people defecate in the street next to a restaurant! If you are careful and do a few basic things, you should be fine. I will write a blog on "staying healthy in India soon".

Excess Baggage:

Whilst I never felt unsafe in Pune, or in India for that matter, taking care when crossing roads and in traffic is a priority! The roads are busy, nobody indicates and a short toot o the horn is the only warning you will get as a rickshaw or taxi flies past you!

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Gstaad, Switzerland - Go snowbiking in the Alps

 
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Get all the inside information on the Snow Bike Festival in Gstaad, Switzerland and start planning your visit for 2018's event! Ryan has been before and will be going back for the snow bike riding, fondue eating and incredible alpine landscapes.

 

Contributor:
Ryan

Nationality:
South African

Social Links:
Instagram: @ryanscott.33

Age Group:
30 - 40 years

Gender:
Male

Travel Style:
Adventure
Casual

 

Destination: Gstaad, Switzerland

The first snowfalls of the season have begun dusting the high ground in the Northern Hemisphere - it’s true because Instagram says so, and already my thoughts are floating in one direction - to Gstaad for the 2018 SnowBikeFestival.

Skiing, snowboarding and all the well known snow sports will always be tantalizing, but the experience of riding through the snow is something extra special, and not as extreme as you probably think.

 
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Inspiration:

I first road the SnowBikeFestival in 2016, and then again this year (2017). The first time I road I was super surprised at how quickly my nerves settled and I eased into quietly turning the pedals over and just enjoying riding next to a semi-iced over stream under a light snowfall and crisp Alpine air frosting in front of my face. This year was extra special as I took the time to stop and enjoy the small towns we rode through and really make the most of taking in the surroundings.

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How It Works:

Fat tyre bikes are really good for riding in the snow. Other than the oversized tyres, there is not too much difference to a normal mountain bike and with just a little familiarising myself with the effects of breaking and the crunch of snow under the wheels, I was good to go. Mostly the riding takes place on single tracks and catwalks, whether on a steep gradient climbing a mountain, or just cruising in a forest, or glorious open snowy fields.

After some strenuous climbing, the rewards of speed and extra adrenalin come into play when taking on the red runs of Gstaad’s ski slopes. Here it’s just the back brakes and a controlled slide of the back wheel to guide the bike down the run and all the hard work of climbing becomes instantly gratifying.

The Event:

Gstaad is a fantastic Swiss town for experiencing the myriad of activities such a versatile place has to offer. The valley is spread over a much wider area than most other skiing towns of the Alps, which makes mountain biking so enjoyable and one of the reasons the event is held here every year. It’s only a handful of top riders who really gun it at full throttle, most competitors are here for the full social experience and chilled vibe of taking part at your own pace.

 
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What to do:

Fondue in a cow shed, beers at some of the hotel bars, horse drawn carriage rides through the town and exploring the place at night under the fairytale lights are all part of the experience. Next to Gstaad is Saanen and my buddy Nick and I also went on an outdoor fondue adventure (the cheese eating does.not.stop in Switzerland) while taking in some downhill world cup skiing action and watching the slow motion air balloons above. It really becomes quite a surreal landscape once you get out to enjoy it from different angles. Snowboarding up on Glacier3000 was a special place to be too and the views on a clear day as spectacular as the buzz of a couple of beers at high altitude.

2018:

Bikes are available to rent all year around, just ask Gstaad tourism, but I’m going back for the access to the mountain via the 4 days of SnowBikeFestival, and this time I’m taking my drone along to track me through some of the most glorious mountain biking tracks in the world. See you in Gstaad!  

Getting There:

I fly SWISS from Cape Town into Zurich and jump on the imperious SBB Swiss trains from there to Gstaad. The train trip is one of the highlights of the whole adventure. Expect absolutely faultless timing on the trains and grab a window seat for a continuous picture-postcard view of lakes, mountains, forests, towns and general Swiss beauty.

New York, USA - A week in the Big Apple

 
 

How to spend a week in the "city that never sleeps". Ryan describes himself as an "anything goes" traveller, so read about how he goes in NYC!

 

Contributor:
Ryan

Nationality:
South Africa

Social Links:
Instagram: @ryanscott.33

Age Group:
30 - 40 years

Gender:
Male

Travel Style:
All styles

 

Destination: NYC May 2017 for 1 week

 
 

Inspiration:

I've visited NYC a handful of times, but never in the spring. Every visit has been a good one, but I've always been curious to be there when it’s warmer. Not so much the humid sweaty summer, rather, a fresh spring dose of NYC energy for the change of seasons after the biting cold of winter. And beware that winter bite, it can get really intense when those relentless razor blade winds cut through your under equipped winter gear while cruising the streets of Manhattan. And what about the High-Line, it's just not the same in winter with no cheerful greenery around to pretty-up New York's walkway in the sky. So when the opportunity came to return to NYC in May, I packed swim trunks and flew from Cape Town to JFK, ready for a fresh look.

Getting There:

The 16 hour flight from South Africa is not as bad as some make out. SAA fly direct and I have often had enough seats to stretch my legs out enough for a good sleep option. Arriving early in the morning is always a good thing as those immigration lines can get nasty. Getting a ride into Manhattan from the airport is not ideal, as you hit the rush hour of those scrumming to get to Manhattan to earn their dollars. Once in Manhattan though, for your first day at least, time becomes a secondary consideration as the many NYC sensations take over and create a world of loud and surreal experiences.

Local Knowledge:

Having been to Manhattan a few times, I know my way around and enjoy exploring on foot, but this time I decided to brave the CitiBike system - and what a pleasure it was. It costs about $12 a day and you can ride for up to 30min before having to return your two wheeler to one the many CitiBike stations. It's never a problem finding one, they are as prevalent as a carguard* in Cape Town - everywhere! I rode all over the island and at least once a day that included peddling over a bridge. Either the Williamsburg or Brooklyn bridges are perfect for a cruisy ride, with great views and integrated feel of being very much a part of the city, as a bonus to your travel solution. The app is a huge help too and this quickly became my preferred mode of transport. It's such a pity we don't have that at home in South Africa, unfortunately the upkeep and durability would never survive in Africa, but I'm psyched to use the same systems in London, Paris and other cities that use this healthy option of moving about the city.

Where To Stay:

Accommodation is always going to be expensive in Manhattan, no matter what option you choose. I’ve stayed all over the show in different AirBnB options. Prices have increased markedly over the last 5 years. A pullout sofa I stayed on near Washington Sq in 2012 is now more than double what I paid for it back then. This time I was drawn to the LIFE Hotel. It’s the original building that the famous publication and brand ran their business from and conveniently situated midtown, although convenience did not come with any charm. The area is around Korea Town and not the best place to hangout in Manhattan. After a couple of nights in the hotel, I moved across the East River to an AirBnB in Williamsburg. The view of the skyline gives a whole new perspective to a NYC stay, the prices drop and the vibe is less touristy and there is always something happening in the neighbourhood. 
At night, head to N 10th St, the buzz around the restaurants and cocktail bars (hit the Wythe Hotel for rooftop cocktails and view of Manhattan skyline) is brilliant. I could recommend late night spots, but things move quickly and the flavor of the week will have changed by the time you read this. There are a lot of cool clubs to choose from when it gets to around 10pm or 11pm.

What To Do:

It's interesting to try and plan a to-do list for NYC, but the reality is, once you get there, just tap into the flow of the city and decide what feels best on the day. I happened to be there for the opening of the NYC Ballet season...they call it the Spring Gala and I would not have bought a ticket if I was planning the trip beforehand, but while in the area, I noticed some buzz around setting up a red carpet at the theater, checked out what was happening, and managed to buy a ticket for the evening event. The night before I had been at a Puma event and met two of the ballerinas of the NYC ballet troop, so I was keen to see them do their thing on the stage. 
There is always something to do, but I like to search out those little nuggets that present themselves in the moment, just keep an eye open and use the many apps and websites to assist you with 'whats on' while you are there.

Eating:

My favourite meals are lunch times around the East Village. Chelsea Market is also cool, but the quirky little spots of the East Village are less well known and warmly welcoming. It’s great to see the trends of the world unfolding over the counter and on the sidewalks of these little places, and sometimes, being created. I bought a radical shirt on a market sidewalk from a guy who clearly loves his craft, ate Pizza slices once the queue had died down from a nondescript hole in the wall, and sat and sipping some kind of frappacuppalattecino while people-watching the unabated conversations happening all around me. The attitude down here still seems NYC-proud, but not as brash and loud as other parts of decibel filled city.

Must Do:

I always do a bit of work in NYC and my favourite place to find a quiet spot that has something more than just the quintessential coffee shop, is the NYC Library. The Rose Room has reopened so I plugin and use the wifi to create my own NYC hot desk in the most studious of settings. In Spring, the lush green grass of Bryant Park backs onto the library and is the best place to chill out with locals and tourists alike. In summer it comes alive with vibrant action on the permanent concrete table-tennis tables, crooners busting out some tunes on the piano and people sharing lunch and ice-creams while soaking up some sun in one of the rare open spaces just off uptown 5th Avenue.

Must See:

I've never done a heli-flip over the city, but I really enjoy seeing it from the water. The best way to do this, in my opinion, is by sail. I noticed @Classicharborline while doing a Instagram search and realised right away that I would not settle for anything less than one of their perfectly crafted fleet. Pick a good day of sunny weather and take to the water in style.

 
 

Number 1 Travel Tip:

Skip the big brands you can experience in other cities. There are so many unique places to shop and eat in NYC, so rather explore something new.

5 Word Travel:

I didn't need swim shorts

Mt Fuji, Japan - Climbing Fujisan

 
 
 

 

Contributor  : Andy
Nationality   : Australian
Social Links  : Instagram: @andrewmarty_
Age Group    : 30-40 years
Gender          : Male
Travel Style   : Casual, adventure
Destination   : Mt Fuji, Japan. August 2016

Inspiration:

My wife and I booked a trip to Japan and to be completely truthful, climbing Mt Fuji was an afterthought - our main inspiration to visit Japan was for the food! 

It seemed when we looked into things to do in Japan, there were defined seasons; cherry blossom season, sumo wrestling season, ski season and a season for climbing Mt Fuji. As our trip was in the middle of summer, it was peak time for climbing Mt Fuji! 

Sunrise at the summit of Mount Fuji

Sunrise at the summit of Mount Fuji

Getting There: 

We flew into Tokyo from Dubai on Emirates airlines. You can fly direct into Narita or Haneda airport. If you are looking for convenience, Haneda is much closer to Tokyo city and will save on the commute.

To reach Mt Fuji, it really depends on whether you are going to be part of an organised tour or do it yourself. Unless you are a local, know someone else going or you're a really experienced climber, I would strongly recommend being part of a tour group!

If you are going to arrange the climb yourself, you can get the train and then a bus to the 5th station where you start the climb for the more popular trails.

We booked through the tour company JAPANiCAN. The process of booking through to starting the tour was really well organised, with lots of information provided and your tour leader contacts you directly closer to the time.

From Tokyo, we were asked to meet early in the morning at a hotel to join our group. From there a bus takes everyone to the 5th station, with a short stop on the way to buy any last minute food etc.

Local Knowledge:

Mount Fuji stands at 3776m, making it the highest summit in Japan. The now inactive volcano forms an almost perfectly symmetrical cone shape and its outline has become one of the most recognised mountains in the world. Mount Fuji, and the opportunity to climb it, has become hugely symbolic in Japanese culture.

In the peak of the season, 5-7000 people will climb Mount Fuji everyday! Something that is surprising is the sheer numbers of people going up and down the mountain day and night.

Climbing Mount Fuji:

Most people will begin their climb from the "5th Station" - a meeting point around 2400m, where tour buses will continue to drop large numbers of tourists all day long. The station has food, toilet facilities, souvenirs and the worlds highest post office to send post cards. It is suggested that climbers take a few hours at the 5th Station to become accustomed to the altitude before commencing the climb - our group spent around 2 hours having something to eat, resting and sending postcards. You can leave things like a change of clothes in a bag at the station for when you come back down.

You can buy many of the things you might need like water, snacks, climbing poles and equipment that you may have forgotten.

The 5th station is also really popular with tourists who simply want a piece of the Mount Fuji experience. If you don't have time or don't want to do the climb, you can visit the 5th Station for photos, souvenirs and to experience the atmosphere.

Huge crowds arrive at the Mount Fuji 5th Station ready to clim the mountain.

Huge crowds arrive at the Mount Fuji 5th Station ready to clim the mountain.

Ready to start the climb up Fujisan

Ready to start the climb up Fujisan

From 5th Station, several trails can be taken to reach the summit. Our group climbed Yoshida trail - it has a large number of huts along the way and is regarded as one of the "easier: routes.

We left the 5th station around noon and short rest stops are made at each station along the trail. We arrived at the 8th station by 4pm and here we had a meal and sleep to again acclimatise to the altitude. The beds (communal bunk style beds) are simple but effective for a couple of hours sleep and its best to try and get some rest. It was at this time that some climbers were showing signs of altitude sickness and needed to be treated and return to the 5th station.

We commenced climbing again around midnight in order to reach the summit for sunrise. The further you go, the busier it gets - to the point where it becomes quite slow going in single file. We climbed on a still mild night, but I imagine in wind and rain, it could become quite slippery and dangerous.

A trail of headlights makes their way up the mountain and a blanket of cloud over the city of Tokyo below.

A trail of headlights makes their way up the mountain and a blanket of cloud over the city of Tokyo below.

We reached the summit before dawn and its really crowded with people. The summit is actually a large crater of the volcano with a rim around the outside. The Yoshida trail reaches the summit on the Eastern side of the mountain. The true summit is on the Western side which is another 45 minute walk. On the Eastern side, you will see the shadow of the moon and the sunrises over the horizon/clouds. We chose to keep walking around the rim to the Western edge of the crater to see the incredible shadow of the mountain on the blanket of clouds formed as the sun rose. You also get a really beautiful sunrise over the crater. If you are feeling up to it, I would definitely suggest taking the extra effort to walk to the other side of the crater! The view is well worth the little bit extra hike.

The mountain casts a shadow over the blanket of cloud as the sun rises..........and the full moon sits just above the summit of the mountain (where we are)

The mountain casts a shadow over the blanket of cloud as the sun rises..........and the full moon sits just above the summit of the mountain (where we are)

You can spend time at the summit taking pictures, having a break, eating before its time to start the descent. They warn before the climb that the descent is the hardest part of the climb. Whilst its much quicker  (around 3 hours) it is hard on the legs and is incredibly slippery in stages. Take your time getting back down, we saw quite a few spectacular tumbles and people can really hurt themselves getting back down.

After meeting back at the 5th station, our tour group organised a visit to a traditional Japanese hot spring. They are more like indoor pools than "hot springs" and we chose rather just to take a good rest in a comfortable chair. When you get back to your hotel that night, you will carve a big dinner of sushi......I promise!

Back at the 5th Station.......exhausted

Back at the 5th Station.......exhausted

Eating:

You can buy lots of things from the huts on the mountain, including water, so if you would prefer to carry less weight and you're happy to pay the extra cost, it may be easier than starting with litres of water (a 500ml bottle will cost 500Y compared to 100Y in Tokyo). To avoid altitude sickness, you need to ensure you are keeping fully hydrated, so always have a bottle or 2 of water in your pack! As a rough guide, we drank around 3Lt of water each, so I would suggest budgeting to buy a few bottles on the mountain!

We brought some snacks with us - light things like nuts, jerky, chocolate bars that we ate along the way. i would suggest bringing these types of things if you are like me and get really hungry!

At the overnight rest stop, they provide a meal (rice, hambuege/tofuburger, noodles and miso soup) which is pretty filling.

5 Word Travel:

Adventure. Iconic. Summit. Sunrise. Fujisan

TravelTip:

The iconic Mount Fuji experience is to be at the summit for the sunrise - this requires an overnight hike and departing the 5th station around noon.

It very much comes down to luck with the weather in terms of what you will see when you reach the summit or even if you will able to climb at all, with some climbs having to be suspended.

We were especially fortunate that our climb coincided with a full moon. The result of a full moon and sunset is that you get the shadow of the mountain from both the moon and the sun at different times from opposite sides of the summit.

Excess Baggage:

Toilets are not free on Mount Fuji! Make sure you bring change as it is 100Y per use. Additionally there is a recommended maintenance payment of 1000Y, which goes to the upkeep of the facilities. My only issue was you then had to pay to use toilets and there were no bins on the mountain.

Altitude sickness is a potentially dangerous situation when climbing above 2000m. It is a result of the thinner air having less oxygen to supply the muscles and brain. There are a number of things you can do to reduce your chances of this being a problem:
- have a basis level of fitness before the climb.
- be well rested.
- keep really well hydrated.
- climb at a comfortable pace and take regular short breaks.
- make sure you take time to acclimatise at periodic rest points.
- be aware of the early signs of altitude sickness.

We did see several people suffering with degrees of altitude sickness and it didn't look at all a good situation. The tour leaders are experienced in recognising and treating situations of altitude sickness and this is another reason that inexperienced climbers should always go as part of an organised group.

The temperatures in Tokyo in Summer are quite hot, however if you are planning to climb Mount Fuji, you will need some warm clothes! We went layers - skins, t-shirts, light jackets and it was perfect. If you arrive in Japan a little light on for warm clothes, visit North Face or Uniqlo and you will get everything you need. Decent hiking shoes are definitely advisable as it gets pretty slippery. You will need a headlight for the night and sunglasses/sunscreen for the day as you are up above the clouds.

Declaration: 

We did not receive any discount from JAPANiCAN to write this review.


Tromso, Norway - The Northern Lights

 

Contributor  : Keith
Nationality   : United States of America
Social Links  : Instagram - @khtravelblog @keithrhollis
Age Group    : 19-30 years
Gender          : Male
Travel Style   
Destination   : Tromso, Norway. March 2017 for the Northern Lights

Inspiration:

I was traveling in Europe already and had an extra week to kill.  I orginally wanted to hike but at that time most all trails in central Europe are closed or too dangerous.  I tried to think of something unique and that I could do that time of year and came across Norway.  I heard about it by researching Northern Lights destinations and this seemed to be the best for all sorts of activities.  I was primarily just going for the Northern Lights, but found a lot of great things to do.

Getting There: 

I had a long flight path: Venice->Munich->Oslo->Tromso.  I believe there are direct flights to Tromso from Frankfurt, London, and Oslo.  Either way, it's a pretty long hall.

Local Knowledge:

Tromso used to be called the Paris of the North, and has pretty much the most northern everything in the world (most northern university, most northern brewery, etc).  It is the 3rd most populous city north of the Arctic Circle and actually isn't that cold!  The ocean currents keep it fairly warm...

Where To Stay:

I stayed at the Radisson Blu which was awesome for a few reasons:  most tours meet there making it super convenient, everything is walkable from it, great (and FREE) buffett breakfast, and an awesome gym/sauna overlooking the bay.  I would highly reccomend it.

What To Do:

The obvious answer is going on Northern Lights chases.  That's Tromso's claim to fame however there are a lot of things to do!  I went on chases 4 nights but during the day did a fjord tour and a snowshoe hike in Kvayola, a nearby island.  People also come to dogsled, ski, and go see reindeer however I explored the city a bit.  Check out Mack brewery and the Polaria museum, an Arctic wildlife museum in the city. Also, the Fjellheisen is a cable car to the top of a mountain overlooking the city.

Morning tea stop

 

Eating:

I ate at a few places that I would reccomend:

Emmas Dreamkitchen is the most famous one.  Delicious.
Riso is a small cafe with a great Nordic vibe.
Huken Burger had delicious burgers.
Arctandria where I had whale and reindeer meat.  Norway is one of only 3 countries in the world where you can legally eat whale meat.  

All of these places were fantastic.  Note: Norway is expensive!!!

Must Do:

Go on at least one Northern Lights chase.  They don't really come to you, you have to find them.

You need to go chasing the Northern Lights

You need to go chasing the Northern Lights

Must See:

Obvious answer is again, the Northern Lights.  However, I would say you need to get outside and take the Fjellheisen to see Tromso light up at night!

5 Word Travel:

Tromso - A beautiful Arctic paradise

TravelTip:

My advice would be to be friendly and chatty with the locals!  They are all very welcoming and speak perfect English.  Don't be shy and afraid to chat them up a bit.

Excess Baggage:

Note about the aurora:  You may not see the lights by simply going to Tromso.  It is often cloudy there and in order to see the lights you need luck, solar activity, and clear skies.  Chases will take you out to clear skies and different locations to find them.  If that is your goal going there, go on a chase every night and make sure you have a camera that can get to ISO 1000+, F2.8, and 4-10 second shutter speeds.  Most of all, don't give up!