Last year was hard and exhausting for everyone. That’s why when I was able to visit South Korea in December, I didn’t want to stress myself with too much planning.
I knew which cities I wanted to visit but I didn’t plan how long I’d be staying or even where I’d stay.
It was one of the very few spontaneous trips I’ve ever been on.
Originally, I planned to head up north again after my time in Jeju and Busan. However an increase in Covid cases, meant more restrictions in Seoul. As a result, I was looking into an alternative destination.
Few travel blogs mentioned Gyeongju, the old capital of the Silla kingdom. Silla along with Baekje and Goguryeo, formed the Three Kingdoms of Korea. I have to confess I’m not very knowledgeable when it comes to Korean history but I’m curious. A UNESCO World Heritage site like Gyeongju seemed perfect to complement the hikes, food markets and walks I’ve experienced in South Korea.
I chose to stay in the south of the city centre where most of the historical sites are. It is slightly detached from the centre and looks very different. I felt like travelling back in time. The area was a hanok village in a way. It was quiet and serene, a real glimpse into ancient art and history.
I don’t think I have the words to express how I felt in Gyeongju. Instead, I’m sharing with you what to do and what to see via my lens, the lens of my phone to be more accurate.
Take it slow & soak up the vibes of Gyeongju
This is probably the highlight of my visit to Gyeongju, partly because I didn’t expect this part of the city to be boosting with cafes, restaurants and so much life.
My day would start by checking out some of the landmarks then I’d walk aimlessly just to admire the buildings, street art and to watch young couples queuing for food or tarot readings as you do.
If you’ve scrolled so far, thank you. I hope you enjoyed this photo essay. A lot of us can only virtually travel at the moment by looking at travel videos, photos and blogs. I hope these photos would cheer you up.
It is not surprise that Gyeongju is called the museum without walls. Just like a museum, there’s so much to learn in this city. It is like taking a trip back in time to relive in the Silla period. And just like a museum, you need to slow down, take your time and pay attention to the details.
This post was originally posted on my old blog on December the 8th, 2017.
This is an updated version.
It is funny how travel helps us see beyond our biases but also we worry about our biases as we travel.
Bias is a disproportionate weight in favour of or against an idea or thing, usually in a way that is closed-minded, prejudicial, or unfair.
By this definition, all humans are biased.
So when I was travelling to Colombia, along with my suitcase, I also took a bag full of biases. Watching the last season of Narcos in the airport didn’t particularly help.
I was worried that Colombia was not a safe destination, neither did my parents or any of my friends. Every research I did online kept fuelling my worries. The horror stories no matter how infrequent or minor, showed up first on my search engine.
Two Decades ago, Colombia badly suffered from all sorts of things. It is now known as the Colombian Conflict.
Despite the conflict being years ago, it’s all people seem to know or remember about Colombia. It doesn’t matter when the bad news happens, people seem to always freeze in time, in those bad moments.
As with every other trip, I thoroughly researched everything about Colombia, from what I should see to what I should eat. I was already worried about the events that took place decades ago. With my research, I’m worried about Taxis.
I learned hailing a taxi from the street could end up badly in Colombia. It is not that common, but it is common enough to have a name. The Millionaire Ride.
As a result, I was so nervous when I arrived that I waited in one of the airport’s restaurants from 5AM until about 7AM to find the courage to get a taxi to my hotel.
So what happened after I finally stepped outside the airport and took a taxi? I HAD AN AMAZING TIME IN COLOMBIA.
My trip to Colombia was one of my best trips ever. The people were so friendly and helpful, and the country was simply beautiful. I can’t highlight enough how much I loved my time there. I have fond memories of Colombia, I can’t wait to go back.
Colombia was my introduction to South America. I could’ve not picked a better intro.
In no order of preference, here’s why I fell in Love with Colombia.
I’m a coffee snob. There, I said it. I love a good cup of coffee or two, maybe three…
Colombia is one of the biggest coffee producers in the world, I believe it’s the third biggest . Producing coffee and roasting it are two different things. Luckily for me, Colombia knows how to roast coffee.
Colombia was my coffee heaven.
I even Visited a coffee farm, an experience I will never forget.
If you are visiting Colombia and would like to go on a coffee farm tour, pretty much all travel agencies offer those tours. I went with Toucan Cafe in Medellin and we visited Luna farm in Fredonia where the lovely family who owns the farm spoilt us to some yummy organic food and coffee and showed us the full process of making coffee from picking the cherries to roasting them.
It was such a fun day!
I have my own coffee tree in Fredonia
After picking some coffee cherries to earn our lunch, we planted baby coffee trees. I wonder how’s my tree doing?
They say South America is home to the best Graffiti in the world. They are probably right.
In Colombia, you don’t have to look for urban art, it’s everywhere.
Another awesome experience I had when in Medellin was the Graffiti walking tour in Comuna 13.
Comuna 13 used to be the most notorious dangerous neighbourhood in Colombia. In recent years, it has seen amazing transformations through art. I was able to stroll its streets, enjoy the art with my camera hanging in my neck without worrying about my safety. This was proof how far this area has come along.
I feel truly blessed to be able to travel , to walk for miles and to hike. I do love my vitamin green and I got plenty of it in Colombia. Whether you are in the city or completely in the countryside, the scenery is simply breathtaking.
During my time in Colombia, I visited Bogota, Medellin and the area surrounding Medellin.
The beautiful Monserrate mountain dominates Bogota’s city centre which adds to the charm of the city. While Medellin is in a valley surrounded by mountains.
The real treat was Guatape with its Piedra del Peñol and man-made Peñol-Guatapé Reservoir
Piedra del Peñol is a rock looking like something thrown from the space , standing tall in the middle of the countryside.
There are about 700 steps on the rock to climb. From the top one can see the postcard-like view of the reservoir and mountains.
When we arrived in front of the rock, my friend chose to wait for me there instead of joining me. Despite being scared of heights, I thought I could at least try. I climbed 400 steps and it was one of the proudest moments of my life. Also the view was totally worth it.
After all the horror stories I read online, all I saw in Colombia was kindness. People were so friendly and welcoming.
I’m always amazed at our ability as humans to communicate even when we don’t speak the same language.
A taxi driver had a good laugh when I was trying hard to speak Spanish and said “Englaterrrrra”.
My memories from Colombia always bring a smile to my face. Last year I planned a bigger trip to South America including Colombia but then a pandemic happened.
When it is safe to visit Colombia again, I will definitely go back to explore other parts of the country, to drink more coffee, to eat more delicious food and to dance more salsa. Of course I salsa-danced when in Colombia.
Over the past 8 years or so, I travel during Christmas time through the new year, usually to faraway destinations.
December 2017, I went to Sri Lanka. It was my first time in the country and my first time in Southeast Asia. I did the more or less classic itinerary, starting from Colombo to Sigiriya, then down to Kandy, Hill Country, Yala national park and ending my trip in beautiful Galle.
In Sigiriya, I hiked the Sigiriya rock, I saw temples in Kandy, elephants in Yala and enjoyed the sea at Galle.
One thing was consistent throughout the trip: Tuk-tuks. They were everyone. According to this article published on the UN environment website in 2019, There are around one million tuk-tuks in Sri Lanka loved (maybe?) and used by locals and visitors alike.
Here’s a little confession: I’ve never been in a tuk-tuk, not in Sri Lanka, not anywhere else. I was travelling Sri Lanka by car. But this didn’t stop me from noticing the tuk-tuks.
I was on foot outside my guesthouse the first time I noticed the funny slogan on the back of the tuk-tuk. I took a photo to share on Instagram. Then I saw another and another…Before I knew it, I was playing a game of spot the tuk-tuks. That’s how I ended up with this selection of photos I’m sharing with you.
Like all of my travel photos, these bring good memories back and make me smile. Now that I’m older and with some more trips under my belt, I would’ve done things differently in Sri Lanka. I would’ve ride tuk-tuks and embraced more of the country’s chaos.
Writing about travel while under lockdown is making me beyond grateful. I'm grateful I explored the world when it was possible. I'm glad I stepped outside of my comfort zone and let my curiosity lead the way. Life is unpredictable. Who would've predicted that we would spend months at home unable to leave our own houses. Stay safe everyone! Here's to a better times when we can travel and ride tuk-tuks again.
We walked within the walls of the Medina (old town) exploring its beautiful small allies and many mosques.
On top of its monuments, Kairouan is also known for its fantastic food. If you’re ever visiting, make sure to taste the following:
Kafteji is something of a Tunisian poor man’s food: various vegetables are fried separately and then with an oozy fried egg, chopped up together with a large knife. It’s made with potatoes, pepper and tomatoes. One eats it with bread or as a sandwich.
It’s now one of the country’s most popular and delicious street foods. It originated in Kairouan.
All food stalls on the side of the roads offer kafteji sandwiches. We tried one shop that was highly praised.
كفتاجي خيري -Kafteji Khayri is a must-visit in Kairouan. It offers the best kaftejis cooked in a traditional oven. Price wise, a plate of Kafteji costs less than one pound Sterling!
They are very generous with quantities. The price includes a side of fries and traditional bread.
Kafteji Khayri is not touristy in any way, and it’s where the locals eat. We highly recommend it if you’re looking for a cheap, delicious plate of food surrounded by the locals.
Makroudh is a North-African sweet pastry filled with dates and nuts or almond paste, that has a diamond shape – the name derives from this characteristic shape. The dough is made with a combination of semolina and flour, which gives the pastry a very specific texture and flavour. It is said that it originates from Kairouan, thus, in every corner of the Madina, you’ll see a Makroudh shop. Every seller will brag how their Makroudh is the best Makroudh in Kairouan. But We think they are all equally good.
The people of Kairouan are proud of their Makroudh. They will make sure that you buy enough of it to take home to taste with family and friends. It’s true, Makroudh is yummy with a cuppa.
Kairouan is one of Tunisia’s best-kept secrets. It kept its authenticity and style. It’s bursting with history, culture and delicious food.
You should definitely consider visiting Kairouan next time you are in Tunisia.
Bali is an Indonesian island known for its forested volcanic mountains, iconic rice paddies, beaches and coral reefs. The island is home to religious sites such as cliffside Uluwatu Temple. The Balinese culture is mainly Hindu.
Anyone who’s been to the island of Gods would tell you how special it’s and how much they enjoyed their time there.
The Travelling Foodie is no exception. We’ve had such an amazing time in Bali if not short.We will most definitely go back to explore more of this piece of heaven.
There are so many things to do and enjoy in Bali from hiking volcanic mountains to surfing, you name it.
The good news for foodies like us is that there are food-related activities to enjoy in Bali as well.
We mainly explored Ubud and the surrounding areas.
Ubud is probably Bali’s cultural heart and is home to amazing art studios, antique, crafts, jewllery and paintings.
Ubud is also a popular tourist destination. Eat, Pray, Love caused a massive rise in the numbers of people attracted to Ubud.
It can be crowded sometimes. We visited during December which is considered high season but also rainy season. Just before Christmas, it wasn’t busy at all and when it rained, it did mostly in the evenings. The occasional rain did not stop us from enjoying our time.
There are a lot of unique experiences in Bali to enjoy and this is what we think are the culinary adventures that you shouldn’t miss:
An early morning stroll in the local food market
This is not to confuse with Ubud Art Market which is very popular with tourists.
For an authentic Balinese market experience, head to the local market early morning around 7 or 8 AM.
By 9 AM, all shopping would be done and vendors would start shutting off their stalls.
Most cooking classes in Ubud offer a trip to the market to get to know the ingredients before using them.
If you are planning on taking a cooking class, make sure it includes a trip to the local market.
Other than the usual vegetables, fruits and meats, the market was full of beautiful flowers as the locals were preparing for Galungan. The flowers are used to make offerings.
Galungan is a Balinese holiday celebrating the victory of dharma over adharma. It marks the time when the ancestral spirits visit the Earth.
It’s a very important celebration for Balinese people. We were so lucky to be in Ubud around that time of year to be able to witness this celebration.
A cooking class
While strolling Ubud streets, especially central Ubud, you will notice lots of signs for cooking classes.
A cooking class is a great way to understand the flavours and how the local ingredients are used in the Balinese cuisine.
The food scene in Ubud is surprisingly varied, it’s such a vegetarian-friendly destination, thus we found ourselves opting for a vegetarian cooking class.
Our amazing cooking experience included a visit to the local market then a walk around the farm to learn about the fruits and vegs organically grown there (there’s even fish!) followed by hours of cooking by poolside.
Our chef was fantastic explaining every step and answering all of our questions. We ended up with a feast of Balinese vegetarian food : a tofu satay, young papaya soup, sayur urap accompanied by rice and sambals.
For dessert, we made Kolak Pisang which is Indonesian banana compote with coconut milk.
The cooking class was a highlight of our trip to Bali, it was so much fun not to mention all the delicious food we made and eventually ate.
If you would like us help you book your cooking class in Ubud, just drop us a line 🙂