Can Americans go to Cuba? Sort of, not really but yes. After President Obama’s state of the nation address it’s clear that the sanctions with Cuba will soon be lifted. So, before it turns into Disneyland complete with a Starbuck’s on every corner it might be a good idea to head down. I spoke to ‘someone’ who happens to be an American citizen and recently visited The Pearl of the Antilles.
Reykjavik, Iceland is hot on the radar of many travelers these days. It seems everyone is suddenly writing about how fantastic Iceland is. Why though? I asked my friend who recently visited (and took some great photos) and asked him about things to do in Reykjavic.
Your Humble Narrator: Why do you think Iceland is so popular at the moment? It seems like a few years ago the only thing people new about Iceland was Bjork and trolls.
Ben: Iceland is a place that people are flocking to now perhaps because Iceland is making a real effort to make itself a tourist destination that offers all the modern amenities. While also offering natural habitats that seem untouched, you can stay in comfort and you’re never too far away from the main city, Reykjavik. I also believe that with all the hyper surrounding global warming, people want to see natural beauties like glaciers and waterfalls in all their glory before it’s too late. Who knows what will happen in 50 years?
YHN: Iceland air have some pretty good deals with free stopovers en-route from the US to Europe. Do you think Iceland is something you can do in less than a week?
Ben: Definitely. If you are planning on doing Iceland in less than a week, then I would suggest keeping your base in Raykjavik. It’s easily the most dense part of Iceland where i believe 80% of the population live. There is more to see but you’d probably need more than a week to see everything. All in all, you can take in most of the major attractions in a week.
YHN: Apart from the trolls and Bjork what are some of the things to see.
Ben: Glaciers, Northern Lights, The Golden Circle, The Blue Lagoon, Whale watching and some terrific museums.
YHN: What are those things?
Ben: Glaciers are large masses of snow, recrystallized ice and rock debris that accumulate in great quantities and then flow outwards and downwards under the pressure of their own weight. The main glaciers in Iceland are around Reykjavic, Solheimajokull and Skaftafell.
Folks offer very accessible tours for all fitness levels if you want to check these out. The Blue lagoon is a geothermal spa with warm waters that are rich in minerals, you can swim in them whilst being surrounded by ice. It’s really popular!
The golden circle is the main tourist route where yo ucan experience waterfalls, geysers and many other natural wonders.
YHN: What are northern lights? I’ve smoked some pretty good northern light but I didn’t know it was an actual thing.
Ben: Northern Lights (aurora polaris) are a natural phenomenon that can be truly awe inspiring. They are changed particles that come from the sun and create an amazing show of light when they hit the earth’s atmosphere. The colors can be amazing depending on what time of year you visit but Iceland is famous for it’s Northern Lights.
YHN: You went alone, what are some of the good things about haulin’ ass by yourself. And of course, what are some of the bad things?
Ben: Iceland is considered one of the safest places on the planet, which in turn makes it an attractive place for solo travelers. You will not have a hard time meeting people, the locals are very friendly and most welcoming to people visiting their country. There are no bad things about traveling alone, you’ll be grateful for the experience.
YHN: What’s the best thing about going to Iceland? And why do people need to check it out?
Ben: The best thing about iceland is the stunning sites of nature It is truly a spiritual experience. The food is great aswell and the people are extremely friendly.
YHN: What’s the worst thing?
Ben: If I had to choose one negative about Iceland is that it’s expensive. Iceland was the first country to go under during the financial crisis which in turn has skyrocketed inflation lately.
The good thing about returning to your home town after years abroad is you start to appreciate things in different ways. Returning to Melbourne as a tourist, I was reminded of all the things I miss and some I didn’t.
Australia and Melbourne in particular experienced a huge wave of European migrants post WWII. Along with their suitcases, people from Italy, Spain Greece etc. brought with them a strong coffee culture. Although initially , as with most things new, coffee was frowned upon by the traditional colonialist Twinings sipping set. Now it’s hard to walk a block without tripping over a cafe. With all this competition you’re sure to find some great coffee, one thing I have really missed.
They haven’t buffed the street art, in fact there’s more
Melbourne calls it self the ‘cultural capital’ of Australia. Fair enough too. Not just street art but performance art, theater and live music are the heartbeat or the city. Not only is it tolerated but it’s encouraged. Take a walk around the famous laneways of Melbourne to see droves of tourists taking photos of the art so generously displayed by local artists.
Beaches beaches everywhere
Great beaches stretching from Geelong to Phillip Island. You’ll always find a nice spot to layout and soak up the rays.
Great buildings from yesteryear
Way back in the 1850’s Melbourne experienced a gold rush that brought money pouring into the city. Take a wander down the ‘Paris End’ of Melbourne and you’ll see the spoils of an economy bolstered by gold fever. There’s alot of great stuff from the late 1800’s. The most famous probably being Flinder’s Street Staion, completed in 1909. Check out the worldwide competion that was launched for an adaptive reuse of the space. There’s a few really interesting ideas from some of the biggest names in the game.
Flinder’s Street Design Competiton
Alot of great ideas, good food and happy people
Melbourne has been dubbed, the most livable city in the world. Gertrude Street and Smith Street in Collingwood have spawned a thriving restaurant scene where some of the finest eateries in Melbourne are located.
Alain De Botton recently opened his ‘School of Life’ which aims to make learning practical. The Wheeler Centre regularly engages world class speakers. Coupled with some great museums and galleries, Melbourne as a tourist is a pretty happening spot no watter what tickles your fancy.
Not to mention the place is sports crazy, somethings never change..
Gili Trawangan a.k.a Mushroom Island is situated an hour and a half boat ride from Bali. If you can wade through the crowds of young men trying to sell you everything from accommodation to hash to bicycles to socks, you’ll enjoy the gorgeous island. With no cars on the island and if you’re coming from Bali you’ll enjoy the shift down in pace. Upon arriving and after being shown my modest accommodations and being offered “very good marijuana” 7 times.. from the same person I was informed there were no police on Gili Trawangan and I could feel free to do whatever I wanted.
Instead of police, I was told the island’s laws were enforced by a group of elders and the young guys peddling there back alley bathtub amphetamines and hallucinogenic mushrooms were all ‘cool man’. If you’ve been to Vang Vieng in Laos picture that vibe but replace the tubing with scuba diving. From the onset it was clear this was the sole reason some of Gili T’s visitors had made the trip over to the island. Nightly parties on the beach and deadly cheap cocktail prices at various locations give the island just enough pulse to sustain the demand that keep the locals rubbing their hands together as daily boatloads of sunburnt tourists filter from the ferries.
Never one to be deturbed by such things I was able to see the island for what it was, a great alternative to Bali. There seemed to be alot more backpackers and a lot less vacationers here. Most people seem to come to do not only Gili Trawangan but also Gili Air, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida. These are all island with less of a party reputation and even more of a laid back ‘island vibe.’ The beaches are fantastic, the accommodation is plentiful, the food is fantastic.
Between the two Islands there’s nearly 30 dive shops but even in low season the sites were crowded and although the viability was great and the staff lovely, you certainly wouldn’t class the area as a world class dive destination. Nusa Lembongan appears to be a better destination for a more tranquil dive setting and from all reports the party hasn’t made it down to the Nusa islands.
Gili Trawangan is a pretty cool place, it’s hard to believe it’s in such close proximity to Bali but with such a different crowd. Check it out if you’re stuck in Bali and get sick of all the jiggy jig, transport, massaje, marijuana, transport, rent surf board, monkey forrst, jiggy jig, transport. The Gili Islands can be a great jump off for exploring Lombok too, a whole different kind of trip. Go check it out, even if it is just to eat mushrooms and stare at firetwirlers all nightbut keep in mind, The Gili Trawangan mushrooms are far from the best thing about this island.
Having trouble understanding international dialing? It doesn’t have to be difficult, follow these steps to ensure you get through to whoever you want-
Each country has their unique dialing code, you’ll need to enter this code first to dial out of the country. For example, if you were in the United States your dialing code would be 011; this would be the first numbers that you entered when you make your call. After entering this number you then move to the next step
- The next numbers that you will enter after this will be the country code for the place you are calling. This number can be up to three digits but is usually only two. One example would be France; this country’s dialing code is 33. To make a call from the United States to France, you would enter 011, and then the country dialing code for where you are calling, which in this case would be 33. 011+33+ the number you wish to reach.
- Next you will have to enter the city code of the number you wish to reach, this narrows your destination call down to a specific city or region; again this could be a number up to three digits. If you are dialing Paris France that number would be a 1. 013+33+Area Code + Local number you wish to reach.
Now that seems complicated doesn’t it? Hopefully this helps you in understanding international dialing. Luckily there’s this great website that automatically does it for you. It’s always nice to know how to do it in case you really, really need to work it out without the helps of the interwebs.
Head over to www.countrycallingcodes.com/index.php. This site makes it all as easy at entering where you are and where you want to call. Simple.