In 2015, Team Onetimefashionista set voyage across 4 countries, 2 islands, 2 deserts and 13 cities/locations in 4 continents to share the joy with you that how addictive and enriching it is to see the world by yourself with all your senses. Earlier in 2015, we set foot on the southern most point of the United States where the foamy waves of the Pacific Ocean splashed on our feet in the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. We climbed up the Kjerag Mountains to see a dangling rock and completed an epic 2200 km cross-country drive through the country where God lives – Norway. Then we put a big tick on the biggest country of the whole world while we hummed and followed “The Moskva, down to Gorky Park, listening to the wind of change…” in Russia. Finally, towards the end of the happening year, we went to the cradle from where it all started for the human civilisation – Egypt – where it all began!
This post today attempts to sum up all our experience in a nutshell to give you the best information, excitement and tips so that you can make travel plans for yourself for 2016. Onetimefashionista mantra for Voyage is “Miles to go before we sleep…yet dreaming with our eyes open”.
Country we went to: USA (HAWAII)
When it could not hold back its beauty hidden anymore, the core of the Earth erupted the hot lavas to form these beautiful Pacific islands where the beaches are heavenly, people are laid-back doing the ‘shaka’ and the atmosphere is paradisical.
Islands we visited: Oahu, Big Island
HAWAII Activity highlights
Beaches, boards and best times: Hawaii has many of the best beaches of the world. While Waikiki is popular as a tourist hotspot, you can venture out to Lanikai to really see the best shades of blue both on waters and on the sky – its the place where the horizon forgets to draw a line. For beaches which are best for surfing and wind-boarding, get yourself one of the boards to defy the foamy waters of the mighty Pacific. Put your sunscreen on and set up the umbrella. This is the place to just lie still while listening to the sound of the waves.
Volcano Park: Dedicate atleast half a day to explore the natural phenomenon which caused the Hawaiian islands to form in the first place. The drive through the lava park with melted grey lava all around was surreal. Even the lava tunnel through which lava used to pass millions of years ago was quite an eerie experience. Best was the viewing of the fuming Kilauea volcano from a safe distance – orange, angry, smoky and full of suspense and sulphur.
Three Colour Beaches: What is the colour of a beach? Black, green, white – all are true and all are available only in Hawaii, created by the wonders of the volcanoes when they cooled off by the roaring foams of the Pacific waters. Read here how we let the coloured sand slip through our hands three different times!
Three Culture Themed Anniversary Photo shoot: We were in the Big Islands Hawai’i for our wedding anniversary. How could we let go of such a heavenly backdrop, so we conducted a three themed wedding photo shoot of ourselves to mark the occasion in the middle of the Pacific. You can draw some inspiration from our experience of this memorable photoshoot here.
Snub the snorkel, love the Snuba: Do you agree that the true wonders of nature are actually not seen on land, but are buried either deep underground or under water. If you want to have a glimpse of the treasure beneath the waves, go for the safe Snuba , which is a hybrid of Snorkelling and Scuba.
HAWAI’I Where To Eat, Drink, Shop
When you are in the paradise islands of Hawaii, naturally you will feel on top of the world. And no other place will give you that feeling unless you dine at the revolving restaurant called Top of Waikiki- situated very naturally, at Waikiki in Oahu. Offering a 360 degrees view of the breathe-taking surroundings around Waikiki Beach, the Diamond Head and the rising skylines, you can enjoy some authentic cuisine on cloud nine. For breakfast, we strongly recommend the generous portions, fresh fried eggs and fresh fruits or vegetable juice or smoothies served at the Heavenly Island Life Style cafe situated just next to the Shoreline Waikiki Hotel. In the Big Island, Tommy Bahama Restaurant in Mauna Lani Drive offers delicious dishes served in an environment from where you can relax and watch spectacular sunsets while the incoming sea breeze will put you at ease.
HAWAI’I 3 Things To Sum Up
Hawaii is paradise, the pearl of the Pacific, surrounded by boundless blue. It is imperative for dwellers of the land to visit atleast once this island so far away from common shores.
With an active volcano still blowing hot and cold mood swings fuming with lava, you just have to see for yourself how the best beaches in the world were formed and that in three colours. But mind you that the services and facilities around the beaches are not as developed as in the ones found in Europe.
Wish you could take back home the Hawaiian weather with you – tropical to the ‘t’, if too hot you could always take a dip in the Pacific to pacify your heat.
Country we went to: NORWAY
Is nature biased towards this beautiful country on planet Earth? Unscathed landscape, lush greenery, pristine waterfalls, fjords and interestingly – fewer humans and more of nature. One of the best countries for a care-free road trip to fall in love with nature all over again.
Cities/Places we visited: Oslo, Kjerag Mountains, Bergen
NORWAY Activity Highlights
Road trips: This country is a place of civil engineering feats. Connected with an array of tunnels, serpentine roads twisting and twirling around monumental fjords – it is imperative that you roll on four wheels to see nature at its best. Although the Norwegian tourism agency recommends 18 national scenic routes, we decided to customise it to push the envelope by completing a full cross country anti-clockwise road-trip of 2200 km in 5 days. This was doable that time, but very challenging and cannot be done again! We shared our heavenly discoveries of the delights of Norway in consecutive series of road trip posts in three parts: Part I, Part II, Part III.
Hike of the mighty Kjerag Mountain: On Shehzaad’s birthday, Team OneTimeFashionista achieved the feat of hiking the difficult Kjerag Mountains to see the dangling rock of Kjerag. Some of the things in the world are worth the hike, pain and risk. This is one of them since it was for the first time, it was slightly out of our comfort zone – but we DID IT. See what we saw up there here in two parts: Part I, Part II.
Nocturnal beauty of the Bryggen: Bergen is the 2nd largest city of Norway and is beautifully located enveloped by seven mountains in the western region of Norway. The jewel of Bergen is the historic Bryggen – or the Bergen Wharf – the stack of colourful warehouses next to each other which define the character of the port city. While all tourists may venture during day time to see this, we recommend that you venture out right after midnight to see the gentle reflection on water of the Bryggen while the insomniac sky tries its best to remove the full darkness. More on this insomniac experience can be read here.
NORWAY Where to eat, drink
It is expected that while on a road trip around Norway, it will be the facilities available in the highway to provide fuel for your car and some food on the go for your stomach. Nevertheless, when we took a short one night break at Bergen, we tried the fresh fish platter in the Bergen Fish Market and we absolutely recommend it. Fresh salmon, monkfish, crab, lobsters, even whale meat if you fancy so.
NORWAY 3 things to sum up
From our experience, Norway is an exceptionally scenic country. Note that city breaks to this country will not do justice to your time, money and to this country itself. You have to drive around through the country side to fall in love again and again with nature and say to yourself “there is no way, but Noway“. There are 18 recommended roadtrips but feel free to tailor made your own as we did as per our own plans and pace.
Norway is where the fjords are. Any activity to hike, climb, cruise, drive involving the beautiful western fjords are the most unique experience for any voyager.
We travelled during summer to see the full beauty of rural Norway in bloom by driving anti-clockwise from east (Oslo) to south, to west, to north and back to east. If you want to only see the northern lights, it is recommended that you travel only during winter and towards the northern tip of the country.
Country we went to: RUSSIA
If you can’t go to Pluto, go to Russia since its bigger in size than the planet far away. Biggest country in the world, loaded with history in every inch – on ground, on water and even deep underground with the most beautiful metro stations of the world.
Cities we visited: Moscow, St. Petersburg
RUSSIA Activity highlights
Moscow and St. Petersburg – Metro Mania: Labelled as the Palaces of the People, the metros in Moscow and St. Petersburg are out of this world. Beautifully decorated, lavish, clean, spacious, punctual – this is the underground mechanism that keeps the big city dwellers moving in and out, day after day. Adorned with historical story telling of the Communism movement of the People – the metro hopping is a must do activity in Russia and here is our top recommendations on which ones not to miss.
Moscow Disneyland: There is none. But the most iconic face of Moscow to woo the tourists is that of the St. Basil Cathedral which somehow looks similar to the Disneyland. The allure that draws tourists of all ages from all countries towards Moscow is the bonfire-shaped colourful and twirling domes of this Cathedral which deserves some backdrop photos.
Moscow Kremlin: The very heart of Moscow, located in the central most part of the capital and ever marked by the red ruby stars in the tall towers, this is the political and historic hotbed of the Russian Federation. Not only this is where the current President resides and works, the enclosed area also hosts historic cathedrals where Tsars were crowned, even buried.
St. Petersburg Church of the Saviour on Blood: A close match to St. Basil’s Cathedral but you can have a debate on which one is better. Simply outlandish design not only on the exterior walls, but also the story telling inside the walls and the high ceilings are superb in this gorgeous church which has a quirky history and name.
St. Petersburg Hermitage Museum: One of the largest and oldest in the world, this museum contains some unforeseen artefacts from around the world. Its own architecture and interior design were jaw dropping to the extent that half a day will pass in awe of viewing the collection.
RUSSIA Where to eat, drink, shop
So impressed we were with the Russian food that we had to dedicate a full-fledged post to discover the Russian Route to Restaurants & Recipes. You will leave Russia in an empty stomach unless you try out some dishes in Stolovaya No. 57, Mizandari Cafe, and Home Cafe. Note that Mizandari and Home Cafe are happy to offer 5% and 10% discounts respectively for friends and fans of OneTimeFashionista when you mention our blog’s name. Similarly you cannot miss the setting sun over the Moscow skyline from the 34th floor while you sip the best cocktail in town in the City Space Bar. Remember to return them the free binoculars! Traditional Russian ice-cream can be found inside the GUM departmental stores and trying them out is a customary thing to do. And finally while in St. Petersburg, it is imperative to dine in style and luxury at the historic Astoria Cafe. Make sure to reserve a window side table with a view of the St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Again read our dedicated post on handful of recommendations of eateries in Russia.
For any souvenir shops, you can definitely look around in Arbat Street, but feel free to bargain. Avoid Red Square and typical tourist locations to buy items.
RUSSIA 3 things to sum up
The biggest country in the world is loaded with history that shaped even the rest of the world, politics, societies. Voyage across Russia should be a pilgrimage for anyone who cares to explore the world.
Metros in Moscow and St. Petersburg are simply outstanding and without any comparison in the world.
While Moscow is the capital city led by the popular President Putin, the heart of Russia is found in St. Petersburg which is flamboyantly fabulous, led by the energetic and friendly Russian youth everywhere.
Country we went to: EGYPT
The place from where it all began for the human civilisation. Richest country in terms of history and heritage, Egypt is beyond Pyramids and Pharaohs. It is the place which narrates the story of how humans perceived life, death, life after death, veneration and virtues. Otherwise completely chaotic, dirty and polluted – nevertheless a ‘must-go’ pilgrimage for every voyager.
Cities and Places we visited: Cairo, Giza, Farafra, Bahariya Oasis, Luxor, Aswan and Edfu.
EGYPT Activity highlights
Pyramids Hopping: If seeing the Great Pyramids is your main objective of visiting Egypt, it is recommended you stay in Giza at the Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel. Just a 5 minute drive to the main gates of the Pyramids, it will be your home base with a view of the Pyramids from hotel premises. On day 2, go for a day trip to see the Pyramids at Saqqara, Dahshur and the museum at Memphis.
Cairo in a day: Cairo is a crazy city, unless you have ample time to wander around, you can see key highlights to get the vibe of the Egyptian capital in one day. Head straight to Egyptian Museum first, followed by the Citadel. Plan accordingly to get a glimpse of the setting sun from the Muqattam City which overlooks the entire Cairo city including the peaks of the Pyramids! Its just a sight to behold. Avoid Khan El Khalili market unless you are really hell bent to shop.
Step out to Luxor, Edfu and Aswan: Away from the Cairo chaos, Luxor offers the much needed cleanliness, greenery and top notch historic sites. Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple, Luxor Museum on the East Bank, the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, Temple of Hapshetsut on the West Bank, a river cruise in a Fellucca on the river Nile are the key activities and places to see in Luxor. Attend the English language light-and-sound show at Karnak Temple the evening before the intended visit during day time at same venue. We also did a much anticipated hot air balloon ride during sunrise over the Valley of the Kings which was a magical experience.
Bahariya Oasis: If you are a newbie in travelling, see the Pyramids and go home. If you want to graduate to a pro – don’t leave Egypt without seeing the White Desert for yourself. The best kept secret of Egypt, covering a vast area of barren land some 6 hours drive south-west from Cairo. The uniquely shaped chalk mountains in this desert is an unforeseen natural phenomenon. Must be visited as part of a desert safari which requires special vehicles.
Magical photoshoot: You are in Egypt, where it all began. If travelling as a couple, why not arrange a photoshoot with the Pyramids as the backdrop to rekindle the journey of your union with your partner? Although there are risks associated with conducting photo shoot at this venue which we will describe in detail in a later post, you can always get in touch with our recommended photographer Svetlana to discuss options.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
As the saying goes, “Early bird catches the worm”. But if you can wake up earlier than the bird and the sun as well, you can rise earlier than the sun to see the entire Valley of the Kings along the River Nile from a hot air balloon. A unique experience this, when we floated gently higher in our colourful balloon with other concurrent flights in horizon. The best position to see the matinee show of sunrise over Luxor is from the elevated basket of the hot air balloon. Trips lasting from around 30-45 minutes, the entire experience was smooth, well organised and memorable.
EGYPT Where to eat, drink, shop
Giza: For a luxurious dining experience overlooking the Pyramids, visit the upper end Khan El Khalili restaurant at Mena House Hotel. The Latest Recipe restaurant situated within Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel & Spa also offers some exquisite Lebanese dishes. The Chicken Sheesh Taouk, the cucumber salad, hummus and the Om Ali for desert are must try options.
Luxor: Step out of the comfort and convenience of your hotel to try out the authentic Egyptian recipes at the El Hussein restaurant. Especially the mixed grill, hummus, lemon juice with mint, lentil soup are the recommended dishes to try out.
EGYPT 3 things to sum up
Pyramids and the Pharaohs are struggling to cope with increasing pollution, population, poverty that plague the Egyptian landscape. It was disappointing to have seen the wonders of the world in such a miserable shape. While all the taxi drivers were found to be friendly and informative, sellers and on-lookers were found to be too curious, borderline ‘pushy and intrusive’ which dampened the experience at every step.
Take your focus away from the Pyramids to go to the off-beat path. Experience as if you are in Mars or in Moon when you see yourself under the solar system, all by yourself (and with your guide/driver) amidst the chalk mountains in the vast White Deserts.
Cairo (and suburbs) is for Pyramids whereas Luxor is all about Temples and Museums. With a cleaner city, a soothing sailing experience on a Fellucca on the Nile, the tombs of Tut and Ramesses in the Valley of the Kings, the Temples of Luxor and Karnak – Luxor offers more in the discovery of the ancient civilisations.
We conclude here the summary blogpost on Voyage for 2015. Sorry we are two weeks late into the new year, we are still recovering from our Walks like an Egyptian just two weeks ago! Let us give you a sneak peak of what to expect from us in 2016. As you may have already noticed if you have been loving us long enough, that we try to plan our voyage around important dates of our lives. For example this year on their respective birthdays Shehzaad climbed the Kjerag Mountains in south Norway while Tanusree cruised along the magical Moskva river in Moscow while the historic and gorgeous bank-side monuments unravelled their beauty in front of her. As we mentioned before, we believe that this is the best gift we can have – the memory and experience in the company of each other.
In 2016 when we will be up, close and personal during our own 8th anniversary of union, we intend to be up, close and personal at the same time with Christ the Redeemer in Brazil and demystify the enigmatic ‘Moai’ (carved human statues) in the Easter Islands of Chile. We have plans to sing along with ‘Ice Ice Baby’ while taking a dip in the thermal spa in icy icy Iceland. We envisage some city breaks closer to home during summer in central or Northern Europe in Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg. Then it will be time to put our Mandarin skills to good use when we increase the number of population by two more persons, in the largest country of the world in terms of population – China. Finally there is a clandestine destination(s) far away from home to end the year in the itinerant spirit. Until then – we wish you a 2016 full of peripatetic experiences around this beautiful world. Stay tuned, stay stunned.