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Bringing Photos To Life With The Fujifilm Instax SP-2

Why The Fuji Instax SP-2 Has Topped Our Must-Have Gift List

It’s the holiday season and there isn’t a better time to think about creating, and capturing, wonderful memories. It’s what the season is all about. Add to that a strong gift-giving component and you’ll find the Instax SP-2 pretty much screams “the perfect gift” for this time of year. It’s with this printer that people can make tangible, those memories locked away on cameras, phones and memory cards and preserve them in a very real way.

It’s now become a piece of our travel story as well. We’ve created a collage with Instax photos of some of our favourite moments: dancing on the Swarovski stairs of a cruise ship in the Caribbean, meeting up with a friend in Germany after not seeing her for a year, making ‘snowballs’ of sand while on a beach in Thailand in the middle of December. All of these most likely to have lived out their lives on a timeline on social media channels and in a folder on the computer to be brought up when the memory struck or when we accidentally passed it by. Now, we’ve been able to take those important and happy memories, print the moment we’ve captured and be reminded of them often.

Instax SP-2 Printer REview

The printer also brings back something we seem to have lost somewhere amidst this whirlwind of technological advancement – the joy and wonder of photos. Sure a smile blooms on our faces when we sort through the photos on our phone to choose which one to print, it makes us happy to see those images, but when you click print and watch as the photo comes out of the printer and then get to stare in fascination as the picture materializes on the film before you, the level of excitement and joy is taken to new levels. This is what was meant to be experienced when George Eastman strove to make the camera accessible to the masses. It’s the exhilaration of taking an instance in your life that you feel is valuable and preserving it for all time that the Instax SP-2 offers and it’s that exhilaration that is ultimately the gift you are giving.

As George Eastman said:

“Photography is thus brought within reach of every human being who desires to preserve a record of what he sees and enables the fortunate possessor to go back by the light of his own fireside to scenes which would otherwise fade from memory and be lost.”

Instax SHARE SP-2 Printer & Features

We are a bit obsessed with the Instax SHARE SP-2 and haven’t stopped printing photos since we got it, but not only does it bring us joy to use, it is also a pretty fantastic product on the whole.

Instax Share SP-2 Printer REview

The Printer

The printer itself is lightweight, sleek and compact. Not only is it easy to handle and can sit pretty much anywhere you want it to, it’s also extremely easy to pack up and travel with. Between the printer, the film and the charging cord, you’ll hardly be using up any space and it will allow you to print and share photos with whomever you meet, wherever you go.

reprint on INstax SP-2

The reprint button on the printer itself is also great for this, as you can print multiple copies of a photo to share with however many people you need without having to resend a photo to the printer. There’s also an easy to see power light and lights to notify you of battery levels. The style of the printer itself is classy and modern and with two different colours to choose from- gold or silver – you can coordinate with your decor, tech gear or anything you want!

Instax Power and battery lights

The printer uses WiFi connectivity to connect to your phone which is turned on at the same time the printer is. This provides a seamless and easy way to transfer the photos you want directly to the Instax Sp-2 where it will immediately be printed. Quick and easy.

The Film

Back in the day, a camera required you to shoot a whole roll of film. Taking this roll to be developed meant you’d pay for the whole gamut and hope for the best in terms of what you got and how good the shots were. Printing photos on your computer printer usually means full-size paper, glossy if you want a nice look, and a whole lot of ink that really doesn’t ever sit right no matter the paper used.

How to load film for Instax SP-2

With the Instax, you can choose what photo you’ve taken to develop and it prints on film – it’s a wonderful modern way to capture and share a photo, easily and attractively. All you have to do is press a button on the printer to open a door in the back, pop in the film (be careful to only open it for the loading as opening it with unused film still inside will expose them and render them useless) and you’re ready to print. One of our favourite parts of the whole process is choosing a photo, watching the film print and then waiting for the image to fully develop!

The film can also be purchased with a variety of different themes in addition to the familiar white border. For instance, since it’s the holiday season, we’ve got some holiday themed film that really makes our photos fun!

If you’re really up for some spontaneous photo taking, the Fuji Mini 8 will give you all the excitement of snapping and printing a photo in the moment and the surprise of seeing what results!

The App

We knew as soon as we downloaded the app that we would like using the printer – it was easy to download and easy to use which is something we value on any additional app we put on our phones.

The first thing we noticed was that there weren’t (and still haven’t been) any issues connecting the phone to the printer through WiFi. It’s a strong connection that hasn’t failed which is a huge positive for us as we’re used to signals dropping regularly from products and WiFi providers.

Instax Share App

The app is also easy to navigate and very user friendly. On the main screen, you’ll see very clearly all the options you have – select a photo from your gallery, take a new photo, edit settings, etc. It allows you to follow through the process naturally and we’ve yet to find any issues or have any confusion result due to the app.

The capabilities of the app are amazing which brings us to the photo editing possibilities of the SP-2,

Photo Editing Abilities

This is one thing we absolutely love about the printer and the app. Not only are you able to print out already edited photos, you can also do some editing and filtering straight from the app itself and get pretty creative with what you are printing.

The template options are great with different collage layouts to choose from that are easy to edit and select. There’s also some unique features like the Limited template which creates limited edition style prints with title, caption and the number designation (1 of 3, 2 of 3, etc). If you’re looking to create something for a special occasion but don’t have corresponding film for it, you can select a seasonal design for various holidays and events and add a little extra to the photo! There’s one feature we’ve yet to use but are excited to do so – the split image option where you can take one image and create two halves – it looks really neat and there are so many landscape shots that would look fantastic in our collage as two parts!

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Since much of our photo sharing occurs online on social media platforms, having the ability to pull photos directly from those channels would be fantastic… and it’s possible with the Instax SP-2. You can easily print Facebook or Instagram photos with a corresponding caption, date stamp and even likes! Although sometimes spontaneity and originality is desired and so a real time feature enables you to capture a photo through the app and print immediately with the date, location. weather and temperature details right on the photo – there’ll only ever be one like it and we are already thinking of how many cool destinations we can date stamp our visit with using this feature.

SNS Instax SHARE SP-2

If you’re looking to keep things as they are but would like to filter for colour, you also have the option of choosing between colour, black and white or sepia filters. We usually shoot and share colour photos but there’s something to be said for the emotion a good black and white photo can evoke.

filters on Instax SP-2

Though many people edit photos on their phone or computer and have them already fixed before they sstore it, the SHARE app allows you some editing capabilities whether it’s your first round or just a final tweak.  We found we could easily change brightness, contrast and saturation or just allow the app to do it for us with the Intelligence Filter.

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Image Quality

This is something that really surprised us. We remember back in the day when instant photos had a faded and duller appearance to them. Not the case with the Instax Sp-2. The photos are clear and crisp, the colours are bright and vibrant and with the editing on the app, nevermind on your own, the images are quite stellar.

Image quality of the Instax Sp-2

Within seconds the image can be seen on the film and it doesn’t take long for the full picture to be visible and, if in colour, bright. It’s fantastic quality and really impressive when compared to the images on your phone screen as the resolution of the photos is great.

Battery

The battery is not only rechargeable, it lasts a long time. We mean really long. We’ve printed out a ton of photos already and haven’t yet needed to recharge it.

Instax SP-2 Battery Charging

According to the product specs, we shouldn’t need to do so until we’ve printed roughly 100 photos! That’s quite a lot of power and with lights on the front display to indicate battery levels, it’s got everything you need to keep it primed and ready to print.

Printing & Developing Time

It is amazing how fast the printing takes. Roughly 10 seconds by our count. That’s 10 seconds from the time you send the photo to the printer to the time it finishes printing and it’s also 10 seconds you get to experience that exhilaration and joy we were mentioning before.

Instax SP-2 Printing Time

Once it’s printed you can almost immediately start to see the image developing on the film. It’s not much longer after this that a full image is displayed and within a minute or so, you’ll have a strongly developed, clear photo to save or share.

Travelling & Sharing With The Instax SP-2

Though we’ve been using the printer to bring back to life our old photos, we can definitely see ourselves travelling with it too. It may sound strange as we’re not ones to overpack, but even in our 13 months of straight travel we can think back on times we wish we had this printer with us. Friends we’ve met along the way would have been perfect recipients of these photos and it would have been a wonderful piece of ourselves and our time with them to leave behind. Then too, there are those random encounters and connections made that have not extended to a long-term friendship, like people we’ve met in more secluded areas of the world. Having something tangible to offer them in memory of that moment of friendship forged would have been lovely.

Though it may not be feasible to bring along with us for all trips, we’re certain this printer is going to be a huge part of how we save and share memories and moments at home and abroad. It’s compact, light and rechargeable and it’s an addition to our tech equipment and gear that connects us more deeply with the experiences we have and the memories we cherish.

instax sp-2 printer with photos

The Instax SP-2 is not only a fantastic gift idea for the holidays, it’s a great gift idea anytime of the year and is something we’d recommend as a purchase for anyone looking to do more with their photos than store them away to get “dusty” in whatever online storage they’ve purchased. It’s easy and fun, it’s personal and interactive and it’s a way to get creative with the moments you capture.

Fuji talks about creating “a photo renaissance that reintroduces the joy of photography in all aspects of peoples’ lives”, and with products like the Instax SP-2, we can see that it promises to be a modern movement – one that is part revival of the past and part original creations of the present – to increase the enjoyment of photography. One we’re only happy to be a part of!

Disclosure: I am participating in the FujiFilm campaign managed by SJ Consulting. I received compensation in exchange for my participation in this campaign. The opinions on this blog are my own.

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A Guide To Buffalo, NY – A City To Fall In Love With

Something incredible has happened in Buffalo. A resurgence of energy and a city-wide invigoration of its people. From the arts and culture scene to the food scene to the night life and outdoor activities available, Buffalo, New York has become one amazing destination to visit. We were fortunate to be able to spend several days exploring the city with Visit Buffalo Niagara and witnessing this fantastic renaissance that is well underway. It surprised us from the time we got out of our car on that first day, until we left. It is considered a place to catch a cheaper flight or do some cheap shopping for Canadians and a border city, for Americans and Canadians alike, when travelling in either direction. What we’ve discovered though, is that it has something to offer any type of traveller and can satisfy any type of getaway you are looking for… even if it’s just for a weekend! Here’s our guide to Buffalo with what you’ll need to do, see and eat during a visit to the city.

Best Places to Visit in Buffalo

So, if you’ve decided to spend a few nights (or more) in Buffalo, a city that surprised us every step of the way, we’ve put together a guide to show you some of the best the city has to offer visitors and have laid out places to visit in Buffalo from where to eat, what to do and where to stay – even if you’ve only got a short time, or a weekend, to explore!

The video below will give a good overview, but you’ll want to keep reading for more of the amazingness that is Buffalo, NY!

Where to Stay in Buffalo

Truly experiencing Buffalo means delving into its history and that extends to accommodations. If you’re looking to experience something unique, something that allows you to tap into the past while still experiencing comfort and quality, we’ve got the perfect place! Our top recommendation for where to stay in Buffalo is The Mansion on Delaware, a luxury boutique hotel right in downtown Buffalo, that combines the historic architecture visible in the city with luxury and world-class service.

In a great location, the Mansion on Delaware exemplifies the renaissance of Buffalo – this 1800s house has been reborn as a 4 diamond hotel – taking a symbol of the city’s past prosperity and restoring it to create a present day symbol of rebirth.

Where to stay in Buffalo New York Mansion on Delaware

We were first welcomed by the porticos as we walked up the front steps and through the doorsbut were immediately greeted by the warmth and intimacy of the interior. The staff however, took hospitality and service to another level. Friendly and courteous, our names were quickly learned and we were greeted with the same style of welcome every time we passed the reception desk.

 

The Butler Staff, available 24 hours, take the comfort and luxury of the accommodation up another notch with personalized service. Looking to make reservations or a booking, order a meal from an outside restaurant to the hotel or require transportation to a nearby spot in the city? The butlers will take care of you no matter the time.

Mansion on Delaware room where to stay in buffalo ny

The rooms are spacious and clean with added touches of comfort and thoughtfulness, lik
e welcome cookies and water. Our room boasted tall ceilings and large windows and the bathroom was also quite large. It is a remarkably romantic hotel in Buffalo but it is also a great place for any traveller looking for a luxurious escape in the heart of Buffalo.



Though you’ll want to explore the city, try some of the great restaurants we recommend and find some on your own, the complimentary continental breakfast at The Mansion on Delaware is a pretty perfect way to start your day. Freshly baked pastries, smoked salmon and charcuterie meats and cheese, fruit, cold cereals and more, are available to fuel up before you head out into the city and explore what to do in Buffalo and all the amazing places to visit.

Fun Places to Go in Buffalo

Are there really that many things to do in Buffalo? That was our first question as we crossed the border and entered a city we had previously only driven through. What we quickly learned was that there are a ridiculous amount of places to visit and things to do in Buffalo! Though you may not be able to fit them all in if you’re only visiting the city for a short time, it’s worth it to try and make your way to as may of these fun places to go in Buffalo as you can!

RiverWorks

Grain Elevators in Buffalo NY Riverworks

A newer local destination, Riverworks is a giant recreational complex on the waterfront in a repurposed industrial area that holds claim to the largest collection of grain elevators in the world. Approaching from the parking lot provides a deceiving view as once inside, the complex seems to extend unendingly with an ever increasing number of things to do. The patio bar that extends around the waterfront side of the building offers a beautiful view over the river as kayakers pass, some having rented from RiverWorks itself. heading further you’ll find a total of four bars, a restaurant, hockey rinks and a roller derby rink, just to name a few of the things currently built with more planned, including a fully functioning brewery. With an entertainment area to hold concerts and shows as well, it’s not only a fun place to visit, it’s also a great place to eat in Buffalo as you can grab some food and a drink and choose your seating, outside or in.

As an aside, if you happen to be driving by, or in the area, and you smell something delicious and sweet… it may just be the General Mills factory that’s there… is it Cheerios or Lucky Charms? You be the judge!

Canalside

fun places to visit in Buffalo Canalside

One of our favourite areas to spend some time in Buffalo is Canalside. The city has recently breathed new life into this area by creating a destination for locals and tourists alike to enjoy themselves, during any season of the year, and to congregate at a spot in the city that has huge historical importance. Buffalo’s height of industrial and economic times was due to its location and particularly, the junction of Lake Erie, the Niagara River and the Erie Canal where Canalside sits. Here you’ll find numerous Adirondack chairs to relax on by the water while activities like yoga, markets and concerts (in the summer) and skating, curling and ice biking (in the winter) take place around the area. There’s great parking options nearby and, if you happen to be around when it’s dark, a light show on the grain elevators across the way. It’s a great place to enjoy the activities of the day, rent kayaks and water bikes or ice bikes, charter a fishing boat, take a harbour cruise or explore America’s largest inland Naval park all in one spot.

If you’re hungry or need some refreshments, there are stands right on the canalside or a short walk across the way will get you to the popular 716 Food & Sport, a 2-story sports bar and restaurant with multiple television screens to watch the day’s games or a giant 30+ foot tall screen to capture the major event.

Larkin Square

Every city needs a gathering space and one of the primary public areas, and also one of the best places to visit, in Buffalo is Larkin Square. When thinking of the convergence of past and present in the city, this is definitely one area that comes to mind. Formerly the site of the Larkin Soap Company warehouses, a thriving business in Buffalo’s heyday, the area now boasts a public square with regular, free events for the public. Things like Food Truck Tuesdays area huge draw as dozens of trucks and music satisfy the large crowds that gather. Live at Larkin on Wednesdays pulls in local musicians and bands as they perform on the stage in the centre of the square. A few food trucks are also present for this event and parking is free in the area!

If you’re heading to Food Truck Tuesdays, we’d highly recommend Lloyd or Whole Hog Truck! We’ve also heard great things about Amy’s Truck though we’ve yet to try it! You can see our video of trying Lloyd Food Truck below!

Added to these regular summer features, are a host of other events and local establishments that are popping up all around such as Hydraulic Hearth, a restaurant and craft brewery right across the street from the square with great food and beverage options and a great spot to enjoy the activity from a short distance away.

This area promises to only grow as a top spot in the city with regular establishments and activities popping up all around. There’s even a free outdoor mini-golf course right next to Larkin Square that has remained un-vandalized and regularly used by the public and Larkin Square goers. Test your skills out here because it definitely isn’t an easy course!

Elevator Alley Kayak Tour

Fun things to do in BUffalo Elevator Alley Kayak Tour

Imagine grain elevators towering around you as you glide through the water in a kayak. Rowing your way down the Buffalo River through Elevator Alley as the silos around you provide a view that is the industrial equivalent to the limestone formations that are often seen in tropical climates. Elevator Alley Kayak Tour also provides some incredible commentary on the area and its history as you move from the grain elevators towards the Riverfront and Canalside and out further. We had one amazing time learning a great deal about the history and nature of the area and just enjoying being outside on the water. Though you can rent kayaks and other water equipment from them without taking a tour, we loved the added touch of having a guide and the fact that it started in the quiet and peaceful area of Elevator Alley rather than right in the centre of Canalside was an added bonus for us!

Allentown (Allen Street)

what to do in BUffalo NY Allentown

If you’re looking for a unique, hip and artistic place to experience Buffalo, Allentown is it. With street art, out of this world restaurants, a music scene and interesting finds (like a man who blows bubbles out of his window at the corner of a busy intersection – yes he exists!) it is a place for foodies, art lovers and history buffs alike. Walk through the area and discover street art or simply take in the historic and colourful houses that line the streets. Stop in for some live music of any kind, though blues and jazz are popular genres of this area, after grabbing a bite to eat at one of the numerous restaurants that will probably blow your mind – especially if you’re craving a burger and head into Allen Burger Venture!

Allentown is also only a hop, skip and a jump away from Mansion on Delaware, our previously recommended hotel for your stay in Buffalo. Close to so many amazing spots (and with a butler service to take you to the further destinations) you’ll be sure to really get a chance to experience Allentown while staying there!

Tour with Explore Buffalo

Explore Buffalo Walking Tours What to do in Buffalo

Explore Buffalo happens to provide a ton of tours – from bus tours to kayak tours (like Elevator Alley Kayak) to walking tours. For us, a walking tour was what we headed to them for! Taking an architecture tour of downtown Buffalo gave us a fascinating insight into the development of the city, not only through its buildings, but through it’s economic transitions and across the various periods of time. Our guide was impressively knowledgeable and it was fantastic to be able to explore the downtown core by foot, learning about buildings we normally would be overlooking and passing by, none the wiser as to their significance and importance to the city and its history.

It really is an amazing way to learn about, and see, the city and with tours like “Allentown Mob Tour” you can really have some fun with Buffalo and its past!

What To Do In Buffalo

If you’re looking to add some art & culture into your visit, the following are the places in the city that will offer that and more. Since nothing in Buffalo comes without a healthy dose of history, you’re bound to find it in abundance at all of these places as well! If you’ve only got a short time to hit up some arts and culture spots, these are definitely the places you’ll want to look into and some of the top attractions in Buffalo!

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex

What to do in Buffalo Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House

If you’re a fan of architecture, the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex will blow you away. If you’re not, the effect will probably be the same! A residential complex, built for Darwin D. Martin, of the Larkin Company (yep, the same one we mentioned before when discussing Larkin Square). Martin loved the architecture and vision of Frank Lloyd Wright and had commissioned him to build one of the warehouses for the company (though it is no longer standing). As a friendship developed during this project, and Martin’s love of Wright’s architectural philosophy grew, the idea for a complex for Martin and his family formed. What started as Martin’s desire for a compound for his entire family, became an architectural masterpiece far beyond the current architectural practices of the day.

The complex has since been abandoned, partially destroyed, inhabited, sold, repurchased and, now, undergoing reconstruction and restoration.

If you’re looking for a fascinating glimpse into architectural genius and into two individuals who are very much a part of Buffalo’s history, this is definitely a stop to make when exploring the city.

Richardson Olmsted Complex

Best places to visit in Buffalo RIchardson Olmsted Complex

Perhaps one of the most fascinating buildings we’ve ever seen, and definitely a must-visit in Buffalo, the Richardson Olmsted Complex is another piece of Buffalo’s past that is being repurposed for present day uses in a very different way. It was originally the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane and was a massive complex created by two popular architects. The 140-year old building is a National Historic Landmark and is a pretty impressive sight with its Gothic towers and expansive size.

Renovations are now underway in a significant part of the main building to transform it into a boutique hotel with an adjoining architecture centre for the public.

We were able to take one of the tours given through the building to see the progress and changes being made and witnessing the construction of what is to be a modern accommodation within the stunning, Gothic exterior is quite fascinating. It is definitely a unique experience and it will be incredible to see the end result as an abandoned complex is turned into an economically sustainable feature of the city.

Albright-Knox Art Gallery

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery is not only a great place to take in modern and contemporary art, it is also another important component to Buffalo’s history as it is one of the oldest public arts institutions in the United States. With permanent installations and changing exhibitions, you can glimpse collections and works from artists around the world as well as those who are local.

A stop in the AK Cafe is definitely a good idea if you’re getting hungry. Meals from here are as inspired as the artwork throughout the rest of the building.

Burchfield Penney Art Center

If you’re looking for local Buffalo art, Burchfield Penney Art Center is the place to go. Dedicated to not only the works of Charles E. Burchfield, the art centre showcases the work of artists from Western New York. Exhibitions change but the theme of the artists displayed is always the same and will often give you a glimpse into the nature, geography and history of Buffalo itself.

Where to Eat in Buffalo

Buffalo is a foodie wonderland. Seriously. There is an almost overwhelming amount of options for types of cuisine and establishments that offer amazing food. Here are our choices of top restaurants in Buffalo, whether you’ve got loads of time to explore or are only there for a few days!

Lloyd Taco Truck

Lloyd Taco Truck Buffalo NY Where to eat

We mentioned Food Truck Tuesdays at Larkin Square and we said that Lloyd Taco Truck is one to head to when you are there. What we didn’t say is that Lloyd Taco Truck can be found throughout the week at various spots around the city. We also didn’t say that it is one of the best food trucks we’ve found.

While our favourite is the Tricked Out Nachos, we were fairly blown away by their entire menu (because we pretty much tried it all) including their Mexican street corn, tacos and burritos. In fact, we love Lloyd so much, we make sure to stop in the city and find one of their trucks whenever we pass through.

SeaBar

A key clue that you’ve entered a foodie paradise is that they have at least one amazing sushi restaurant. SeaBar was our first meal in Buffalo and tipped us off from the start that we had entered a culinary city we weren’t expecting.

In the summertime, SeaBar restaurant offers outdoor seating but whether you’re sitting inside or out, the atmosphere is both casual yet chic. The menu, is anything but casual. There are some serious appetizers and entrees to go along with the sushi and sashimi options and when you get to the rolls, you know you’ve hit the jackpot, especially with their brilliant take on a Beef on Weck (a sandwich native to Buffalo that was new to us but something you can’t leave without trying!).

The fish is fresh, melt-in-your-mouth and the cuts are perfect. The rolls, a tasty combination of flavours in the absolute right proportions: from their original rolls like the beef on Weck to the more standard American rolls like the Spider Roll. We even chose the crab mango roll as our dessert because, well, why not?

Allen Burger Venture

Allen Burger Venture where to eat in BUffalo NY

Burgers. Another test of a true foodie destination. From just one visit to one burger joint – Allen Burger Venture – Buffalo far surpassed our expectations. It was so good, it is in the running for the best burger we’ve had… anywhere.

Perhaps it’s that their beef is grass-fed Angus, hormone and antibiotic free from verified humane and sustainable ranches. Perhaps it’s the side of hand-cut fries that are cooked perfectly. Or perhaps it is the unbelievable condiment options on their beef (and alternative, such as chicken, tuna, veggie, etc) burgers like caramelized onions, applewood bacon and cheddar or cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and their Triple D sauce (like Big Mac sauce!). Whatever it is, from the very first bite, we knew we had found a burger joint amongst burger joints.

Gabriel’s Gate

Here is where things get a little controversial. You’ll probably want to consult a local expert… though EVERY local you meet will consider themselves one on this issue. Buffalo wings. Or, as they call them in Buffalo: wings.

We were told of about a half-dozen different restaurants, from different ‘local experts’, that were supposedly THE place to get wings in the city. We didn’t try them all. We do plan to one day though. Until then, we can only offer our suggestions on the places we did try them and our first spot was Gabriel’s Gate. One of the local favourites, this lodge-style pub in Allentown offers some pretty good wings, if we say so ourselves, and can be ordered with increasingly spicy sauce options. The way to order them, most locals told us, is medium BBQ sauce with (and this is the most important thing) blue cheese dressing NOT ranch as is the default in most places.

Gene McCarthy’s

Beef on Weck. A sandwich we had never heard of before our first visit to Buffalo. It is said that the beef on Weck was created in Buffalo using a kummelweck (in German, it means caraway roll) which is a bun baked with caraway and salt on top that was also said to have originated in Buffalo. The roll was then used to create the beef on weck by creating a sandwich of thinly sliced roast beef and horseradish.

If it sounds delicious it’s because it is and when we tried our first one at Gene McCarthy’s before our Elevator Alley Kayak Tour, we were hooked. This is definitely a place we’ll return to, to get our beef on weck fix and their wings were pretty darn good too!

An Irish pub with a cozy feel, it’s own beers and live music events, it’s another local favourite that is really a must visit no matter how long you have in the city!

Food Trucks!

Larkin Square things to do in Buffalo NY

You don’t have to wait for Food Truck Tuesdays in the summer to hit up a food truck in Buffalo. There are a large number of them in the downtown and surrounding areas and a simple search for the trucks and where they are will have you finding some unique culinary options. It’s a way to get out into the streets of the city, explore new areas or simply find yourself dining in an area you already know and enjoy!

Hydraulic Hearth 

Whether something is going on at Larkin Square or not, Hydraulic Hearth is a restaurant worth checking out. Delicious brick-oven pizzas, a unique variety of craft beers and a unique art installation in an old phone booth inside the restaurant make for a great dining experience.

With free parking and a warm atmosphere, it’s a great place to go any day of the week for some drinks or a meal. There are also several weekly and monthly events that pop up like Gospel brunches with live music and an all-you-can-eat buffet.

So Much Buffalo To See, So Little Time

Really and truly, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all you can do, see and enjoy in Buffalo. We were able to tap into a city of incredible depths, fascinating history, inspiring revitalization and unforgettable food and we’re definitely not finished. If you get a chance to visit you not only won’t be disappointed, you’ll probably be like us… planning your next trip to Buffalo!

 

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A guide to Buffalo NY Pin

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Why You’re Too Young For A Viking River Cruise


When we initially announced we were going on our first Viking River Cruise, amidst the excited questions and responses, we also got a lot of curious people wanting us to scout the trip for them and let them know if “they were too young for a Viking River Cruise” and if it was okay that they were not “in the demographic” considered typical of passengers. Getting ready for our second cruise, we’re getting more of the same questions. Now, we’re not going to define what is meant by “too young” as the people who asked the questions were of a HUGE range of ages and it seems that there is almost always an older generation with a different opinion on what is considered ‘young’. So instead, if you’ve ever asked “am I too young for a Viking River Cruise?” the answer we’re going to give you is…

yes.

And here are the reasons why.

Viking River Cruise Ship on the danube

Young People Don’t Like Luxury

Luxury? Who wants that? We all know that ‘young people’ don’t want to be comfortable when they travel. Give them hard-as-cement beds, paper-thin pillows, and dismal service. Luxury isn’t a term for the younger generations, whatever age that may be, and when you’re on a Viking River Cruise, you’re guaranteed to experience a great level of luxury food, service and accommodation.

Viking River Cruises promotes excellent service and perfection in everything they do. From their 5 star level dining experiences, incorporating much of the regional cuisine, to their stellar service on board and off, the cruises allow for a level of comfort and quality that can only be classified as luxurious.

Think soft, comfortable beds and linens, heated bathroom floors (perfect during winter cruises), daily room service and turn-down service, self-serve refreshments at any hour, and waiters that come to know you and your needs whenever you head to the dining room for a meal.

So, if you’re ‘young’, this probably doesn’t sound like something you’d like at all.

View Over Budapest Hungary

Young People Don’t Like Choices

Every morning you have way too many choices to make for it to be enjoyable for a young person. You’ve got to choose what you’re going to order for breakfast, lunch and dinner, whether you want to have a relaxed meal in the upstairs lounge or a sit-down meal in the dining room. Then, you have to choose whether you want to go on one of the many guided tours or walk the town yourself and if neither of those float your boat (see what we did there?) you have to choose whether you just want to stay on board and spend the day relaxing, dining on more luxury cuisine and enjoying the view of the shoreline.




Who would want to be able to choose what to do with your day in incredible destinations and have a selection of amazing food to decide from, meal after meal? Certainly not young people!

Viking River Cruise food beef wellington

Young People Aren’t That Into Gourmet Food

In our opinion, Viking cooks up some of the meanest meals we’ve ever eaten. Let’s start with breakfast. Entering into the dining room, you choose your seat and can head over to the buffet that offers things like eggs anyway you want, hot and cold cereals, breads and toasts, yogurts, sausages and bacon, and much more… but it doesn’t stop there. There’s also a special menu where you can order eggs Benedict, pancakes, French toast, hash browns, or all of the above on one plate. Seriously, ordering whatever combination of whatever you want on the menu is basically a rule.

Lunch is served buffet style in the upstairs terrace, a more casual experience and lighter selection. In the dining room, a buffet of salads and pastas is set up with a menu to order from for starters, mains and desserts and often incorporates dishes and ingredients from the area you are sailing in that day.

Viking River Cruise Dessert

Dinner again offers you an option (more of those dreaded choices!) to dine upstairs on the terrace or more formally in the dining room, though there are no formal nights. The bulk of the menu changes each day – offering different starters, mains, desserts and cheese plates – again, incorporating the local cuisine. There is also an ‘Always Available’ section which allows you to default to some simpler, well-known meals such as salmon, chicken breast or New York Steak (if you can call those simpler!). There are also paired wines chosen for each of the day’s menu, again usually drawing from the region to really bring together the experience.

For young people, this is torture: meal after meal to choose from some of the most gourmet foods and dishes imaginable, executed to perfection, served fresh and customized depending on your restrictions and preferences.

Cathedral Europe

Young People Don’t Like To Be In A New Place Everyday

If you’re on a Viking River Cruise, you’re going to be seeing several different ports in one trip. In fact, chances are you’re going to wake up almost every morning in a new town or city, sleeping peacefully as the ship cruises through the night eliminating any of the hardships travel days usually bear.

It’s probably going to really annoy you to get to see so much in the span of your trip. Most likely, having the trials and tribulations of catching your plane, train or bus removed from your travels will be unbearable. Not having to pack up to head out, search out your accommodation and unpack what you need, only to start all over again, will really put a damper on a young persons trip. Believe us when we tell you, you are too young for a Viking River Cruise.

Viking River Cruise Stateroom

Young People Would Rather Carry Their Luggage With Them From Town to Town

You’re definitely too young for a Viking River Cruise if the thought of having all of your belongings, plus accommodations, follow you as you explore and travel. Ridiculous, right? Who wants to unpack once and relax as you’re taken from town to town, city to city to see the sights and fully immerse yourself in the destination. Who wants to venture off into a new place without the burden of their heavy bags or oversized wheeled luggage and to find their accommodation has headed along the river with them to pick them up where they left off for the day?

We didn’t know what it was like to walk unfettered, without the weight of our bags or without the stress of locating a new hotel as we travelled to a new destination. When we went on our first cruise with Viking, we realized the amazing freedom and comfort of being able to do just that… but that’s probably not really for young people.

Viking River Cruise ship on the danube

Young People Don’t Like Trying New Things

Our experience with Viking was like nothing else we had known in the past. A different style of travel, a different type of immersion into the culture of each of our destinations and a lot less stress involved in the planning as, from meals to exploring, much of the details were already dealt with.

But young people don’t like to try new things or find a new way of travel. Sticking to the status quo is the motto of younger generations, staying within their comfort zone is what they do best.

Budapest Chain Bridge

Young People Don’t Like Breathtaking Views

More likely to have their eyes on their phone scrolling through their Facebook feed then looking out into the world, young people would rather comment on an incredible Instagram photo then see a breathtaking view right in front of them or take that Instagram-worthy photo themselves.

Cruising on a river offers a unique advantage over other forms of transportation and other kinds of trips: stunning views of the shore almost all day, everyday. On top of that, there are a variety of ways to observe all that scenery – from your veranda if you have booked a stateroom with one, while seated in the terrace overlooking the front of the ship, or on the top deck where you’ll have a choice of which direction to look and an overall panoramic view.

Too Young For A Viking River Cruise

Too Young For A Viking River Cruise?

So there you have it. Our answer to all who want to know if they are too young for a Viking River Cruise. You probably are –  if that’s your mindset.

River cruises are cultural, experiential, educational and scenic. Enjoy the ride, take in the surroundings, learn about the countries you are visiting – from history to local life, food to language – and experience the destinations in a thoughtful way.

You can enjoy the cruise down the river, admiring the views along the shore, educating yourself in the local culture at each port and experiencing five star dining and service.

Sure, there’s an older crowd and the “demographic” is directed to that age group, but that’s not to say there’s any one age that’s more suited for a Viking River Cruise. The people on board are welcoming, no matter their age, and the experience on the ship and off are directed towards a variety of age groups and interests. When we cruised with Viking last, there was a range of ages from 13 to, well, older, and every person on the ship looked like they were having a great time.

We had tons of fun engaging in conversation with fellow passengers and making friends over meals. There were always people to talk to, eager to participate in the on board activities and to share a meal with if we were looking for some additional company. Age really failed to matter in any way.

If you want our real answer to whether you’re too young for a Viking River Cruise it is this:

River cruising is about attitude… not age.


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Famous PEOPLE Players Theatre – Where to go in Toronto to Find Happiness

Happiness. At times elusive, at times all-encompassing. It’s what we all chase and yet it’s what many of us can’t seem to find. In Toronto however, there is one place where happiness isn’t just found… it’s the norm.

Famous People Players Front Entrance

Finding a Treasure – One of the Most Unique Things To Do in Toronto

We didn’t know what to expect when we pulled into the commercial lot in an area outside downtown Toronto. The nondescript multi-unit building is not what typically comes to mind when the term “dinner-theatre” is used but we threw aside our first impressions and parked the car. What we didn’t know in those moments from the time we turned into the lot until we opened the front doors, was that hidden within the unprepossessing exterior, was a pearl of a treasure.

As we stepped through the doors and took our place in line to enter the dining area, we were greeted with a friendly ‘hello’ and directions to the washrooms, should we need. Already we were smiling in reaction to the warmth of the greeting. Those smiles seemed to reappear frequently throughout the entire evening. As the line continued to move, we took a look around the entrance. What we saw spoke of an amazing history and a profound impact on the community.

From the ceiling hung large stars adorned with the photos and names of former and current employees, and a description of all that Famous PEOPLE Players Theatre meant to them, in their own words. Along the wall, photos of performers and performances throughout the years were displayed along with pictures of famous personalities who have attended one of their shows around the world at one time or another.

It was, in fact, Liberace who discovered this spectacular show, bringing it to Vegas as his opening act for years where it captured the hearts of stars and audiences alike. Touring the world, collecting experiences and fans, the show settled back in Toronto and delivers the same kind of sensational performances for which it was first recognized.

What we hadn’t fully realized was the profound impact it has, and has had, on the performers and staff as well as the community as a whole. That is, until we were seated for dinner and had the privilege of talking to the staff themselves.

Famous People Players Dining Room

It’s More Than Dinner & A Show… It’s Where Special Happens

The slogan of Famous PEOPLE Players Theatre, “Where Special Happens”, hints at something deeper than just a spectacular show of dazzling talent and entertaining puppetry. It breaks down, into three words, what is at the very core of the company, its history and its purpose.

Diane Dupuy, the founder of Famous PEOPLE Players, began working with individuals with learning disabilities over 40 years ago when she started the theatre. She herself had struggled in school failing to find an outlet for her creativity and suffering from difficulties with attention that, at that time, were not regularly identified or aided in the school system. Identifying a need to remove limits and offer hope she developed a much sought after production that impressed audiences and saw them heading to Broadway, Las Vegas, and many countries around the world. At the same time, she provided a creative outlet and a unique form of expression for herself and those involved.

The staff and performers are still largely comprised of people with learning disabilities who have found a home with Famous PEOPLE Players and whose stories are a testament to the amazing impact and work of Diane as well as an inspiration to all who hear them.

Diane Dupuy Famous People Players Theatre Toronto

While we ate our dinner, we were fortunate to have been able to start up conversations with many of the waiters and staff who were busily working around us. Each one had a unique story. Each one changed because of Famous PEOPLE Players. Each one brightening as they spoke, eyes shining with happiness.

There was Nastasha, the girl who refreshed our water. In fact, we don’t remember when our water was ever empty over the entire course of our meal and each time our glasses were refilled, a smile was on her face. We were told when she first came to the theatre she was so shy she didn’t want to let go of her mother, her chin tightly hugging her chest in an attempt to avoid eye contact. It didn’t take long before she found her place and became the talkative, smiling girl we met.

Then there was Michael, one of the kitchen staff, who we spoke to as he passed. He’d worked at other places, he said, but none of them understood him or what he needed, When we asked him what it was that he needed he said simply, “patience”. That is what he has found at Famous PEOPLE Players and he said that he is now happy every day he comes to work.

Perhaps one of the most memorable of the staff was Benny. With Famous PEOPLE Players almost from the start, he leaves an impression on all who have the chance to meet him. It was his story that really stuck with us. Joining the theatre at age 16, Benny still had yet to speak. Not one single word. Though he was uncommunicative verbally he was still able to participate as a performer. Unfortunately, he struggled on stage, missing cues during practice and twice during performances. Diane reminded him that three mistakes on stage meant he would be reassigned to a job off-stage. After making that third mistake, knowing that he would be removed from the show and his mother would be present for a performance that day, Benny looked at Diane and spoke his first words…ever: “I have to perform because my mother will be watching!”

Stories like these abound and showed us that the experience was more than just a dinner and a show… it really is where special happens.

famous people players toronto black light show

A Truly Entertaining Black Light Show

It is true that the history and purpose of Famous PEOPLE Players is extraordinary. It made us especially happy to be present for the evening. But beyond its inspirational story is an internationally-renowned, simply entertaining performance using puppets and black lighting, music and humour. The magic produced on stage is often spell-binding. Performers are not seen but instead, illuminated objects are brought to life by the cast dressed from head-to-toe in black. Then there are the puppets. Some of the show includes songs performed by, often life-sized, puppet-versions of the original artists. The movements so life-like that you often forget you’re watching an imitation of the real thing.

As the puppets and bright shapes and objects floated and danced across the stage, our smile that had carried on from the beginning of the evening grew wider, our laughter a common occurrence. At the end of the show, when they turned up the lights and provided the audience with a behind the scenes glimpse as to how the puppets are brought to life by the cast, our appreciation for the talent and hard work only grew. It is a show unlike anything we’ve seen before.

famous people players dinner

Where To Go In Toronto For An Unexpected Fine Dining Experience

The evening started with a meal in the dining room before we were lead to the theatre to watch the performance. It was during this meal that we were able to speak to so many of the staff whose stories touched us deeply. It was also here that we enjoyed one of the best fine dining meals we’ve had in Toronto.

Our culinary experience started with a fresh salad and some entertainment by a phenomenal jazz quartet. While they are not present every evening, we were lucky to have them there to enhance our dining experience. When the main came out we were pleasantly surprised. Though we knew celebrity Chef Christopher Woods created the menu, we weren’t expecting the exceedingly high level of fine dining fare. Between us we had a perfectly cooked steak and a deliciously seasoned salmon, served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with a side of veggies.

dessert at famous people players theatre

With happily sated appetites, and equally full hearts after speaking to so many happy staff, we moved onto the theatre before returning for dessert. The dessert was a special treat by Chef Dufflet and for those who are familiar with Toronto’s food scene, the name Dufflet Pastries will ring a salivating bell. We were treated to a mini cake each for dessert – one black and white mousse mini and one lemon raspberry mascarpone mini – and without leaving a single crumb, we finished both while being serenaded by an Elvis impersonator.

Though the mealtime entertainments change, we can’t imagine the quality of the culinary experience doing so as well!

A Night In Toronto That Leaves You… Happy

From the minute we walked into Famous PEOPLE Players theatre in Toronto, when we were greeted by that first smile and the rotating stars hanging overhead, to the exquisite meal we enjoyed over conversation about the incredible impact the theatre has had on its members. From the one-of-a-kind performance of lights and music, to the 5 star dessert we gobbled up. The night started with a smile that held throughout and it ended with us realizing that, for several hours, in a theatre just outside of Toronto, we felt simply and purely, happy.

 

Heading to, or in, the Toronto area? Find out more information about Famous PEOPLE Players, their showtimes and their not-for-profit work by visiting FamousPeoplePlayers.com or calling 416-532-1137 / 1-888-453-3385.

 

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Amazing Anniversary Trip Ideas For Any Couple

Planning A Romantic Getaway To Remember 

Are you looking for an anniversary vacation you and your spouse will never forget? Do you need ideas to get the creative juices flowing so you can plan a relaxing vacation? We’re going to help you get started! Planning a romantic getaway is always a good idea, no matter how many years you’ve been together. From beach getaways to weekend romantic spa packages, planning a romantic trip can be a hit if done right, but it shouldn’t be stressful. That’s why we’ve decided to give you some amazing anniversary trip ideas so you and the one you love can plan a celebration that you will dream about for years to come.

Not only are these spots great for romantic couple’s vacations but they are also great options for places to get married, renew vows and even good for family anniversary getaways – if you’re looking to bring everyone along!

 

Anniversary Beach Getaways

Let’s start with beach getaways. Who does’t love those two words put together? Not a single person! Right? Well, while not all couples can afford a beach getaway honeymoon, as being newly wed for most people means newly broke, those that are lucky enough to have a honeymoon on the beach know it is a fantastic idea for a romantic getaway. No matter how long you’ve been together or what you’re celebrating adding some beach-side celebration will only increase the romance!

Taking a vacation for your anniversary on a beach is always a good bet. What’s more perfect than sitting on the beach beside you’re partner with a cocktail in your hand and the sand between your toes. who knows… an anniversary beach vacation could just be what you need to keep the fire going in your relationship.




If you’re convinced an anniversary vacation on the beach is just what you’re looking for, here are some great destinations to consider.

couple-on-a-beach

Mexico, Cuba and Dominican Republic

When you’re from North America, Mexico, Cuba and Dominican Republic are places that come to mind when looking into vacation getaways… okay, Cuba is not quite the first place one thinks of if they are from the US, but that is quickly changing. These destinations offer sandy beaches, suntans, relaxation and romantic suites that are a fraction of the cost compared to other places in the Caribbean or back home in North America. Most resorts offer all inclusive packages where the drinks and food are included with many offering upgraded anniversary vacation package, or even wedding package, deals to up the romance factor.

We’ve been lucky to have vacationed in Cuba a couple of times and found it a perfect couples destination for romance. Both times we stayed at Melia resorts and had a particularly memorable time at the brand new Melia Marina Veradero, Cuba with the family.  Searching for the best anniversary vacation packages might get a little tricky but using sites like TripAdvisor to read reviews and compare prices from competing sites might help you find the best anniversary trip ideas for a beach vacation. Don’t forget to sort through both the good and bad reviews and weigh the pros and cons of each place.

Belize 

What comes to your mind when you think about Belize? White sand, beaches, crazy turquoise water and amazing snorkeling? But did you know Belize is also known for its Eco-lodges and world class scuba diving? Belize’s barrier reef is a famous diving and snorkeling location that attracts enthusiast from all around the world, while the Mayan ruins attract others looking to hike through the jungle and unlock the past hidden beneath the cover of the trees for the last thousand years. If trekking through the jungle like Indiana Jones and searching for Nemo isn’t your idea of a romantic anniversary getaway then there are 295 miles of coastline filled with amazing beaches available to satisfy your wildest dreams. Belize is a place for that couple looking to relax on the beach but want the option to head out on some adventure every once in a while. It’s pretty reasonable to say that heading to Belize is a top anniversary trip idea.

Do you think Belize is one of your anniversary trip ideas? Then Compare prices for hotels in Belize from different sites all in one place and click here!

Maui

Maui is best known for its beach resorts and romantic retreats for couples, being located in the mid-Pacific makes Maui a perfect place to get a tan, surf, shop and enjoy endless outdoor activities like snorkeling, surfing, windsurfing and mountain biking, just to name a few. If you love to hike, Mt. Haleakala is right there for those adrenaline seeking couples, and is named the islands tallest at 10,023 feet (3,055 m). The view of the sunrise from above the clouds on Mt Haleakala is considered one of the best in the world and can provide a wonderful romantic excursion. If you’re big on adventure, the beaches on Maui stretch for miles, and is the perfect place for couples to relax under the sun and watch the waves roll in.

Compare prices of hotels on Maui and other places in Hawaii.

The Maldives                               

The Maldives is a collection of hundreds of islands sitting in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Known for its beaches, blue lagoons and coral reefs, The Maldives is a true tropical paradise for couples looking for a romantic getaway. If you’re looking for a cheap vacation, the Maldives might not be the best place to go as thea’re the home of some of the most luxurious hotels and resorts in the world, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t head there to enjoy your anniversary in style and luxury.

Maldives anniversary vacation ideas

Heading to The Maldives or Other Expensive Destinations on a Budget

To many of us, a trip to the Maldives or any other luxurious island like Bora Bora or Fiji would only happen in our wildest dreams, but the truth is that a trip to these places doesn’t have to cost as much as you think… if you can find a decent flight at the right time of the year, where you won’t be charged too much to stay at a beach front resort. By planning ahead and keeping a watchful eye on flights, it’s possible to head there for your anniversary. Organizing an anniversary getaway for high season might not be smart for a traveller looking for a more affordable vacation to these expensive locations, but doing so in low season may have you finding the deals to get there on a budget!

 

High season in the Maldives is from December to February, with a price hike during Christmas and New Year. Heading there between May and November though, will save some of those hard earned dollars. What does it mean to travel during low season? Usually, low season brings precipitation, and while rain can put a damper on a vacation, from our experience, tropical rain showers are fast to pop up and equally fast to disappear. With some downpours lasting only an hour or two, and the sun coming back out right after, scheduling your vacation during this time isn’t really as bad as some would have you think!

Not only is it short-lived, the rain provides some added benefits. It gives you more time at the bar, restaurant or even your suite hanging out with your better half… and isn’t quality time with that person one reason why you plan anniversary vacations in the first place?

Check out prices for hotels at different times of the year in the Maldives, and compare prices from different sites!

Note: High and low seasons vary depending on the location, so make sure you know what time of the year is the best time for your wallet and the best time to go on a romantic anniversary getaway.

We usually use SkyScanner to find the cheapest times of the year to fly. The site allows you to search for lowest prices over the course of an entire month.

Our Favorite Vacation Ideas For Couples

Breezes In Nassau, Bahamas

Compare prices of Breezes and other resorts in Nassau right here.

The Bahamas is known for having some of the most pristine beaches in the world and Breezes Resort Bahamas can be found on one of those outstanding beaches. Located on Cable Beach, Breezes Bahamas is a paradise with some of the best service around, no wonder this resort is one of the top anniversary vacation destinations. With 391 rooms, three pools, four restaurants, a spa, fitness center, three tennis courts and tons of daily water activities and day trips, there is no way you could get bored here!

Santa Maria, Cuba – Melia Resorts

With crystal clear water, white powdered sand and sunshine all year round, Santa Maria, Cuba is one of the best places for an anniversary vacation. We found the Melia Resort (our review of the Melia Santa Maria) to be the best resort on the island of Santa Maria. Not only is the resort right on the beach with wonderful service, it also has some of the best food to be found at a resort in Cuba, and for that reason it’s a the top of our list for anniversary trip ides.

Viking Cruises

When thinking of a romantic cruise for couples, you probably don’t think of Viking, because you might say that you’re too young to go on a Viking River Cruise…  but you couldn’t be more wrong. Viking River Cruises is a luxurious cruise line with attentive staff that is there for you day and night, fantastic meals that have your mouthwatering in anticipation and stops at world class cities, where you can explore on your own or take a tour with their professional tour guides. Couples can roam different cities every day or just stay on the boat and relax. If you’re not interested in river cruising, Viking has ocean liners with routes all over the world… how does a romantic cruise on the Mediterranean sound for an anniversary idea?

viking-river-boat-on-the-Danube - anniversary trip ideas

Anniversary Destinations In Asia

Coming up with any anniversary getaway ideas is tough when you want to think outside of the box, there are so many different places in the world you probably haven’t even considered. It’s normal when thinking about anniversary vacation spots to think of going to the typical island destinations –  to Mexico, Dominican or even Cuba (if your North American), but when most people think about heading to Asia for a romantic couples vacation, they might think it’s way too far for a getaway. They couldn’t be more wrong. We spent a lot of time in Asia (13 months to be exact) and found so many places that would be great anniversary vacation spots that we decided to share a few with you.

Anniversary In The Philippines

We’ve discovered that, not only is the Philippines is a great place for a vacation, it is perhaps one of the best anniversary vacation spots in the world. Head to Boracay and stay at what we found to bethe best couples resorts in the Philippines, or stay outside the chaos that is Manila at The Nobu, in the golden towers of the City of Dreams… Both amazing places for a romantic getaway and great vacation ideas for couples.

beachfront hotel in Boracay villa caemilla loungers

We shot a couple of videos of the places we stayed in the Philippines

Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa is perhaps most well-known for the American military bases located on the island, but it is also a magical place filled with places to party, eat and relax. You can easily be at a gorgeous beach in the morning and come afternoon, be shopping in one of the many Japanese shopping centres located on the island before enjoying some world class dining. Okinawa has beaches with the bluest water, some of the best dive sites in the world and temperatures that barley drop below 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit), no matter what time of the year… it’s no wonder we think Okinawa is one of Asia’s best anniversary destinations.

If you’re a history buff, you can find your fair share of historical World War II sites all over the island as one of the biggest battles of the war took place on Okinawa. While we were there we heard about The Peace Memorial Park and how the displays within its walls tell the story of the suffering the Okinawan people endured. If you find yourself on the island for one of your anniversary vacations, make sure to take a little bit of time to learn about the people, their own individual culture and customs, and the hardships they have endured and overcome.

Koh Tao, Thailand

Located in the gulf of Thailand, Koh Tao is a tiny island with a huge scuba diving community and is one of the best, and cheapest, places to dive in the world. This piece of paradise makes a great anniversary trip idea for couples who love to dive. We decided to spend one of our anniversaries in Koh Tao and even though we didn’t plan on it before arriving, we ended up getting our open water diving certificate just because it was so darn cheap! Check out the awesome video by Fat fish movies while we were diving in Koh Tao.

koh tao swimming, koh tao, ko tao, thailand, best islands in thailand, beautiful beach photos

Other Anniversary Trip Ideas

Florida keys

Florida keys is one of the most romantic places in the world primarily because of their sunsets… okay its because of more than just their sunsets. The Keys are the most southern point in the continental United States, which is not only pretty cool, it also means great weather. Only 90 miles from Cuba, Key West is the last island in the archipelago where the weather is perfect all year round, the parties are plentiful (if you’re in to that) and good food is around every corner. If you ask anyone, those three reasons alone are what make the Florida Keys a stunning anniversary vacation destination. The atmosphere and vibe of Key West is a combination of the Caribbean, island life along with the historic yet carefree, party-vibe of New Orleans. The sunsets may make you cry, the food my make your stomach leap with joy and the entire island may make you forget about any troubles you have… that’s probably what makes it perfect for a couples romantic getaway.  We drove down through the Keys, from Miami to Key West, and found that there were 5 things you must do when traveling to the keys.

Planning on heading to Key West? Compare hotels and hotels booking sites all in one place!

Las Vegas

Las Vegas is more than burlesque shows and smoky casinos now a days. Vegas is full of fantastic hotels, that transport you to another place and/or time in the world. The hotels are so incredible, most days you don’t even have to leave to have fun. With daily shows, restaurants and buffets, pools and hot tubs, bars and clubs, and let’s not forget the good old casino, each accommodation is an escape from the real world. Las Vegas is a place where you can find reason to get divorced and get married in the same day, it’s sin city alright, but it’s also a very romantic place for couples and for people looking for a romantic getaway. Not just for those looking to elope or renew their vows with Elvis nearby, it is also dubbed as one of the best anniversary vacation spots in North America.

You can find honeymoon suites with heart shaped hot tubs right in the room. If you want, you can have dinner at a new restaurant every night, and because there are over 2300 restaurants in Vegas, you’ll never have to go to the same one twice. Gambling isn’t your thing? That’s all good! Vegas will keep you busy no matter what you’re into. The hotels and casinos encourage visitors to come and stay and gamble at their establishments, so finding decent inexpensive anniversary trips to Vegas is possible no matter where you are flying from.

To find some great hotel deals in Las Vegas for your anniversary, start here!

night time in las vegas - anniversary trip ideas

New Zealand

If you’re an adrenaline junkie then New Zealand is perfect for you! With an abundance activities, including skydiving and hikes up volcanoes, there is everything for a couple seeking adventure… oh and lets not forget New Zealand is where The Lord Of The Rings was filmed so there’s no shortage of spectacular scenery.

Compare prices of hotels in New Zealand.

Although New Zealand is comprised of two islands, the northern island is where the majority of New Zealanders call home and is where many beautiful beaches, volcanoes and geothermal areas are located. A 12 hour non-stop flight from Los Angeles might sound like a long distance to fly for an anniversary but the scenery and friendly people make the journey well worth it. In actuality, it is closer to the west coast of North America then Ireland or Italy. A visa isn’t required for U.S and Canadian citizens which is a bonus when you’re trying to plan a trip to this majestic place. If you’re not from the U.S or Canada, check out the New Zealand Immigration website to see if you need a visa to visit New Zealand.

Niagara on the lake

With 50,000 honeymooning couples heading to Niagara Falls Canada, Niagara is a popular place for a romantic getaway. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a 30 minute drive from the Falls and is where the Niagara river meets lake Ontario. Spend and afternoon on a wine tour through a few of the many wineries in the region but remember don’t drink and drive! This wine region offers bicycle tours or other guided tours and many wine festivals have discounted passes for designated drivers. If you’re new to wine and wine tastings, we’ve written 9 things we learned about wine tasting when we went on our first wine tasting tour and recently attended the Ice Wine Festival.

One Modern Couple At The Niagara Icewine Festival

Since we were driving ourselves to the wine festival, we decided to go over the course of two days so we were able to take turns as designated driver and so we decided to stay nearby at Riverbend Inn and Vineyard. This quaint, historic hotel is perfect for honeymooners, couples celebrating an anniversary and is located in a perfect location for couples who love to go on wine tours. The Riverbend Inn also specializes in throwing small weddings with some spectacular views and scenes for photos and are able to provide a romantic suite for the bride and groom.

Check out prices for Riverbend Inn and other hotels in the Niagara area.

niagara vinyard - anniversary vacation ideas

Anniversary Weekend Ideas

If you don’t have time for a romantic vacation for a week or two, you can celebrate over the weekend. Head out on a road trip or fly somewhere close by. There are many couples resorts and weekend vacation packages at spas and you can probably find some amazing anniversary vacation packages around your own hometown. Although it wasn’t for our anniversary, we took a long weekend and turned it into a road trip to New Brunswick. It was a great trip and a romantic excursion for the two of us. You don’t have to drive the whole time like we did, but make sure to plan out your getaway in order to maximize the time you have during the weekend. And don’t forget it’s your anniversary, so be creative!

How To Find Cheap Anniversary Trip Ideas

Finding out how to get a deal for a romantic getaway can be tough. We’re bombarded with tons of different prices and deals for different locations, resorts, flights and hotels online. The best way to find a deal however, is to be patient and do your research. Knowing the right websites to look for those deals is also one of the greatest challenges when it comes to finding the perfect anniversary vacation for a couple looking to relax, not get stressed out over the booking process.

It’s very possible these days to take a cheap romantic vacation. You can find a cheap flight a guest house or inn for under $100 a night. Or find a unique place on Airbnb (sign up with Airbnb through us and receive a free $20 credit) and book a flight through SkyScanner to find the best flight and accommodation deals. If you’re looking for more great sites to use, we’ve created a “Travel Resources Page”.

We also have an e-book “Free Travel Tools You Should Know About” to help you book trips and vacations wisely. This free e-book is actually a collection of apps and sites that we found and use to find the best deals for flights, hotels, and resorts, as well as some other tools you might find useful while travelling the world. This book doesn’t show you where to get the cheapest all-inclusive deals around but it will show you where you can find the cheapest flights, and what days of the month or year is the best for booking a flight to a destination.

Note: keep in mind when booking a flight, you’ll typically find the cheapest flights about 3 months before the trip.

Booking and planning your own vacation takes a little more effort than going through a travel agent or a single site but it can pay off in the end, like booking through Hotels Combined, a site which takes hotel booking sites and compares prices though them to save you money. There is a lot more work, but a lot more freedom of choice and savings, by traveling on your own time. You can definitely create a fantastic anniversary vacation by planning it on your own and travelling on your own time.

belize-anniversary vacation ideas

Milestone Wedding Anniversary Vacation Ideas 

If you’re looking for anniversary trip ideas and still can’t decide, then maybe you should consider taking a more traditional approach. Traditionally, married couples would give anniversary gifts in different categories based on the number of years they’ve been married. Nowadays, not many married couples follow this way of gift giving but you can take some of the trip ideas we’ve given, combine some traditional anniversary romance, and be creative with them. Take the old way of thinking about wedding anniversary gifts and use them to create modern day anniversary trip ideas.

1st anniversary, paper

Want to present your gift in a unique way? Think about the plane ticket as one of the best paper gifts one can give! Planning something a little more low-key? A gift certificate to a weekend at a spa or tickets to a wine festival are paper trails you’ll definitely want to leave!

5th anniversary, wood

A getaway to a cabin by a lake or on a mountain for a ski trip definitely takes care of a gift of wood for a 5th anniversary. Strap on some snow or water skis or grab a surf board and you’ve got another great anniversary trip idea for a gift! The more modern take on the 5th anniversary themed gift is silverware. Fulfill this requirement by booking a luxury cruise in the Caribbean or on a river in Europe. Dining on our Viking River Cruise had us polishing each piece of silverware as we ate every last bite of every amazing meal.

10th anniversary, tin

While tin is the traditional gift, the modern anniversary gift for a 10 year anniversary is aluminum, so make sure a plane ride is involved or think about a great adventure by train. You can watch the scenery pass while heading to your destination making the travel a part of the whole experience.

20th anniversary, china

While fine china dishes may be the original intent, a trip to China to see The Great Wall is an experience of a lifetime, we were there in Beijing in 2014 and headed to the Great Wall and had one amazing time. With so much to see in China, you can spend any amount of time, from a long weekend to see the Wall, to a longer vacation exploring the terracotta soldiers, the night markets, historical attractions like Tiannanmen Square or some of the many gorgeous scenic views across the country.

25th anniversary, silver

Sliver reminds us of the silver screen. Being married for 25 years is no small feat so we don’t mean you should just head to a local cinema for a movie. Instead, head to where movies are made… Hollywood, California. Check out the beaches, explore Los Angeles and stay in the same hotels the stars of the big screen stay. Exploring Hollywood’s past and present would be a unforgettable way to celebrate 25 years together.

50th anniversary, gold

Hitting the 50 year wedding anniversary is very impressive and a great milestone to reach as a couple, so why not have a big celebration? Lets face it, you’ve been married for 50 years so we know without doing the math that you probably don’t want to go far… Why not head to the golden beaches in Florida? It’s great for a couple who want their family to join them on their wedding anniversary trip. Florida has a reputation for entertaining the young, the old and everyone in-between and you’ll easily find yourself having one of the most memorable vacations of your 50 years together.

Get other traditional anniversary gift ideas from Hallmark and create your own anniversary trip ideas for whatever year you’re celebrating

Get Planning That Amazing Anniversary Getaway

We’ve given you many different vacation trip ideas. So many, we may have made your decision a little bit more difficult. With that said, there are so many different places you can head to experience the best anniversary vacation possible. Remember, to plan the best romantic vacation make sure to take your time to find the best spot in the world, wherever that may be, to spark those romantic flames and keep them burning.

Please let us know if you need a hand in the planning, or have any other great vacation trip ideas that we can add to this list.

Keep these ideas and suggestions for later or share with others on Pinterest – just hover over the image below and click “Pin it”!

anniversary trip ideas pin

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Nobu Manila: A View From Inside The Golden Towers

The Nobu Manila… Golden window-panel covered buildings stood like gleaming mirages reflecting the busy city beyond, withholding the secrets within. A city within a city. We knew there was something special about it when we first passed by, one of the most identifiable of the hotels in Manila, Philippines, though we hadn’t yet had the chance to peek behind the gilded curtain of the gleaming towers. When we finally had the opportunity to venture within the buildings that had beckoned us since our arrival, we learned that it lived up to the promise of its name… we had found a City of Dreams.

The Nobu Manila – Decadence, Luxury and Elegance Within A City of Dreams

City of Dreams and Nobu Manila

Entrance to the City Of Dreams and Nobu Manila

It’s hard to miss. The City of Dreams Manila, a large golden complex and its 6 shimmering towers can often be seen while driving the busy and chaotic streets of Manila, Philippines. The gold-tinted windows of the elegant towers immediately draw the eye and awaken the imagination.

Of the 5 star hotels in Manila, this integrated casino resort hosts three, as well as a casino, a range of dining options and a shopping complex, just to name a few of the many features to be found within. But it wasn’t until we entered the doors of the Nobu Manila, after we had stepped out of the car and handed over our bags to the patiently waiting bellman, that we realized the extent of the grandeur and elegance to be found in one of the most luxurious hotels in Manila.

The dining room at the Nobu Restaurant Manila

The Nobu Manila is inspired by renowned Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa and his array of world-famous restaurants. The accommodation arm of Nobu is now reaching ranks with some of the most modern and most luxurious hotels in the world, and we were excited to be able to experience the decadence, luxury and elegance the brand is known for.

One thing we always look for in accommodation, along with the comforts and luxury, modern decor and aesthetics, is that unique feel. We like experiencing something different, something that makes a place stand out for us and helps make our time in that place more memorable. It’s that certain “je ne c’est quoi” that the best luxury hotels in the world have, and it was that same “I don’t know what” that we found at the Nobu Manila.




That ‘Je Ne C’est Quoi’ of the Nobu Manila

Sure, “je ne c’est quoi” suggests an unidentifiable “something”, but often times it’s not one intangible element but instead, a host of well-crafted, well-executed ideas and an attention to detail that make an accommodation standout, make it superior.

the view from the hallway at the Nobu Manila

From the front lobby of the Nobu Manila, where staff greet you wearing beautiful outfits and warm smiles, the Japanese-influenced design begins its flawless integration into the modern and elegant decor and the incredible combination of great service and impeccable style resonates from every inch of the property.

After our incredibly quick check-in, we were lead through the lobby of earth tones and subtle cherry blossoms, to the south tower and made our way to our room.

A Room of Added Touches

We stayed in the twin room of the Nobu Manila, it has a great view

We were immediately impressed with the room which exuded all the charm of a boutique style room and none of the, often soulless, feel of a hotel chain. The crisp white linens, the continuation of the cherry blossom and Japanese-inspired motif, and the neutral colours with modern lines and touches made the room elegant while the attention to detail, like the welcome bowl of fruits, the specialty tea, the variety of toiletries and the personalized message on the television added a whole extra level of welcome and comfort.

The tv in the rome at Nobu Manila hs a personalized greeting

We also loved the added touches we just kept finding. Opening the drawers of the nightstand we found tea and coffee, wine glasses and a bottle opener, and a whole snack bar with some extras, like an intimacy kit, for purchase.

The sake and wine selection in your room at the Nobu Manila is fantactic!

There were outlets aplenty and even a master light switch near the bed eliminating the inevitable fumbling around in the dark that always happens as you search for a light switch in a new place. Luckily, the room was spacious enough, it wouldn’t have been a problem even if there wasn’t a master switch close by. The bluetooth/docking station was also a great addition and was probably the first feature we used, streaming out music while we sat to enjoy our welcome tea and fruit.

Welcome fruit, tea and sake from the Nobu Hotel Manila, Philippines

The large bathroom too was fitted for comfort. Many plush towels, the essential toiletries (plus some), a spacious shower with a rain-shower head and two of the most comfortable, soft-lined bathrobes we’ve had the pleasure of donning.

This is the view of the pool we had from our room at the Nobu Manila

After seeing the room and the bathroom, you would think it couldn’t get much better, right? That’s what we thought until we opened the curtains and looked out at the view. Facing inwards towards the pool, the view was fantastic and when the sun set and the lights of the ‘Fortune Egg’ and the rest of the City of Dreams were illuminated, it made for a fantastic, and romantic, evening scene.

Nobu Restaurant – An Experience In Itself

The dining room at the Nobu Restaurant Manila

Nobu Restaurant. Our stomachs are still singing its praises. Since our accommodation package included breakfast (guests of the City of Dreams and visitors can also purchase breakfast here separately), we had the pleasure of dining here and enjoying some of the style of food Chef Nobu Matsuhisa is so famous for. The restaurant is set up buffet style for breakfast with a range of options from traditional Filipino food to American fare to Japanese-inspired dishes and everything in between. Salads, vegetables, noodle dishes, pastries, breads, okonomiyaki, and a pancake station with some incredible toppings, like their pecan butter. There was something for everyone and, being the passionate food lovers we are, everything was for someone like us.

The selection of food for breakfast at the Nobu restaurant in manila is extensive

Nobu Restaurant steps it up a game though with their ‘Breakfast Minis’, a menu with additional small plates. While it is included in the breakfast buffet, these are ordered individually. Each item we tried brought together wonderful, often unique flavours and several of them were so memorable we are still talking about them.

The Nobu Restaurant in the Nobu Manila has an amazing breakfast that noone shoud miss

The Eggs Matsuhisa, a poached egg with spinach and bonito egg sauce on a toasted bao, looked simply stunning and, with a perfect poach on the egg, didn’t disappoint. The Nobu Style Cheeksilog, a miso braised Wagyu cheek with garlic rice, popeye relish and a fried egg did justice to the traditional Philippine dish while fusing Japanese flavours perfectly. Our favourite of them all however, was the french toast. Thick and fluffy with a light yuzu custard, whipped cream and tomato jam. This dish had us fighting over each bite.

The Nobu Restaurant in Manila has a special french toast, one of the best french toasts in the world

From the clean and modern Japanese decor to the good-to-the-last-bite food, the breakfast at the Nobu Restaurant was exactly like the rest of our experience at the Nobu Hotel Manila: decadent, wonderful, comfortable and truly memorable.

Relaxation & Refreshments Under The Golden Towers

the golden towers from the deck of the Nobu Manila hotel

Stepping outside as we headed to the pool area, the glimmering of the golden towers once again cast their spell but this time, the sound of the trickling water from the fountains and the pool, the warm breeze on our skin and the smell of something delicious being cooked at the nearby poolside restaurant, Wave, had us fully engulfed in the moment and appreciating the experience those buildings of gold contained.

While each hotel has their own pool, the Nobu is at the centre of the property with a decent sized swimming area, a lifeguard on duty and many deck chairs and couch-style seating for guests to enjoy.

We ate caesar salad, burger and fries at Wave restaurant in the Nobu Manila

We sat for a bit by the pool, enjoying the view, the breeze and the peace of the area before our stomachs got the better of us and we moved to the restaurant, Wave, for some poolside-meets-patio dining. Since we’re always on the hunt for a good burger, we decided to try one out, along with a caesar salad and boy are we glad we did! One of the best burgers we had during our time in the Philippines, the burger at Wave came perfectly cooked, topped with flavourful caramelized onions, tomato, lettuce, pickle and onion rings and some pretty great tasting fries. The Caesar salad was also well prepared and we loved the crispy, real pieces of bacon.




Gold-Plated, Luxury-Filled Experience of a Lifetime

There is more to the Nobu Manila however, above and beyond being a gorgeous luxury accommodation with a restaurant that makes stomachs grumble in memory by its mere mention. There are other things aside from the fact that it features a fitness centre and a spa allowing you to get a bit of pampering in during your stay.

What elevates the experience at the Nobu Manila to the next level is the fact that it is a full-service hotel located in the City of Dreams and, as we touched on, that means access to a whole world of activities and experiences beyond the doors of the Nobu Hotel itself: an impressive casino floor, a variety of excellent restaurants, shops, clubs, and Dreamplay, a Dreamworks-inspired interactive play space. Whether you are there for business or leisure, a stay-cation or vacation, the Nobu Manila has everything you need and want.

We were wecomed with this tea set from the Nobu Manila hotel

As a couple exploring the city of Manila, we ended up experiencing a side to this busy capital we weren’t expecting. The city within a city, where one needn’t wander further than the lobby of their hotel, though the city beyond is only a free shuttle ride away; where you can escape the intensity of Manila and head to one place where comfort, food, culture and entertainment come together.

The entire complex containing the Nobu Manila is a gold-plated, luxury-filled, experience of a lifetime and on that first night, when we finally slipped between the crisp sheets of the extra-comfortable bed and laid our heads on our pillows, we did so with a sigh of contentment and a smile in appreciation for the day and anticipation for what else we would be experiencing in this City of Dreams.

Want to stay at the Nobu Hotel Manila? Or dine at Nobu Restaurant?

Find information about the Nobu Hotel Manila, the City of Dreams and the Nobu Restaurant:

Nobu Hotel Manila  &  Nobu Restaurant

Asean Avenue corner Roxas Boulevard, Entertainment City,

Parañaque 1701, Manila, Philippines

Phone: +632 800 8080

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Light the Torches! Two Things We Regret Eating!

Controversial issues are not typically things we deal with on our blog and that’s a shame. It’s a fact of life that people have differing opinions and some people are incredibly vocal in their beliefs. It’s natural to shy away from creating conflict. Part of this is due to a gene-deep need to fit into society to survive. The other part is because it’s damn uncomfortable, and sometimes painful, to be the brunt of an attack by people who disagree with something you’ve said or done and want to let you know, in no uncertain terms, that they think you’re an ass. Get those angry comments ready folks. We’re about to stir up some emotion. You may just think we’re a couple of asses by the end.

Controversial Food Around The World

Penis Shaped Dessert at Shilin NIght Market Taipei

A little more controversy: Penis-shaped waffles, cakes and popsicles at Shilin Night Market, Taipei

Cultural differences range from the subtle, almost indistinguishable to the stark, brutally contrasting. While travelling, these differences are highlighted time and time again. Sometimes it feels as though there’s a spotlight following us around as we travel from country to country, pinpointing those differences. Usually, it’s other people controlling the direction of the beam: “Did you know they have ping pong shows in Thailand?!” or “Careful when you order in Korea, they eat dog!”. These completely incomprehensible differences then become the fuel for an attack of the morals and ethics of another culture.

Don’t get us wrong, we judge too. Especially when we’re hungry, travel-weary or just plain fed up with navigating the minefield of frustrations that come while dealing with the behaviours of a culture so different from our own. In the end, we get over it and realize it’s all about perspective. We’ve even come to realize that our own steadfast (or at least we thought they were) beliefs in what is right and wrong across cultures occasionally move into a grey area reserved for those who step away from their own ethnocentrism and attempt to view a culture from within. This is especially true when we cross paths with controversial food around the world.

Having said all that, we have done a few things we swore we would never do. Two things we ate in particular that, even after mentally stepping inside the cultural-framework within which it is acceptable, we feel regret and dismay. Alright, we’ll be honest, we didn’t step inside anything mentally with the first one…we were just flat out drunk.

A Night Of All-You-Can Drink Yakiniku

japan yakiniku bbq

Two hours. That’s how long we had to indulge ourselves and reach epic levels of sloppy, delicious gluttony. And boy did we indulge.

Yakiniku, or BBQ meat, is one of our favourite styles of restaurant in Japan where you cook your own meat over a grill in the middle of your table and get in touch with your inner caveman (or woman). Conversation ensues with the smell of wonderfully marinated pork or perfectly tender steak, and oftentimes the sake is flowing. Our friend in Okinawa decided to take us to a local yakiniku that also happened to be all-we-could-eat, all-we-could-drink, for only $30. And when we say ALL you can drink, we mean spirits, wine, beer, cocktails, sake, you name it, you can order it. And we did.

Needless to say, two hours later our friend’s suggestion to go across the street to an izakaya (tapas-style) restaurant and continue drinking seemed like the best idea ever. What she didn’t tell us was that she planned to order some of their specialty dishes for us to try. Dishes we hadn’t planned on ordering while in Japan.

We followed her inside the narrow entrance, squeezing behind the occupied stools lining the bar and made our way upstairs. Taking off our shoes, we settled ourselves onto cushions on the floor around a table, a traditional Japanese setting, as the owner discussed the menu with our friend. She talked us into agreeing to eat raw chicken.

horse meat and raw chicken japan

Disclaimer: These photos were taken while under the influence

As the dish of small, light-coloured pieces of uncooked chicken made its way in front of us, we noticed the dark-red, unknown strips of meat set to the side. “That”, she said, “is basashi…raw horse”. Carolann made some inane comment about Black Beauty and Macrae stared, eyes glazed with, er, uncertainty.

The rest happened in a alcohol-fueled haze. The cell phone recording of the experience, a helpful guide to the events that transpired as chopsticks met horse meat and horse meat met mouths. We have different recollections of the taste, neither of us found it overly offensive but then, neither of us went for seconds.

While horse meat is considered a delicacy in at least 9 other countries, including Iceland and France, the taboo of eating it is far more wide-reaching, though this wasn’t always the case. Nowadays, horses are a hugely controversial food, often too closely linked with the concept of a pet to make them acceptable food items and it was this connection that had us avoiding any further consumption.

The raw chicken on the other hand, was a dish we happened to order more than once while in Japan.

That One Time in Korea

live octopus korea

They were going to eat it and it was still moving.

Standing in one of the cluttered, busy aisles of the Gwangjang market, the food stalls alight from the overhanging lamps, we watched as the plate of squirming pieces of tentacles was placed in front of the two waiting customers near us. We had stopped at a stall serving sannakji, raw octopus that is cut into small pieces, live. As we watched the bowls of sauce moved ceremoniously beside the plate and the two patrons preparing to dig in, we saw no sign of those tentacles slowing down.

Then it happened. The duo glanced over and noticed us staring, with our eyes wide and mouths gaping, and they smiled. They were either being very nice or very clever in choosing their meal-time entertainment, but they offered their plate to us and told us we could try. With that kind smile and polite offer, we gave a few weak shakes of our head. A second offer, the plate moved even closer and a new pair of chopsticks appeared. We looked at each other and knew we were both thinking the same thing “how rude is it for us to turn this down?”. We finally accepted. Both of us taking turns choosing a piece, taking way too long to think about it, and finally placing that squirming, sliding, tentacle in our mouths.

eating raw octopus in Korea

It’s a controversial practice. Something we both said we weren’t going to do. Unfortunately, that’s not all we did. We also went home and researched the topic of eating live octopus, specifically how an octopus feels when it is being chopped up. Try that kind of research about something controversial you’ve done. It’s a great way to make yourself feel even shittier than you did.

Digesting (excuse the pun) a bunch of research on cephalopod neuroanatomy, and believe it or not psychology, as well as discussions on animal cruelty and welfare, cultural sensitivity and food culture we were left with the bone-deep knowledge that we would not be trying sannakji again. We respect that it is a delicacy in the country, not just a crazy thing tourists do when they go to Korea, but to us it is also an inhumane way to treat a living creature and something we don’t wish to participate in again.

What We Learned

So, have at us! We think we were wrong too, but you know what? In the end, we can say we learned a few things:

1. It’s not as easy as right and wrong. Cultural traditions and ties are a strong force and when you are immersed in a culture, things can start to look a little different than you once thought.

2. We’re a bit stronger in our beliefs BECAUSE we tried these two things. We can say unequivocally that neither are things that we really need to be eating. Granted, if you’re a vegetarian you will say no animal needs to be eaten…so you’ve got us there.

3. We learned another lesson in “not judging others”. After all, we’ve done it too!

and

4. We’ve learned that we can do some unpredictable things when we drink too much in Japan!

 

 

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11 Wacky Inventions Found In Japan

Oh Japan. We’ve already put together a video of some of our best moments in Japan and talked about why we love the country so much (we even talked about the one thing we didn’t like), but we haven’t yet touched on a subject that made us alternately thankful for the ingenuity, laugh out loud and shake our heads. Crazy.

Wacky. Brilliant. Advanced. WTF? Products and systems we saw across the country can be placed in some, or all, of these categories and if you’ve ever seen a Japanese infomercial, you know that there are endless numbers of products being showcased, often in a hilarious way.

Japan is known for it’s crazy inventions and products and during our 3 months there, we sure saw our fair share of them! While some of them were confusing to us, others were absolutely genius, even if limited in use. The list of these could go on for quite some time but we decided to share some of the more useful or clever (at least we think so) inventions and systems we saw during our time in Japan.

Whether they are infomercial-worthy or just plain interesting, we’ll leave that for you to decide!

Porcelain Thrones

We could wax poetic about the toilets in Japan, they are just that wonderful. Public or private, toilets in Japan are clean, stocked with toilet paper and incredibly high-tech. Rarely did we see a basic, lift-the-lid and do your business toilet. Nope, we’re talking sophisticated loos that make you sigh in comfort rather than cringe in disgust. Let us take you through one of the most impressive washrooms we found in Japan:

Entering the washroom, you notice there is no unpleasant smell and it’s pretty clean. Choosing a stall you push open the door and, after a brief moment, the toilet lid lifts in greeting. As you step into the space, a speaker beside the toilet starts with soft water-like sounds that serve to mask any sound you will make.

A disinfectant dispenser and wipes stand to the side for you to clean the seats or if you prefer, a disposable seat cover is available. You sit on the seat and notice it’s warming feature has automatically turned on. After you do your business, you can choose from a variety of different buttons – rinses, fans, little flush or big flush or, you can just stand up and the toilet automatically flushes on its own.  

You step up to the sink and notice the automatic dispenser for soap over the sink is beside the automatic faucet AND a hand dryer. All three in one sink. You hesitate. Perhaps you can find a reason to stay here for just a little longer…

Alright, so that was a description of the best washroom we encountered but truthfully, the others weren’t too far off with most of those features and usually a disinfecting station of some sort. Needless to say, after squatting over holes in the ground for toilets in China, southeast Asia and some parts of Taiwan, we REALLY appreciate the cleanliness and comfort of Japanese toilets.

What You Want, You Know They Dispense It

Japanese vending machine

Pop, beer, cookies, coffee, T-shirts, sandwiches, cigarettes, fruit, rice,  – you name it, there’s probably a vending machine that dispenses it! This is THE land of the vending machines with estimates of over 5 million of these metal boxes you’re sure to find one just about everywhere you look. Vending machines may not be wacky or crazy inventions in Japan, but some of the products they dispense are quite different and there are even some that shouldn’t be mentioned in polite company!

Facial recognition pop machine japan

Interestingly, there are even pop machines that use facial recognition technology to identify the demographics of the person approaching in order to make recommendations about which drink you may enjoy. We saw a few of these and thought they were a pretty fascinating version of a traditional pop machine.

Puddle-Be-Gone

people-400818_1280

 

It’s raining. This generally means you’ll be unfolding that umbrella and taking it with you as you go about your business for the day.  When you reach your destination however, the umbrella becomes an inconvenience. Soaking wet, there’s nothing to do but shake it off as much as possible, and bring it with you as it drips a trail behind you, or is there another option? In Japan, there almost always is.

Usually, in restaurants and larger establishments, you’ll find plastic bag dispensers to cover your umbrella until you are ready to head back out again. Sometimes, as is the case in larger malls, there are safes. Stands to place your umbrella which are then secured and locked in place until you are ready to come back and claim it again.

While it seems to us to be an excessive waste of plastic, we still think these bags are brilliant and a great solution to the wet mess that one usually associates with rainy days and carrying an umbrella.

The Never-Ending Pencil

Japanese gadgets endless pencil sharpener

While cell phones and computers are the more common form of dictation and communication, there are still people out there that use pencils (I know we were shocked as well). Most of us can remember the days when we’d pull out a notepad, sharpen that ol’ wooden pencil and jot down a list, or a note, or really anything at all.

Most of us will also remember when that pencil got too small to sharpen any further and the small stub had to be thrown out, oftentimes with a good portion of the lead still available – if only sharpening it was a possibility. Well folks, Japan has found a way to eliminate that pencil-waste!

Let us introduce Tsunago, the pencil sharpener that will help you create a never ending pencil. This little device has three slots. One is a typical sharpener for your regular sharpening needs, but the other two are where the Nakajima Jukyudo company (a Japanese company that solely produces sharpeners) really revolutionizes the pencil sharpener.

One slot creates a hole in the end of the pencil and the other creates a protrusion that allows two pencils to be connected together with an interlocking joint. Adding some wood glue makes the connection permanent and you’ve now got a longer pencil with which you can continue writing. Crazy or genius, you tell us!

Staple-less Stapler

Japanese inventions Kokuyo Stapler

Once you’ve got your never-ending pencil creating sharpener, you’re sure to want to upgrade more of your stationery. Not to worry, Japan’s got you covered. The staple-less stapler is not only economical, as you don’t need to keep buying staples, it is also eco-friendly for the same reason. Not only that, the holes created could be placed in a position that allows it to act as a hole-puncher as well.

Brilliant?! We think so. While we didn’t end up buying one of these, we did have a friend demonstrate exactly how effective it is – and believe us, those papers weren’t coming apart anytime soon!

Take a look at this commercial to see exactly how it works. Actually, watching a Japanese infomercial in itself is worth it.

Cycling In The Rain

japan bicycle umbrella holder

Alright, so it’s raining and you’re carrying your umbrella around with you. You know you’ll avoid any inconvenient puddles when you reach your destination because there’ll be a stand or a bag for you to place your umbrella. Only one problem: You’re not walking, you’re riding your bike. This isn’t an issue in Japan as there are umbrella holders for the handlebars of bicycles allowing you to ride in the rain and keep at least the upper part of your body fairly dry.

We were amazed when we first saw these contraptions and only got more intrigued as time passed and more and more of these appeared.

Tech Savvy Transit

Japan bus system

Every time we rode public transit we thought the various systems in place were innovative even if they weren’t so wacky. Even though transportation in Japan is expensive, it seems well thought out. When we boarded a bus, we’d receive a ticket with the stop number we got on. A screen at the front of the bus would display how much you were to pay for each subsequent stop.

So, if you got on at stop number 1, you’d keep an eye on number 1 on the screen. The amount displayed would increase as the bus travelled along the route and when you got off, you need only look to that screen to pay the required fee. It made shorter trips less costly then a one-time fee might have been but could get a bit pricey for longer trips.

Japan Subway System

We also loved the adjustment machines at train stations. Let’s say we hopped on thinking to go to one stop but along the way we realize we don’t really want to go there after all, we’ll get off sooner, or later, or transfer to another line and go somewhere completely different. Think you’re stuck with the ticket you paid for? Nope! Just head to an adjustment booth at the station you end up getting off at and the machine will either refund your money if you’ve overpaid or let you know how much extra you need to pay.

It was a great help when we weren’t too sure which station we needed to exit at – we’d pay the lowest fare and top up once we got to our destination.

Smart Park

Parking garage in Japan

For some strange reason, we were incredibly fascinated by parking in Japan. As there isn’t a lot of space for parking lots, and perhaps due to earthquakes (though we’re not too sure if that’s true), many parking garages are above ground. And true to fashion, Japan has created some high-tech, interesting designs for them.

We’re used to multi-level, drive-in garages that are basically just floors of parking lots for you to pick a spot and park yourself. In Japan, things are a bit more complex. The above photo is a common sight. Cars are raised above each level and “parked” in a vertical row. How they get them down without a huge amount of effort and re-parking, we’re just not sure but we’re almost positive there’s a simple and amazing way it’s done. We’ve even seen some make-shift home garage systems that look quite similar.

Japan automated parking tower

There are also automated parking towers, like the one above, that mechanically lifts the car up to one of the hundreds of “parking spots” and brings it back down for you when you return. The rotating wheel also ensures it is pointed in the right direction for you to leave. We’ve seen some footage inside one of these automated garages and it’s a pretty fascinating system!

Japanese parking meters and locks

If you’re parking in one of the rare parking spots on street-level, you’ll often find metered-lots with a style of locking or security device in the centre of the spot. The car is able to move over the hump while entering the spot but would be prevented from leaving due to the spikes on the reverse side. This means you have to pay for parking before you leave in order for the spikes to fold down and allow you to safely exit.

A Night In A Capsule

Capsule hotel in Japan

The above photo is of the capsule hotel we stayed in – just because we could – but it isn’t quite the typical capsule-style. We got this private room with bunk-bed capsules as we were a couple and capsule hotels generally don’t mix genders in the same room.

Mostly for businessmen on business trips, capsule hotels are for one night or short stays and typically there is a larger room with many pods (or capsules) open in the front, rather than the side as it was for us. We had wanted to experience a night in one of the many capsule hotels across the country, and while we didn’t exactly get the complete experience, we were happy to have seen a bit of what it is like!

Click for more information and prices for a great capsule hotel in Tokyo, Japan 

No Waiter Needed

Japan Conveyor belt sushi Kaiten

Especially convenient for those of us with limited Japanese, electronic ordering systems are amazing when dining out.

Many ramen, other noodle shops and various other restaurants (even Indian) have machines at the front where you order and pay for your meal in advance. We found it extremely helpful when there was no english menu as there are often photos of each dish on the machine. We also love paying in advance so we can eat our meal and leave at our own convenience. No waiting for the cheque. No waiting for change.

Ordering food in Japan machines

The other ordering system we truly miss is found at many chain conveyor belt sushi restaurants. Small touch screens where you can select what pieces of sushi (or other sides) you want, submit the order and wait as the plates are delivered to you by whatever manner that restaurant uses, be it conveyor belt or mini train! Definitely one of the best of the inventions in Japan, although that may be our stomachs talking!

Tiny Escalators

Garden State Plaza

Okay, we’ll be honest, this isn’t really so much of an invention of Japan and we don’t have an opinion on them either way. We just thought they were really funny. Japan has some TALL escalators, especially in their major subway stations, but we also found several very short, silly looking ones too.

 

What do you think of these? Brilliant, wacky, or nothing special? Have you found crazy inventions in places you’ve travelled? Comment below and let us know!

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Travellers’ Views Of Cultural Taboos

With every new place we go, we make an effort to learn the do’s and don’ts (the cultural taboos) of the country and the culture. It’s not always easy, navigating seamlessly through the cultural customs and taboos of a new place, but it’s usually never as bad as you would initially think. We tried hard to follow the cultural customs of the diverse ethnic groups in Malaysia but weren’t always able to prevent our natural gestures and tendencies from coming out.

Most people are understanding, willing to help correct you when you get something wrong or do something out of place but every so often, you end up breaking a custom you either didn’t know about or completely forgot about, and find yourself in an awkward situation. Take Shawn & Katie, The Lucky Couple Abroad’s, experience in Singapore that they shared with us:

singapore

Photo courtesy of The Lucky Couple Abroad

Singapore is notorious for its strict laws on chewing gum, smoking, and littering so before we went, we did some research in hopes of not offending anyone. We went for a meal at one of the famous Hawker Stand Centres, and sat down at an empty table with our delicious Indian food. A minute after sitting down, a group of Singaporean women came up to us and told us that they had reserved that table. We were confused, but moved to another table quietly. We were slightly embarrassed, and still confused, when a women sitting nearby told us that Singaporeans place packets of tissue paper on tables in food courts to reserve a table. We thought the tissues were provided by the Centre!

You can also follow The Lucky Couple Abroad on Instagram.

Some Rules To Know Before You Go! Remember The Cultural Taboos!

We asked fellow travel bloggers about etiquette and cultural taboos from the different countries they’ve visited and to share their experiences and what they found were important rules to follow. If you’re heading to Singapore, you’re going to want to remember Shawn and Katie’s words, but if you’re headed to, or just plain interested in, Japan, Germany, Mongolia, Kenya, Poland, Italy, Spain,  Argentina, Thailand or the UAE, you’re going to want to keep reading!

Japan

By Paula and Gordon of Contented Traveller

Japan etiquette

Photo courtesy of Contented Traveller

Understanding Japanese etiquette is quite difficult, and despite visiting there annually for a long time, we are still discovering more and more about these codes of behaviour.

Shoes. You need to remove your shoes whenever you enter a house and many cafes and restaurants too, especially if you are in the villages. There is a historical reason for this. The streets were muddy and dirty, and the Japanese houses had and have tatami mats, where they eat and also sleep. Bringing dirt in would have been unhygienic, and this custom continues. Tip, wear easy shoes to slip in and out of in Japan.

The etiquette of having an onsen. These are the wonderful hot water public baths, and there are many rules that need to be observed. You need to remove your shoes before entering the sex-segregated onsen, and then remove clothes in a specific area. You enter the onsen area and wash yourself thoroughly outside of the onsen itself. Then you rinse off completely, before entering. There are quite a few more rules to be observed before enjoying this experience. I still don’t get it right.

Slurping. Loudly slurping food, particularly ramen noodles. This is a way of showing enjoyment of the dish, so if you like it, raise the bowl to your mouth and slurp away. A small hint, if you are dining with Japanese people and eat everything on your plate, they will not feel that they have fed you enough and will continue to fill your plate. Ditto, sake – so beware and leave a little in your glass when you have had sufficient.

Japan may have many etiquette codes, and they really respect that visitors try to observe these.

Paula and Gordon of Contented Traveller regularly travel to Japan. Follow them also on  Instagram.

GERMANY

By Annemarie of Travel on the Brain

dresden germany opera house

Don’t jaywalk. If you want to experience the German death stare, practically the equivalent to a muggle avada kedavra spell when it comes to angry looks, then just stand at traffic lights when children are within a 500 metre vicinity. And start walking. You might even get a death threat thrown in there for good measure. Of course, while the children are watching and listening. It is funny how the kids might not even have seen it but adults will draw total attention to such a ‘crime’ (you could get your licence revoked, too!). But having said all that, students or busy worker bees usually do not care very much (and are most likely late and in a rush).

Shake that thang. We Germans like to be practical and seize opportunities. This might be taken quite literally when meeting people, especially in a work environment. A firm hand shake is the way forward. The older or higher in rank men are, the more bone crushing it gets, in my experience. Women usually have a softer grip and struggle a lot with that in job interviews as a solid hand shake is seen as powerful and self confident. But nobody likes a bone crusher either.

Don’t come close. If you like to play a prank on a German and create a very uncomfortable situation, try sitting next to them. This goes particularly in places where there are enough seats available (and those are hopefully far away). To add a little more awkwardness, why not start talking and puting on a big grin? You will be taken as positively lunatic and can slowly watch the German squirm in their seat, racking their brain to get out of the situation while still retaining the dignity of both people involved. They will usually mumble some excuse to themselves and less than subtly sit somewhere else a little bit further off.

MONGOLIA

By Jub of Tiki Touring Kiwi

mongolia

Photo courtesy of Tiki Touring Kiwi

As we bumped along Mongolia’s Gobi Desert in our Russian van for hours a day we would see just a handful of people before experiencing the Mongolian nomadic lifestyle ourselves at night. The nomadic lifestyle is very unique, with these three rules crucial:

Never let meat go to waste. With minimal fridges and freezers in the Gobi Desert, a large kill will not last long in the summer heat so you give some to your neighbours (the Gobi Desert brings a new meaning to neighbours).

Do not do your toilet business near fence lines. Not all families have squat facilities so the one rule in place is never to do your number ones or twos near the fence line where people walk; the rest of the desert is fair game.

Do not put rubbish in the stove. The stove inside the nomadic gers (yurts) provides warmth and the ability to cook, therefore it is sacred.

Mongolia is a truly unique landscape and the nomads live a very different lifestyle compared to the rest of the world.

You can also follow Tiki Touring Kiwi on Instagram

KENYA

By Michaela of AweInclusive

kenya2

Photo courtesy of AweInclusive

Kenya is a spectacular country with expansive cultural, geographical, and biological diversity. And while this country is home to over 40 tribes, there are a few customs that are shared across the region and learning them will add to the enjoyment of your trip.

Religious freedom is built into Kenya’s constitution and you will notice various religious facilities during your trip.

Although the handshake is a common greeting in this country, note that Muslim men and women do not shake hands with the opposite sex. “Jambo,” which means, “How are you” is the common greeting.

When using names, it’s best to address people using a title and surname until a personal relationship is developed. While greetings are mostly indifferent in the large city where I live, I learned to take my time when greeting Kenyans because rushing this gesture is a form of disrespect.

Dining is formal at many locations and diners are expected to wash their hands before eating. At some restaurants, you’ll even notice wash bins near the tables. Plan to eat everything on your plate. At a recent meal with Kenyans, we had a meal of fish and ugali. I thought I’d finished, but my Kenyan host urged me to eat the brain of the fish. According to him, it makes people smarter. I obliged and it was actually quite tasty. If you are offered food or drink from a Kenyan, it is impolite to decline.

You can also follow AweInclusive on Pinterest.

POLAND

By Ania & Jon of Hitch-Hikers Handbook

krakow poland

Poland is still quite a traditional and formal society and good manners are very important to us.

Firstly, if you visit a Polish friend you should never walk into the house with your shoes on. This is very important to the Poles and if you break this social norm you will be considered very rude.

Secondly, if you are a man and you go through any door (enter or exit a building, a lift or any form of transport) you should never walk in before all the women around you do and it’s good manners to open the door for them. This can sometimes lead to comical or awkward situations especially in lifts as men would refuse to leave before the women even if that means that the ladies have to squeeze past them in very confined places.

Another thing you should keep in mind is that you should NOT say ‘thank you’ if somebody offers you something before this thing arrives. Let me give you an example. If your host asks you if you would like to have some tea and you say ‘thank you’ (dziekuje) before the tea is made, this will be understood as ‘no, thank you’ (nie, dziekuje) and you will never see the drink. The best thing to do in this situation is to answer ‘yes, please’ (poprosze) and say ‘thank you’ after the tea is brought to you.

Similarly, if you are in a restaurant or bar and you pay your bill, you shouldn’t say ‘thank you’ to the waiter before they bring you the change as it would be understood as ‘keep the change’. You can thank them after they bring you all the money back and leave the tip on the table if you please.

Furthermore, you should never invite Polish people to your birthday party if you are not willing to pay for their drinks. It is a custom for us that if you want to see people at your party you should pay for their beverages (or at least the first drink for each person if you invite them out) or buy the alcohol if you throw a party at your place. Likewise, it would be considered very rude if you made your Polish friends pay for their drinks at your wedding party. Polish parties are great, as a guest you always drink for free!

Lastly, the majority of Polish people are Catholics and the person of John Paul II is a very important one. He is considered not only a religious figure but also somebody who helped bring down Communism and one of the most important individuals in Polish history. So you should avoid insulting him in public or sometimes even joke about him. Just be careful what you say as you may easily hurt people’s feelings, it’s a delicate topic.

ARGENTINA

By Laura & Nick of Savored Journeys

buenos ares argentina

One of the customs in Argentina that will affect you the most as a tourist is the acceptable time to eat dinner, which is probably quite a bit later than you eat back home. In order to avoid embarrassment, you should plan to eat no earlier than 9 pm. Actually, 10 or 11pm would be better.

We love drinking wine with our meals in Argentina, and when we do, it’s important to remember that pouring our own wine, especially with the left hand, or while grasping the neck of the bottle are all considered rude and inconsiderate. You should always pour for your friends and allow them to pour for you.

If you’re in Argentina for any time at all, you’ll likely make some new friends and maybe even be invited in for dinner or an impromptu gathering. Be aware that it’s rude to just wave and say goodbye when you leave. Friends, and even acquaintances, will expect a kiss on the cheek both when you arrive and when you leave.

ITALY

By Martina of Pimp My Trip

venice italy gondola

In Italy, the galateo is a set of behavioral norms that people should always follow, even if a lot of italians don’t know it!

Italians love food and, in Italy, the galateo should always be applied when eating.

Don’t eat “pasta” with a spoon! Moreover, it is not a polite thing to cut “spaghetti” or any other kind of long “pasta” with a knife, either. When you bring spaghetti to your mouth do not “suck” them in. There is an exception, though: sucking is allowed with oriental noodles, since they are usually served in a hot soup.

Never ask a woman’s age! If she is quite witty she will tell you the truth, otherwise she will come back to you with a prickly joke for an answer.

When you are guest and want to come with a gift,  never give umbrellas as a present, since they bring bad luck. To give an umbrella as a present is a kind of like wishing rain. But there is of course a remedy to such bad luck and that is to give a little coin, like one or two cents, as an exchange gift.

THAILAND

By Sally of Sally Around The World

thailand traditional boats

While there are many customs in Thailand, most Thai people are used to tourist and can be very tolerant of cultural errors. The below, however are taken very seriously.

Take your shoes off. By far the custom I kept unintentionally breaking while in Thailand was the ‘no shoes inside rule’. Whether you are entering a temple or someone’s home, you must remove your shoes before going inside. This is even the case for shops and business. If you forget, the reaction can range from an evil death stare to being chased out of the building. Yes, I have had them both happen. It is unhygienic to wear shoes indoors and as Buddhists do a lot of kneeling and sitting in the lotus position or cross legged, they need the floors to be clean.

Do not touch peoples heads or show the soles of your feet. The head is considered spiritually the highest part of the body, and the feet the lowest. Touching someone’s head is seen as disrespectful, even little children’s. Although I did not feel the need to go around patting people on the head, I did cringe every time I saw a westerner with their feet up on the table.

Respect the King. Disrespecting and even criticizing the king is a criminal offence in Thailand. The Thais love their monarchy. You will see their picture in every business and in every house. Thailand has some of the world’s toughest lese majeste (injured majesty) laws protecting its extremely popular monarch. The national anthem is played at  8am, 6pm and before a movie in the cinema and you are expected to stand. The first time I went to see a movie and everyone stood up, I was very confused. I did actually end up enjoying it. I was moved by the Thai’s sense of pride and loyalty to a monarchy they love so much and who clearly loves them.

Standing on a coin or a note with the king’s face on it is seen as an insult to an image of the king. In 2011 a US citizen was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for writing a blog post seen as disrespectful and posting a link to an unauthorised biography of the king.

SPAIN

By Inma and Jose of A World to Travel

Yet another flysch one. #Euskadi

A photo posted by A World to Travel (@aworldtotravel) on

If you are lucky enough to spend some time in our country, please remember:

We take our time. Don’t rush a Spaniard unnecessarily. It doesn’t mean we are lazy or slow, we just have a different life philosophy where relationships and enjoying our everyday come before work.

We get close. Shaking hands is only a custom for business and between boys. If you are introducing yourself to a Spanish girl, two cheek kisses will follow. Also, please do not get intimidated by a closer than usual personal space when talking (aloud, by the way).

Respect our schedules. Shops usually open 10-14/17-20h, having breakfast at 11 is accepted and dinner can be served till at least midnight. That’s how we roll.

Inma and Jose run A World to Travel, a site focused in unique experiences around the world, photography, music festivals and the great outdoors. Follow them also on Instagram.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

By Jennifer of Made All The Difference

abu dhabi United Arab Emirates

Don’t eat or drink in public during daylight in Ramadan.  It is against the law during this time and could get you arrested.  If you are arrested during Ramadan, enjoy your jail cell.  You will be there until the end of Ramadan.

Dress appropriately in public.  The UAE isn’t the place to wear short, tight, and low-cut clothing.  While not illegal in most of the UAE, it is disrespectful and makes you a target for staring.

Don’t get drunk, especially in public.  Islam does not permit drinking.  The UAE tolerates drinking alcohol in the hotels and private non-Islamic residences but nowhere else.  It isn’t unheard of for taxi drivers to drop drunk passengers off at the police station.

Don’t ask for pork in a restaurant.  Islam considers pigs to be unclean.  They do not eat them or touch them.

Our Encounter with Cultural Taboos – Do Your Reseach

We recently wrote about what not to do in Malaysia which gives a good look at the cultural customs and taboos of that country as well. It’s one place where different cultures combine and often travellers can be confused as to what exactly you should, or shouldn’t, do!

 

Have you ever run into different customs while travelling? Had an awkward experience when you weren’t aware of what you should or shouldn’t do in a country? Comment below and tell us about it!

Want to save this for later? Or share with others? In addition to the above images, you can hover on the top left corner of the below pin for the “Pin it” button and share on your Pinterest account!

 

Travellers' views of cultural taboos

 

 

 

 

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Love Me Or Hate Me? Only Travel Will Tell!

Staring at each other across the candlelit table, goofy smiles on our faces and the feeling of the entire future opening up before you… that’s what it’s like during the first few months of a relationship.  Stumbling into a cement room, a hard bed the only piece of furniture, both of us sweaty, disheveled and cranky, looking at each other and knowing that if we don’t get something to eat, soon, we are going to start taking our misery out on each other… that’s being together after travelling 24/7 for months on end. No pretenses, no secrets, certainly no privacy, but an absolute bone-deep knowledge of who that other person is and a love for them despite, or maybe because, of it all.

Travel As A Couple

It’s Not All Sunshine & Roses… But It’s Worth It

Travelling as we do, we see each other at our best and at our absolute worst. We tell each other everything, no thought is spared – whether it’s expressing how happy we are to be sharing a particular moment together, revealing a previously untold thought or secret, or taking out our fatigue and hunger on the other person in a bout of temporary grumpiness.

Yup, we run the gamut of emotions while travelling and we often use each other as the means to release them. But even when we show up to less than impressive accommodations, after walking with our bags for hours, hunger gnawing at our stomachs and exhaustion draining us completely, we know that no matter what we say or how we act, we can be genuine to how we feel at the moment and the other won’t hold it against us.

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You enter into a relationship with a host of questions about who the other person is and expect to find those answers over time. Travelling together becomes an expedited version of that process and no matter how long you’ve been together, there’s always more to learn.

It’s been almost 9 months of full-time travel for us where almost every minute is spent with the other person and very few personal details remain private. We’ve learned a heck of a lot about each other during that time and while it hasn’t always been a piece of cake, our relationship has become stronger and deeper than either of us could have imagined.

What We’ve Learned As A Couple Through Travel

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Although travel isn’t the only way to grow as a couple, our relationship has grown in several main ways over the past 9 months, much of it owed to our travel experiences:

Trust

While we never had problems with trust before we ventured out on full-time travel, we’ve learned to trust each other on a deeper level than we thought possible. While travelling, the other person becomes the one thing you can count on in an ever-changing environment that is unfamiliar and often unsteady. We rely on each other and trust each other completely, with every thought, feeling, decision, and action.

Communication

We’ve learned that there is always room for improvement when it comes to communication skills, whether it is expressing how you feel or learning to listen to what the other person is saying. While travelling a number of situations and circumstances arise and communication is key to having as stress-free and enjoyable time as possible. We try and communicate openly and honestly (something that ties into trust) and try and receive what the other person is saying with equal openness. It’s not always easy, it’s not always perfect, but we’ve learned a lot about each other and can often understand what the other person is thinking or feeling without any words needed. We’ve become “tuned-in” to the other person so much so that even while scuba diving in Koh Tao, Thailand, we were able to communicate our thoughts through random hand movements not at all like the standard ones used to convey messages to your dive partner.

Compromise

Many times compromise is thought of as finding a middle-ground between two opposite choices and sometimes it is, but more often than not it’s about making small sacrifices for the other person. For the most part we are pretty much in harmony with what we want to do and where we want to go but there have been times when one of us wanted to go somewhere that the other person was not especially thrilled about going. Compromise then becomes a matter of one person deciding to forgo their momentary desires to make the other happy. We’ve learned to balance between these decisions, communicating our feelings on a subject and making compromises along the way.

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Closeness & Familiarity

Think about everything you do in a day, week or month. From daily routines, both public and private, to illness, moods and the like. Now, think about spending almost all your waking (and sleeping) moments with another person during these times. It is impossible not to begin to know pretty much EVERYTHING about the other person and this sets the tone for honesty and familiarity. A different sense of closeness and familiarity starts developing.

Ties That Bond

We have shared some incredible moments together and developed memories that have little meaning or comprehension outside of our relationship. We’ve developed a bond through each country we’ve travelled and each memory that has been formed. Sure, this happens in any relationship and even before we started full-time travel, but while we’ve been at it there has been a non-stop barrage of experiences and memories that we share together.

How We Make It Work

Mark Twain once wrote, in Tom Sawyer Abroad, “There ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”

Whether short- or long- term, travelling as a couple can be a time of huge growth and bonding. During our full-time travels together, we have come to completely depend on, and utterly trust, each other. We share amazing experiences, help each other through the hardships and grow, closer together, with each day.

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But as we mentioned, it isn’t always easy. We’ve gotten to be pretty in-sync with each other’s thoughts and feelings while travelling and we are, in our opinion, pretty compatible travel partners. Many people told us that this was the ultimate test of our relationship, and in some ways perhaps it was.

We like to think of it as less of a test and more of an opportunity to challenge ourselves as individuals and as partners, to work on our personal development and the growth of our relationship. It forced us to be vulnerable around each other and to see if we were able to work together through both good times and bad times.

How do we make it work?

Well, like any relationship, it takes work and effort. In addition to the aforementioned skills we’ve improved upon, here are some more things we try to do that help us while travelling together:

Take Time out

Since the work we do now is pretty much 24/7, we try and make time for each other by putting down the camera, the phone, the computer and just enjoying each others’ company. We even try to make sure we make time to have date nights and celebrate milestones in our work and life.

Let Go of the small things

When things go wrong, or not as expected – especially when you are travel weary, tired and hungry – it’s hard not to get frustrated. We’ve learned to deal better with these situations by trying to go with the flow and worrying less about planning and having those plans play out seamlessly. Things aren’t always going to work perfectly, but we are doing what we love and we are doing it together.

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Socialize

It’s very easy to become isolated when you are travelling as a couple. Really, there’s no need to seek out social interaction or meet new people when you already have someone with you. We try not to get accustomed to only spending time with each other and seek out people to meet – whether it’s fellow travel bloggers in the same area, people on Couchsurfing willing to meet and show you around local areas, or various websites and apps that bring people together in various “meet ups”. It’s a great way to share different experiences and, let’s face it, to find new things to talk about!

Understand Your Moods

We’ve learned, quickly, that we are generally in a bad mood when we are over-hungry (hangry as we call it) and that if you add sleepy to the mix, foul moods are guaranteed. We try and eat when our hunger first hits, or keep some snacks on hand, and we definitely have become more understanding of each other and the reason behind the moods we are in while on the road.

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Respecting Differences

We work to build on our skills as individuals, and as a couple, and find ways to balance out each other’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as our likes and dislikes. For instance, Carolann usually lets Macrae do all the navigating while on the road. He seems to be able to find his way anywhere and know exactly where he is at any given moment. Similarly, Macrae usually lets Carolann navigate the metro systems. Once we’re in those subway tunnels, or train stations, it’s her show and she seems to be able to easily remember station names, directions and stops. We also try to appreciate and respect those differences.

Inspire Each Other

We try and motivate each other to try new things, whether it is new food, new activities or learning new skills. In this way, we have new experiences together and also help each other to grow. It’s a great way to bond but we always make sure to respect the boundaries the other person has when it comes to trying new things.

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Common Goals

We also work towards common goals. We’ve built a business together and we both strive to be successful in what we do and the goals we have set for ourselves. We’ve established something that we both want to work hard for, and work hard for, together. By working hand-in-hand, we’re able to accomplish more than just one of us would.

Work Through Disagreements

It would be great to say we never disagree and that we always look at each other with hearts in our eyes and smiles on our faces… that would be a terrible lie. There are times when we’re too tired, too stressed, or too frustrated to keep up a cheerful disposition. It’s during these times that we’ve learned not to go on the defensive. More and more we try and understand the motivation behind the other person’s mood and we’ve gotten better and better at helping the other person out of a slump. Sometimes, we just have to joke or laugh it off when the other person’s habits or behaviours get us frustrated because, to be honest, it’s those same behaviours that we also find endearing.

It’s Not Just About Travel As A Couple

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While travelling together has strengthened our relationship, it’s not always for everyone, nor is it always possible. We’ve been fortunate to meet so many people on the road travelling in their own way: solo travel, family travel, friends, couples, long-term, short-term, and the list goes on.

Want to travel as a family? We met one of the most incredible families in Thailand, the Wagoners (of Wagoners Abroad). Read what they have to say about how travel has changed them as individuals and as a family.

Want to travel solo? We’ve crossed paths with so many solo travellers and, while it may be a scary thought at first, seems to be one of the most liberating and incredible experiences. While we haven’t met Michael of Bemused Backpacker but we hope to one day! He wrote a great post on “Why Solo Travel is Awesome” and we happen to agree with all of his points!

Emily of Home Behind The World Ahead and Annemarie of Travel On The Brain were two inspiring female solo travellers we were fortunate enough to meet.

Want to read what other people have to say about travel as a couple? We recently contributed to a post about travelling as a couple for another travel blogging duo, Megan and Andrew of Hearts Around the Globe.

 

What do you think the biggest challenge is when travelling with another person? Comment below and let us know!