Four Things I Want to See in Malacca Malaysia!

This post is number 7 on West’s Bucket List. Enjoy!

This city in Malaysia is one of culture and colour! If you were to look at the pictures of its red and pink buildings, you might think they were in somewhere like Cuba, and for good reason. Like Cuba, Malacca is something of a time capsule, visually still trapped in the colonial era with architecturally traditions lent from Portuguese, Dutch, and British settlers. Here are just two reasons I’m desperate to visit the city!

  1. Jonker Street Market

One of the most popular tourist attractions in the city is Jonker Street, the central promenade of china town.

Jonker Street supposedly has one of the best and most bustling night markets in all of Asia. Bargains and street foods of all types are available, virtually on tap, if you’re hungry or have an itchy finger when it comes to your wallet. That, coupled with the street party-style atmosphere of the gathering, makes Jonker Street unmissable if you’re spending a night in the city!

  1. The beautiful architecture

If, however, you want to take a more laid-back and slow-paced approach to exploring Malacca, perhaps the diverse range of buildings will take your fancy.

The creme de la creme is the 16th century A’Famosa Fort, constructed by Portuguese conquerors of Malacca. One gate stands, now alone, defending the city, flanked by two accompanying cannons. It is amongst the oldest European architecture still standing in Asia and reinforces the idea of Malaysia as an age-old cultural hub. That has to be worth seeing!

Beyond the Fort, Christ Church, with its giant white cross set against bright red walls, is the legacy of Dutch settlers who took the region from the Portuguese. It is well worth a look, whether you subscribe to the Christian faith or not, for its beautiful architecture and vibrant colouring.

Amongst the architecture there are homes for guns and gods alike! Explore both to your heart’s content!

  1. The Butterfly and Reptile sanctuary in Ayer Keroh.

If, however, you’d prefer to see a few of the animals native to Malaysia, you may perhaps choose to visit the butterfly and reptile sanctuary just 15 kilometers north of Malacca. It is the second largest zoo in the country and a very popular tourist attraction if you have the time! From delicate patterned butterflies to monstrous grey crocodiles, they have it all.

  1. The Sultanate Palace of the Mansur Shah of Malacca

This could come under architecture, but the Sultanate Palace is a reconstruction and it feels disingenuous to plug it in alongside the real historical remnants of A’Famosa Fort and Christ Church.

A wooden replica of the Sultan’s palace, the building was once an iconic symbol of the Malaccan Empire. This reconstruction is well worth a visit to see an important piece of Malaysian history!

Malacca isn’t widely or particularly well known; however, one of my best friends visited it and swore by the city. She commended Malacca for its laidback feel and beautiful aesthetics, although she said there wouldn’t be a lot to do if you find yourself there for a while. All in all, Malacca definitely sounds worth at least a stop off visit to me!

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Thrifty Travel Tips 2: 4 Ways to Eat Cheap Abroad

A few of my friends have a slight problem going travelling with me. They want to shell out big money at fancy restaurants and on expensive experiences. I don’t share that desire. Personally, I find that when I am in a country, city, or region, for a period of time, there is always plenty to keep me busy without breaking the bank. Besides, keeping a little thrifty ensures that I can spend longer in these places and enjoy them that much more!

Now the title of this article might get a few people riled up but, don’t fret, I’m not going to tell anyone that they shouldn’t enjoy the delicacies of whichever country they plan to visit. Fully immersing oneself in local culture means stuffing your face with whatever sed culture has to offer.

  1. Shop at a local store.

What I will say is that, in order to enjoy local food, you really don’t need to dine out at Michelin star restaurants and sample fine liqueurs to boot. Take France for example. Visit a local boulangerie for your bread, a charcuterie, and perhaps even an epicier. Ask what a Frenchman would eat at each one and then construct yourself a fine baguette with all you are given!

Even a local supermarket like Auchan, in France, will provide you with most of the ingredients that a local would use on a day to day basis. Do your research, pick up the delicacies of your host nation, and enjoy!

  1. Ask a local where they eat.

Should you wish to grab a bite at a restaurant, ask your host or a passing local where they might eat. Put down the travel guide and open your mouth with a somewhat loose tongue. It’s hard to go wrong when a denizen of the area tells you what they like. After all, if you’re English, I’d bet you’d be able to name a fantastic pub in your area if someone asked your advice!

  1. Take advantage of local hospitality.

Don’t be too cheeky but, if you meet some friendly locals, there’s no harm in subtly hinting at wanting to try a local home cooked meal.

I’ve found that, in countries like Italy and France, locals have occasionally wanted me to try their fine home cooked food. Apparently we Brits don’t have a reputation for culinary excellence! If you get such an opportunity, it’s one you should totally take. Just ensure that everything is above board of course, and offer a little money to cover the ingredient costs! It will still be substantially cheaper than eating out.

  1. Grab some streetfood!

This is my favourite option of the bunch! Of course, not everywhere has stalls selling street foods but, for places that do, tuck in where possible!

From pad thai in Bangkok, to empenadas in Mexico, nothing fills the belly without emptying the wallet like some good street food. Even if it looks unsavoury, give it a go! Actually, maybe not always, I’ve definitely made the mistake of trusting street vendor food-quality once too often!

This is all simple advice, but I think there’s something to be taken from it and applied. Save yourself some money on your next trip with a hint of frugality!

5 Things to Complete your Experience of the Great Barrier Reef!

This thread of posts is on my bucket list, both the parts of it I have done and those I am yet to do. It has been written to provide consistent content for your perusal (particularly with lockdown at the moment). I hope West’s Bucket Lists will provide some inspiration, perhaps for your future travels, and even a little escapism in these uncertain times. This post is number 6 on West’s Bucket List. Enjoy!

The Great Barrier Reef covers around 350 000km of Australian waters and is the world’s largest living structure. Unfortunately, it is dying, and that is why I fear if I wait much longer, I may not have the opportunity to see it. Rising sea temperatures are changing far too fast for the coral polyps to adapt their ways.

One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the reef is supposed to be a place of unspeakable beauty. In the hope that I may one day get to see it, still thriving, I’ve written this bucket list post a little differently. I’m going to provide you with a short list of possible ways to further your enjoyment if you ever happen to get to see The Great Barrier Reef.

Without further ado, here’s what my friends and family have recommended!

  1. Whitehaven Beach

The best beach in Australia? I think few would disagree. If you like sand, sea, and sky, there is just about nowhere better to spend a few days of your time.

On Whitsunday Island, at the heart of the reef, white pristine sand stretches for miles, bordering the electric blue Pacific Ocean. Oceanside restaurants, like the Marina Tavern, can provide you with food and drink to supplement the experience, but no where’s cheap so maybe consider packing a picnic to bring with you.

As you lie on the silica sand, you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of turtles or dolphins in the water but, if not, take a trip out into the surf by boat and seek them out! There’s no shortage of tour possibilities to enhance your day at the beach.

  1. Snorkelling

If you don’t want to strap on a dive tank and dive into the depths of the reef, snorkeling can still provide you with a way to immerse yourself in the subaquatic world.

I actually prefer snorkeling to diving. Don’t get me wrong, diving definitely provides you with a more comprehensive underwater experience. You come far more up close and personal with the reef and its various inhabitants; however, I like to take my time looking at the wildlife and exploring. Snorkeling can give you hours and hours of continuous entertainment where you would have to return to the surface if diving. Moreover, snorkeling gives you added freedom to move in the water, without the hindrance of cumbersome equipment. There is something discernibly natural about that.

Perhaps the most significant reason why you should choose to go snorkeling is that it is considerably cheaper than diving. A mask, snorkel, and perhaps a pair of fins, should set you back less than £50 (unless you plan to buy professional gear) and can provide years of waterborne fun. For the thrifty traveller in me, that is partly why it is one of my absolute favourite activities when I am abroad.

  1. Scuba Diving

Having made a case for snorkeling the reef; scuba diving, to many, will be a preferable choice. It will set you back an absolute minimum of 100 AUD per dive around the reef, but if that doesn’t put you off, there are plenty of reasons to get yourself down towards the sea floor.

From small, striped, and colourful clownfish in their sea anemone huts, to great grey groupers hunting over the sand, there is every type of fish before your very eyes down in this portion of the deep blue. Moreover, corals as far as they eye can see and turtles, reptilian sentinels watching over the reef, complete a composite image of the thriving ecosystem. Apparently, according to the people who have visited, there is no place quite like it.

For an utterly immersive experience down and personal with the reef, get diving.

  1. Mon Repos

Mon Repos is the home of the turtle center. The center itself is a hub dedicated to turtle research and protection, as well as the education of the public.

If you have kids, Mon Repos is a great place to teach them about marine life and conservation. Get yourself out on a night tour to see turtles laying, or hatching, depending upon when you arrive. I’ve seen both phenomena, in Florida and Oman respectively, and its an experience that will truly live long in the memory.

Pricing isn’t too bad but check the Mon Repos website for updates because I can’t guarantee they will stay stable when we get out of lockdown.

  1. Take to the skies

There are lots of different options for tour operates who provide flights over the reef, be it by plane or by helicopter.

If you thought diving under the water offered you a unique perspective, a low flying tour over the reef will offer you one which even fewer people are blessed with. It is an experience that few people consider but, by all accounts, one that is magnificent.

If expense, or your carbon footprint, are on the brain then you might not be inclined to take a flight. For those reasons, it would not be under consideration for me; however, but for both factors, I have heard nothing but good things about such trips.

Conclusion

I hope that I have given you a little inspiration for your trip to Australia, whether you were considering taking one or not. I am positively buzzing about the prospect of lockdown ending in the near future and writing these posts to learn that bit more about the world is just about the only thing keeping me going. I hope they are providing something to you all as well! Happy Lockdown!

Why You Should Visit Florence!

This thread of posts is on my bucket list, both the parts of it I have done and those I am yet to do. It has been written to provide consistent content for your perusal (particularly with lockdown at the moment). I hope West’s Bucket Lists will provide some inspiration, perhaps for your future travels, and even a little escapism in these uncertain times.

“To see the sun sink down, drowned on his pink and purple and golden floods, and overwhelm Florence with tides of colour that make all the sharp lines dim and faint and turn the solid city to a city of dreams, is a sight to stir the coldest nature, and make a sympathetic one drunk with ecstasy.”

Mark Twain

Florence is a place on my bucket list I have frequented, but never will there come a time where I have visited the city enough.

In architectural brilliance alone, Florence supersedes just about every other city I have visited, with the possible exception of Rome. Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome, and Giotto’s accompanying bell tower, are just two magnificent reminders of this city’s former position at the heart of the renaissance. The Duomo, of which both of the previous architectural marvels are mere parts, stands regal over the city. It is, in itself, amongst the most beautiful of buildings the world over, and enough reason to visit the city alone.

If art of the architectural form is not enough in itself though, the Galleria degli Uffizi houses plenty of paintings and sculptures to sink your teeth into. Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, for example, is an enduring vision of the renaissance and a universal symbol of beauty. Riding on her seashell, nude and pale, Venus leans towards the reader in contrapposto form.

Italy is also a country renowned for its food, and Florence prepares good quality nosh with the rest of the country, as if part of some national agenda. Great gelato can be found all over the city and I recommend looking up and trying a variety because, why not? You are travelling after all! Pistachio is my favourite and, if you haven’t tried it, although it is not a desperately uncommon taste, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

A couple of other things you might try, two of my personal favourites, are cannoli from Café Rivoire and Biastecca alla Fiorentina, the local form of steak. Both should definitely be on your agenda.

Finally, a quick word on Tuscany. I have been to many wonderful campsites and attached restaurants across the world, but Tuscany holds my favourite of them all. I may very well write an entire article on my experiences at Azienda Agricola Montaioncino on another day; however, I must recommend the place now. Just outside Empoli, not far from Florence, this little campsite is an uncut diamond. Good, cheap, and simple food, supplemented with fantastic wine, views of vineyards for miles, and positively wonderful hosts, makes for an award-winning combination. If you are inclined to travel from the countryside and into Florence, then stay here for sure!

Why I want to visit Mount Fuji!

“Aspire to be like Mt. Fuji, with such a broad and solid foundation that the strongest earthquake cannot move you, and so tall that the greatest enterprises of common men seem insignificant from your lofty perspective. With your mind as high as Mt Fuji you can see all things clearly. And you can see all the forces that shape events; not just the things happening near to you.”

MIyamoto musashi

This thread of posts is on my bucket list, both the parts of it I have done and those I am yet to do. It has been written to provide consistent content for your perusal (particularly with lockdown at the moment). I hope West’s Bucket Lists will provide some inspiration, perhaps for your future travels, and even a little escapism in these uncertain times. This post is number 5 on West’s Bucket List. Enjoy!

Mount Fuji, although famous the world over, only really jumped onto my radar as an addition to my bucket list once I read Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. In his quest to find those places in the world which most spoke to him on an ethereal level, Phil Knight described climbing Mount Fuji as a ‘mystical experience’. That really caught my attention.

I have never been a particularly religious person. I went to a Christian school and some of my closest friends have strong connections to their faith; however, that was something I never came to share. For one reason or another, common forms of worship just didn’t seem to resonate with my personality.

Instead, my father raised me with a profound respect for nature. To respect the land and all of those creatures living upon it with a sense of quasi-reverence. I believe it is for this reason that my travels already seem to end up taking me to places of unadulterated and exquisite natural beauty. These places stir something deep within me.

Gullfoss, the roaring waterfall in Iceland, for example, captured my attention for it enormity and sheer power, whilst Madagascar, where I saw the horrors of mass deforestation, evoked strong senses of awe and terror in my psyche. As I travel further, it is such personal responses that I am looking for in nature, and many of my posts will reflect that. Mt Fuji is, therefore, somewhere that I hope will sit amongst these unearthly places.

Fuji’s name is something of a mystery. It has been claimed, in the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, that the name means immortal; however, there are just as many who claim the name derives from any one of a number of other possible etymological origins.

Mount Fuji itself is nearly four kilometers of snow capped mountain which hides a terrible secret. Although serene to observe, beneath still rock churns fire and smoke. The mountain is a volcano, albeit one which has not erupted in three hundred years, shrouded in a light cloud hat and snow topped peak. I’s outward beauty make its an apt sacred site and symbol for practitioners of Shinto, the indigenous faith of Japan.

Only around thirty five minutes from Tokyo by bullet train, Mt Fuji is a must if you are ever in the city. Ascent of the mountain is not supposedly particularly difficult. Hundreds of thousands of people hike the mountain every Summer and most without guides. You shouldn’t need one either should you follow the trails.

Of course, bring with you provisions, such as food and water, as well as money to buy more. There are many stations where you can pick up further supplies if you should wish or need to. There are associated risks whenever hiking and you should beware of both exhaustion and altitude sickness. If you have health conditions that should threaten to do you him, be careful and think twice about attempting the journey.

It might be that the view of Mount Fuji from ground level is more appealing to you than the view from the top. It is, of course, the form of the mountain which boasts to have inspired master artist Katsushika Hokusai, and through his work, the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh and compositions of Claude Debussy.

To say that views of Mount Fuji are iconic is therefore laughably understated; however, I don’t think the trip would really be complete without reaching the summit of this ancient volcano as well as laying eyes upon it. I think if you are visiting, and able to make the hike, a pilgrimage to the top should be a perfect way to experience one of element of Japan’s magnificence. I certainly plan on getting up there!

“In the darkness you could hear the crying women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men. Some prayed for help. Others wished for death. But still more imagined that there were no Gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness.”

pliny the younger’s sombre take on the horrors of a volcanic eruption.

Lockdown Reads 4: The Lays of Ancient Rome

This recommendation is for a very different sort of book to those which I have written about before and will likely write about in the future.

The Lays of Ancient Rome, written by Thomas Babington Macaulay, a man with the most fabulously British name, is a collection of a series of narrative poems which recount the stories which have shaped modern understanding of early Roman History and canon.

I first learned of the book when one of my friends quoted this reference to me, in particularly poetic fashion, just before a boxing match:

‘Then out spake brave Horatius, The Captain of the Gate: “To every man upon this earth Death cometh soon or late. And how can men die better Than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers, And the temples of his Gods.”’

This particular excerpt is taken from the poem Horatius, a story of sacrifice not dissimilar to Thermopylae, but for the ending. Horatius and his two comrades defend the Sublician Bridge, the crossing point on the Tiber at Rome, against an advancing Etruscan army. Horatius ends up standing alone whilst Roman engineers demolish the bridge into the river to halt the Etruscan advance. Whilst Horatius survives, swimming back to shore, his willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice is a powerful reminder of the strength of character which few men possess when they need to carry the world on their shoulders.

Aside from this poem, others, like The Battle of Lake Regillus and The Prophecy of Capys, tell other ‘foundation myth’ type stories absolutely brilliantly and eloquently.

This book of poetry is undoubtedly hard to read; however, to help nourish a blossoming understanding of Roman history, and a passion for classic works of literature, I could not think of one much better.

Lockdown Reads 3: Shoe Dog

I’ve decided to write a series of short recommendations/critiques/summaries of my favourite books. These are titles you can perhaps purchase on one day delivery, or Amazon audible, to keep you busy during these uncertain times.

We’re back to non-fiction for this one. I will start with a quick disclaimer this time around. I’ve never actually read Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog, but I have listened to it on Audible a couple of times.

I will say, if you start listening to the audiobook, you might be warded off by Phil Knight’s introduction. I know, from some of my friends who have been in the car when I put on his dulcet tones, that his voice is not to everyone’s taste. I’ll tell you right now though, he doesn’t stick to narration for any longer than the introduction so skip that if necessary.

The book itself details the rise of then shoe start-up, and now fitness giant, Nike. From humble origins in sleepy Oregon to lucrative international deals with superstar athletes the world over, Phil Knight’s autobiography details the meteoric rise of his company.

The book is, however, much more than a simple rags to riches tale. There is much to be gleaned, if you treat the book as something of a self-help guide, from its founder’s consistent exuberance and unshakeable faith in his vision for Nike. I read the book for inspiration when I was raising capital for my own start-up and found it to be a fountain of information, particularly on how to be a good founder and a great human being.

Shoe Dog is a really interesting autobiography that lends itself to a much wider audience than just potential founders of startups. If you have an ambitious bone in your body, there is much to learn from Phil Knight’s life and I can’t recommend it enough.

An Intro to West’s Bucket List and Bhutan!

This blog may seem to be something of a rat’s nest. There are a variety of types of post running in every which way and, unfortunately, that may not lend itself to complete clarity.

I therefore believe that a series of posts, linked thematically and regularly written, may help to bring about some semblance of order to my blog for you, the readers. Therefore, to go alongside my Lockdown Reads series, I am writing my West’s Bucket List series. The posts in West’s Bucket List will be grouped into former, things I have done that were on the list, and future, those things that I desperately wish to do and are therefore still on it. Let me know in the comments if you have any ideas as to what I should add to my bucket list and I may well do some reading up and add them!

So, that was a little intro to what I’m doing and now here’s my first entry.

Most of my list is made up of activities I wish to try, foods I wish to taste, or very specific cities, or regions, I wish to visit; however, Bhutan is an entire country that I’m desperate to see every inch of.

I first heard of the country when I watched the BBC documentary Lost Land of the Tiger as a kid. In it, a team of wildlife experts and film makers search the mountainous and heavily forested regions in Bhutan to identify a, then unidentified, tiger population. I was absolutely taken aback by the dramatic panoramic shots of the country and resolved to one day visit. High in the Himalayas, Bhutan boasts a magical combination of monasteries and mountains. The pictures of Taktsang, nestled abreast a sheer cliff face and atop a rocky outcrop in the upper Paro valley, should be iconic. Perhaps the temple would be if more new people knew of Bhutan and I believe that, one day very soon, they may well do.

Whether you visit to learn what you can of Buddhist culture, hike among the national parks, or seek out the elusive tiger, visiting Bhutan will unfortunately set you back a pretty penny. That is perhaps why I fear that visiting it will fall far down my list of priorities. The government has put a minimum of $200 per day, per person, to visit the country even in low season. This is with the noble aim of ensuring the country isn’t ravaged by the negative impacts of tourism, something I genuinely and wholeheartedly commend. Unfortunately though, that alone makes the trip unaffordable for some, myself included at present; however, I one day intend to go. I hope to see you there when I do!