Top 20: Best things to pack for a holiday …

Top 20: Best things to pack for a holiday …

DSC_00641. Noise cancelling head phones – Boarding a plane is like Russian roulette – you never know who you are going to sit next to. If you are next to a screaming baby or a heavy snorer, these will become your best friends.

2. Notepad & pen - Technology is great, but nothing beats pen and paper to write down tips you hear along the way, exchanging details or drawing diagrams for those large language barriers.

3. A printed itinerary – Customs is becoming more and more strict and many places require you to have printed itineraries and hotel bookings. I have learnt that lesson the hard way and trying to find an internet cafe with a printer after a long haul flight is not a great way to start or end a trip. Don’t think showing them your iphone will work!

4. A camera – this one might be obvious but with smartphones becoming more popular, people are becoming less inclined to pack a quality camera. Good luck trying to make that ‘totz amazeballs’ instragram photo look good blown up in the pool room.

5. Extra memory cards – don’t be left with no memory on your camera, better too many photos than not enough

6. Paw paw ointment – this little red tube is full of goodness – a lip balm as well a an insect bite, burn and rash cure all in one. It even cures nappy rash… hey, you never know.

7. Multi vitamins – there is one thing worse than being sick, and that is being sick while travelling. Berroca is a good way to start the day as it is packed with vitamins so you can get on the front foot to avoid getting sick and it even helps with self-inflict illnesses (hangovers).

8. A book – ipads and kindles might be convenient, but when your battery is flat or your stuck on the tarmac, you’ll regret not packing a good old fashioned paper back.

9. A rain coat – Good weather is never a sure thing, so be prepared and don’t use rain as an excuse sit around complaining that it rain ruined your holiday.

10. Warm socks – Even if it is the Middle East in summer you’re travelling to, you don’t want to be caught on a plane unable to sleep because you’re so cold. They can also double up as a good camera bag or to put delicate new purchases in.

11. Travel money cards – Credit card fees suck as do currency conversion fees and they can add up quickly. Save yourself the money and hassle and get some prepaid travel cards that act like credit cards without the ATM withdrawal fees, try and buy them then the exchange rate is in your favour.

12. iPad – long lay overs or planes without entertainment can become bearable with an iPad loaded up with TV series and movies.

13. Snacks – plane food sucks and I have a theory that is clogs your digestive system. Do you think airlines want 200+ people all needing to go to the bathroom on a 14 hour flight? I think not…

14. Small bag – a long day of exploring a city can be a drag with a huge handbag, pack a small one so you can travel as light as a feather. For the mean reading ñ all normal rules about the man bag go out the window when travelling, embrace it.

15. A Turkish towel or sarong - These are the perfect travel companion as they are light, take up minimal room and can become everything from a scarf, pillow, towel, sheet, or something to wrap yourself in when you’re going to temples or mosques.

16. Hand sanitizer – to sanitize your hands, obviously..

17. Face wipes or wet ones – hand cleaners, face cleaners, toilet seat cleaners, everything cleaners.

18. Tissues – Sad goodbyes to emergency toilet stops, tissues always come in handy.

19. A watch – Travel is one time that punctuality is completely necessary, don’t miss a flight because your phone died.

20. A large lightweight bag – make sure it can be folded into a tiny ball. It is always unrealistic to think you won’t go shopping at least once on a holiday. Save yourself the hassle of the last day rush around trying to buy an extra bag to carry all your new purchases home.

Oink oink,
Truffle Pig.

P.S. I am assuming you are all smart enough to remember a passport and tooth brush!

A Guide to Vietnamese Street Food ….

A Guide to Vietnamese Street Food ….

Before visiting Vietnam I already loved the cuisine thanks to the exploding popularity of Vietnamese food in Australia. Although there are many good places to try here at home, nothing beats the real thing and I spent my 10 days in Vietnam eating my way through the country the best way possible – on the street. My suggestion is to ditch any restaurant reservations you have and eat like the locals do, you will have some of the best food you will ever taste.

How to find good street food:

  • If you see small plastic table and chairs – gravitate towards them. No, this isn’t a set up for a kids party, this is just how to eat in Vietnam. If you see local people gathering around them, join in. If they look at you funny, this is a good sign, it means they don’t accommodate for tourists and their food is authentic.
  • If you see people standing around or visiting a glass box with a lady standing behind it, line up. This usually means she is preparing delicious food, like banh mi, made to order.
  • If you see a congregation of scooters on the street, it usually means there is a congregation of locals enjoying lunch. Where ever the locals are eating, you should be eating.
  • If you want a coffee, listen for the loud pop or techno music and look out for lots of people sitting around – this is usually a good sign of a great coffee shop.

The best Vietnamese street foods to try:

Phở bò (beef noodle soup) – This is the bacon and eggs of Vietnam and the breakfast of champions. Pho (pronounced ‘fur’) is made from thinly sliced rare beef thrown into a steaming soup with rice noodles. Add chilli, bean shouts, lime and fresh herbs to suit your taste and enjoy.

Bánh mì (sandwich) –Thanks to the French influence, the Vietnamese have become masters at making the perfect baguette. You can fill our banh me with any combo you like – my favourite being the traditional roast pork with pate, chilli and fresh salad.

Cà phê (Iced Coffee) – Coffee in Vietnam is made with condensed milk and the results are phenomenal – icy, sweet and strong coffee make for the perfect combination.

Cao lầu (pork noodles) is a regional Vietnamese dish made with noodles, pork, and local greens, that is only found in the town of Hội An, in the Quang Nam Province of central Vietnam.

Cháo vịt-(duck noodles)- This dish is light, refreshing and made from shredded roasted duck with noodles, fresh vegetables and fried noodles for an extra crunch all swimming in a sweet sauce.

Cơm tấm (broken rice) – perhaps one of the most famous street foods is made from small rice, pork chops, fried eggs, sliced cucumber and tomatoes all brought together with a chilli flavoured fish sauce.

Gỏi cuốn (rice paper rolls) – another very popular dish in Australia which originated in Vietnam – fresh sheets of rice paper filled with vermicelli noodles, prawns and vegetables dipped in a sweet peanutty soy sauce.

There are just a few, there a millions more and I would love you to let me know which are your favourites so I can try them next time if I haven’t already.

Oink oink,

Truffle Pig.

Review of Capella Lodge – Lord Howe Island

Review of Capella Lodge – Lord Howe Island

Capella is the perfect example of relaxed luxury – spacious but cosy, private but social, simple but sophisticated, friendly but professional and absolutely perfect without being pretentious. Lord Howe has become one of my favourite places on earth, helped by the fact I got to stay in one of Australia’s leading luxury hotels, and there are many reasons why I will visit time and time again, here are just a few:

The food
With views overlooking the towering Mount Gower dropping into the beautiful blue sea, the restaurant itself is enough to make you enjoy your meal before you have even tasted it. Thankfully, the food just makes the experience a whole lot better. Guests are spoilt to a colourful, healthy breakfast buffet with the option of a hot dish from the changing daily menu.

Lunch can be served in the restaurant or in your suite, but it is best enjoyed at your favourite part of the island. There are picnic locations scattered all around the island, you can just let the friendly staff know where you want your lunch served and when, and they will do the rest. One of the highlights of my trip was finishing off a hike and snorkel on a secluded beach with a Capella hamper filled with garlic prawns, eye fillet with paris de butter and salad teamed with a crisp glass of Pikes Reisling… did I mention this place is heaven?

Dinner is just as enjoyable, there are daily cocktails and canapés which provide the perfect opportunity to meet other guests and exchange tips on activities so you can fill up the itinerary for the following day. Be sure not to fill up though because the dinner menu includes three courses and a changing menu. There wasn’t a bad meal served, but the highlight was always the seafood caught fresh from the lagoon only moments away.

The suites:
Whether you’re staying in the huge Lidgbird Pavilion spanning two levels with or a Capella Suite, you will feel like you’re living like a King. All rooms are beautifully furnished with postcard worthy views of the mountains, ocean and rolling hills. All suites have an outdoor area to enjoy the sunshine and plenty of room inside to make yourself comfortable.

The facilities:
The front deck which is home to arguable the best pool in Australia is the perfect place to do absolutely nothing which is a mandatory activity while on holiday. Or, you can enjoy the steaming hot tub under a canopy of tropical trees, perfect for unwinding after a day of snorkeling, hiking and riding. For some pampering you can also enjoy a range of beauty treatments, just make sure you book ahead. For when (if) you actually want to leave Capella to explore the island, you can cycle using your very own bike, or take one of their golf buggies for a spin.

The Service
Year round Capella is managed by the Grants, an incredibly hospitable couple who make you feel right at home. They are supported by a team of friendly staff who will help you with whatever you need – choice of wine, tea recommendation, picnic packing or photo taking.

Add Capella to your bucket list – so far it has been one of the best places I have ever stayed and the perfect place to enjoy Lord Howe Island. If I haven’t convinced you yet, perhaps this video below will….

The run down:

  • Price – very expensive but everything is included
  • Food – exceptional
  • Perfect for – honeymoon, special occasion

Oink oink,
Truffle Pig.

Getting there: Qantas fly direct daily from Brisbane and Sydney

For more information visit the Baillie Lodges website here.

A Guide to Downtown LA …

A Guide to Downtown LA …

As a travel lover I usually leave places because I have to, not because I want to. Obviously there are some exceptions, and up until recently LA was one of these. The sprawling city, smog and pretentious Hollywood crowds spoiled any allure the city had. But, on a recent holiday I was forced to stay overnight on my way home from Mexico and to my surprise, I enjoyed myself. After a lot of research I discovered a little gem perfect for a laid back traveller who loves art and food – Downtown LA. So if you’re like me and looking for an LA experience outside of Hollywood, here is a quick guide on how to enjoy your day downtown.

Most people in LA drive which means that you are bound to get stuck in traffic so put on your comfy shoes and get ready to walk. Make your first port of call to Louie Bottega for breakfast which is a huge bakery and café open morning to night with an endless amount of delectable pastries that can be enjoyed on the go. If you want something more substantial you can take a seat and enjoy a la carte menu items like a New York egg sandwich, lemon ricotta hotcakes or the highlight dish of prosciutto and burrata on a plump potato rosti.

Once you have fuelled up on breakfast you can spend the morning exploring the museum trail. Walk past and admire the Los Angeles Music Centre and The Walt Disney Concert Hall which is an incredibly beautiful building designed by Frank Gehry which is conveniently located across the road from the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). The collection at MOCA dates back to 1940 and includes installations, sculpture and paintings. From there hot foot it to Little Tokyo. As the name suggests, this part of town has many bakeries, stores and restaurants with Japanese influence, as well as the Japanese-American National Museum.

All the culture consuming and walking will make you pretty hungry. Once you’re ready for lunch head to the Grand Central Market where you will probably spend the good part of an hour walking around trying to decide what to eat. This huge warehouse space is almost 100 years old and has been the go-to place for locals looking for fresh produce. As DTLA has evolved, so has the market and it now serves as a cheap and easy place to grab groceries, coffee and lunch. You can choose from hawaiian BBQ, oysters, Mexican, pizza, fresh juices and many, many more. My top pick is Sticky Rice which serves delicious authentic Thai cuisine to go, or you can pull up a seat at the bar to enjoy fresh coconuts and tasty dishes made to order. After lunch, stop by G&B to grab coffee. This is one of the only decent coffees in the entire the United States I have ever had (you can thank the Barista from Melbourne for that).

Downtown LA is home to the world’s second largest jewellery district and an impressive fashion district, so if you’re in the mood for shopping they are definitely worth a look. Or if you’re like me and want to kick your feet up for a relaxing afternoon, head to pool on the rooftop of the The Standard Hotel which has been voted as one of the world’s best. The Standard is the ideal place to work on your Californian tan and enjoy panoramic views of Downtown LA and the mountains in the distance. If you settle in for long enough you can enjoy happy hour and the nightly DJ.

California has a huge Latin community and as a result is home to some of the country’s best Mexican cuisine. For dinner, head to Yxta Cocina for fantastic food and margaritas. Once dinner is over you can bar hop and dance the night way in the many haunts around the neighbourhood including: La Cita for a fun unpretentious crowd, The Varnish for the incredible cocktails, The Perch for the views or Far Bar for something more relaxed.

After a big day of walking, art-ing, shopping, tanning, eating, drinking, dancing and LA-ing – head back to the The Standard and enjoy a meal in their famous yellow, 50s inspired 24 hours restaurant for some good old fashion diner food with a modern twist.

Oink oink,
Truffle Pig.