When a major part of your life is getting on planes, trains or tuk tuks one thing you take for granted is your lack of sleep. However, If I don’t sleep I am less productive. In fact I’m downright miserable. I am the worst company when I haven’t slept. No fun AT ALL. You get the picture?!
Sleep is integral to our well-being. This is particularly true if we are on the road for long periods at a time. Any regular sleep pattern is obliterated after your third flight. Late schedules, time zones, varying temperatures, crying babies and crying parents can wreak havoc with sleep.
In a recent interview, Arianna Huffington, author of The Sleep Revolution, offered some great advice on sleep and wellbeing for frequent travellers. It got me thinking about my own sleep hacks which I hope you too find useful in your travels:
1.Have a sleep-kit at the ready
I can never fall asleep if my toes aren’t toasty. So my sleep-kit consists of a pair of socks, ear plugs and an eye mask. I roll everything up in my socks and have it in an outside pocket of my carry-on luggage. This works well whether I’m on a plane, train or car. You can also add a neck pillow to yours.
2. Wind down with a book
Pack a Kindle. There are hundreds of great books available as downloads at a fraction of the cost of a paperback. Kindles weigh nothing and can hold a library of books and fit into your handbag or backpack easily. Reading for a little while before your nap will help you wind down for it.
3. Carry your own snacks
After your third fight on a single journey there’s only so much airline food you can stomach. I always carry my own snacks and where possible, water. Adjust your snack pack depending on the length of time you will be in the air; more snacks for a long-haul and fewer for short-haul. I rarely wait for meals to be served on a flight. I’d rather sleep instead. Inform the stewards that you do not want your meal, fasten your seatbelt and SLEEP!
4. Schedule a nap in to your day
If you don’t manage your forty winks on the flight try to plan some sleepy time for when you arrive. Power naps are great for pacing yourself and slowing things down. Ask for a quiet room when you check in to your hotel. There’s nothing worse than a party next door when you’re exhausted and trying to rest. I’ve been there too many times to mention!
5. Put away your electronics
I prefer not to wake up to an alarm when I’m travelling. I always book a wake up call if the service is available which means I don’t need my phone next to me. So before I sleep, whether it’s a nap or I’m down for the night, I plug my phone and laptop away from my bed. This means I resist the temptation to scroll social media while I’m trying to fall asleep.
As a frequent traveller I can say that I have passed through a few airports in my time. They generally do not stick in my mind for any reason. However, as far as airports go Changi airport is a monster! It was voted the World’s Best Airport (Skytrax 2016). It’s certainly easy to see why. There are grand open spaces with sculptures, art, massage chairs and hundreds and hundreds of shops. If you really wanted to you could possibly spend a couple of days there. The single most memorable thing about Changi airport? Baby changing facilities in the men’s washrooms. Talk about progressive.
Travel and guidebooks list lots to do in Singapore. However, as with any short stay planning your time well is key because this is a great big place. I had no intention of doing everything on my list. So I chose Gardens by the Bay due to it’s proximity to my hotel. There’s a real “otherworldly” sense about Singapore. It’s certainly true here. These vertical gardens are set on reclaimed land and stretch an impressive 250 acres. They look and feels more like a feat in architecture and engineering than in gardening. If you would like a better view of the gardens you can purchase a ticket for the train which takes you up to an elevated walkway. Visitors can walk between each of the 5 vertical gardens.
If you really love gardens then by all means walk the walk.
Vertical Gardens – Gardnens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay
If you like a little grit every now and again go to Chinatown. It’s vastly underrated in the guidebooks. As the name suggests, Chinatown Food Street is packed full of street food stalls. How many dumplings can you eat in an hour? Well, go find out! The food stalls are packed with locals – a sure fire sign that you’re onto a good thing.
In the midst of the hustle and bustle of Chinatown you will also find the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. It’s a place of worship for Singaporeans as much as it is a museum for travellers and tourists. Standing majestically in the middle of Chinatown it offers a glimpse of everyday life in Singapore.
As with all Buddhist temples you will need to be dressed modestly before you enter. Don’t worry if you find yourself in shorts like I did. Thankfully, cover ups are provided. With 5 floors filled with beautiful and curious objects there is enough here to make your entire trip worthwhile.
The ceiling of the grand hall on the ground floor is decorated with hundreds of gold lanterns. Thousands of tiny carved identical statues of Buddha are inserted into the walls. Each Buddha has been individually carved by a different sculptor and is marked with a unique serial number. Each room is home to colourfully decorated statues. You can purchase flowers and incense from the temple premises as offerings for the Buddha.
Hand carved Buddha statues
Colourful statues in every room
Beautiful lanterns on the cieling.
Offerings for the Buddha
There is a lift to all the floors which is handy. The mezzanine floor gives a great view of the main hall below. There is also a wax works museum of prominent monks of Asia on this floor. There is an outdoor garden housing the prayer wheel on the fourth floor. The garden is a riot of colourful orchids. Flowers bloom in abundance here due to the humid climate.
The top floor houses the tooth relic of the Buddha. It sits behind a glass screen in a golden casket. There were lots of people meditating on this floor and no photography was allowed. It took me over an hour to see everything inside this temple. If you are planning a visit make sure you give yourself plenty of time too.
On a broader note, public transport in Singapore is amazing. It’s punctual, affordable and clean. So getting around any where is easy and stress free. There is an endless list of things to do here. It has the feeling of a giant theme park where the fun never ends if you can keep up. There are water parks, night safaris, bird parks and light shows. Millions of dollars have no doubt been spent constructing them. And they truly are impressive.
Would I go back? In a heartbeat! There are places I have since read up on such as Kampong Glam and Pulau Ubin that I would love to explore. Another trip might be in order!
Travel tip: I travelled to Singapore from Colombo on a 3 night package deal booked with Hema’s Travels, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
You can hardly open a newsfeed without seeing alluring pictures of Dubrovnik simply calling you to jump on a plane. The music festivals, the cruise ships and the tv series all keep this part of Croatia firmly on the tourist trails. According to the locals, ”The season” starts in February and ends in October. I am not a fan of big crowds or selfie sticks where they are not needed. So, being the maverick I am I travelled to Dubrovnik in January.
As I arrived around 10pm local time nothing was open and the streets were deserted. However, getting a taxi just outside the airport was easy and felt safe. My driver was remarkably chirpy for someone who was still working at 10pm.
As late as it was I could make out the coast line from the back of my taxi. The flickering lights of houses and hotels on the cliffs made the whole place seem magical. I was like a like a child on Christmas eve by the time I arrived at my hotel. I woke up to a view beyond my dreams. The sky seemed so close I could touch it. The sea was as calm as a lake and the rays of the sun filtered through the clouds. In the light of day I could see that the hotels and houses built on the cliffs had taken nothing away from it’s natural beauty. A real credit to the Croatians and a great lesson to the rest of us.
Room with a view
My hotel, Rixos Libertas, is a grand place boasting it’s own boutiques, gym, spa and indoor and outdoor pools. From anywhere in the hotel it was possible to see breath taking views of the Adriatic sea. The service here was amazing. No sleepy porters here! The staff have incredible local knowledge and are happy to help at any time of the day. Kudos to the chefs and the kitchen staff who turned out the most sumptuous feasts every evening despite it being out of season and the hotel having just a handful of guests. Standards never slipped.
The must see sight in Dubrovnik is Grad or The Old Town. I won’t bore you listing all the things you should do and see here. As with all major tourist hotspots there are hundreds of guide books listing the same things over and over. What I will say however, is as a Unesco World Heritage site The Old Town is not just well preserved but a close knit hive of schools, offices, shops, bars and restaurants. It’s a buzzing metropolis. With the help of my map I walked around the Old Town in less than two hours. As it was out of season a few places on the map were closed or under renovation. But there was still so much to see.
The highlight of my walking trip was definitely St. Ignatius Church right at the very top of the old Town. It’s towering presence on the outside is no match for it’s humbling interior. Go in and sit for a while. Let it soak you in it’s history. The centuries old Baroque frescoes will draw you gently into their past until you find yourself searching in every crevice with child like wonder.
St. Ignatius Church
Humbling interior of St. Ignatius
Walk down to the bottom of The Old Town and you will find the Serbian Orthodox Church. In Contrast to St. Ignatius the most striking feature of this church is it’s orchard. Stone corridors open out into the courtyard. The immaculate garden here is surrounded by trees heavy with oranges glistening in the sunshine even in January. In the summer months this place must feel like the garden of Eden.
Stone corridors of the Serbian Orthodox Church
Orchard and gardens of Serbian Church
Another highlight in Dubrovnik is its City Walls. Walking the city walls is a must. It takes around 40 minutes to complete but every minute spent up there is worth it. As the light changes you will be treated to spectacular views of Dubrovnik. On one side the view stretches from the coast across the ocean as far as the horizon. On the other side it starts at the edge of the city walls right up towards the mountains as far as your eyes can see. Just when you think this place couldn’t spoil you any more it does.
There is no shortage of places to eat in The Old Town. You can find coffee shops, restaurants and bars down any one of the narrow cobbled streets. Eating outside appears to be the norm. You cannot ignore the Mediterranean ambience of this place. Ever the maverick, I stopped off at a an Irish pub – The Gaffe! The staff were attentive and the coffee was perfect. However, the buzzy atmosphere and live football coverage means this is not the place for a quiet drink.
In the evening The Old Town simply comes alive. I stopped off for a sundowner at the Buza Bar. This you MUST do. I am a sucker for view of the sunset and have been known to sit and wait for hours! (Sad but true). The bar is set on a cliff side with a panoramic view of the sea. Entrance to the bar is through a literal hole in the wall hence it’s name (Buza means “hole” in the local dialect). This is also a local swimming spot when the weather is warmer if you’re that way inclined.
The thing I would most recommend doing in Dubrovnik is walking. Yes, walk! Walk as much as you can to really take this place in. Let it get under your skin. Or rather get under it’s skin. Talk to the buskers, the teenagers kissing on benches, the strangers. Ask for directions and listen to the patient responses in return. Watch the kids play and the adults laugh. Eat the pastries in the local bakeries along your walk. Drink the local wine. Do the things which aren’t listed in your guidebook. I guarantee you will not want to leave.
Travel tip: Go out of season and get the place to yourself. I travelled from London Gatwick on Croatia Airlines and stayed at the Rixos Libertas Hotel.
So, I spent a month in Sri Lanka from 15th March – 14th April this year. I was born in Sri Lanka and spent most of my childhood there. Every time I go back it’s like re-uniting with a parent I was separated from. There’s a real connection and that feeling of familiarity of sounds, smells and heat overwhelms me as soon as I step off the plane.
The world already knows what Sri Lanka is most famous for – spices, tea and elephants. I would like to show you the Sri Lanka of my childhood, of my early teenage years and the Sri Lanka of my dreams.
For example, people still have these old Morris Minors in good working order in their garages. They are valued and most people take pride in these little beauties. This one was parked right outside my friend’s house (right next to the ”no parking” sign obviously) when I went to visit her. I couldn’t resist a quick pic.
On the same day we bumped into the ”bombai mutai” man. He’s quite a special guy in Sri Lanka. He sells ”bombai mutai” which is a local sweet similar to candy floss. We got some in a ”nice” which is the pink shell that it comes in which is made of rice paper. Sugary sweet goodness!
The Bombai Mutai man – If you happen to see this lovely face when you’re visiting Colombo please stop and buy some Bombai Mutai. You can’t miss him. He rings a little bell 🙂