Top Ten Breakfasts Around the World

This article was written for gapyear.com

10) Natto (Japan)

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Fermented soy beans are classed as a delicacy in Japan and if you can get over the pungent cheesy smell, strong flavour and slimy mucus like texture they are very good for you. Natto is perfectly nutritious being high in fibre with zero cholesterol, which means you can have more!

9) Hagelslag (The Netherlands)

hagelslag

These popular sprinkles (translated as hailstorm) come in a variety of shapes sizes and flavours including fruit and chocolate. Not only to be enjoyed on ice cream, the Dutch and Belgians actually put them on buttered bread and toast! Not particularly nutritious but a great way to start the day on a sugar high.

8) Churros (Spain)

churros

Nothing beats churros and hot chocolate when falling out of a Spanish nightclub in the early hours. Similar to a long doughnut they are deep fried dough delights that you dip into thick hot chocolate.  Churros contain enough sugar, fat and starch to stave off the hangover for a while at least.

7) Croque monsieur (France)

croque monsieur

Basically a posh ham and chesses toastie, what’s not to like? They’re easy to eat on the go, crunchy, filling and oozing with cheesiness. Variations are eaten all over Europe and known as ‘tost’ in Italy and ‘tosti’ in the Netherlands.

6) Kedgeree (Scotland)

kedgeree

An old classic, who’d have thought rice and fish would go so well with boiled eggs and curry powder? It seems a strange dish to originate in Scotland and indeed it actually comes from India and was brought back by returning colonials in Victorian times. Kedgeree is said by many to be an excellent hangover cure.

5) Chilaquiles (Mexico)

chilaquiles

Another clever use of yesterday’s leftovers, Chilaquiles are corn tortillas covered in green or red salsa with scrambled or fried egg on top and sometimes shredded chicken. Topped with cheese and cream and served with beans.  Delicious, and a great breakfast for when you’ve hit the tequila hard the night before.

4) Doubles (Trinidad and Tobago)

doubles

Doubles are the most popular street food on the islands and are so named because of the two pieces of fried flatbread that the curried chick peas are served on. They are topped with mango, cucumber, shadon beni (herb), and pepper sauce.  The experience of buying the doubles from the busy street-side huts adds to the magnificent taste.

3) American Breakfast

american breakfast

I want it all and I want it now! This is what an American breakfast screams at me. Eggs, sausage, potatoes, streaky bacon, ok.  Pancakes and syrup. What? Together?  A veritable explosion of salty and sweet. Or a heart attack on a plate.

2) Arepas (Venezuela)

arepas

Corn flour flatbreads which are always toasted and never fried, they can be as healthy or unhealthy as you like. Filled with butter, cheese, meat, sausage or egg the possibilities are endless. A popular filling is the ‘reina pepiada’ meaning curvy queen and named in honour of the first Venezuelan Miss World in 1955. Containing chicken, mayonnaise and avocado, eat enough and you’ll definitely have curves.

1)Masala Dosa

masala dosa

A light and crispy pancake made from rice batter and black lentils and filled with potatoes, onions and spices served with a curry sauce and coconut chutney. The Masala Dosa is a culinary delight which is neither too heavy or too light.  Start the day on a dosa and you’ll be ready for anything!

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Travel Scams to Avoid

This feature was written for gapyear.com find the full article here

With so many new sights and sensations to experience on the road, it’s easy to take your eye off the ball and leave yourself open to being scammed. Even the most seasoned traveller has stories of being ripped off and it’s clear that newbies may be singled out as easy targets for crime after arriving in a new city exhausted and disorientated after a long journey. Here’s a list of common scams to avoid while on your travels.

Taxis

taxi

Cabs can be a danger for a host of reasons, the most basic is being overcharged for a journey and the most serious can lead to express kidnappings where your bank account is cleared out and refusal can lead to the ultimate price, death.

Not to petrify you, but always make sure that the taxi you take is registered. When arriving at an airport or railway station in some countries it is possible to find pre-paid cabs. This means that there are official records of your driver and the journey you take. Using these official taxis also ensures that you will pay a fair price and arrive at your destination on time.

Intrepid traveller H D Simmons has a nightmare story of being conned in Lima, Peru. She says: “My travel guide advises to check currencies when bartering a taxi price so when the driver quoted a price of 25, I confirmed that he meant Sols. This was the price in the book but it said that you’d need to barter hard for it. I assumed he was taking pity on the early morning arrival and giving me the right price.

“So we set off and about half way he handed me a piece of paper with the amount on and it said 25 Dollars. I argued with him in my broken Spanish that we had agreed Sols. He wouldn’t have it and was adamant that he had just meant that I could pay in Sols.

“We were halfway down a motorway and I had visions of being left at the side of a major road without a taxi. Also, because I was so tired I decided that maybe I just hadn’t understood the Spanish properly at the airport I relented and agreed to pay 25 Dollars.

“However, I only had Sols on me and asked him how much it would be in the local currency. He said as there were 10 Sols to the Dollar it would be 250 Sols. I remember thinking that it was a bit steep compared to the 25 Sols I originally thought I’d be paying but by this point I just wanted a bed so paid it. It was only later that I found out that the exact exchange rate was 3 Sols to the USD and that I had paid this taxi driver over $80 for a journey that should have been $8”.

Negotiate a price before you get in and if possible keep your bags in the car with you. There have been tales of driver’s in some countries holding bags to ransom in arguments over fares.

Touts

touts

Another annoyance when arriving in a new city, they meet you as soon as you get off the bus/train/plane. Often working in tandem with taxi drivers the most common scam they run is telling you that the hotel you’ve booked is full so you have to go their uncle/cousin/brother’s place. The hotel is, in fact, paying commission to these guys so never take their word for it.

As someone who has travelled a lot, I felt pretty sure I knew the ku when I arrived in New Delhi last year. Fresh off the plane and straight into the grasp of a waiting tout who was masquerading as a taxi driver (I was jetlagged and looking forward to a bed, so hardly even noticed that he didn’t have a cab). Next thing you know, my boyfriend and I were in the back of the car with the tout and driver up front being told that the whole of the backpacker’s district was closed due to some festival or other. Top cut a long story short we ended up in Agra via a ‘tourist office’ and a five hour drive, £150 lighter.

Moral of the story: it’s always a good idea to book a place to stay for the first night before you leave. And don’t trust touts/dodgy tourist offices.

Distractions

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Thieves and con artists obviously use distractions to their advantage. This can mean anything from nicking your wallet or cutting your handbag straps while you gaze up at the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben to them actually causing a divergence. Beware of people spilling stuff on you or pointing out that you’ve got crap on your shoes. They or their mates have just put it there and guess what; it’s going to cost you for them to clear it up, whether you know it or not.

Also beware of leaving your belongings on luggage rails inside a bus before it takes off. I did this once and got distracted by an ice cream vendor who had popped on, and then off again. Taking my bag with him!

Police

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You think you’d be safe with the police, no? But beware all may not be as it seems, those bobbies asking to rifle through your bags may not be real or worse they could be corrupt. There have been reports of fake police asking to see passports and then refusing to give them back until a fee has been paid, checking rooms and stealing items and making people pay again on trains.

Authentic coppers may be no better at times. I have heard stories of tourists having small amounts of drugs miraculously appear in their bags and having to pay a baksheesh or fine.

Food/Drink

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Beware the friendly local who offers food, drink or cigarettes on public transport or anywhere else for that matter. There is probably an ulterior motive to their kindness. Many a weary traveller has woken up woozy after some hours to find all of their worldly goods gone.

Be especially careful in South America as scopolamine or ‘the devils breath’ grows wild in Columbia. This drug has the power to render the imbiber zombielike and so complacent that they are literally at the mercy of those who slip it to them. Honestly people have helped thieves to clear out their own apartments whilst under the affects. It’s not known as the world’s scariest drug for no reason.

Attractive strangers

loose women

This scam operates everywhere from London to Beijing and usually involves a couple of gorgeous girls who seem very friendly and suggest going somewhere for a drink. You go to a local spot recommended by them and buy a round of drinks. Next thing you know, they’re gone and you’re left with a huge bill and a burly bouncer blocking your exit. This is known as a clip joint scam but can also happen in innocuous looking tea shops.

Local Guides

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There’s nothing more annoying than being accosted by ‘local guides’ when you are visiting sights. Sometimes the guides are qualified and you can learn from them but more often than not they are chancers. Do not trust them if they ask you to pay for admittance or refuse to leave you alone until you pay a charge. Just do your best to ignore them and they will get the message eventually. I found a good way to stop them from haranguing me was to speak Spanish, or pretend to.

Fellow Tourists

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Be careful if someone passes you a mobile or camera and asks you to take a picture. If the camera doesn’t work it is probably already broken. Make sure that the person takes hold of it properly when you hand it back as there have been reports of travellers being asked to cough up for equipment they’ve apparently dropped.

Ear Cleaners

ear cleaners

This one is specific to India, especially Goa and Delhi. Watch out for guys trying to stick long metal rods in your ears. They pull it out and there’s a huge ball of wax on the end, guaranteed not all yours. This practice is not only unhygienic but can also be dangerous, leading to perforated ear drums. There are those, however who swear by this treatment but I’d stay well clear if I were you.

Motorbikes

motorbikes

Hiring a motorbike can be a great way to get around and see more of a country. But avoid giving your passport as security as many travellers have been scammed with agencies claiming damage to the bikes. In this case they refuse to hand back your documents until damage has been paid for. Take photos of the bike when you first inspect it so that you have a record of its condition. Also carry a spare lock for the bike to make sure that it can’t be ‘stolen’ by the agents you hired it from. Try to use a reputable company and ask other tourists where they have rented their bikes from.

The Worst Travel Buddies Ever!

This feature was written for gap year.com, find the full article here

So, you’ve done all the hard work planned your route, read the guides, packed your bags. Nothing can go wrong. Can it? How carefully did you consider the most important aspect of your trip? Who you travel with can literally make or break your experience. So if you recognise your mate in the line up below or you manage to pick one up on the way, lose them. Fast!

1) The Lohanista

 

Lohanista
Self obsessed and spoilt with a sense of entitlement that the world owes them a favour. This travel partner is going to be a nightmare from the get-go. Never happy with the hotels, the food or the weather they will spend the whole time complaining and demanding that you spend a month’s budget on a one-night stay in an upmarket resort. Days will be filled with lounging by the pool or shopping trips to the most expensive air-conditioned malls in the country. On the positive side, once they have a drink they really let go and you might find you are the centre of attention in the nightclubs. Just make sure that they don’t try to score any drugs or you might also find yourself booked into an exclusive extended stay at the ‘Bangkok Hilton’ with a follow up deal for an appearance on Banged Up Abroad when you do eventually get out.

2) The OCD Freak

OCD
This is the kind of person who colour co-ordinates their towels and actually has a schedule for their bowel movements. How will they ever survive outside their routine? They will try to micro-manage the entire trip right down to toilet breaks and what pants to wear each day. They will have lists of places to visit and an itinerary so full that you won’t have to time to fart. Don’t even try to mess with their timetable or you will face their wrath of fury, they are liable to shout and scream and generally lose their shit if things don’t go exactly to plan. This will be embarrassing when it’s a friendly Bolivian bus driver at the end of their ire.

3) The Nervous Wreck

nervous wreck
Not only will they panic under pressure but they will also fill each waking moment with pessimism and worry. This person will bring you down on the daily with their sense of impending doom. They will fret about every little detail from getting bitten by mosquitoes to how much chlorine is in the pool. God help you if they do actually get sick because it will be straight to the hospital and you’ll never hear the end of it.

4) The Boor

Prince Phillip
Tact just isn’t this person’s strong point and they put their foot in more often than Prince Philip. Some people might think they’re racist but it’s not just race, it’s just that they don’t think before they speak. Still, try explaining that to the muscly Australian they’ve just offended by calling an ex-con. You’re going to spend a lot of time apologising and trying to avoid getting beaten up if you go away with this jerk.

5) The Cheapskate

cheapskate
They might seem like they’re being resourceful at first. Always finding the two-for- one- offers online and collecting coupons to get money off deals. But spend any amount of time travelling with them and this crap gets long, quickly. They will quibble with tuk-tuk drivers over a matter of pence and reduce sweet old ladies to tears with their reluctance to pay the going rate for their hand-made wares. Their frugality knows no ends and they will be constantly trying to hunt down the best bargain in town. After a ten-hour bus journey when all you need is a bed, any bed, they will try to drag you round every hotel in town to find the cheapest and best. Backpacker’s hostels are full of these guys who like nothing more than sitting round comparing prices and competing on who’s been on the road longest on the smallest budget.

6) The Sex Addict

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Their main objective for each day will be to pull, so forget any cultural trips. If you hang out with this person your days will revolve around going where there are half naked people, to the beach, or the pool and nights in bars and clubs. Sounds like fun, maybe, but they’re going to much more adept at pulling than you are; just look at Russell Brand. So while you’re handy to have around as a wingman you’ll soon be forgotten and left on your own while your mates off gallivanting again.

7) The Couple

couple
Whether they’re together or travelling solo being with members of a loved up couple is boring! Obviously if you’re playing the third wheel it’s going to get awkward quickly, but even if they are divided by continents and time zones you may feel like a spare part. Your travel buddy will be constantly trying to track down a phone or an internet connection to call home. They will talk about their other half at every opportunity and worry about what they’re doing and who they are seeing all day. Not fun.

8) The Internet Addict

web addict
Similar to travelling with a couple but this person is obsessed with their gadgets and married to their apps. They will be taking selfies at every available opportunity and trying to upload videos to their site. Where you stay will be dictated by internet access and when there’s a power cut your friend will start clucking like an addict jonesing for a fix. Whatever you do, don’t try and take their phone off them, you’d have more chance trying to wrestle the prey from an alligator’s jaw.

9) The Vegetarian

vegetarian
I don’t normally have a problem with vegetarians, and if you’re travelling around India there are times when it’s a good idea to convert. But try backpacking around Latin America and finding suitable foods for your mate to eat. Everywhere you go the locals will eye you up with a mixture of suspicion and pity. There will long drawn-out conversations on why meat should be eaten and if you’re lucky an omelette or salad might be rustled up. But never enquire what it’s cooked in, the locals just do not get the concept of no meat products at all.

10) The Travel Guru

travel guru
Been there, done that and bought the organic, environmentally sustainable, free-trade T-shirt in the 90’s (before it was fashionable and everyone else was doing it). It goes without saying that travelling around with a guru can get pretty damn boring. Endless travellers- tales and war stories about raves in Goa before it got commercial and taking peyote with native Americans. Nothing is ever going to compare to this guy’s experiences. You’ve been to Italy? This guy did acid with the pope.

In Search of The Goan Hippy Trail

goa rave

Goa is the place where I was first bitten by the travel bug way back in the 90’s. When I had the chance to take a year off and go travelling again last year I chose to go back.  I remembered the unspoilt beaches, wild parties, crazy travellers and laid back cheap living.  In a country that has barely changed in centuries, how much difference could fifteen years make? The answer is a lot.

We arrived in Goa in the dark after a hellish 38 hour journey from Agra and got straight into a waiting cab. With a few vague memories of meeting lots of cool people in Vagator and Chapora and the guidebook’s promises of hippies and hedonism we headed in that direction.

Small Vagator Beach

We were lucky enough to stumble upon Tinocco’s Guest House on Ozran Beach Road leading to Small Vagator beach.  As we were shown the rooms it struck me just how much had changed in what I considered to be a relatively short time.  It was a room, a proper room, decorated, with a decent mattress, a bathroom with a shower and hot water and, get this, a flat screen TV with cable. All this for the princely sum of £5 a night.  True, last time I was here I paid a tenth of that for a beach shack, but that’s what it was, a shack.  At that time I had no bathroom, a cold tap and bucket were at the side of the house and if I needed the loo I’d have to go to a bar or into the sea.

Tinoco offered to rent us a moped and the next day we tried it out. Neither of us had ever ridden one before but it was either that or walk around in the blistering sun.  We headed for Anjuna and it was a lot quieter than I remembered it, to say the least.  I put it down to September being early in the season; maybe all the heads were on their way back from Manali.  The stalls by the beach hadn’t opened yet for the season and there was hardly anyone round at all.

The Mango Tree

In Chapora we found a few straggler types who had been left behind from Goa’s rave heydays. The Mango Tree bar at the top of the crossroads from Vagator beach was full of them.  It was like something out of a star wars film with every kind of western illegal alien represented. But these guys were all older than me and seemed quite dodgy.  They reconfirmed our suspicions that Goa had undoubtedly changed.

These days Goa wants to attract more affluent tourists and the ravers and hippies have been pushed out. The majority of visitors are now wealthy Indian holiday makers or Russians on package deals.  There are occasionally illegal raves held at secret locations though they are few and far between and tend to get closed down early by the police.  Some clubs like the Twelve Bar and Hill Top in Vagator do have parties but you have to pay to get in and there’s no guarantee that the police won’t show up and put an untimely end to things.

german bakery

There’s loads of good food to be found in the state though.  A personal favourite of mine is The German Bakery in Anjuna, for excellent sandwiches and cakes served in a serene Indian atmosphere with raised seating platforms, low tables and cushions set around a beautiful courtyard and trees.

Thalassa

Thalassa is an authentic Greek restaurant perched on the cliffs overlooking Small Vagator beach. Its opulent atmosphere with flowing white linen and curtains, combined with the delicious barbequed souvlaki and kleftiko, make this a place not to be missed.  The views down over the beach are wonderful both at day or night.  This is definitely my favourite place to eat in Goa.

arambol

The majority of travellers now tend to head for Arambol in the north, this was still a quiet sleepy fishing village when I had stayed there on my first visit. Now it’s a busy backpackers haven with shops full of the usual tourist tat and plenty of beach bars and brightly painted hotels.

View of Small Vagator from Thalassa

It is still worth visiting Goa if you’re travelling in India, but it’s not the party paradise it once was. There are some beautiful beaches, especially in the north and Baga has an Ibizan feel to it around Christmas time when music festivals are set up.

Chiang Mai Thailand

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If you venture away from the bustle of Bangkok, the lure of the beaches in the south and the lazy island days you can find culture and excitement in the northern city of Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is known as a culture capital because there are so many places to visit in this historic city. Set within the confines of an ancient walled moat, the old city is home to many temples, markets, and bars. By day you can wander round exploring the temples or rent a moped and go up Doi Suthep the mountain that overlooks the city to the north. If you are up for some adventure there are many agents selling day trips to go elephant trekking, rafting or zip lining in the nearby jungle.Image

At night the city comes alive and the best place to head is the night bazar, here you’ll find cheap clothes, designer copy sunglasses, bags and shoes as well as unusual souvenirs to take home. There are also plenty of stalls selling typical Northern Thai food.Image

Saturday and Sunday night have their own market known as the walking street, which runs down the streets leading  from Tapae Gate. The streets are closed to traffic and become crowded with tourists looking for artesian goods, paintings, clothes and jewellery.

Some of the best restaurants in the city are located by the river. Try Good View, or Riverside both of which offer the best of Thai and western food to a mixed clientele. You can find all kinds of restaurants in , the trendy Nimmanheamin in the north of the city. From mexican to Italian and Spanish, all tastes are catered for.

The young Thai students usually start their evenings in Nimmanheamin at bars like Warm Up or Monkey Bar which have live music, DJs and dancing until well into the night.

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People usually start heading out to clubs around midnight. Most of the western clubs are in the old city near Thae Phae Gate at Zoe’s in Yellow where many bars are situated in a square and things can get pretty wild. If you would prefer a more Thai experience head to the swanky Infinity in Nimmanhaemin. The clubs are open til about 6 am.

The best way to get around Chiang Mai is by motorbike if you can already drive one and it is easy to rent them by the day, week or month with a deposit and copy of your passport.  If not you can easily flag down tuk tuks in the street and it can be a fun experience to whizz around in them at night, when drivers often race each other in the quiet streets.  The cheapest mode of travel is by sorng-tar-oo, the little red shared cars. You can flag them down anywhere and they will take you if they are going that way.  you might need to stop a couple if they already have passengers.

If you go to Thailand, don’t miss Chiang Mai. You can find everything here that Bangkok has to offer, if not more and without the pollution, crowds and chaos you find in Bangkok.

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Do you know Chiang Mai? What are your favourite places? Leave a message below.

Somewhere Between Heaven and Woolworth’s one of my favourite poems. By Brian Patten

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I am not sure how far on this journey I have reached. But I am certainly somewhere Between Heaven and Woolworth’s

She keeps kingfishers in their cages 
And goldfish in their bowls 
She is lovely and is afraid 
Of such things as growing old.

She’s had enough men to please her 
Though they were more cruel than kind 
And their love an act of isolation, 
A form of pantomime.

She says she has forgotten 
The feelings that she shared 
At various all-night parties 
Among the couples on the stairs,

or among the songs and dancing 
She was once open wide, 
A girl dressed in denim 
With boys dressed in lies.

She’s eating roses on toast with tulip butter, 
Praying for her mirror to stay young; 
On its no longer gilted surface 
This message she has scrawled:

‘O somewhere between Heaven and Woolworth’s 
I live I love I scold 
I keep kingfishers in their cages 
And goldfish in their bowls.’

What are your favourite poems?

 

Italy’s Centri Sociali; squats offering cultural events in interesting surroundings

forteprenestino4From wine and food fairs in a medieval fort to yoga classes in a velodrome. Italy‘s centri sociali or social centres are squatted buildings, which offer a lot more than all night raves and parties, though they are a common occurrence too.

Most visitors to Italy would probably miss the social centre scene, though they are not hidden and in my opinion are not to be missed! While living in Rome, I spent much of my time in in these cultural hubs and though I may have been the only Brit, I was always made welcome.

The social centres usually provide excellent parties with live performances and I have seen diverse acts such as Peaches, Asian Dub Foundation, Eek a Mouse and The Specials.  There is a feeling of freedom and an anything goes vibe which is refreshing when compared to the smoking ban and bouncer ruled clubs of the UK. The admission fees are also much lower than in the UK too and rarely costs more than ten euros.brancaleone_s345x230

Many social centres are often run by disaffected youths with dreadlocks piercings and dogs on strings though people from all walks of life join the events at the weekends. The places are as diverse as the people and I will never forget seeing a famous classical pianist play in a squat in the historic centre of Rome. The place had beautifully painted frescoes and it was a truly spiritual experience. Divine.

My favourite social centre, or squat is Forte Prenestino just off Via Prenestino in Centocelle Rome.  This is a huge medieval fort with an outdoor area in the middle and circular tunnels leading round in a circle below. The Forte offers a wealth of cultural events including a wine and food day where purveyors of fine organic produce bring their products and people from all walks of life come to sample and buy.

Forte has been squatted for more than 40 years and people live in the building and small self contained rooms built into the sides of the hill that surround it, like hobbit houses.The government allows people to use these spaces and lead alternative lifestyles as long as they provide culture to the community.

Most social centres now have daily programmes offering anything from free language classes to immigrants, to yoga, dance classes, food or cartoon festivals. If you are visiting Rome, pick up a copy of Roma Ce (che) the events listing paper to see whats happening. The many Centri Sociali events are listed weekly.

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