Hello again all! I hope those of you reading who have recently commenced your year abroad are settling in well to life in your chosen cities/universities!
I write to you from my study booth on the 8th floor of Glasgow University Library as I try to focus on anything other than my dissertation research. I’m sure you’ll all be glad to hear that you haven’t heard the last of me yet. These past few weeks I’ve been settling back in to life in Glasgow (which will be the subject of my next blog), but in this blog I’ll be detailing my departure and route home from Perth and including some practical travel tips for those of you who still have the majority of your travelling ahead of you.
Leaving a place where you’ve spent a year and made some great friends/memories is always going to be a little difficult. When I left Perth I was definitely looking forward to being in Glasgow again – but it was far from being a burning desire and I’ll definitely miss the place. Our last week or so was spent tying up loose ends and bidding farewell to various groups of friends over drinks/dinner. Our final day in Perth was spent walking around Lake Monger – which was our first time doing so but I would urge anyone currently in Perth to do this at least once. It’s a very scenic and enjoyable (3.5km) walk with great views of the city and amazing wild life to watch out for.
On our way home we stopped off in Hong Kong for one week and Dubai for two nights – we found this to be a great way to break up a journey that can be physically draining. It’s also a nice opportunity to reflect on your last year and anyway, why not take in some sights on the way home?
Visually Hong Kong is one of the most interesting places I’ve ever seen – We stayed in Kowloon, which sits across from Hong Kong mainland and is a bit cheaper in terms of accommodation and probably eating as well. There’s plenty to keep you busy in this bustling metropolis and the tube system is world class. Highlights for us included taking the tram up to Victoria Peak, exploring SoHo and sipping some cocktails on a balcony 33 floors above street level.
Anyone visiting Hong Kong will probably get sick of the crowds and concrete eventually – but the beauty of the city is that you’re never far away from nature. Two short day trips we took which were definitely a welcomed break from the city were a trip to Lantau Island – where we visited Po Lin Monastery and the giant bronze Buddha.
The second excursion we took was to hike the ‘Dragons Back’ trail – which is apparently one of the world’s best urban hikes. If you enjoy the outdoors then this is a must do – it’s not too labourious, the views are stunning and there’s a nice beach to relax on once you finish the hike!
Our time in Dubai was much more brief but just as enjoyable and I could have certainly stayed for longer – with our limited time we checked out Dubai mall and the Burj Khalifa – both right next to each other. We decided to spend our last day just soaking up the sun and chilling by our hotel’s pool.
Three items that accompanied us on each trip we went on were, 1) Cash card: Before leaving for Perth I signed up for a travel cash card, which can be loaded with pounds online and used anywhere in the world, without charge (unless the ATM charges). The card I had added 2.99% to whatever current exchange rate MasterCard were giving for the currency I was requesting. I found this really useful and always a great back up if you run out of cash money or don’t fancy carrying lots of cash on you – also good for lengthy trips. Many different companies offer a card similar to the one I used and it may be worth shopping around to see which company gives the best terms. The great thing about travelling within Australia is that you can simply continue to use your own Aussie bankcard – which definitely makes life a lot easier. If you decide to use your UK card while abroad make sure you notify your bank before doing so as Caroline had her card blocked for doing exactly this when we were in Hong Kong.
On a related note I’d also suggest ensuring online access to your bank/email/Facebook etc. I had a few of my accounts blocked while travelling for signing in from irregular locations – just make sure your settings are adjusted so you can easily access accounts while travelling. Most of my accounts were also linked to my UK number, where access codes were sent. Obviously I wasn’t using this number so couldn’t retrieve the codes – best switch to your Aussie number.
2) During our year abroad we always travelled with a mini- Bluetooth speaker – probably more essential than the cash card! These can be purchased cheaply online and are always a good travel accessory, sure to make you the envy of your group of friends! Plus it means you can play the music you like and also comes in handy for long road trips when the radio signal drops out (would also recommend downloading an offline map application for road trips/travels abroad).
3) The third thing I’d put on this is something I rarely travelled with but wish I had – Mosquito repellent. One bottle would probably last you the whole year and would certainly come in handy for any travelling within/outside Australia – especially if you end up travelling to places that currently have a Zika problem. A definite essential if you don’t want to look and feel like you’ve contracted a mild version of chicken pox.
Thanks for reading & look out for my next blog where I’ll be reflecting on my first month or so back in Glasgow…