My Top 10 Tips for the Solo Traveller

As I embarked on my trip I know there were many people out there that thought I was brave. It's bloggers like Kate who made me realise that solo female travel is possible and most of all enjoyable. It shouldn't be just for the courageous, but for the curious. Here's my tips for solo travel, particularly (but certainly not exclusively) for those travelling to cities...

1// Look out for casual dining. Often in Tokyo people sit on their own at bars and eat - so there's nothing to feel uncomfortable about. Similarly in London and across the world you get Bar menus, cafes and road-side stalls.

2// When you hear a English speaking voice, immediately ask them to take a photo. Even if you don't want the photo it's a good ice breaker and you'll relish conversations.

3// Have something to read and go to a bar for a drink. Reading indicates you're alone, so someone may approach you - if not it's always nice to be somewhere with a bit of atmosphere.

4// Keep a diary. I found that with lack of communication from back home, it was great to write in a diary and offload my day.

5// Smile! I always make an effort to smile at the people who are serving me. If they speak English they may well be very friendly in return and this can make all the difference. If they don't understand what you're saying it doesn't matter - a smile is universal.

6// Be organised. Have a plan in your head - someone looking terribly lost with things hanging out of their bag looks vulnerable. It may also may you feel uneasy. Even if your plan is rough or consists of 'find myself a coffee' or 'find the next bench to get my map out' it gives you direction.

7// Be safe. Keep your escape route close to your heart. What I mean by this is keep your rail ticket or enough money for a taxi, along with your room key and accommodation name on your person - girls in your bra, boys separate from your wallet. That way if you forget your bag in a shop or (worse case) it gets stollen then you are not on your own with no-one to cry to and no-one to borrow money off!

8// Following on from the earlier point, aim to get at least one non-selfie photograph a day. I think you would be disappointed to come back with only 2 photos of yourself. Someone noticed me taking a selfie and offered to take one - I was suddenly embarrassed as really there is no shame in asking, particularly if they are another tourist.

9// Travel during daylight hours. It may seem frustrating if you're moving on to another city before the day has ended and things have shut down, but it means the other end you can pick up maps from the (open) information desk and there's no need to worry about last trains/tubes/buses. I left Hakone at 7pm and ended up get one of the last trains to my final destination. Moral of the story is you can never allow enough time!!

10// Ignore those who doubt you, especially when it's yourself!


Four Thousand Islands, Laos by Bike

The morning after a 16-hour power cut we had a whole day to explore Four Thousand Islands. Given the tempramental weather kayaking was out and bikes were in. As soon as we started cycled along sunrise side of Don Det, I realised the the island was a lot bigger than I had expected (and I felt bad for dismissing the idea of a run that morning).

We passed lots of river side bungalows and guest houses as well as local shops. Every few yards you could book bus trips and laundry, backing up what I had been told about the Lao people attempting to gain money in many different ways.
Along the southern tip we cycled through paddy fields and took in all the wildlife along the way...
... My favourite fellow was a little piglet tied to a tree. We called him BBQ. Cruel I know, but look at dem trotters... can I take him home?
Following the only path really available we reached the bridge over to Don Khon. It cost 25,000 Lao Kip (just under £2) for each 'foreigner', while locals rode past and ignored their own 15,000 charge completely.
If you follow the road you cross over a road that runs parallel to the river banks, which has many restaurants and guest houses. We followed this road for a while, before turning right at the brown sign pointing towards the dolphins and the waterfall. After a few metres we turned left at the T-junction and continue on. These detailed instructions become relevant I promise...
If you see this turning on your right then you should hear a waterfall. It is nothing to shout about but worth a peek if you're curious and have all the time in the world.
Backtrack and keep on cycling along the main path again! At the end of the path there are two restaurants. We chose the one on the right for a coooooool drink.
This little restaurant offered boat trips to see the dolphins for only 30,000 kip each.
They will took us in pairs, in particularly rickety fishing boats and I was very glad of my dry bag. As we wobbled our way on to the boat, our cap'ain held back a snigger.
The huge expanse of water, broken by islands, seemed to carry on as far as the eye could see. The land all along one side was actually Cambodia. It is near the Cambodian border that we got out of the boat and sat on a rock waiting for the Irrawaddy dolphins. These dolphins are rare with less than 100 believed to still live in the Mekong. Unlike the graceful kind found at seaworld they aren't lookers, not that my photos of them add anything to this argument... (find a photo here)
We saw dolphins at least a couple of dozen times, although I know my photography may suggest that I'm lying. The tiny black dot is the dolphin... Can't see it?
Still can't see it? Ok we'll move on.
... we saw many more 'official-looking' groups passing through, but they didn't stay as long. As each came and went we waited for the engine noise to die down and the dolphins to arch out of the water again. I liked sitting peacefully on the rock and waiting like a mermaid.

And then as luck would have it, the sun made an appearance on our return journey. (And because we're British we all good burnt.)

On the way back we were weaving in and out of trees. I like to imagine that it's because our guide was trying to please us, but more than likely it was something to do with the current and travelling upstream.
We saw plenty of men fishing in the river using nets & rods and hanging off trees. Can't say that I'd have the courage myself.
We said goodbye to the men, the lady in the restaurant and their ginger tomcat and went for a bite to eat back by the bridge.
Seng Ahloune was right on the river banks on the road that runs parallel to the river, the one which we passed over earlier (when you go it will all become clear I should hope).
The spring rolls were super crisp and it offered great value for money and a gorgeous view of the river, before the rainy season brought yet another bout of torrential rain.
 With not much going on on Four Thousand Islands, I'd definitely go for a peddle and embrace the pace of life here. I loved going on a little fisherman's boat and it felt so authentic, not a budget-draining activity done by every tourist on the island.

What did you think of Four Thousand Islands? Would you like to visit?


Homemade Granola

I don't want to patronise anyone that is new to this making-your-own-food business, but I think that 98% of the population can manage this recipe. Now I am but a humble student, I realise that often the key to cooking is for one and in budget is adaptable recipes. You need to be able to chop and change ingredients depending on what you have in the cupboards, or things you get a good deal on. I've always said that I love to cook, but in reality a lot of the time we all just follow a recipe. Those who love to paint don't tend to paint by numbers so why do we cook by numbers? Hopefully you'll find ways of adapting recipes here on B.O.B and discover what things can be substituted to make your own unique recipes.

There's something about granola that makes you feel healthy. Half the granola in supermarkets isn't that healthy, but that doesn't stop the smug feeling creeping in after you've eaten a bowl. You know what would make you feel more smug though? Making your own!

Your base is your oats and I just used cheap basics oats here, but you could also add in some high fibre cereals like All Bran or Bran flakes.

Next you need some dried fruit. You can get dried fruit in packets from Lidl, or see what dried fruit is offered separately.

Adding seeds and nuts adds fibre, nutrients, healthy fats, minerals ...good stuff! I used a leftover seed snack pot from tesco and some walnuts.
Lastly you need to mix all this together with some honey and bake in the oven.
When I made my granola it was heavy on the extra bits, but to make it go further add more of your oats.

My recipe is as follows, but like I said feel free to adapt it:
200g Oats
80g Almond, fruit & seed topper (From Lidl)
60g Seed Mix (little snack pack from Tesco)
40g Walnuts
100g Honey

Baked at 210 degree Celsius on a tray roughly one cm deep with ingredients for 5 minutes, before turning. Bake until a golden brown.

I've pinned some ingredient ideas to this board. Loads of the supermarkets have great own-brand ranges of all the ingredients mentioned. Although the ingredients mentioned may come to more than a box of granola, it will be healthier to do it yourself and long-term cheaper.