Macedonia instead of Albania and Montenegro!

The last journey did not at all become as intended, but so much better! We had planned to go to Albania and Montenegro, both fascinating countries, but found no suitable tickets. We did a quick search and decided to go to Macedonia instead. A great decision! We fell in love with hiking, crystal clear lakes, friendly people, and small beautiful villages where we were the only tourists.  

I am about to publish my third book, “Travel Light in Macedonia.” You will learn more about how to travel with light packing to be flexible and moveable. But on the same time be able to do all the things you love; hike, swim, go to nice restaurants, sleep in nice cool silk sheets, and have entertainment if things don’t work out the way you planned. 

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Our trip to Macedonia had a great start, even though we had almost had no sleep before take-off. We covered many sights in friendly Skopje and enjoyed the views from the Millennium Cross at the Vodno mountain. A beautiful journey by train took us to Prilep where we regretted we hadn’t planned to stay for the music festival. And when we stayed in an awful hotel, and almost ended up in deep trouble in Bitola, we regretted it even more. 

But when we did our first real hike in Pelister National Park, with the most fantastic views, there were no more worries. We were hooked on hiking! You might not like stray dogs, but our hiking company was a friendly girl that we were sure would spot any unwanted bears long before we did. After a fantastic hike, up to 2400 meters, we came back down to have a memorable vegetarian meal and a cold beer!

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Croatia here we come! Blog 2 from "Travel light in Bosnia, Croatia & Venice"

Thinking back and blogging! 

We continued our adventure and enjoyed our beautiful bus ride from Mostar to Croatia. Our destination was Podgora which we did not know anything more about than that it looked amazing from the little information we had. But the bus driver did not remember to stop in the tiny village so we ended up in Makarska. Go there if you want to experience a crowded tourist trap with shops, restaurants, and children’s entertainment. It is not our cup of tea. Luckily we managed to find a room through the third travel agency, expensive but in a very nice building with a quiet courtyard located between the harbor and the beach. Our landlord advised us to go to the island of Brac. Our plan was originally Hvar but we were open to other suggestions. When we found an apartment on Brac, a landlord that was prepared to pick us up, and a boat to take us to Brac it was an easy, and good, decision.

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Brac is a beautiful island with quiet villages and crystal clear water! We had not planned to rent a car but it is not easy to travel around Brac by bus if you have limited time. We managed to see most parts of the beautiful island in 3 days with our Smart. A perfectly sized car for steep mountain roads! But I have to admit that I was scared stiff many times. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! 

We loved everything! The water was amazing and each swim was different. Sutivan, Milna, and several of the villages we visited were so quiet, beautiful and friendly. You can read more in the book or contact me if you want more. Of course, we visited Bol and Zlatni Rat as well as Vidova Gora, the highest mountain in the area. We can definitely recommend Brac!

It is great to blog about our last journey now when we are just about to start planning our next journey. The plan is to take our backpacks to Albania and Montenegro but we will see. 

 

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Travel Light in Bosnia, Croatia & Venice - travel blog 1

Sarajevo was a positive surprise! An interesting city with loads of things to see, a bit too exciting history, nature around the corner if you want to go hiking, and low prices.

But our first impression almost made us wish we had chosen another destination. The taxi driver took us to the darkest suburbs, and after he had realized he was lost and we finally arrived at our street, a 5-minute walk from the old town, we found our guesthouse in the darkest of alleys. In the worst moment, we stepped into the most beautiful room with super comfortable beds and met a nice and service minded landlord. We strolled around the historical sites in the warm night, had tasty food and drinks, and felt completely safe. After sleeping like logs, we took “the free walking tour,” which gets our best recommendations.

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Our next destination was Konjic. Our tour over the mountains in an old car with a driver that not allow me to take a picture of his credentials who did not know a word in English was a bit too exciting even though the views were amazing. Until we saw the gorgeous lake! I could definitely consider spending a week or two in the Bosnian mountains, hiking and swimming in the amazing lakes. And don’t sleep on the bus or in the car – the views are too good to miss!

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Mostar was a given stop, and the bridge was as astonishing as expected. We were lucky to find a good restaurant with a perfect view of the lit bridge and we even bathed in the cold river. Still, it is not on our top list. Too touristic, and too many beggars. If you plan to visit Mostar I suggest you go hiking in the mountains and swim in the beautiful lakes instead of spending more time than necessary in the town even if it is beautiful.

It was hot, so we decided to head towards Croatia and the sea! 

 

Packing tips for your next journey

Some keys when we travel are - not carry heavy luggage, never having to say no to an adventure, and always be able to dress well when we visit fine restaurants.
 
Normally we plan our travels a few months, or at least weeks, before departure to get reasonably priced tickets since we travel during school holidays. But also to have time to learn about our destination. We read, talk about places we would like to visit, ask friends, and enjoy the feeling of excitement of having a journey to look forward to. When we left for Bosnia, Croatia, and Venice this summer, we had not even decided a destination 3 days before departure. You can read more about it in the book, but the summary is that we managed to find tickets to reasonable prices but had to be a bit flexible when it came to the destination. To put together a well planned and light backpack was extra challenging when the only thing we knew was that we would land in Sarajevo, visit Mostar and return home from Venice. 

When we make our packing list, we start with the following headings:
1.    Travel – what we need on planes, buses, and trains
2.    Walks – thin pants, nylon stockings, and water shoes
3.    Evening - nice clothes, shoes, sarong, flashlight
4.    Day - everything we need for walking, activities, sunbathing, and swimming
5.    Sleep – silk sheets and clothes to sleep in (which we also use for other purposes)
6.    Toilet - everything for the body
7.    Medicines - plus tablets for diarrhea and motion sickness
8.    Other - electronics, safety, games, coziness (tea lights, lighter, string lights), glasses, food

Our backpacks weigh 7-8 kilos each, and this is our packing list. In the book, you will find explanations why we pack what we do and how we manage to have a relaxed journey without emergency shopping and never having to say no to activities no matter if it’s a zip-lining or a nice show. 

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Packing list for 2-5 weeks in a warm climate:
a.    4-5 bottoms - long thin pants, skirt, shorts, dress plus shorts under f. below.
b.    8 tops - thin shirt, wind jacket, 2 Tank Tops, 4 thin t-shirts, one of which you can use for swimming and one to sleep in.
c.    Hat, cap, or bandana.
d.    3 pairs of shoes – sandals, or lightweight sneakers, water shoes that you can use for walking, flip-flops or slip-in sandals.
e.    8-10 thin panties, 2 bras (one soft bra), nylon socks, nylon tights, or thin tights.
f.    2 swimsuits or bikinis, surf shorts or cycling shorts for swimming, snorkel and mask or goggles, sunglasses, bathing cap.
g.    2 sarongs, one to lay on and one to use as a blanket, sundress or outerwear.
h.    Phone, tablet, iPod, headset, 2 chargers, adapter, power bank, waterproof case.
i.    Defense spray, flashlight and a small headlamp, lighter, 4 tea lights, string lights. 
j.    Wet wipes, 7.5 cl hand disinfection, 2-3 small packs of paper handkerchiefs, soap sheets, detergent.
k.    Deck of cards, crossword magazine or from weekly magazines, Yatzy, 2 pencils or pens, small notebook, manual hand fan, small compass with a thermometer, spork (spoon, fork, and knife in one), safety pins.
l.    Shampoo, conditioner, hair oil, toothbrush, toothpaste, face cream, body lotion, sunscreen, aloe vera, makeup remover, mascara, cerate or lip gloss, tweezers, nail cutter, nail-file, razor, small hairbrush, silk towel, tampons.
m.    Personal medicines, diarrhea tablets, bracelet or pills against motion sickness, painkillers, surgical tape, Compeed. 
n.    Silk sheets, eye mask, mosquito net.
4-5 storage bags of different sizes, 2 vacuum bags

Passion for traveling!

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What is your passion? One of mine is to travel around the world. I have soon visited 60 countries, so I have plenty more to see. Why do I write books about traveling? Isn’t it enough with pictures and short posts? I want to inspire you to experience much more on each journey you make. And since I love to live a decluttered life, I always travel with a light bag, or backpack. Most people I meet on my journeys carry much more stuff, and me and my daughters still manage to go trecking, climbing, snorkeling, fine dining, make a dull room cozy, have books to read and listen to, and much more. In my books, you can follow our journeys, get loads of practical information, and tips, and learn how to travel safely on your own, or with children. 

I published my latest book yesterday, so I am tired after weeks of hard work, but happy that it is out there to inspire you.

The book is about our journey in Bosnia, Croatia, and Venice. An unplanned journey that turned out to be one of our best. We went on challenging tours through hairpin curves in the mountains. Either with a professional driver that refused to let me take a picture of his driver's license or in a rented Smart. Since we love to swim in crystal clear water, we chose our islands carefully. As always, we wanted to see as much as possible during our 14 days journey, so we made some bad choices. Luckily the finale in Venice was amazing! After 40 000 steps, plenty of boat tours on the canals, amazing dinners, and late nights on the quaysides we did not want to leave the heat for our chilly home country. 

Now I will take a few days off to travel in the countryside. I will take long walks, listen to the birds, smell the forest, and be happy that I reached one of my goals. I published 3 books, in 2 languages, in 1 year!

Happy Easter!

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Ban Phe, Thailand

This blog is the last one about our journey in Thailand and Cambodia. I am sure you will find a lot of inspiration in the book if you want to know more about our journey, and how to pack light and flexible. I am just about to publish a book about a journey in Bosnia, Croatia, and Venice. More blogs will follow about that journey, and much more.

After 12 wonderful days, it felt a bit sad to leave Cambodia. We would have loved to spend a week on the islands and beaches outside Koh Kong, but the school holiday was too short. Next time! But it was also a relief to cross the border to Thailand. Everything is easier in Thailand. The border crossing in Hat Lek is small, and there are no scams like in Aranyaprathet, except for the guy that quickly grabbed our bags, but he was so nice and helpful that we gladly paid him. Even though it is a bit tricky to travel in Cambodia, I strongly recommend you visit Angkor Wat, go zip lining over the jungle, swim in the amazing water, and visit some of the peaceful islands.

Not much went as planned on our way to our friends in Ban Phe. That things don't go as planned when traveling is though part of the experience! Our plan was to have lunch in Hat Lek, but we found nothing but a bus stop. When we arrived in Trat, where we had planned to check out the city, the bus station was too far from the city center. But on the other hand, the rain was pouring down, so it was a perfect day to spend on buses. Then our friends didn't find us in the darkness since the bus had left us by the motorway, and not as usually, in the village. But our luck had changed - the rain had stopped! So we took our backpacks and started walking until we manage to find each other. We gladly jumped on their motorbikes. The feeling when entering their beautiful house, and immediately going out for an excellent dinner is indescribable!

The last two days of our journey we spent with our social, and food interested friends. We ate loads of delicious local food, had fantastic drinks on their terrace, swam in the pool, had the best massage, ran into an old friend on the beach, and even went for shopping. Very different from the rest of the journey but the best journeys are those where we have the opportunity to do many different things during the journey. We summarize our journey as one of our best! Can't wait for the next trip to Asia.

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Too exciting accommodation?

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On our way back from Koh Ta Kiev we stopped for snorkeling and cliff jumping as a memorable farewell from paradise. Our friend Mickey saved us once again and quickly arranged tickets to another of his favorite islands, Koh Rong Samloem. Within 1,5 hours from landing ashore, we started our long walk along a new beautiful white beach to find shelter in this paradise! Luckily we had light backpacks. When we were just about to give up and stay in a tent, we found something that looked like a building site. No alarm bells got through our tired brains. A bungalow, with a terrace and sea view, and a shower for 25 USD! I must admit that the first night when an alarm woke us up at 4, and the second, very windy night when I was sure the house was falling to pieces, I was not so sure we had made the right choice, but I am still here! You can read the full story in the book.

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It was a totally different island. It was not as friendly and quiet as Ko Ta Kiev. Time did not stop, but the beaches were even more beautiful, the water was crystal clear but too shallow for snorkeling, and we could take nice walks in the jungle. And we ran into some interesting people! A Russian bartender with a fur hat that turned out to be an unusual haircut. Two beer marinated Swedes that were sure they could borrow money from us to buy more beers. Plan your cash – there are no ATMs on the small islands. And we had nice tenants that ate all our less wanted visitors with a good appetite.

Unfortunately, we could not check out Koh Rong due to the strong wind. Our summary after having visited many countries and countless islands in South East Asia we are fans of the area and will return. We will try to visit the islands outside Koh Kong next time. After a too exciting evening walk in Sihanoukville, we headed towards our friends in Ban Phe, Thailand.

Paradise!

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Leaving Phnom Penh without looking back! We met a nice German couple on the bus to Sihanoukville, and since we had no place to stay, we went with them to Otres where they had booked a bungalow in the middle of nowhere. The staff suffered from a hangover and had skipped work, so the place was empty. Not really – I forgot to mention the mosquitos. Luckily, we had, by mistake, overpaid our driver, a perfect mistake since he had to search most of Otres to find any vacancies. We forgot all of that when we sat on the white sandy beach, swam in the fantastic water, and strolled along the beach until we found Mickey who took us to paradise by a small wooden boat! 

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Time stopped when we arrived at Koh Ta Kiev. The sandy beach was long and white. The water was warm and crystal clear. The jungle was beautiful, and there were not many people on the island. We stayed in a large bungalow a few meters from the long, white, and almost empty beach. There was no running water or electricity on the island except during 4 hours in the evening, but we managed by having a well-planned packing, for example, a power bank to charge in the only power outlet available. It was a friendly, safe, and relaxed atmosphere on the island. We slept in a large bed on our terrace, in our lovely silk sheets, and enjoyed the quietness while the cows kept us company. 

Suddenly we heard loud singing in the night. We were sure the guests at Tree House had been smoking too much. We had noted we could buy readymade joints in the bar, so we decided to use the headset as earplugs and sleep anyway. It turned out to be the Cambodian navy having training on the island that had been drinking too much Khmer Whiskey. 

The 3 days on the island went too fast while we walked, swam, and enjoyed our WI-FI fast. I hope you visit Koh Ta Kiev before the Chinese developers destroy this paradise. They have been planning for a while, but the island is still almost untouched. 

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Tonlé Sap and Phnom Penh

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We had planned a quiet and relaxing ride to the boat that would depart for Phnom Penh early in the morning. Firstly the hotel had not booked the tuk-tuk. Secondly, the driver was the oldest driver we had ever seen, and thirdly when we were relieved to be on our way we saw signs for the airport! I almost freaked out, shouted through all the noise on the highway and got the answer I did not want – we were heading towards the airport. Our pulse was about 190 when we passed our hotel again. This time with no margins what so ever! But worry and stress won’t make any difference, so we enjoyed the landscape and arrived at the boat in time. The driver had put the pedal to the metal!

The relaxing ride on Tonlé Sap, the largest sweet water lake in South East Asia, is far better than the bus and well worth the high price. In the floating villages, there are restaurants, pig farms and plenty more to see. What a contrast to the bustling city of Phnom Penh! We hurried past all drivers and headed by foot to our hotel to leave our bags and take off to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. We had chosen a hotel by the river, between the boat and the Palace, since we wanted to be able to enjoy this New Year’s Eve on foot.

What a night! Thousands of friendly locals were partying all around the city, live music, and such a nice atmosphere – as long as we stayed away from the dark alleys which are almost everywhere. Nightlife in Phnom Penh for a mother and her daughter is to be enjoyed at the markets and by the river. We decided that this city was not for us, so we took the bus to Sihanoukville the next morning. Peace and quiet, white sandy beaches and crystal clear water seemed more to our liking. But how did it turn out? More to follow and read the book if you want the whole story.  

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Angkor Wat

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What a feeling to wake up knowing that we were heading towards the temples! The ticket booth is not on the way to the temples, so plan for the detour. We hadn’t so we had an early morning. Off to the ticket booth and back to the hotel for the pick up with a minibus for my adventurous daughter’s zip lining. I took a tuk-tuk to the temples. We had an amazing day, but we suggest you choose your driver more carefully than we did. The temples are high and mighty. A lot of climbing means excellent views. Good shoes, water, and something on the head will make your day. Have clothes or sarongs to cover shoulders and knees when you enter the temples.

Day 2 we wanted an even better day, so we rented bikes. That was absolutely perfect! Slow enough to enjoy the air, smells and, sounds. Total freedom to decide what temples to visit. And the possibility to find the small and seldom visited temples that they don’t include in the ”small” or ”big” tour. The finale at Angkor Wat was such a magical experience. Put it on your bucket list if it’s not already there.

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After climbing, walking, and biking we needed massage which is available everywhere in the bustling Siem Reap. You can find everything you ever considered buying or eating there. Crocodile handbag? Grilled scorpions or big hairy spiders? Fine dining? Cheap drinks? Siem Reap felt busier than Bangkok so you will not get bored, but don’t expect a quiet evening. 

Bangkok to Siem Reap (Angkor Wat)

You might remember being a teenager, or you might have teenage children and can visualize how it was to wake my 15-year old daughter at 4.30 to take a walk in the pitch-darkness to find the station. All turned out perfect with some help from staying close to the station and meeting helpful people. Who is up at that crazy time? (Read the full story in the book). The train ride from Bangkok to Cambodia goes through a peaceful landscape and small villages. We were early and found seats alongside an ancient man who overslept his destination. 

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The border crossing in Aranyaprathet is famous for scams! We were prepared for that and headed directly for the Songthaew to avoid having unwanted passengers in our tuk-tuk. Don't buy Visas! You will find official cashiers further on so just stay calm and move on. Even better is to buy an e-visa before you leave home. We did and had time to look at the interesting no-man-land we walked through, passed Visa control in seconds, took the free bus to town and had time for a simple and tasty lunch. We had anticipated problems and instead we had a nice and relaxing day with beautiful views and time to listen to the audiobook. Transportation can be something to look forward to on journeys!

Angkor Wat, here we come - not yet! We arrived too late to Siem Ream to visit the magic temples so, we swam in the pool, had a beer, and took off to the bustling city where we did not dare to taste the grilled scorpions or the big hairy spiders. A police officer had several while we relaxed over some drinks. 

 

Bangkok

We left the winter in Sweden and arrived in a hot and welcoming Bangkok. I had been to Bangkok twice before, but it was the first visit for my daughter, so we had decided to spend 2 days there. That might sound a bit short for some of you, but we had planned so much for our journey and decided that there is a lot to experience in Bangkok, but not as much as in Angkor Wat, and it's not as beautiful as the Cambodian Islands. And we also wanted to have time to visit our friends in Ban Phe on our way back from Cambodia.  

The hotel, Bangkok Centre, was a positive surprise! We had chosen it for the location by the train station, so the standard, the service, and the beautiful pool were all bonuses. We had planned to take the riverboat to China Town but got lost, so we had a long walk instead. I definitely recommend walking in Bangkok! It is lovely to stroll through China Town, feel the sents, listen to the bustling city, and find the small local restaurants where they serve tasty food from open pots. 

Finally, we found the riverboat which we believe is the best way to travel in Bangkok when it's to far to walk. Some tried to trick us and some almost succeeded, but only almost. Our highlights were the riverboats, Declining Buddha, Khao San Road, and the flower market in China Town. When we left our hotel at 5 in the morning, we concluded that the first part of our journey had been great. Cambodia, here we come!

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This time last year I was in Angkor Wat!

Last year at this very day me and my daughter were climbing trees and temples in Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Now I summarise the year and conclude that I have managed to publish a book about our journey - Travel Light in Cambodia & Thailand. Why do I write books and blog about our travels? I have through traveling all over the world with my daughters, my partner, and with friends learned that me and my daughters experience a lot in a relatively short time (2-3 weeks). We have less luggage to carry than most people, but can still go snorkeling, climb mountains, sleep in tents, and eat at nice restaurants. And we always stay friends during our adventurous journeys. 

Before our trip to Thailand and Cambodia, we planned a little more than usual since our journey covered large distances. Below you find the map of our route. We read books and blogs. We talked to friends and asked questions on social media.

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The journey started in Bangkok with commuting by boat, visiting temples, shopping at Khao San Road and checking out the train timetable at Hua Lampong before taking the train to Cambodia.

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