Welcome to the second part of my travel ABC's!
My name's Hana — shoestring backpacker, perpetual nomad and hopelessly incurable travelholic.
Here's where I round up N-Z of my intrepid solo backpacking adventures, best-loved destinations and most unforgettable experiences around the world.
This neat little list has been making the rounds of the travel blog community for a while now, so I figured it was about time to join the party.
Of course, it's always nice to put a face to a name. But I didn't write up these travel ABC's just to tell you about myself.
Missed the first part?
Would be a shame to get only half the story. Pop on over to check out my travel ABC's from A-M and then come back here to read the rest!
That has to be the extraordinarily beautiful Ice Hotel in Sweden's Lapland.
Definitely not budget backpackers accommodation (not by any stretch of the imagination) but then this place is really more of an ice art museum in the Arctic than anything else.
Just the Ice Hotel itself is pretty mind-blowing. Sleeping in -8°C (17.5°F) on a bed of ice blocks in a room full of ice sculptures is about as surreal as it gets.
But there's also a magnificent Ice Church with reindeer skin covered pews, a gourmet restaurant where your dinner is served on ice plates and (my personal fave) the world-famous Ice Bar.
And the activities are so much fun! Imagine dog sledding across frozen wilderness lakes, snowshoeing through Christmas-tree forests, snowmobiling under the Northern Lights, moose tracking, ice fishing and even reindeer lassoing.
Everything. From every angle.
During one of my more drama-filled moments, I was in a hot air balloon over New Mexico when an unexpectedly strong wind suddenly blew us off course. We picked up too much speed and hit a few trees before crash landing amidst military vehicles in the parking lot of the US Army National Guard!
The basket came down on the asphalt with a heavy thud, then flipped over and rolled. Everyone was thrown out in one big, tangled mess.
About a dozen horrified soldiers (who just happened to be out training at the time) witnessed the accident. They immediately came rushing over with stretchers and first aid kits, yelling for backup help as they ran.
What did I do?
I scrambled to my feet, brushed myself off and pulled out my camera to have a photo taken with them!
No idea. But many.
An easier question to answer here would be how many passports I've had and where they were issued — though come to think of it, I'm not sure how many passports I've had either!
I do recall applying for new passports in London, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Prague. But as I have to renew every 5 years there's obviously a few I'm missing.
I'm sure there've been others, but the 3 oddball attractions I can think of right now are:
Sedlec Ossuary in Kutná Hora, Czech Republic
A bizarre underground chapel artistically decorated with human bones. Yes, really — human bones. There's even an elaborate bone chandelier hanging from the ceiling.
Ardastra Gardens in Nassau, Bahamas
Supposedly famous for its marching pink flamingos but to me it just looked like they were chasing after the guy who had the shrimp and anchovies.
LKAB iron ore mine in Kiruna, Sweden
Quirky not for the mine itself (the world's biggest and pretty impressive, actually) but for the fact that the star attraction in the tunnels is a shiitake mushroom farm!
Impossible to choose just one as there are gazillions of incredible things out there to see and do. So honestly, even this list doesn't begin to scratch the surface.
A smallish splurge might be on some ridiculously decadent cappuccino (think edible gold flakes sprinkled on top) and sinfully delicious chocolate cream-filled pastry in a ludicrously luxurious five-star hotel café.
I'll also pay pretty much anything for a fancy cocktail in a rooftop bar with a fabulous view.
A big-time splurge might be on a scuba diving excursion, special cultural attraction, boat cruise, adventure tour, high-adrenaline activity or unique experience.
What's the point of flying halfway around the world to just hang out at the beach, right?
Got married at the hilariously cheesy Little White Wedding Chapel in
Dad ended up at the wrong chapel (bit of a long story but by the time he found us we were halfway through lunch) so Elvis had to walk me down the aisle.
How's that for touristy?
Let me finally tell you about some of the incredibly friendly, generous and kindhearted people I've met during my travels around the world.
Like the Jordanian primary school teacher who voluntarily gave up his entire lunch hour to drive me (in his own car) from the remote hilltop fortress of Mukawir over 30 km (about 20 miles) back to town because I'd missed the last bus.
Or the young Buryat girl who invited me to stay at her home in Ulan Ude (Siberia) when our train pulled into the station at 3 a.m. and she learned that I had no hotel booked. She stuffed me with dumplings and borscht, made me stay an extra day and bid me a tearful goodbye when I left.
And then there was the Romanian taxi driver. I only paid him to take me over the Transfăgărăş mountain pass one morning, but he spent the rest of his afternoon happily schlepping up and down 3,000 steps to show me the ruins of Dracula's castle.
These people (and many others like them) I will never, ever forget.
Never thought of counting them. And as I don't have all my old passports anymore I guess I never will.
Unfortunately, the one visa I really wanted I never got. That's because when you travel to North Korea your tour company (you can't go solo) arranges a group visa. The visa doesn't go into your passport but onto a separate sheet of paper.
It wasn't until we were boarding the train back to China that I even got to see the visa. I briefly considered sneaking a quick pic, but as we'd just had our cameras inspected (and many photos deleted) by the unamused-looking border guards, it didn't seem like a good time to try!
On a winery tour in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
But which specific winery it was at or what it was exactly that I drank there, I couldn't tell you.
I just remember that I bought several bottles of the stuff and they didn't last long!
I love snow-capped mountains under crisp blue skies, tall sea cliffs overlooking crashing surf and bright lights in big cities.
So, high on my list would be the gorgeous Himalayas in Nepal, the dramatic Cliffs of Moher in Ireland and the stunning Shanghai Bund by night.
I have to be honest. I'm not counting years anymore but decades.
Believe it or not, the very first photos I ever took of my travels were on a small Agfamatic tele-pocket camera that took 110 cartridge film. To advance the film you had to push the spring-loaded side of the camera in and out a couple of times.
It made such a cool zipping noise when you did that!
The camera also had a separate flip flash, which was basically a set of 10 disposable bulbs that you had to attach manually every time you needed to take a photo in low light.
Laughable, I know. Wish I still had it though.
I'm hardly what you'd call a zealous sports fan (and I'm definitely not a sports spectator) but I did ski a lot in a previous life.
My tolerance for winter weather dwindled after a few years in Asia though, so I eventually sold off my ski equipment and took up scuba diving instead.
Embarrassingly, the last time I skied was in Dubai!
Anything else you want to know? Don't be shy — just ask.