What goes in the bag...

Packing for the next trip (for work - so exciting, not), I'm reminded that I was going to write about tips for travel packing. They're really not hacks per se, and nothing is truly original - perhaps just little tweaks on stuff.

To start off though, we have these:

Rule 1: Gotta use it more than 50% of the trip

Case in point that I personally struggle with: My tablet. I still struggle to leave this one at home, because I argue that it'd be used on the plane for backup entertainment and for the rest of the trip for blogging and Netflix... but so many times I found in-flight entertainment adequate and I never stay awake long enough for the blog or Netflix. As a general rule though it's been helpful to cull the excess shirts, trousers, etc.

Rule 2: Gotta be comfortable and worn/used on the average day

By "average day", I mean any day not spent travelling (what are you wearing today?). This one is really important - so it means we try hard not to buy anything specifically for travelling... other than the obvious e.g. luggages, travel chargers (note very important: ALWAYS bring a travel charger when travelling). When it comes to clothes and outerwear (...and innerwear) we always go with what's in the wardrobe - because that's probably what we're most comfortable in... and cuts all the unnecessary shopping.

Rule 3: Gotta visually match anything with everything

This is I think the most useful tip. Our trick is to go with blues and whites - I take it one step further and lay everything out in a square (sorta like Instagram squares) which guarantees that everything matches. The idea is to have the most number of shirts-trousers-dress-accessories-shoes combinations with the least number of actual things in the bag.


So... currently in the bag I have this:

And these are notable...

1. Travel charger: I've said it before. Never leave the base during a full day of photography and Google Mapping without a good, reliable travel charger. We each have a Samsung capable of charging our phones over from flat thrice.

2. Compact wallet: I've discovered the best wallets to travel are very compact ones that fit cash, coins and cards. I have one from Trenery that is no longer sold - but when the zipper starts to give in to age I've got my eyes on the Bellroy Card Pocket.

3. Watch: One thing I hardly wear is a watch - but when travelling, my Timex Expedition is something I never leave without. Time is everything when on the move, and a watch is sometimes more reliable than having to check the phone - All. The. Time.

4. Day carry: A recent addition is our Rains waterproof tote bag. Large enough to fit our shopping, lightweight enough to fold into our pocket when not in use. This bag is a lifesaver in travels where rain is almost certain.

5. Shoes: I've packed two pairs for a short week-long trip involving casuals and formals. The most annoying thing to pack are shoes, and ideally shoes should be swapped out each day (for hygiene). So here's my tip: buy shoes a size larger, fit insoles, and bring spare insoles to swap each day. I use Neat Feet Work Force insoles in most of my shoes.

Roadtrip: Maldon & Castlemaine

We spent a weekend at the lovely Shopkeeper's House in Maldon, Victoria, and - thanks to some crazy timetabling of our weeks - decided to take it nice and slow.

And, I must say taking it nice and slow is pretty much intrinsic as far as a stay in Maldon is concerned. It's a very quiet and friendly town, with all the small-town charm. There are a couple of short walking trails (though it was winter so we reaalllllly struggled), but I think the highlight is the historic vintage steam train to Castlemaine. Yes - you read that right - HISTORIC. VINTAGE. STEAM. TRAIN.

 

Accommodation: Shopkeeper's House

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The Shopkeeper's House is one of the growing stable of boutique accommodations managed by Flophouse from Kyneton. (I'm still in the process of restoring my old posts to the website, but you might remember we last stayed in the Harpsichord House, which was as comfy as it was photogenic...)

The Shopkeeper's House sits right next to the Maldon rail station, and on the weekend morning the sound of the train wisping away in a cloud of steam almost convinced us we were taken back in time... except no, we were in most comfortable lodgings with a very fancy gas log heater so even though it's frickin' freezing outside it's nice and toasty indoors...

 

All aboard the train to Castlemaine

Even for a non-train enthusiast, I think the steam train to Castlemaine was probably the highlight of the stay. It is a truly unique experience, and at worse just a little kitschy, but it's fun to step into something resembling the set of Harry Potter's ride to Hogwarts. Just don't watch the ad for the Victorian Goldfields Railway on YouTube - it doesn't do it any justice - and take my word for it and book yourself a first class ticket...

Told you it was wispy.

Told you it was wispy.

 

Honourary mention: The Mill, Castlemaine

We didn't have much time to spend in Castlemaine, which by all accounts is a large town with much happening - but having arrived by train and needing to travel on foot, we chose wisely and headed to The Mill, a new, very trendy co-op space combining cafes, craft breweries, art galleries... and vintage markets (?!).

Travel: Bangkok, Thailand

I took the small window of opportunity during a work trip to Bangkok to also do some exploring. By small window of opportunity, I literally mean small - I had little over a day to basically cover the famously crowded streets and try to make as many popular (and some not so popular) spots recommended to me by the wonderful community on Instagram. (#thankyouverymuch)

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I do find the Bangkok cityscape captivating - I could describe it as chaotic, but that's not being fair to how organic this city looks. Bangkok appears best visually experienced from two perspectives, I've learnt -

  1. To catch a glimpse of the city towers the best view is above the rail lines, which basically otherwise obscures everything. I mean it- everything.
  2. At street level, the beauty of the street markets, bizarre traffic, and buzzing mess of powerlines. (No kidding, those things really buzz.)

That said, Bangkok is best experienced on foot - I find myself missing out on so much just whizzing through traffic on the days I had to work, but then taking in so much more on the one day I let myself loose on the streets...

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The food

It's been nearly a month since Bangkok, and I'm still thinking of the food. I must admit, because of the tight timeline I didn't really get much of a chance to experience the street food - and some of the mall food truly looked better than they tasted - but in general, the food experience was great.

It also helped that the hotel I put up for the night has one of the top restaurants in Thailand.

Also to note, Bangkok boasts a range of cafes ranging from:

The very posh...

The very posh...

...To the very street.

...To the very street.

Like, I mean,  Instagram-worthy   tile art  posh.

Like, I mean, Instagram-worthy tile art posh.

In any case... here are the highlights:

Honourable mention tourist hotspot: The Commons

This is a fancy co-op space for restaurants, small creative shops, and various merchants. Roast is up on the top floor, and the squid-ink pasta you see above is not too bad. Worth the trek I'd suggest!

Seriously must go: On Lok Yun

I'm not even kidding. The kaya thing with steamed white bread is amazing, I don't even care how dodgy the place looks or how much sugar/calories/who-knows-wut-else it probably contained. Or the buttered bread. OMG. OMG. OMG. I'M GOING TO FOODGASM.

 

The hotel

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I stayed at the COMO Metropolitan Bangkok which looked fairly recently renovated, but as it also turns out is a really old building. Its age shows - the air conditioning coming to life also sounded like it was going to suffer from a mechanical aneurysm. 

That said, its renowned cobalt blue pool was truly cobalt blue, the rooms were spacious, sheets and bed were comfy, and the restaurant is one of the best in Thailand.

A side note - the hotel is awkwardly located away from the main shopping malls and overhead rail line, which meant I spent too much time actually in a car getting to where I wanted to be half the time. The staff though were really helpful in organising taxis for me to make sure I always got to my destination on time.

 

Also worth seeing

This is not often on the tourists to-do list, but honorary mention: Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre

The art is pretty good, and the added bonus is you will not find another place as atmospheric as this for photos...