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Floating Markets & Mountain Passes - What To Do In Retirement


August 7th, 2013Travel, Food, Latin America, Asia, India
By Jemma Dicks

What to do in retirement

Image courtesy of Flickr, nicocrisafulli

Travelling the world used to be something that was traditionally done in the “gap year” between school and university. As times have changed, travelling and volunteering abroad have become among the most popular things to do in retirement.

In this two-part blog, I’ve put together a list of the best places to travel for culture, food, walks, cities, wildlife, memorable experiences and those special places that you never want to leave.

Best Cities

Buenos Aires

Base yourself in the tango district of San Telmo to experience Buenos Aires at its most authentic. Every Sunday, the district’s cobblestoned streets are closed off to traffic for the Feria de San Telmo. You can find everything from art work to antiques, traditional tango to tasty treats.

Finish off your day with a bottle of Argentinean wine and some world-famous steak, for the quintessential Buenos Aires experience.

San Telmo in Buenos Aires

Image courtesy of Flickr, pablodda

Cartagena de Indias

Colombia gets a bad rap but I personally found it to be both safe and friendly. Its reputation means that few visitors travel there, and those that do are usually among the more well-travelled and adventurous - one of the best reasons to visit.

Cartagena sits on the stunning Caribbean coast and enjoys a tropical climate. Surrounded entirely by walls and gateways, the old city is a maze of cobbled streets and coloured posadas overflowing with beautiful bougainvillea. During the day it’s alive with street vendors and fruit sellers and in the evening it’s closed off to traffic, allowing horse & carriage to rule the roads.

Cartagena old city

Image courtesy of Flickr, szeke


Hot, noisy, busy, but oh so much fun. In my opinion there are two things that can make or break a trip to Bangkok – timing and hotel. The city is quite full-on so any more than 4 days might try your sanity. Similarly, to really enjoy your time in Bangkok it really does help to have a sanctuary. After a busy day in stifling temperatures, a dip in a hotel pool will recharge your batteries and leave you raring for another action-packed day.

There really is so much to see and do but, for a first time visit, I recommend starting off with The Grand Palace, Wat Po, Jim Thompson’s house, the floating markets and, for a special treat, a dinner cruise down the Chao Praya river.

Bangkok floating markets

Image courtesy of Flickr, Joeannenah

Best Food

Thaili in Jodphur

You’ve no doubt heard of the infamous Delhi Belly. Well one of the best things you can do to try and avoid falling victim to it whilst travelling in India, is cut meat out of your diet and go veggie. As a meat eater, this didn’t particularly appeal to me at first but I soon came to embrace it.

One of the most memorable dishes I had in India was a “special” thali at a roof-top restaurant in Jodhpur. It comprised of a silver platter laden with bowls of rice, dhal, soup, raita, poppadum, chapatti, vegetable curry, rose water and a saffron lassi. Eating cross-legged on a cushion on the floor, watching bats fly around the turrets of the Mehrangarh Fort at sunset – nothing could sum up India better.

Indian Thali

Image courtesy of Flickr,SteveR-

Pad Thai on Ram Buttri Road

Bangkok is famous for its street food, and without doubt the most famous of its street food is the Pad Thai – a delicious stir-fried noodle dish. Probably the best I’ve had to date was on the Ram Buttri road, a bustling little lane lined with lanterns and shisha bars, not too far from the rowdier Khao San Road.

Whilst many people worry about the effect that tucking into street grub may have on their tummies, it is actually among the freshest food you will find, given the high turnaround. It is whipped up in front of you within minutes and then handed over for the grand total of around 60p.

Pad Thai in Bangkok

Image courtesy of Flickr, Yang Hai

East coast delights in Australia

Many people deny that there is such a thing as an “Australian cuisine”, claiming instead that they have simply stolen the best bits from other cultures and mixed them together. In my opinion, this is one of the main reasons that Australian food is among the tastiest I have ever tried.

Fishmongers in Byron Bay is a tiny little eat-in or take-away restaurant serving a variety of fresh fish (that you’ve most likely never heard of) in a cardboard box, alongside thick cut potato wedges and a house mango salad. It’s one of my favourite restaurants and that’s saying something for somebody who usually hates fish. I recommend getting a take-away and heading to the beach to watch the sunset.

Byron Bay beach

Image courtesy of Flickr, Brian Caldwell

Best Experiences

The Inca Trail

This, possibly the most famous of treks, is a gruelling 4 day hike up and down mountain passes. Tough it may be, but the spectacular scenery really does take your breath away – as of course does the altitude.

You pass numerous Incan ruins along the way, providing you with just a taste of what is to come – Machu Picchu. Pictures really do not do Machu Picchu justice. The moment the clouds lift and reveal the Incan citadel will stay imprinted on your memory forever.

Inca trail to Machu Picchu

Image courtesy of Jemma Dicks

Halong Bay

The UNESCO world heritage site of Halong Bay is a 4 hour bus ride from the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. It’s a spectacular place made up of 3000 or more limestone karst islands that rise from the emerald green waters. Many of these islands are dotted with hidden beaches and secret grottos.

The best way to explore the bay is to take a couple of days to sail around on-board a traditional Vietnamese junk boat – it’s certainly an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.

Halong Bay in Vietnam

Image courtesy of Flickr, eric molina


Located on the banks of the River Ganges, Varanasi is considered by Hindus as one of the most sacred places in which to die. Ghats (stairways) run along the length of the river where everyday life and death takes place in public. The bodies of deceased Hindus are cremated at the water’s edge every hour of the day. A thick mist seems to permanently hang over the river, but it’s always possible to make out the distant flames of a cremation. Take a boat ride at dawn to experience Varanasi at its most eerie.

Varanasi at dawn

Image courtesy of Kieran Maartens

Check out my next blog for the best places to travel for culture, walks, wildlife and special places.

These are a few of my ideas, but it would be great to get your opinion too. Have you got some good tips for readers regarding where to go and what to do in retirement? Please leave your comments below.

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