Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun

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Botswana – Milky Way at the Safari

Milky Way in Botswana
After an exciting afternoon of safari photography at Mashatu Game Reserve, we spied a hint of the milky way appearing up in the skies. Stoked, we looked around, ascertained that there were no animals (especially predators) nearby, jumped out of the car for a quickie shot. It was the fastest milky way photography I have ever done ;)

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Sydney – OMGish Pretty Rose Gelato at i-Creamy

i-Creamy Artisan Gelato
This is easily the most Instagrammable gelato I have ever seen – it caught my attention when I chanced upon it on my Instagram feed, and I made it a point to visit i-Creamy on my next trip to Sydney.i-Creamy Artisan Gelato
i-Creamy is located within Sydney’s CBD at Skyview Plaza (street level) near Chinatown. There is some seating space within the shop and in the public area.
Image source: i-Creamy Facebook pagei-Creamy Artisan Gelato
The shop is opened by Thai Ben Chitmitrechareon, who studied at Carpigiani Gelato University where he was taught by Gelato Messina master Nick Palumbo. So no wonder all the staff were Thai. And guess the creative Thais would be more adept at crafting roses out of gelato.

There are at least 24 flavours of gelato available out of 96(!) rotating flavours, all made daily in-store. Not every flavour can be used though – look out for those indicated with a green leaf signage. You can choose up to 3 flavours for your rose gelato – do make sure that the flavours complement cos’ I don’t think a durian flavour would taste very nice when mixed with say, strawberry flavour. I went for the chocolate and black sesame flavours.

It was fun watching the Thai staff deftly shaping the gelato with their spatulas into floral treats…and I silently contemplated buying a tub of ice cream at home to play with at home.i-Creamy Artisan Gelato
Voila – I love flowers which look enough to eat! Taste-wise, the texture was thicker than usual probably because you need the hardness to shape the gelato. The taste was also lighter than the usual Italian gelato flavours which I favour at Gelato Messina. Go during off-peak hours as you may need to wait about 10-20mins for your gelato to be shaped depending on the crowd. Have fun creating your roses!

i-Creamy Artisan Gelato
Address: Shop 13 Skyview Plaza 531–551 George Street, Sydney
Opening Hours: 11:00AM – 10:0PM (Last order at 9:40PM)
Website: http://www.i-creamy.com.au

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Botswana – The Little Mousey who would be Shrew

Elephant ShrewMe: Oh, so this little mouse-like creature is called a Sandshrew?
My pal Kai: Err, it is actually called an Elephant Shrew. Sandshrew only exists in Pokemon Go.
Me: Oopsie! :p
Confessions of a Pokemon Go-holic” at Mamagua, Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana

The elephant shrew (also called sengis) are represented by a single family, the Macroscelididae, with all 19 living species found exclusively in Africa. The cute little mammal gets its name from the long, pointed head and very long and mobile trunk-like snout. While they look like mice, the elephant shrew is more closely related to a group of African great mammals that includes elephants, sea cows, and aardvarks.

Smaller elephant shrew species like this one are found in the uplands of Southern, Eastern, and Northwestern Africa in dry forests, scrub, savannas, and open country covered by sparse shrubs of grass, while the larger four species of giant elephant shrew prefer to live in forests, closed-canopy woodlands and thickets usually in a nest made of leaf litter. The elephant shrew eats invertebrates like ants, termites, beetles, spiders, millipedes, and worms.

Elephant shrews are monogamous (yay! proud of you) and mate for life. They give birth 4 to 5 times a year. Highly territorial, they stake an area spanning a few acres. When other shrews enroach its territory, the elephant shrew behaves true to its name – they will waste no time in screaming, kicking and sparring – like a human shrew – to drive the trepasser away.

The couple do not hang out together all the time though – they go about on their own looking for food, using sent-marking to let its mate know it is still around and not gallavanting elsewhere. This musky smell also serves as a deterrent against predators such as birds of prey and snakes, as well as help to point our food sources.

The elephant shrew has been listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with the loss of its habitat to urbanization being the biggest threat to their survival. Help conserve the elephant shrew.

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Taiwan – Experience a Scandinavian Getaway at Yilan’s North Zart 北方札特

Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿
From natural environments, cold/hot springs to a wealth of scenic attractions, Yilan is one of the best areas in Taiwan for a leisurely getaway with loved ones, and North Zart is one of the most unique and beautiful minsu in the region. Made entirely out of wood, it feels as if you were momentarily transported to the cabin lodges of Europe.Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿North Zart is located about 15 minutes away by taxi from Yilan Train Station. It offers 13 rooms for doubles all the way up to 6 persons in a room split between two buildings. If you are travelling in a big group (more than 10), you can consider booking a whole building exclusively.

Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿Santa Claus greets you as you approach the entrance of the wooden cabin building. Feels like Christmas all year round!Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿Amazing sunshine smiling down at us. The minsu can help to organise BBQs outside here at night.Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿Lovely outdoor area to chill outYilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿The minsu built the palace theme building a year after the opening of the wooden cabin theme building. The owner conceptualized the design of the entire area, including the landscaping and gardens outside. Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿Amazing living hall which comes with a deepsea aquarium and a TV capable of playing 3-D movies.Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿For the literary ones, pick up a book from its library and immerse in a good read at a favourite corner in the minsu.Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿Lovely decor all aroundYilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿The fragrance of Chinese fir used to build the minsu permeates the spaceYilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿The owner Mr Lin, is a coffee aficionado – you definitely have to ask him to make you a cuppa coffee. We enjoyed chatting with him as he shared with us more about the minsu. I must say he is very meticulous, as you can see the thought and effort that was put into setting up the place, and all the little things done to give the place a warm, homely feel. His family helps to run the minsu too.Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿How I am feeling right now – happily contentedYilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿Breakfast is served at the basement of the wooden cabin building.Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿It offers a typical Taiwanese breakfast.Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿The double room was spacious and well-stocked with beverages and snacks.Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿The bathroom was just as spacious.Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿The Rrom for four persons came with a fake coconut tree lolYilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿I loved the balcony which overlooks the garden.Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿Some of the rooms also overlook the rice paddy fields behind the minsu which belongs to Mr Lin.Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿And one of the highlights of the minsu – a cold spring! What an amazing treat!Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿The minsu by night looks surreal, and I am tempted to laze my vacation away all day.Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿We got into a little mischief at Luodong Sports Park nearby (you can borrow a bicycle from the minsu for a nice ride in the morning) – with some fireworks and sparklers :)Yilan: 北方札特 North Zart 民宿We enjoyed our stay at the very pretty North Zart as well as exploring Yilan’s attractions. As public transport is not readily available in Yilan, I would suggest you book a car or take a taxi. By day you can explore numerous scenic areas such as Meihua Lake, Wai Ao Beach (black sand!), Turtle Island or attractions such as Lanyang Museum and Jimmy Plaza while by night you can visit Luodong Night Market for some local eats. Jiaoxi Hot Springs is also not too far away.

北方札特 North Zart
Address: 269, Taiwan, Yilan County, Dongshan Township, 廣安村廣興路682巷132號
Email: espcat@gmail.com
Tel: +886 918 612 581
Website: http://www.northzart.com.tw
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/NorthZart
View Map https://goo.gl/maps/WgqGJNMR7pS2
Booking website: http://www.kitravel.com.tw/booking/northzart/index_en.html
Room Rates: http://www.northzart.com.tw/contact-fee.html
Getting from Taipei to Yilan

1) Kemalan buses (葛瑪蘭客運) at Taipei Bus Station Taipei Main Station. Fare: About NT$129 Travel time: About 50 mins. Website: http://www.kamalan.com.tw/route.php
2) Capital Star buses (首都客運) at Taipei City Hall MRT Station near exit 3. Fare: About NT$120 Travel time: About 50 mins. Website:

Taiwan Railways to Yilan Train station. Travel time: About 1hr 30mins. Fare: TWD 200 – 250
Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA): new.twtraffic.com.tw/TWRail_EN/index.aspx
Train ticket prices: service.tra.gov.tw/tw/ticketprice/excel.aspx

Getting from Taoyuan International Airport to Yilan
By Bus:
1) Take Kuo Kuang Express buses from the airport to Taipei Main Station. Travel time: About 1hr 10mins. Fare: About TWD 115
2) Transfer to buses to Yilan (See Getting from “Taipet to Yilan” above)

Getting from Kaohsiung to Yilan
1) Take THSR train to Taipei Main station. Travel time: About 2hrs. Fare TWD 1,490.
2) Transfer to buses to Yilan (See Getting from “Taipet to Yilan” above)

Read more of my travels in Taiwan


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Botswana – Watching

An adult giraffe keeps an eye on a young one as it feeds on the leaves of an acacia tree. A giraffe’s extra-thick saliva gets its antiseptic properties from the acacia leaves that they eat. Its tongue also has a thick, tough layer that protects it from being cut by the super sharp thorns (from personal experience, ouch) of the acacia tree, while its antiseptic saliva thoroughly coats the thorns so they come out of the digestive system pretty intact. The saliva helps it to heal quickly too should it be cut by the thorns or anything else. So if you have a cut, you can try getting a giraffe to lick on your wound – if you can ever get close enough to one in the wild :)