Ten guilty pleasures

Everyone has several guilty pleasures that they indulge in to feel good. Here are my top ten guilty pleasures:

1. Driving with the windows open with the air-conditioning on – it isn’t exactly environmentally friendly I know, so I rarely do this, but there’s nothing like  the feeling of driving with all the windows open, wind in your hair, music blasting, singing at the top of your lungs. If only I had convertible…

2. Trashy magazines – I don’t actually buy trashy mags but every now and then, at a doctor’s waiting room or the local bookstore or when borrowing a friend’s copy at the beach, I like flicking through the glossy pages to catchup on celebrity goings on; whether it be about Lady Gaga’s latest outfit tragedy to Brangelina’s newly purchased orphan. There’s just something voyeuristic (and addictive) about the concept of knowing what these people get up to on a daily basis. Are they normal? What does she look like without make-up? Look at Britney’s flab! Really shows how shallow we can be sometimes, and I feel almost dirty once I’ve gone through a couple mags.

3. Excessive shopping – It always catches me out; I pop down to the mall to relieve my boredom on a Saturday afternoon, and a few hours later I’m walking out with a dozen shopping bags. A few days after I separated from my ex-husband, I moped about in the Mall of the Emirates, and in my depression mode I walked into Gucci and decided without hesitation I would buy a bag, a wallet and a pair of shoes. Then walked into another shop and bought a pair of jeans. Then some make-up. Then got an extravagant haircut complete with highlights and treatments. Whilst my credit card probably wasn’t happy about it; it certainly gave me that wide-eyed instant adrenalin rush and feel-good factor that only shopping can give you.

4. Chocolate ice cream – My premier choice in junk food. I know Italy has fantastic gelato, as too does Argentina – however I can never say no to a Marble Slab special of Chocolate Swiss mixed with French Vanilla with a generous helping of pecan nuts.  Drool. Then you’ll see me at the gym for the next 3 days trying to work off the calories. But its so worth it.

5. Karaoke – yes I LOVE Karaoke. I can’t help it, I’m Asian, its in my DNA. My local establishment in Dubai was a Japanese Restaurant inside a 5-star, 54 floor toblerone-shaped building where I’d belt out traditional favourites like Livin’ on a Prayer and Like a Virgin in a tightly packed room of other drunken expats. If funds were low, my flatmate and I would crank up the Singstar and annoy all our neighbours with our voices, which were anything but 5-star.

6. Travel planning… that is beyond me – I often dream of cool adventure trips like diving the Galapagos Islands, riding a motorbike through Africa or sailing the South Pacific, however I don’t have the required licenses to do any of these so the experiences have always been beyond my reach (although in saying that, it does inspire me to get qualified!). I also love dreaming of trips that require ridiculous budgets like lounging about in an overwater bungalow in the Maldives or seeing the Antarctic on an icebreaker…but I’m quickly brought back to earth with a thud when I look at my bank balance. But there’s no harm in dreaming, is there? The most extravagant trip I’ve ever taken was a 3 week South African safari complete with all the luxurious trimmings; and whilst it made a considerable dent in the savings, it was worth every. single. cent.

7. Cheese and Crackers – for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My eyes go hazy when I see a plateful of soft, gooey Brie or crumbling feta rolling in glistening olive oil, most often accompanied with the usual mezze staples of prosciutto or salami. Not great for the thighs but there is an evil pleasure in convincing yourself that this is only ‘finger food’ so it really doesn’t count.

8. Staying in a really really expensive hotel – I was 19 when I stayed in my first 5 star hotel with my boyfriend, the Regent (now Four Seasons) in Sydney. From then on, I was hooked. I remember the feeling of crawling into fresh white sheets on a massive super King size bed, playing with the dimmers on the lights and looking out at the amazing views of the harbour. I get excited about raiding the mini-bars and trying to make cocktails with the miniature (and very expensive) bottles of booze and soda. I delight in the thought of breakfast in bed, cable television and extravagant bubble baths. I once stayed in a hotel in that had a glass window from the bathroom looking into the main room so that you could lie in the bubble bath while watching TV. In a resort in Oman, you could swan around in the pool all day, getting served cocktails at the swim-up bar, or grab a sun-lounger on the beach and be waited on hand and foot by ‘butlers’ who are never too far away, awaiting to take your next order. I took a birthday trip to Paris with my mum a few years ago and treated ourselves to a gorgeous hotel a couple blocks from the Arc de Triomphe. We were the only guests and were treated with amazing hospitality. And mothers being mothers, she proceeded to collect every single mini shampoo, soap and sewing kit in the room and even asked for more from the housekeeper. But to them it was not a bother. That’s the whole point of being in a luxury hotel; to feel important, cared for,  like there’s nothing you can’t have. It’s like being a princess. And I think it’s okay that every now and then, if I have the means, I will happily fork out for the pleasure of being treated like one.

9. Wearing pyjamas all day – There’s nothing like the satisfying feeling of lounging around in your pyjamas all day. Not getting out of them is a sign of defiance of the routine; of apathy; of pure unadulterated Sunday morning laziness.

10. Drinking on a school night – I’m doing less and less these days but the midweek drink used to be my specialty. There’s pleasure in the first sip, but when you’re getting home at 2am on a Tuesday, you know there’s going to be regret in the morning.

What are your guilty pleasures?

All photos in this post were taken by the author and subject to copyright.


Why do we travel?

“There is psychological pleasure in this takeoff, too, for the swiftness of the plane’s ascent is an exemplary symbol of transformation. The display of power can inspire us to imagine analogous, decisive shifts in our own lives, to imagine that we, too, might one day surge above much that now looms over us.” P. 38-39”

Alain de Botton (The Art of Travel)

Travel is my middle name. I obsess about travelling on a daily, no, hourly basis. Where I’ve been, where my friends have been, where I want to go next, how much leave (and funds) I have. I could probably say it’s a borderline addiction. I’ve been very lucky to visit a lot of the places I have, but I always feel like there’s more to be explore.

I’m in the middle of reading Alain de Botton’s “The Art of Travel”.  It’s not a travel guide about the outward journeys that a traveller takes, but more an inward reflection and analysis of the psychology of why we travel.

I’ve endured hours of bus, plane and train journeys and often contemplated during these journeys of why I have such a neverending thirst for seeing the world. People travel for all sorts of reasons – to learn a new language, meet new people, to surround themselves in history, to live for the moment. For me, travel has always been a part of my life. I’ve lived in 5 different cities in four different countries and have visited every continent. My recent jobs have been involved in travel marketing. I write about travel. I photograph my journeys. I dream of my next destination. I live and breathe travel.  I love the feeling of knowing I’m about to embark on a journey into the unknown, into an unfamiliar situation, far away from every day comforts.

With travel, all my senses are heightened. I relish at the thought of tantalising my taste buds with foreign spices and flavours; inhaling scents that range from the fragrantly delicious to the mysteriously repulsive; straying off the beaten track and challenging my map-reading skills – only to discard the guidebook and follow my (pretty impressive) sense of direction.

As de Botton describes in the book, the excitement and anticipation of a new destination occurs at the precise moment that you step into a foreign airport, bus or train station. You see a sign. The sign is foreign, may be in another language or bilingual, probably with strange fonts and embellishments; but the sign delights you because automatically it serves as the first physical and mental signpost that yes, you have now arrived elsewhere. How many times have you seen ‘Exit’ signs in local language in the foreign airport you’ve just landed in and tried to mouth the pronunciation to yourself as you wait for your bag to come around on the carousel? Uscita. Ausgang. Salida. Sortie. I would try to roll each strange syllable off my tongue as coolly as a local, and make a mental note of my newly discovered word in the hopes of using it when trying to converse with locals later. But its not just about the foreign signs.

I travel to experience the magic of living beyond the every day. I travel because I want to feel.

I’ve felt insignificant when I’ve looked up into a clear night sky in the middle of the English countryside and watched all the stars shyly wink at me from a thousand light years away. I’ve felt empowered and inspired when I soaked in the changing twilight hues of a mighty African sunset melt away into the horizon in the Botswana wilderness. I’ve felt energised and immortal when I’ve strapped on my snowboard at the top of a snow-covered slope in France, drawing in a breath of crisp mountain air to ready myself for the exhilaration of carving through deep fresh powder. I’ve felt peace and tranquility as I listened intently to the soothing rhythms of crashing waves reaching the shore as I lay in my hammock outside my beach hut in the Pacific Islands.

All these little moments are gentle reminders that I am a living, breathing, human being. That I can see, feel, hear, taste and smell things in their simplest yet most magnificent forms. And all these moments and feelings are carefully stored in my memory bank – fiercely guarded by my subconscious in an effort to never forget –  because in times when I’m frustrated, helpless or stagnant these memories remind me to feel as close to true happiness as I know it.

This is why I travel. What are your reasons?

All photos in this post were taken by the author and subject to copyright.


At one with nature in Bariloche – photo essay


Bariloche is incredibly beautiful. So beautiful I could’ve cried the first time I laid eyes on it. The kind of beautiful that makes your heart full and want to sing from the mountain tops, Sound of Music style. I didn’t quite sing from the mountain tops when I arrived, but I was in total awe of the place. My stay was short, but very memorable.

Lake Nahuel Huapi

I arrived from Buenos Aires on a very chilly 7º day (having come from 35º) and decided to go for a walk around the lake, camera in hand. The air was crisp, and the skies clear, the wind picked up and the lake was whipping up some spectacular waves.

Kayaking on Lake Guitterez

This lake is part of the Nahuel Huapi National Park in Bariloche. I had quite the kayak adventure as the weather was rough that day. The the other kayak in our group capsized and due to them losing their paddles in the process, our guide tied the two kayaks together, and I was tasked with paddling all four of us back to the beach. Luckily after half an hour of paddling against a very strong current (and making zero headway), a rescue boat arrived.

Horseriding

Horseriding

Our guide didn’t speak English so conversation was limited, but it didn’t matter as I was firmly transfixed on some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever come across – open meadows, trickling streams, imposing mountains rising from crystal clear lakes. However after a few hours even the view couldn’t distract me from my sore arse.

Lake Nahuel Huapi from Cerro Otto

A quick 10 min bus ride from town, and a short gondola ride, is the viewpoint of Cerro Otto. The town of Bariloche hugs the coastline of Lake Nahuel Huapi, surrounded by towering peaks of the snowcapped Andes in the distance.

 

All photos in this post were taken by the author and subject to copyright.


I deserve to be heard!

Last night I celebrated St Patrick’s Day like the rest of the world – drinking terrible beer and wearing silly green hats.  And like an Irishman to potatoes, redcalifornia here needed her nicotine hit to complement the beer drinking. I bought a packet of Marlboro lights and when I ripped open the foil packaging, I found this card:

front

Back

The front of the card depicted a scene that smokers are all too familiar with – huddled together, looking cold, miserable and lost as a result of being treated like pariahs due to their unfortunate habit. The back side explained what this was all about. It was a campaign called “I Deserve To Be Heard” calling for smokers to unite against all the barriers we’re faced with in order to indulge in our dirty habit. It was essentially a campaign organised by the cigarette manufacturers to fight back for our right to smoke! My first thought was, is this even legal?

Gone are the days of when we used to see commercials or billboards of the hunky Marlboro man light up, then jumping on his horse riding away into the sunset as he enjoys the flavour of his chosen tobacco.  Nowadays, with advertising and sponsorship bans, It makes me wonder what kind of things go on in the boardroom when marketing execs of tobacco companies get together to discuss advertising campaigns for their products. I imagined a scene similar to the one in the satirical movie Thank You For Smoking, where Aaron Eckhart (who plays a tobacco company executive who makes his living defending the rights of smokers in an effort to increase sales) and his boss yells at the marketing staff: “People, what is going on out there? I look down this table, all I see are white flags. Our numbers are down all across the board. Teen smoking, our bread and butter, is falling like a shit from heaven! We don’t sell Tic Tacs for Christ’s sake. We sell cigarettes. And they’re cool and available and *addictive*. The job is almost done for us!”. Of course,  I don’t think this is exactly how it goes down, but I can imagine the challenges that a marketing manager might have over at Philip Morris in these modern anti-smoking times.

But I digress. So, after some more thought (and another cigarette), I realised this little card hidden in my ciggy packet could may well be the start of a revolution by smokers. I agree with the need for the government and health officials to warn us of the dangers of smoking and to discourage all of us from taking up the habit – and I’m happy to put up with being exposed to nasty ciggy packet pictures of deformed feet or rotten lungs every time I reach for a smoke (so as long as its not a photo of a dead baby fetus, like they have in Argentina!) – however I am disturbed that there are many groups and individuals who make it their own personal mission to vilify smokers – there are even groups in the States that campaign for smokers not to be allowed to adopt children, or even be employed – these people seem to believe that our choice to smoke makes us undeserving of a having normal life.

So I do think its important we smokers get our say too. We’ve put up with the rising prices and taxes. We put up with the smoking bans from the restaurant, bar, pub, beach, cars, everywhere. We put up with being treated like diseased second class citizens, like drug addicts, who are constantly exposed to a barrage of criticism and naysayers. I’m a good person. I’d like to think I’m a good member of society – I love my family, I contribute to charity, I work hard, am intelligent, kind to others, recycle my bottles and generally am a decent human being. But to some people, as soon as I tell them I am a smoker, their perceptions stop them from seeing who I really am, because I’m immediately stereotyped as a non-healthy, lazy, dirty, slacker. Believe it or not, I do know that smoking is damaging to my health, and possibly to others, but I do also have manners – I don’t light up indoors, or in front of children. I make it a point to respect those I’m with who don’t like the smell of smoke to not light up around them, or ask their permission if I want to. I treat non-smokers with the same dignity and respect that I hope to be treated in return, regardless of whether I am a smoker or not. Unfortunately some people are all to quick to judge.

The laws have forced us all outside in the cold, both in the physical sense but in a larger metaphorical sense. We cough up to $17 for  a packet for the honour of being treated as social outcasts, lepers and child abusers. And Im kind of glad I discovered this campaign – because we do deserve to be heard.

I hope one day that smokers and non-smokers can live in harmony;  I believe its just all about using common sense. I agree no one should have to put up with my second-hand smoke when they’re trying to eat a meal, but I think I abso-frickin-lutely should have the right to have a smoke while I’m drinking my gin and tonic at a bar, and shouldn’t have to feel guilty while doing it.

If you’re a smoker, check out the site – www.ideservetobeheard.com.au. If you’re not, then I’ll await the barrage of criticism I’m sure to get about this post.

P.S. Just to be clear – In no way am I glorifying smoking, or support that anyone – especially children – take up smoking.


A trip down memory lane: Ten things I found in my laptop bag

Today, in one of my cleaning frenzies, I emptied out my laptop bag. Much like when one empties out a wallet you find all sorts of weird and wonderful items. I hadn’t assessed the contents of my laptop bag for a while – obviously my laptop has been the only thing I’ve removed from there, and since I’ve had the bag I don’t think I cleaned it out much. So it was like opening up one of those time-machine chests that they made you do in school where you put silly pictures in so that children of ‘the future’ could see what life was like back in 1988. Anyway, it was a bit like opening a time machine, because the stuff I found all have specific stories and memories attached to them. So, without further ado, here is what I found…

1. House Keys. These keys are actually keys to my very first flat in Dubai. God knows why I still had them and what they were doing in my bag. That flat was like a half-way house, with all the comings and goings of different people that I think we got about 8 different sets of keys cut. I guess these were the forgotten set. I wonder if I can still go back to that beautiful flat in the Marina and sneak in to see what it looks like now?

2. Homemade birthday card. This was given to me for my 29th birthday by my friend’s gorgeous kids. They, their dad and my flatmate woke me up on my birthday at about 9am with breakfast in bed, a cupcake with a candle in it, a bunch of flowers and this cute card. It was almost enough to make me forget I had a raging hangover. Hopefully I don’t accidentally throw this out one day because it really does bring a smile to my face.

3. Boarding Pass to Nice. This was my first trip to Nice. It was organised at the very last minute as a friend of mine was also there visiting her boyfriend who was working on a yacht in Cannes. I wasn’t even sure if I could get on the flight (being on standby). But I was so glad I went as I had an amazing weekend, and even got to pose on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. It was then that my love affair with the South of France begun. (Yes, I photo-shopped my name out, I would like my anonymity to remain!)

4 & 5. French train tickets & timetable. This kind of goes with the boarding pass. When I arrived in Nice that first time, I had to catch a train to Cannes, normally a twenty minute ride away. Me, being easily distracted and confused, jumped on a bus heading in the opposite direction and ended up in Monaco. I eventually realised my folly that Cannes was not in the vicinity of Monaco, finally found the train station and made it to Cannes, 2 hours later. On my next trip to France, I decided to pick up a copy of the timetable to prevent these silly mistakes from ever happening again.

6. Dubai Metro ticket. I sporadically used the Metro when it first opened, and whilst it was a pleasant experience it didn’t stop me from still driving my car to work. However on closer inspection, I assessed the date on this ticket. I think this was around the time I crashed my car (or rather when someone crashed into my car) so I was forced to use public transport for about a week until it got fixed.

7. My Emirates business card. Yes I’ve photo-shopped the details out again.  I felt so special receiving these; because not only did the logo sparkle in gold, they were my very first cards that were bi-lingual. On the other side of the card, everything’s written in Arabic.  I found it exciting to see my name written in another language; I then spent hours trying to copy the characters so I could learn how to write my name in Arabic.

8. Recruiter’s business cards. Not quite as exciting as Arabic cards, but before I went to South America, I was in Sydney for a couple of weeks running around seeing recruiters in the hope of securing a job by the time I returned from backpacking. However, seeing these today only served as a reminder of my crappy employment situation.

9. Cinque Terre tickets. This was one of my Mediterranean Summer trips that I took with my ex. It reminds of me that hot summer day in August that we took to the path of the beautiful Cinque Terre; a six hour trek along the coastline of five picture-postcard towns. I remember that night we had dinner at a gorgeous restaurant perched above a cliff in Monterosso, and after stuffing ourselves with seafood, went and got hammered on mojitos at an Irish pub. It was an amazing trip that I still have fond memories of.

10. Australia Sticker. I bought this on my first trip back home after being in Dubai for a year, but I don’t remember why. I bought two of these, and decided I would stick one of them on the bottom right corner of the back windshield of my car to proudly display my Aussie-ness. If you’ve lived in Dubai, you’ll understand what I mean – everyone has stickers of their home country’s flag on their back windscreen!

What are some weird and wonderful items you’ve found crumpled up in your bags?

 

All photos in this post were taken by the author and subject to copyright.


The art of living in Dubai

I’m currently reading my friend Becky‘s first book, about her adventures in Dubai, aptly titled ‘Burqalicious: The Dubai Diaries’ and it got me thinking. All the experiences that she mentions in the book – from the boozed-up brunching, the binge drinking, the weekend getaways, the crappy jobs and the broken hearts – can probably be quite overwhelming and difficult to comprehend to those who’ve never been, let alone, lived there. Those who have, know that there is a certain ‘art’ to living in Dubai.

Dubai isn’t for everyone. If you have a tough skin and an ability to see the humour in everything, you’re off to a good start. Despite all the supposed glitz, glamour and parties, it feels like from the moment you arrive to the second before you leave, the higher beings are secretly conspiring against you to make aspects of your life there as inconvenient, unpleasant and long-winded as possible. There are so many unnecessary obstacles in your path when you want to get anything done. Ask anyone who’s lived there about the processes of renting an apartment, finding a decent maid, changing jobs or even just getting internet connected and you’ll be met with a rolling of the eyes and a massive sigh as they recall the pain of dealing with a dodgy landlord, unhelpful bank staff (I’m glaring at you, HSBC), or Du customer service.  And regardless of whether you are patient or demanding in any of these situations, most of the time the customer doesn’t win. It’s just an aspect of life there and you quickly realise its futile trying to fight it. Dubai = bureaucracy gone mad.

46º at 6pm in July

One of the other biggest barriers to get over is the heat. When I mention to people I’ve lived in Dubai, almost everyone screws up their face and asks curiously ‘but how did you cope with the heat?’.  Most of the time I just shrug, because, well, you just end up dealing with it. From May – September the heat is pretty unbearable. And I mean the 4-showers-a-day, glasses-fogging, sea water-burning kind of heat. However, you find yourself acclimatising pretty easily after the first few months- “Oh, its ONLY 38 today!”. With all due respect, the city has been quite clever in minimising the heat impact on its residents. Air-conditioned oases are found everywhere. From your home, to your car, to your office, to the shopping malls. In fact, I have a theory that the 50 or so shopping malls they’ve built are actually purposely built refuges from the harsh weather. The shopping is just a bonus (does anyone actually buy anything at Ibn Battuta mall? ). Even some bus shelters are air conditioned. Power cuts occur frequently in the summer as the stations are overloaded from all of us seeking respite by having our air-conditioners set at 18º 24/7. Last summer, half of Sharjah (the neighbouring emirate) had no power for weeks, where temperatures soared to 50º, resulting in hundreds of heat-related illnesses – even deaths. One thing is certain though.. you will never complain about heatwaves in your home country ever again.

It goes without saying that Dubai makes you a very spoilt brat. If you had the means (and a lot of people do), you needn’t lift a finger – you can have a cook, cleaner, babysitter and driver. All you have to do is show up. In a place where breakfast can be delivered to you in bed from the coffee shop downstairs, the petrol is pumped while you sit in your car with the engine on, cigarettes and chewing gum fetched by a delivery boy on demand – you start to take a lot of things for granted. When the cleaner doesn’t show up, you get annoyed. When the petrol attendant doesn’t clean your windscreen you refuse to tip. When the delivery boy brings Marlboro Lights instead of your usual Davidoff Ultras you scold him. It turns you into a very nasty, demanding person indeed. This goes for travelling too. It just so happened that I worked for an airline, in a city that was based, apparently, at the geographical centre of the world. Not only did it benefit my long distance relationship (for a while), but also my never ending wanderlust. I was a spoilt little traveller and soon enough, for me, aeroplanes became just another mode of public transport.

Unlimited mojitos? Yes please.

Champagne brunch

Maybe that’s why everyone binge-drinks in Dubai – to relieve the stresses of the heat, the crappy customer service or just to get out of the flat while the cleaner’s in working their magic. I have never partied so hard in my life; the infamous Dubai Friday brunches became my specialty and I couldn’t go so much as twenty four hours without a visit to my favourite bars for a cocktail or five. Every day of the week there was something on – in fact my girlfriends and I discovered we (as ladies) could drink every night for FREE at various establishments around town. It did start to become a whole other world of ridiculous. Social drinking in this town was pretty much accepted as an excuse to catch up with friends, meet new people or perhaps to try to reel in a rich Arab millionaire who could buy you unlimited Prada handbags.

Road trip to Mussandam

Beach time

But when you come to grips with the social aspect of an expat community (and believe me, it doesn’t take long) you begin to really find a unique experience. The diversity of people who I’d befriended was the best part of living there. Brits, Africans, Americans, Europeans, Aussies, Arabs. You become each other’s family, security, towers of support. Some are still there, some have since moved on, like me. But I always knew that if I had a crappy day and wanted to vent, there was always someone around to lend an ear (most likely over a bottle wine or several tiki puka pukas). There’s no attitude or politics. No bitching or backstabbing (okay, maybe a little) but I know these people will be my friends for life. But despite the boozy brunches, fancy bars and delivery services, my favourite memories of Dubai are a lot more simple. A day at the beach with my friends complete with bbq and inflatable toys. A beautiful road trip through the mountains of Mussandam in Oman. Dancing the night away in the dodgiest bar in town, in shorts and flip flops. Watching the sunset while sipping a G&T from the back patio of a villa I lived in. Being mesmerised by the Dubai fountains as the towers of water sway to the rhythm of the music. Intimate dinners at quirky restaurants tucked away in forgotten corners of the city. Nights in with my flatmate watching DVD’s and singing our favourite songs on Singstar.

So, after all that…what is the art of living in Dubai? For me, it was a mix of  patience, perseverance, tolerance and light-heartedness. Dramas and complications unfold every day but its best not to take the place too seriously (everything in hindsight, huh!). My best advice is to leave your prejudices and misconceptions at immigration, befriend as many people as you can, and be ready to have the time of your life.

All photos in this post were taken by the author and subject to copyright.


Ten ways to die in South America

As anyone knows, going to South America is fraught with dangers. This is by no means a macabre list; but a few observations of how close one can come to ending their life during their travels in this continent, if they’re not careful. Take heed; these are (my) top ten ways to die in South America.

1. Death by walking

Being a pedestrian is a tough job in South America. You are at the bottom of the traffic food-chain. In the western world, a zebra crossing means a car must stop to let someone cross the road. There; its a mere inconvenience. In Brazil, 38% of all traffic accidents are from pedestrians, in Chile this is 46%.  To cross a road in a Latin country, you cautiously step out onto the road into what may be a break in the traffic, close your eyes, run like hell and hope for the best.

2. Death by taxi

I’ve been in many taxi’s around the world, from the polite, knowledgeable London cabbie, to the odour-challenged cabs of Dubai. South American taxi drivers are indeed polite and sweet smelling, however their aggressive driving skills make you wish you would rather be walking instead. It’s no surprise then, that despite the region’s reputation for being the crime & murder capital of the world, traffic accidents are actually a larger cause of death.

3. Death by beef

No, there is no outbreak of Mad Cow disease in South America, but it is very easy to die of meat overload. You wouldn’t want to be vegetarian in places like Argentina; red meat is pretty much a staple and can be eaten at any times of day. And it is an absolute sin to say no to asado.

4. Death by buses

If there’s anything worse than a taxi, its a bus. Particularly in Bolivia. I once took a bus from Uyuni to Villazon for an overnight ride, and made the mistake of peering out of the window. The bus was clinging onto the side of a high mountain pass, in the rain, still doing about 100km/h. You would think that Argentine and Chilean buses tend to be a lot newer, thus safer, however the drivers all must think they are in a Ferrari judging by their driving.

5. Death by Dulce de Leche

The buttery, caramel spread from Argentina (a staple for breakfast) that is oh-so-sweet on the tongue but oh-so-deathly for the arteries. Indulge in enough and I’m pretty sure you could die from the sugar content alone.

6. Death by ATMs

No, ATM’s don’t jump out of the walls and attack you, but there are some horrible stories of attacks that happen inside the glass boxes that ATM’s are housed in. You swipe your card to get in, type away at the machine (sometimes in Spanish so it takes twice as long), and as soon you get out, thieves pounce on you to pilfer your hard-earned cash. Another story I heard around the block is of thugs who stop you at gunpoint on the street, force you to a (or several) ATM/s to withdraw every single cent you have, then dump you in the middle of nowhere. Yikes.

7. Death by alcohol

As any backpacker knows, sampling the local beverages is all part and parcel of getting acquainted with the culture. Whether it is caipirinha’s in Brazil, fernet in Argentina or a pisco sour in Chile – we know to well that too much can lead to a visit to the nearby hospital for a good old stomach pumping (not that it’s ever happened to me!). Know your limits, and never try to keep up with a local!

8. Death by ice cream

I’m specifically referring to Argentina for this one. Their ice creams are unbelievably smooth, creamy and entirely addictive. I think I managed to have one every day in my stay; anymore and I probably would’ve had a coronary.

9. Death by kissing

No, Im not talking about transmitted diseases, I refer to the Brazilian male species practice of ‘kiss rape’. Normally occurring on a dance-floor, a foreign female can be bombarded by over friendly Brazilians who think it normal to surround a girl and try to ‘kiss rape’ her while all she wants to do is dance with her friends. It’s considered quite normal behaviour for men. They like to move pretty fast – it goes from a “Ola” to “I love you” within a matter of minutes. There’s small chit chat for about 30 seconds, they then go in for the kiss. I reject, they try again. I reject twice, three times, they still try. I’ll walk away and they’ll follow me. I go to the bathroom and they are there waiting for me when I come out. How on earth do you get rid of them? Even if I tell them to f!@# off they still give me a dazzling smile (OK, there’s no denying they are cute) and try again for a kiss. Is this what it’s like to be female in Brazil? I’d rather be dead.

10. Death by dancing

You can’t write a post about South America without mentioning dancing. It’s in their blood. Every night, in any country, there is something dance-related happening. If you try to keep up with the locals however (especially the frenetic samba!) I’d say you could probably die. Did you know there was something called the Dancing Plague that killed numerous people in Europe in the 1500’s? I’m surprised Brazil hasn’t had an outbreak of this yet.

 

All photos in this post were taken by the author and subject to copyright.