Our 19 most popular posts in 2019 on Grantourismo included everything from guides to getting to the Margaret River from Perth in Western Australia and how to spend one day in Ubud on the tropical island of Bali to climbing up to Kotor’s Castle of San Giovanni and where to eat in Dubai and what to buy in Cairo.
I have to confess to being a bit embarrassed to be publishing this post on the 19 Most Popular Posts in 2019 – What You Read on Grantourismo when we are already eleven days into 2020, however, it’s been an exceptionally busy period, and I still wanted to share it because we find it so fascinating.
What’s kept us so busy? We’ve been preoccupied mostly with the catastrophic bushfires in Australia, both Terence and I obsessively checking the news and social media every chance we get. My sister’s suburb in Perth was a little too close for comfort to the recent Kwinana and Baldivis bushfires.
If that wasn’t reason enough to worry, my nephews recently joined the volunteer bushfire brigade and have already been out fighting fires. They spent a couple of days/nights helping put out the Baldivis bushfires, which made me an incredibly proud aunty. Those fires are now under control but the area is not out of complete danger yet.
Readers have been asking us: is it safe to travel to Australia? While you don’t want to put yourself in danger or get in the way of locals who are tragically cleaning up their communities and beginning to rebuild their lives, Australian tourism has been impacted tremendously and small businesses are already suffering. Some communities that are out of harms’ way are calling for tourists to return. I’ll post on that soon.
It’s challenging, as Australians living abroad, not only because we’re so far from family and friends, but also because we feel so helpless. The only way and best way we can help is to raise awareness, share information, and fundraise. Back in early December we shared a post on How to Help Koalas and Other Wildlife and Australians, which subsequently went viral and has had consistently strong traffic ever since, with many clicking through to the charities. That’s heartening. We’ll update that ASAP.
I also have to confess that the climate crisis has been causing me stress. How about you? I fear I’m suffering from ‘eco-anxiety’. Ever since an Australian friend sent me a post on the condition, I have been doing some research and will post on that soon too, and what we can do to deal with that feeling of impending doom and helplessness. One way to deal with it is to do what one of our former writing and photography retreat participants, now a friend, Ilya Fisher, is doing in the UK.
As part of her Masters degree, Ilya has undertaken an incredible photography project documenting climate activism there, which highlights the fact that the vast majority of people protesting are not anarchists or radicals, they are just ordinary people who care about the future of the planet. She is currently capturing a wave of ‘Civil Discobedience’ that has swept the country, a sort of feel-good protesting that has been known to get whole villages and towns dancing to ‘Staying Alive’. Sadly, most of them end with die-ins. You can follow Ilya Fisher on Instagram at fisherilya.
Ilya has helped with the first of a new series of posts aimed at climate-conscious travellers, which will go up on the site next week. That series is part of a number of new initiatives that are part of our re-boot of Grantourismo to celebrate the site’s 10th birthday this month. Yes, it’s been a whole decade since we launched our slow, local and experiential travel project with a one-year global grand tour focused on inspiring you all to travel more sustainably and responsibly. More on our plans in another upcoming post, which I’d also intended to share with you on New Year’s Day.
We’ve also been busy with other projects, including our epic Cambodia culinary history research and cookbook, which we hope to focus so much more of our time on in 2019, with a goal of publishing at the end of this year, along with other publishing projects, consulting gigs, and 2020 trip planning. I need to update you on our culinary tours and creative retreats, as well as our own travels – the first of which will be to Vietnam next month to attend Vietcetera’s 2020 Vietnam Restaurant and Bar Awards and Vietnam Food and Beverage Conference, and do some research and documentation in the Mekong Delta and Phu Quoc for our culinary history book. More to come on all that.
These are our 19 most popular posts in 2019 on Grantourismo, what you read on our site last year, and we hope that you find this exercise as fascinating as we do. We look forward to seeing what you read – and where you go – in 2020.
Our 19 Most Popular Posts in 2019 – What You Read on Grantourismo
Our 19 most popular posts in 2019 on Grantourismo – here’s what you read on our site during the final year of the decade.
Driving from Perth to Margaret River
Our guide to Driving from Perth to Margaret River in Southwest Western Australia was one of our 19 most popular posts in 2019 on Grantourismo by far and it’s easy to see why. It’s a magic region, an easy drive of around three and a half hours from Perth , some 275kms away, with enough to see en route to make a day trip of it or even a longer journey of two or three days if you want to meet adorable little woylies, swim, surf, dive, sky-dive, spot wildlife and marine life, or just drop into the lovely laidback beachside towns on the way. You can break up your Perth to Margaret River drive with an overnight stay along the way at Bunbury, Busselton or Dunsborough. Or, if you’re on a long holiday, stay a few nights to really experience the area’s wonderful beaches and clear waters, and wildlife and marine life, especially in whale-watching in season.
One Day in Ubud Itinerary for a Perfect Day in Bali’s Verdant Heart
Another of our 19 most popular posts in 2019 on Grantourismo was our guide to how to spend One Day in Ubud, Bali, which of course isn’t nearly enough but that’s all many Bali visitors with the beach on their mind dedicate to this relaxed town set amidst lush jungle. Do our one day in Ubud itinerary, taking in verdant rice terraces and feasting on farm-to-table cuisine and you might just find yourself looking into extend your stay. Our perfect day in Ubud begins with a stroll through the sacred Ubud Monkey Forest in the village of Padangtegal, includes a Balinese cooking class in a village, where you can shop for ingredients at a local fresh food market, visit a rice plantation, and explore a traditional village, before learning the secrets of Balinese cooking. It ends with a meal at Locavore, one of Asia’s best restaurants.
Climbing Up to Kotor’s Castle of San Giovanni
This guide to climbing up to Kotor‘s Castle Of San Giovanni in Montenegro was another of our 19 most popular posts on Grantourismo in 2019. These formidable fortress walls date back to medieval times, constructed on and off between the 9th and 19th centuries, and were built by everyone from the Byzantines to the Venetians. The hike up to Tvrđave Kotora or the Castle of St John is best done after strolling Kotor’s Stari Grad, which offers a nice warm-up to the ascent of approximately 1,350 stairs to a height of 1,200 metres. Once up the top you’ll be rewarded with stupendous vistas of the fjord and a spectacular birds-eye-view of the Old Town of Kotor, Montenegro. For many travellers, climbing up to Kotor’s Castle Of San Giovanni becomes a highlight of their visit. When illuminated at night, it’s absolutely magical. See Terence’s time-lapse sequence to see what I mean. You might also find our Weekend in Kotor itinerary both inspiring and helpful.
Pro Chef Lessons for Home Cooks – Precision in the Kitchen and Why Size Matters
Terence’s post on the lessons that he has learnt from pro chefs was aimed at home cooks and travelling cooks who like to cook when they’re on holidays and it was another one of our most read 19 posts on Grantourismo in 2019. Over the years, during the course of our work as travel and food writers, we’ve spent a lot of time with chefs in their restaurants, watching them work, photographing their dishes, sitting down to do interviews, and, for lucky Terence, even cooking in their kitchens. Stand out experiences include the night our fly-in-the-wall reporting at Reflets in Dubai resulted in Terence cooking dinner for chef Pierre Gagnaire (and learning the secret to his Côte de Bœuf) and a couple of days spent with Rene Redzepi and his chefs Beau Clugston and Thomas Frebel in the kitchen at Nahm, Bangkok.
10 Things I Learnt Working in Restaurant Kitchens
This post on the things that Terence learnt working in restaurant kitchens is a companion piece to the post above and was another one of our top 19 reads on Grantourismo last year. Terence covered an array of things he learnt including the value of maths when it comes to portioning, having a well prepared mise en place and being clean and organised, the importance of perfect soffritto, and why it’s essential to taste, taste and taste again. Terence has found everything he learnt in professional kitchens to be incredibly useful in the home kitchen and readers obviously appreciated the tips that Terence shared as it was one of our top posts on Grantourismo.
Our Guide to Siem Reap Markets – Where to Go and What to Buy
Our guide to Siem Reap markets was another one of our top reads on Grantourismo in 2019. The post covers the liveliest local markets, from Siem Reap’s main produce markets to petite neighbourhood markets, as well as the Made in Cambodia market, where responsible travellers can shop for sustainable gifts and souvenirs. Unfortunately the Asana organic farmers markets is not held as regularly now as it was, but there’s another organic farmers market that we’ll add to an imminent update. We also provide responsible travel advice in the post on shopping Siem Reap‘s night markets. Should you or shouldn’t you? As responsible travel advocates it’s hard to recommend some markets, as products are often of dubious origins and could be made in factories that may or may not employ under-age and/or enslaved workers. Our guide offers tips on how you can shop ethically, responsibly and sustainably in Cambodia and beyond.
Rainy Season in Cambodia – Why You Need to Visit During Monsoon or the Green Season
We are so pleased that this guide to visiting Cambodia in the rainy season was one of our 19 most popular posts in 2019 on Grantourismo. In our opinion, the monsoon season or green season is the best time of year to travel Cambodia. That the countryside is incredibly gorgeous is reason enough, but then there’s the bonus of far fewer tourists, lower prices, and our easygoing locals are even more laidback than usual. The rainy season is also low season, which means it’s the time of year when Angkor Wat is devoid of high season crowds, especially if you visit mid-week during the monsoon season. Weekends are busy year-round. I always look forward to the green season. I love the evening soundtrack of frogs and geckos after rain, the freshness of the air, the clarity of light when the clouds clear to reveal the bluest of skies, and I adore the dramatic lightening storms that illuminate the darkest of nights.
Where to Eat in Dubai – Street Food, Eat Streets and Neighbourhoods
This guide to where to eat in Dubai was another of our most popular posts on Grantourismo in 2019. We covered the most local experiences and places where locals and expats eat, from the modest eateries serving street food and traditional regional specialties to stalls, hole-in-the-walls, and neon-lit family-run restaurants that may resemble cafeterias but serve incredibly delicious food. Where to eat in Dubai isn’t an easy thing to decide for visitors due to the overwhelming number of options. Dubai is a cosmopolitan city that’s home to world-class restaurants but when we weren’t frequenting five-star hotel fine-diners, we were tucking into local street food, ordering delectable take-away, and feasting on fantastic traditional fare at humble family-ran eateries and hidden hole-in-the-walls. We’re thrilled you’ve found this helpful.
Mallorca Road Trip – Driving the Dramatic West Coast and Tramuntana
Dramatic craggy coasts, shimmering salt pans, dry plains dotted with windmills… the landscapes of the Balearic island of Mallorca are as varied as those of Spain itself, offering countless possibilities for road trips, which is why we were delighted that our Mallorca road trip guide was another of our most popular posts on Grantourismo in 2019. Most visitors think that Mallorca is all about summer sun, sea and sand, but one of the best things to do on Mallorca as far as we’re concerned is to explore the interior and coastline by car off-season, in early spring, autumn, and even in winter. The driving is dramatic and this road trip route is especially rewarding. The most spectacular scenery on the Mediterranean island is on its western side – from the southwest of Mallorca all the way along the jaw-dropping west coast, through the magic Tramuntana Mountains, to the northernmost point of the island, the breathtaking Formentor Peninsular. Magic!
Things to Buy in Cairo and Tips for Shopping Khan el Khalili Bazaar
My guide to things to buy in Cairo and tips for shopping the Khan el Khalili Bazaar was another one of our most popular posts on Grantourismo in 2019. When we lived in the Middle East, this bustling Cairo bazaar was one of my favourite places to shop, after the Damascus souks, of course. Great buys include intricately engraved, hand-beaten copper and brass trays, coffee pots and urns, and exquisite mother-of-pearl inlaid wooden boxes and handmade furniture, which have been crafted by artisans using centuries-old traditions. Sheesha pipes and incense also make memorable souvenirs. Forget the framed papyrus prints, scarab beetles and sphinx fridge magnets made in China that will probably end up in the back of a cupboard or at a future yard sale.
Our Hanoi Bia Hoi Guide – All You Need to Know About Hanoi’s Fresh Beer
Despite the increasing number of wine and cocktail bars and the craft beer craze that has swept Vietnam in recent years, bia hoi remains hugely popular in Hanoi. When we were recently in the Vietnam capital, we had one of our best meals (twice) at our favourite bia hoi, which we used to frequent when we spent a few months renting an apartment in Hanoi in early 2013. It was great to see that our Hanoi bia hoi guide was one of our 19 most popular posts in 2019 on Grantourismo despite the trend toward more sophisticated offerings. Our Hanoi bia hoi guide gives you an introduction to Hanoi’s famous ‘fresh beer’, what it is, where to find it, how to drink it, and what to eat with it, so you’ll be downing bia hoi like a local in no time.
Breakfast in Siem Reap – What, How and Where to Eat with the Locals
Our guide to breakfast in Siem Reap, Cambodia, the departure point for Angkor Wat and other Khmer Empire temple cities in Angkor Archaeological Park, was another one of our 19 most popular posts in 2019 on Grantourismomo, and it was great to see! Breakfast in Siem Reap starts soon after dawn and it’s worth rising early for, as it’s the liveliest time of the day. It’s undoubtedly the best time to eat on the street, as locals stop off at their favourite roadside stalls for a cheap, filling breakfast on their way to work. Breakfast in Siem Reap is definitely worth setting the alarm clock for, as much to get an insight into everyday life and eat with the locals, as to sample Cambodia’s diverse range of delicious breakfast dishes, from noodle soups such as kuy teav (rice noodle soup) and nom banh chok (fermented rice noodles with a curry broth) to borbor (rice porridge) and grilled pork and rice.
Best Fujifilm Cameras and Lenses for Travel and Food Photography
Terence’s post on the best Fujifilm cameras and lenses for travel and food photography was another one of our most popular posts on Grantourismo in 2019. As a pro travel and food photographer, Terence frequently gets asked what camera gear he uses, and nearly every query begins with what people don’t want and that’s bulky and heavy gear. A lot of people ask Terence about Sony cameras, but most ask for his thoughts on Fujifilm gear. Despite being a Nikon user, Terence thinks that Fuijifilm is a great investment for those who want lighter photography gear. If you want to find out why, click through to the image below. If you find that post helpful, you might appreciate Terence’s tips on the best camera and lens for travel and food photography, the best travel and food lenses for Sony APS-C mirrorless cameras, the best lenses for food photography on the road, his best advice for camera gear for photographing Angkor Wat, and, as Terence has been using Nikon cameras since the 1980s, his tips to the best travel and food lenses for Nikon DX cameras.
A Guide to Surfing on the Gold Coast, Australia
Our guide to surfing Australia’s Gold Coast, just south of Brisbane, Queensland, a northern tropical state of Australia, was another of our most popular posts on Grantourismo in 2019 and another post by Terence, who spent time surfing the Gold Coast in his early twenties. Terence grew up in Brisbane and we met on the Sunshine Coast north of the Queensland capital. He writes in the post: “When the big swells were approaching, a group of us would jump in the biggest car we had between us and head down to the Gold Coast around midnight to be ensure we were at Kirra or Snapper Rocks before dawn.” Terence reckons that the Gold Coast really is a surfer’s paradise and while you’d think that the most likely place on the coast to have the best surf would be the place named Surfers Paradise, surfing on the Gold Coast really has its home further down the coast with the legendary point breaks at Burleigh, Currumbin, Kirra, and Snapper Rocks, a National Surfing Reserve. Click on the image below for his tips.
Footpath Feasting on Phuket Street Food in Phuket Town
Another of our 19 most popular posts in 2019 on Grantourismo was this guide to Phuket street food in Phuket Town, which includes everything from crispy savoury pancakes called a-pong to flaky roti dipped in tiny bowls of curry. Southern Thailand’s most popular island, Phuket is a food-lovers paradise, as long as you focus your eating on the old town. The specialties of Phuket are all delicious outcomes of the Thai island’s deep culinary influences from China, India, Malaysia, Southern Thailand, and beyond. You’ll find street food stalls, hawker centre-like food courts, and family-owned eateries in dilapidated shacks and simple restaurants right across the island of Phuket, but the best are found in Phuket Old Town. This post and a whole series of Phuket posts were the result of a month-long research trip on Phuket cuisine for Australia’s Delicious magazine a few years ago. We love that our readers find this guide helpful.
How to Choose a Halong Bay Cruise That’s Right For You
Our guide to how to choose a Halong Bay cruise that’s right for you was another of our 19 most popular posts on Grantourismo in 2019. Northern Vietnam’s UNESCO World Heritage listed Halong Bay sprawls across an area of 1,500 square kilometres in the Gulf of Tonkin, 170 kilometres east of Hanoi. It’s a breathtaking seascape of 1,600 lush islands, craggy islets, limestone karsts, and schist outcrops that rise dramatically out of the jade waters. A Halong Bay cruise is on most travellers’ Vietnam itineraries and Terence and I tested out a handful of cruises, and I’ve tested out another couple since this post was written, ranging from small cruise boats with 2-5 cabins that can be privately chartered for as long as you wish (best for a family, couples or a group of friends) to 1-2 night all-inclusive cruises on larger boats with a range of on-board activities and excursions. Click through to the pic below for our detailed assessment of the best Halong Bay cruises.
Where to Stay in Sapa – From Eco-Lodges with Mountain Views to Village Homestays
This guide to where to stay in Sapa in Northern Vietnam was another of our 19 most popular posts in 2019 on Grantourismo. Sapa is a sleepy but rapidly-growing mountain town up near the Chinese border in Northern Vietnam, and there’s a wide range of accommodation, from a sumptuous grand hotel designed by Bill Bensley and cosy, centrally-located mid-range hotels with balconies in the centre of Sapa to eco-lodges overlooking the rice terraces and rustic homestays in villages out of town. For those who enjoy a bit of pampering, it’s worth noting that as Sapa was established as a French hill station – a cool retreat from the heat – almost every hotel has ‘spa’ in its name and a wellness centre of some sort, whether it’s a professional operation with numerous massage rooms and a full menu of treatments and therapies, or simply a sauna and hot tub.
Dubai to Musandam Peninsula Road Trip – Driving Arabia’s Norway
This guide to doing a Dubai to Musandam Peninsula road trip was another of our 19 most popular posts in 2019 on Grantourismo and it’s not surprising. This drive could become one of the most memorable and most breathtaking drives you do in your life. We first did it many years ago in winter in Dubai – and the UAE and Arabian Peninsula – when the weather was cooler and there was a clarity of light that you don’t get in the humid months. If you’re in the UAE right now, this is the time to do that drive. Trust us: this Dubai to Musandam Peninsula road trip is one of the Middle East‘s most dramatic driving routes, and one of our favourite road trips that we loved to do during our 7.5 years living in the UAE.
Where to Eat in Chiang Mai for the Best Northern Thai Lanna Cuisine
Our post on where to eat in Chiang Mai for the best Northern Thai Lanna cuisine was another of our 19 most popular posts in 2019 on Grantourismo and we couldn’t be happier. With its distinctive Lanna cuisine, Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand is heaven for food lovers. Urban development and all that goes with it, from traffic gridlock to pollution, may have turned this little city surrounded by forested mountains, lush jungle and deep valleys into a mini-Bangkok, but Chiang Mai’s wonderful food is reason enough to linger here. The Lanna capital is home to some of Thailand’s best food, without a doubt. Most visitors don’t feel like straying far from Chiang Mai’s Old City after a sticky day traipsing around Chiang Mai’s temples and pagodas, which is fortune seeing there are a few excellent restaurants serving Lanna specialties in the historic centre. If you can muster up the energy to head beyond the walls, you’ll find even better eating and the finest Northern Thai food.
Italian Lakes Road Trip – Circumnavigating Northern Italy’s Lakes
We love that our Italian Lakes road trip itinerary was one of our 19 most popular posts in 2019 on Grantourismo because this is easily one of our favourite drives in the Italian Lakes region in Northern Italy. The 18th- and 19th-century grand tourists may have travelled around the Italian Lakes by horse and carriage, risking attack by bandits to take in the gobsmacking beauty of the region and settle into the sumptuous grand hotels that dot the lakes, but these days the most fun way to see the area is from behind the wheel of a car – preferably, a small, fast car. Twisty narrow roads run along the shores and while distances don’t seem great on the map, driving can be slow going, especially in summer when traffic can be bumper-to-bumper and every cyclist in Italy is Lycra-clad and on two wheels. Spring and autumn are the best times for an Italian Lakes road trip, especially if you want to break up the driving with short hikes in the surrounding mountains, walks on the lake shores, or hit the water for some wind-surfing, sailing, kite-surfing, fishing, or a cruise.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our 19 most popular posts in 2019 on Grantourismo and found it fascinating to see what you read on Grantourismo last year. We look forward to seeing you here in 2020. We wish you the best for 2020!