Wanderer

Panda Palace

Tucked away at the foot of Emei mountain in Emeishan, China, there is, quite frankly, a hotel that is the epitome of unrealised fears: The Haoduo Panda Inn. Personally, I love pandas, but if given the choice of staying in The Overlook hotel or this Inn, I think I’d choose room 237 (or 217 for those of you who have read the book) in The Overlook Hotel than this place. Actually, that’s probably going a bit far. But still, this hotel is just… terrifying. Even more so because it’s real.

It’s not the Panda decor and the multitude of cuddly, stuffed panda toys scattered everywhere that freaks me out – it’s the people dressed as pandas. I mean… is that the hotel’s uniform? In which case, to my lovely friends in America who were just the other day talking to me about your difficulty in gaining visas and experience to work in China… I think experience as a football mascot would suffice for this job. Sorry though, you’ll have to figure out how Chinese work visas work for yourself.

So… If the hotel hire people to dress as pandas… What are the duties of their job? Free panda hugs? Panda tea parties… How do you communicate with a person pretending to be a panda? Are they allowed to speak? Or do they just make… Panda noises?

The thirty-two rooms all all themed – yes, they’re all panda themed, but more specifically, they’re themed around anime, film, tea, cars… and paper cutting. Intermingled with the panda theme.

Perhaps the panda costumes are a complimentary compulsory part of a person’s stay at the hotel… breakfast included, bath towels available, panda suits supplied in a variety of sizes, along with little panda-shaped chocolates on your panda-shaped pillow.

If you were quirky enough to want to stay here, a ‘Mini Panda’ room starts at 688RMB a night, which is about £67, or 2388RMB for a European suite – about £233.

Crazy.

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Wanderer

Quirky Corners of the World: Cheval’s Palais Ideal

Photograph from Facteur Cheval

Wow. Just wow.

Photograph from Tangle’s Bones

This is the masterpiece of Ferdinand Cheval, a rural postman from a town just south of Lyon. He had no artistic or architectural background, he was just really, really talented! Apparently his idea began when he tripped over an unusually shaped pebble, and from there he began collecting small stones on his postal route, starting with filling his pockets, then baskets, and finally a wheelbarrow. Starting in April 1879, he spent the next 33 years building his amazing palace by hand, often at night by oil lamp.

His had hoped to be buried inside his palace, but when his wish was denied, he decided to build himself an equally extravagant mausoleum, and he was laid to rest there in 1924, aged 88.

Photograph from Wikipedia

This is definitely somewhere that I have to see for myself. The detail is incredible, and I love the dramatically different sources of inspiration. He claimed that the tutelary spirits of the place were Julius Caesar, Archimedes and Vercingétorix. Among the various detailed monuments scattered across the palace, there is a Hindu temple, a Swiss cottage, the Maison Carrée in Algiers, an Arab mosque, and Egyptian tomb, Oriental pagodas and a Medieval castle. The three giants have faces reminiscent of the Easter Island heads.

I have to go there this summer and see it for myself.

Information on visiting the Palais Ideal can be found here.

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Wanderer

25+ Ways to Earn Money on the Road

I always find it interesting learning about how people are funding their travels while on the move, especially as photography isn’t always the most reliable source of income, it is literally a feast or famine career, especially if I am going to be constantly moving about, never settling anywhere long enough to build a base.

Here are some of the money-making career choices and quirky ideas that I have heard about over the years:

  1. Freelance work. Photography, web design, illustration, legal work, admin. I could go on and on. Travel the world and work on beaches with your laptop. Perfect!
  2. Teach English. An option that I have been looking into. I’m in the middle of a 140 hour TEFL course at the moment, which will allow me to teach English in schools, privately, one-to-one, to children, adults and business men around the world. A very popular choice among travellers.
  3. Resort Jobs. Another popular option. Resorts worldwide are constantly on the lookout for staff for their reception, restaurants, or for the activities they hold.
  4. Hostels. Hostels are also an easy option. I did this for a few days here and there last summer, and I found that generally even if a hostel has no need for more staff at that time, they will usually recommend a ‘sister hostel’ that does. If you’re lucky they may even just allow you to linger for free – free accommodation!
  5. Work Exchange. This is something that I want to try out this summer. WWOOF is probably the most well known organisation for this, and I’ve also heard things about HelpX.net. Basically in exchange for so many hours unpaid work (generally 4-6 hours), you receive free food and accommodation. Mostly people will be working on farms, doing anything from helping with the harvest to helping in the kitchen. HelpX also includes some ads looking for help in B&B’s, hostels and on sailing boats!
  6. Fruit-picking. Popular in Australia. The pay can be a combination of payment per kilo, food or accommodation.
  7. House-sitting. Another one that I intend to try this summer. I have couchsurfed many times, but this one is taking it one step further: taking care of someone’s house while they are away. Rarely do you actually get paid for this, but you instead save money on accommodation! I’ve often heard about lovely home-owners stocking their kitchens with food for their sitters before they leave, so maybe if you’re lucky you can save money on food too! Mind My House and House Carers are two very good sites.
  8. Bar-tending. Easy cash-in-hand work. Just ask around.
  9. Cafe/Restaurant work. Same goes really.
  10. Cruise Ships. There are so many available jobs on cruise ships. Photographers, croupiers, waiters/bar staff, performers, retail staff, receptionists, spa staff, hairdressers and makeup artists. And then there are the much needed doctors and technicians. Options for everyone! You get to travel the world, its good pay, and its good work experience.
  11. Tour Guide. As a general rule, you can’t really survive as a tour guide if you can only speak English, though I have seen some English-only tours in cities like Rome and Paris, so it’s not impossible. You also have to, of course, know your stuff! Brush up on your history!
  12. Busking. Not an option for me unfortunately, my musical talents are pretty poor. 
  13. Au Pair. Its very case-by-case, but generally you are given a room and weekly payment in exchange for taking care of someone’s children.
  14. Teach people to play musical instruments. Again, not an option for me, my piano skills are very rusty and I can hardly read sheet music! But if you can play an instrument, why not advertise yourself as a private tutor?
  15. Teach whatever you know! So many other options. Yoga, dance, languages, surfing (apparently you don’t even have to be particularly good to be a surfing instructor, as long as you’re better than the paying beginners), scuba diving (if you are certified), photography. Again, I could go on
  16. Massages. I met a girl last year who was offering €5 massages in one of the most popular hostels in Paris and making enough that she could travel every month or two. Trust me, there’s nothing you want more than a full body massage after carrying around a heavy backpack all day!
  17. Hairdressing. A similar idea, and again I met a girl who was offering hair cuts in a hostel in Slovenia, and most of her customers were long-term travellers who had long neglected their hair.
  18. Selling goods. If you’re good at arts and crafts, you could always sell your produce online or at markets.
  19. Travel Writing. A tricky business, but if you work hard enough, you could find yourself sipping cocktails on various beaches around the world reviewing your travels as you go.
  20. Blogging. Another very tricky business and not one that is guaranteed to earn money. A lot of effort has to go into building up a blog.
  21. Working on a Yacht. Not always paid, but websites such as DesperateSailors and Find a Crew are good for finding boats in search a crew members. Sailing experience will of course be necessary (seems obvious but the amount of backpackers I’ve met who have seemed shocked when they found they couldn’t just hop onto someone’s boat and catch a free ride).
  22. Tour Operators. General tasks include greeting people as they arrive, making sure that groups remain organised and leading them to their tour bus.
  23. Construction Work. If you have experience, this can be a good option for short-term cash-in-hand (payment under-the-table) work.
  24. Acting. I’ve heard that if you linger around the Colaba area of Mumbai, no matter what you look like, soon enough you’ll be approached by a scout and asked if you would like a part in a Bollywood film. This is also common in Kenya and apparently they pay isn’t bad!
  25. Be Creative! I’ve heard some pretty quirky and very creative ways of making money on the road over the years. You could work as an English sign editor, meaning that you literally wander around offering to correct English spelling and grammar mistakes on signs and menus in exchange for a small payment. In Japan it is common for women to hire out their thigh as an advertising space! They are paid to wear a temporary advertising tattoo on their thigh for one day, the only rule being that regardless of weather, they must wear a skirt/shorts. There are also apparently vending machines in which women can sell their dirty underwear, but I can’t say that’s one I’ll be trying. One of my favourite money-making ideas came from traveller Michael Wigge, who once set up a spot on a street in San-Fran offering people the chance to pillow fight in exchange for a few dollars. Very good stress release. I tried this in Milan, just out of curiosity, and make €150 in two hours. Particularly popular, I’ve found, between stressed out businessmen, and therefore I recommend saving this one for busy cities like London or New York. You can see Wigge’s top 5 quirky ways to make money while travelling here.

I’d love to hear how everyone funds their travels while on the move!

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Quirky Corners of the World: Setenil de las Bodegas

The narrow streets of Setenil de las Bodegas are set into a narrow gorge in the Province of Cadiz, Andalucia, Spain

Built along the narrow river gorge and into the gorge walls itself, Setenil de las Bodegas is an quirky little town in Spain, about 70 miles south-east of Seville. With a population of about 3000, people have been living in the narrow little ‘houses’ for years, though really they are nothing more than facades, the inner walls being those of the gorge rocks.

Ready made homes! Many of the houses are built into and under the walls of the gorge itself

This place is definitely on my ‘to see’ list. I think I’ll pop by on my way from Portugal to Morocco, apparently the restaurants are among the best in the region, famous for its olive oil, honey and jam.

Definitely on my ‘to visit’ list.

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