3 Days In Berlin – Day 1

It was a super last minute decision to travel again so soon after Asia but with time to spare before I got my allocation from TUI I was straight on Skyscanner to book another flight! I chose to visit Berlin because 1. It was cheap to fly there from Edinburgh, 2. I had been many places in southern Germany so wanted to visit the capital and 3. I have a friend living across the Polish border in Poznan so would see her too!

I took an easyJet flight (think that’s got a bit of every pay check I get) and flew to Berlin Tegal. After speaking to a couple of people who know Berlin it didn’t make much of a difference whether you fly into Tegel or Berlin Schönefeld airport , although Tegel is slightly closer. Before I got to Berlin I bought a Berlin 72 hours BerlinPass as I wanted to see as many things as possible in my short time there. It also gives you unlimited access to public transport (including airport journeys).

A couple of days before I went I also booked a hostel to stay in. Believe it or not I haven’t actually stayed in a hostel before, always Airbnb’s or hotels. I did some research and booked The Circus Hostel through hostelworld. It was great! The hostel was super clean and I met this cool American girl who I was sharing with.

Eager to explore Berlin in the limited time I had, I left my luggage at the hostel (they had a locker that fitted my hand luggage case) and headed to the Brandenburg Gate to get my BerlinPass. I got a metro (Rosenthaler platz ) which was just opposite my hostel and took it to Brandenburger Tor station.

After getting the pass I walked Unter Den Linden in the direction of the remains of the Berlin Wall, the East Side Gallery. The wall is now full of incredible street art and a definite must see when in Berlin!

I decided to just keep walking around the area and ended up in the cool hipster area of Kreuzburg I felt like a true Berliner wandering in and out of the quirky vintage shops there! Before visiting Berlin I asked a few friends I knew who were either from Berlin or who had lived in Berlin before for some cool suggestions. One of them suggested a visit to Burgermeister which is known to be the best burger joint in the city. By chance one of them was opposite the vintage shops in Kreuzburg under the tracks of the u-bahn.

Fun fact – This green building now housing the burger joint used to be a public toilet (a long time ago I hope)!

I walked back along the River Spree and found out that Mercedes Benz had their own platz here which was kinda cool and flashy.

As this was my first solo travel experience I was a little nervous about being alone at night as I knew that I would not want to stay in the hostel too much. However, if you are a frequent solo traveller you may laugh at my uncertainty because if you don’t want to be alone you never have to be! I spent the night exploring the streets of Berlin and finding nice restaurants and bars with the American girl who I was sharing a room with.

We were not too sure about where to go for dinner so we wandered around the area of the hostel and found a main street called Friedrichstraße. Here we found a nice restaurant called Gendarmerie that used to be a bank so it was very opulent inside with lots of impressive wall art!

After dinner we headed back further towards our hostel and went into a bar nearby called Mein Haus Am See (cool vibes, would definitely recommend)!

South East Asia – 6 – A Guide To Koh Rong Samloem

This is my final destination post in my South East Asia series and I really hope you will enjoy it!

We wanted to spend the last days of our adventure relaxing and soaking up the sunshine before heading back to Edinburgh for our Graduation celebrations. The planning process of this trip was so much fun but also a lot of work! Choosing our island destination was particularly challenging as there are so many beautiful islands around South East Asia! After reading blogs, checking instagram, Pinterest and speaking to people who had recently been to this island cemented the decision for us.

Day 1

Not to put you off visiting this stunning, UNTOUCHED island but the journey getting to and from the island was not fun. We got a bus from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville with the company Virak Buntham Express. That was our first mistake… the company have 0 safety standards and the trip took 2 hours longer than it stated on the website. Unless you go in a super car you will not get from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville in 5 hours…EVER….it takes 7. Not even joking the bus driver was opening the doors at random times on the road and several times made passengers fear that we were going to crash!

So after the bus ride from hell we missed our prebooked ferry to the island (therefore I would not recommend booking in advance as there is a high chance you will miss it due to the roads and you can easily buy tickets there). Unfortunately the bus station was no where near the pier so we had to get a tuk tuk which was also not the safest ride, but we got to the pier in around 15 minutes. We managed to get a one way ticket (11 USD) as our return ticket should still have been valid. Finally we were able to relax on the ferry to the island which took around an hour.

We got off the ferry at Mipai Bay and checked into our first Airbnb called The Beach House . The accommodation was very basic and small for 3 people to share. There was one double bed and a small “bed” upstairs in the attic area that none of us really wanted to sleep in! However, the staff were lovely and the location was great for the beach (literally outside your door).

There are many beautiful bays around this small island so we wanted to make the most of our time by staying on 2 bays. Mipai Bay is definitely more authentic and has a very boho vibe. As soon as we checked in we headed straight to the beach to enjoy the crystal clear waters that everyone raves about. The beach did not disappoint! It was amazing and so warm! For dinner we got recommended a little restaurant by the sea that was supposed to serve amazing Red Snapper but they were so popular they had run out by the time we got there!

We still enjoyed a BBQ style dinner! As it was the 23rd of the month the islanders have a party that tourists are welcome to join! It was such a cool atmosphere!

Day 2

For breakfast we headed out to the local cafes and picked one that had pancakes and fruit salads on the menu.

We got told by our host that the stretch of beach that’s a 10 minute walk away from the house was beautiful so we went there for the morning. I definitely enjoyed the beach a little too much that day as I got so badly sunburned (typical Scottish girl)!!

For lunch we checked out another little cafe called Lost and Found which instantly became out go to spot! It had homemade bread and WIFI!!!!

After a full day of relaxing we had a nice “family” dinner at our Airbnb with some of the other guests.

Day 3

We had been so lucky with the weather up until this day on the island where all it did was rain….ALL DAYYYYYYY. It wasn’t too fun but made the most of it by playing card games and intense games of jenga at a bar! For dinner we went to Bong’s which was a really busy restaurant (with backpackers and expats) serving a variety of food.

Day 4

It was a big day because we were excited to head to Saracen Bay and see another part of the island. We had breakfast at our favourite cafe, Lost and Found. We took a long tail boat for 6 USD over to Paradise Pier where our new accommodation was situated. Let’s just say that it was a traumatic experience sailing over to the next bay as it was an open roofed boat and we sailed through a thunder and lightening storm….not ideal!

After hauling our now soaking wet backpacks off the boat and onto the pier we headed to our new accommodation (Paradise Villas ). As it was still raining and we were still a bit early for check in, we did what everyone else was doing and stayed in the restaurant/bar area and played game!

It was actually a really cool atmosphere in there with the cushions on the floor etc. We also ate lunch at the restaurant which was very tasty (Khmer curry). When we got into our villa we were pleased as it was much bigger and cleaner than the last accommodation we were in!

When the rain finally stopped we headed straight outside our door and to the beach! This beach was the definitely the most beautiful beach we had ever seen, crystal blue waters and soft white sand. There were even 2 cool hammocks that were located just into the ocean!

Take into consideration that the Cambodian islands are a bit more expensive than the mainland

Day 5 and 6

After such an intense holiday we loved spending our last couple of days just chilling on the beach.

– Story time starts –

One of the reasons that we chose the island was that it was known for its GLOWING PLANKTON! When we arrived at the hotel we noticed that they were organising trips at night to see the plankton. We organised to go our 5th night and spoke to the guy who was in charge of the trip and he said we would only go if the weather was suitable. We came back at 8.30pm and the trip was supposed to be at 9pm to see if the weather was okay and the trip was happening, he said it was so we went to change into our bikinis. We were told to grab either a stand up paddle board or a kayak (even though I’d never used one before I close a paddle board, thought I’d give it a go). We paddled out into the ocean heading for a little long tail boat that apparently had snorkels on it so we could see the plankton. We got to the boat and the guide tied our boards to the boat and we swam to see the plankton, its so beautiful, we had never seen anything like it! But….things quickly took a turn for the worst when I could feel a current trying to pull me under the boat so I said to the girls and we all got back on the boat. As soon as we climbed aboard the rain was pouring down, the wind was strong and the thunder and lightening was just about to come! Long story short it turned into a bit of a horror story I’m afraid as there seemed to be 0 health and safety regulations or any way to communicate with anyone on shore! Buttttt we lived to tell the tale!!

– Story time ends –

I really hope you enjoyed reading about my rollercoaster experience on this island and have been clued up on the do’s and dont’s when you visit! It you are a beach bum this island is for you!

It feels bittersweet writing this post as this is the last in my South East Asia series! The trip was an experience of a lifetime with the best travel buddies and has only grown my desire for travel.

Till next time 🙂

South East Asia – 6 – 2 Days in Phnom Penh

Welcome to the 6th blog post in my South East Asia series! Thank you for sticking with me, it’s a little crazy at the moment preparing for the move to Ibiza but here we go with the Phnom Penh post!

In my personal opinion, 2 days is enough in Phnom Penh. Before travelling to this city I had heard mixed reviews, to be honest we did not like it very much. However, if you are visiting Cambodia it is just as important as visiting the temples (if not more important) to visit the Killing Fields and Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh to learn more about the country’s tragic losses.

Again, we booked through Airbnb for our accommodation. We were actually booked into a hotel room but still through Airbnb which we thought was a nice surprise…. The hotel that we were staying in was called The Bridge and appeared to be very popular with Chinese business men and woman. Our experience at the hotel was not great to be honest. When we were checking in, the receptionist said that there had been a mistake and we were booked into a room for 2 people (not 3). They really were not very helpful and did not try hard to fix the situation. It was quite late when we arrived so decided a room with one bed was a lot better than no room at all (thankfully it was a HUGE bed…). As it was a hotel, breakfast was included. It was nice but had very limited choice…we had french toast everyday..

Night 1

On our first night in Phnom Penh we went to the Night Market and tried some street food. Some were better than others and the fried options were very heavy. It was a cool area though, full of locals just enjoying their evening.

Unfortunately, we did not feel safe in this city and sensed that from the first night. I mean don’t get me wrong we were fine, nothing happened…it just always felt slightly dodgy during the day and night.

Day 1

The next day we wanted to explore as much of Phnom Penh as we could as we had planned to visit the Killing Fields the next day. We got a tuk tuk driver to drop us off in the centre so we could start sightseeing.

The tuk tuk drivers will 100% try to rip you off, so if you have been in Cambodia for a few days try to gage how much you are paying per journey. A 10 minute journey will usually cost 3 USD.

We were dropped off right outside the Royal Palace which is also home to the Silver Pagoda. Unfortunately when we arrived in the morning (around 10am) it was not yet open. So we took some pictures from the outside and moved on!

After doing a little research we knew that we wanted to see Wat Phnom which is set upon the only “hill” in the city. According to the locals, Wat Phnom was the first Buddhist temple created on this site and was built in 1373. It was discovered by Lady Penh who the city is named after. Many people visit this ancient site to wish for luck involving their business deals or exams (I guess it worked as we were over the moon with our degree results days later)!

For lunch we headed to Friends the Restaurant which supports and trains teenagers in hospitality who do not have the opportunity to attend school. IT WAS AMAZING!!!

After lunch we saw that there were stalls opposite that are related to the Friends company, so we went over for a bit of shopping.

We saw that the students were also doing beauty treatments such as nail painting and hairdressing. I left the girls to get their nails done and I went over to the other side of the road to get a NEEDED Khmer massage.

Before heading back to the hotel to chill by the pool we stopped to look at the beautiful Buddhist temples  along the way!

Day 2

After the second breakfast of french toast we headed out the hotel to get our tuk tuk. We asked previously if the guy who took as from the bus station to our hotel the first night would also drive us to the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum. We knew that this day would be distressing but nothing can quite prepare you for learning about the inhumanity of the Khmer Rouge.

We visited the Killing Fields first which is a little outside the city. The entrance was 6 USD which included an audio guide for in-depth information regarding the events that took place there. Afterwards, we drove to the S-21 Genocide Museum to find out about the lives of prisoners before they were taken to the Killing Fields. The entrance fee is 5 USD and an extra 3 USD for an audio guide.

After a long day we spent the evening enjoying the sky bar at our hotel before packing our backpacks again for our bus journey to Sihanoukville then onto Koh Rong Sanloem island!

If you are interested in my other posts about my time in South East Asia or the planning before, below are direct links to my previous posts!

Start of planning

Pre trip planning

Kuala Lumpur

Hanoi

Siem Reap

South East Asia – 5 – 4 days in Siem Reap

After spending 5 days in Hanoi we flew to Siem Reap on a VietJet flight. The flight cost £75 and only took 1 hr 45 minutes. Siem Reap has a very different vibe to Hanoi, the touristy places were a lot more westernised but outwith the tourist places you saw an unbelievable amount of poverty. Cambodia is a fascinating country that is home to the largest religious monument in the world (Angkor Wat) and some of the most untouched islands with the clearest waters. However, the people of Cambodia have been badly damaged by the recent terrors of the Khmer Rouge that only goes back 40 years. This means that many relatives within current families have been directly affected by Pol Pot’s brutal ruling which turned into the biggest mass killings of the 20th century.

Day 1 – Evening

We arrived at Siem Reap airport in the evening and had already organised with the airbnb hosts a tuk tuk transfer to make it easy! As I said in the last Hanoi blog post, the Airbnb we had there was incredible! So we also found our next place on Airbnb but it turned out to be more like hotel apartments! IT WAS PERFECT!!! The room was super big, big bathroom, nice amenities, free bottled water, a drink on arrival and the staff were some of the nicest people we’ve ever met.

If you would like money off your first Airbnb use my personal code when booking!

After settling into our room we headed towards Pub Street (main strip) which was only a 10 minute walk away from our airbnb. Pub Street was so much fun! It was so different to what we had seen in South East Asia in terms of the range of clubs and restaurants. I suppose it was less authentic but it was fun to go out to a nightclub again! All the restaurants served pretty much the same food (Khmer curry and rice dishes) as well as international cuisines such as Mexican. We noticed straight away that it was more expensive in Cambodia for 2 reasons. 1. It was more touristy and 2. They also used US Dollars.

After dinner we wandered up and down Pub street looking for the best places for music and drinks.

Avoid COCKTAILS and everything that can be made with ice…you do not want to know where the ice in your drink has probably been…..we saw it getting cut….

Day 2

We woke up and had a super relaxed morning by our jungle pool before exploring more of Siem Reap.

In the afternoon we checked out the Psar Chas (old market) and the Art Market. The Psar Chas also was the food market…..only go if you are NOT SQUEAMISH….dead animals….not quite dead yet fish…..the lot.

As we wanted to start off our visit to Angkor Wat by watching the sunrise over the temples tomorrow we had to get a ticket today. We asked a tuk tuk driver to drive us to the ticket office tp buy a 1 day ticket for 37 USD. You could also buy a 3 day ticket but as magical as the temples are sure to be we may get a little templed out by day 3!

We were keen to book another food tour through Airbnb as we enjoyed the Hanoi one so much. When we researched into the Siem Reap food tours we noticed that they highlighted that they went to the Road 60 area. Therefore….being the cheapskates that we are, we decided to grab a tuk tuk and go it alone.

NO NO NO….DO NOT DO THIS. DO NOT GO THERE WITHOUT A GUIDE!

The funny thing is when we told the driver where we wanted to go for food he asked us multiple times if we were sure we had the name of the place right. Should have been a sign but no….we stuck to the plan and went anyway. Considering we come from very well developed countries we tried our best to only eat in local places….even if it included eating with chopsticks, on the floor, on small stools…you name it we did it! That is the kind of travelling we all liked best and love trying different things! Road 60 was a different story I’m afraid. It was really nice to see the local community just chilling and doing there thing, but the way the flies were landing on every single bit of food, we decided to take a pass on eating there.

Our tuk tuk driver was an angel and stayed to take us back into the centre. He gathered that we hadn’t eaten too much and offered to take us to his favourite restaurant!

After dinner we walked back to Pub Street, dodged the karts selling fried insects such as tarantulas and tried this banana rice snack instead which was amazing (many karts selling this)!

Day 3

I am NOT an early bird by any standards but I knew waking up at 4am would be worth it this day! We had prearranged the tuk tuk with our lovely driver Sophorn (whatsapp is +855 66 532 326 if you would like to get in touch during your visit to Siem Reap – 23USD for a day at the temples) the night before to make sure he would be ready at the villa for 4.30am.

After a dark journey to the temples we were dropped off in a car park by Sophorn who told us that the entrance to the temple that we were to see at sunrise was nearby.

Bring a torch and wear closed toe shoes…..you cannot see what is on the ground and we saw a dead rat….wouldn’t want to risk wearing sandals!

It was 5.15am and we were one of the first people waiting at the gates, awaiting the opening of the largest religious site in the world (5.30am). It shocked us how warm it still was at that time in the morning so only wear enough clothes to enter the site (covered shoulders and knees).

Before travelling to Cambodia I already had such high expectations for Angkor Wat and it did not disappoint. Exploring the ancient temples just after sunrise was one of the most magical and otherworldly experiences I have ever had!

 

Angkor Wat

Phimeanakus Temple

Bayon Temple
Bayon Temple
Ta Prohm Temple – Featured in Tomb Raider

By the time it got to around midday we were so hungry from walking around the temples (it is seriously exhausting). We went to the Banana Leaf restaurant within the attraction, it was okay, quite expensive but what you would expect from a tourist attraction! Not that we were prepared to do anything else besides getting ourselves out of bed at 4am, but it would have been amazing if we brought stuff with us for lunch….

Bring lots of water, light snacks and sun cream!

At night we tried an Asian fusion restaurant that was close to the airbnb called Lilypop which I would highly recommend!

Day 4 – Morning before the bus

We woke up with a bittersweet feeling about leaving Siem Reap and our beautiful airbnb! For breakfast we found a vegan cafe that was also closeby called The Source Cafe. The smoothie bowl and pancakes were insane!

We repacked our backpacks again (which were getting harder to carry by the minute) and headed to the Giant Ibis Bus station by tuk tuk. We booked our tickets online before arriving and they cost 12 USD each for the 7 hr bus journey to Phnom Penh. After taking this bus, then choosing another bus company for our next journey, I would recommend you (where possible) to stick with the Giant Ibis company as they seem the best for safety and comfort (they even gave us water and a pastry)!

To conclude this long blog post (that I hope you have enjoyed reading) I would like to say that depending on how long you want to visit Angkor Wat for should depend on how many days you should stay in Siem Reap. Personally, I think we stayed slightly too long in Siem Reap considering we were only visiting Angkor for 1 day. However, the airbnb we found was incredible which allowed us to fully enjoy our time there! On our travels we had already recommend to so many people the airbnb/villa that we stayed in because the pool was beautiful and the staff were so friendly (they even left us a little present and thank you card on our last night)!

As usual, any questions just contact me through email, wordpress, facebook or instagram!

South East Asia – 4 – 5 Days in Hanoi

After a couple of days in Kuala Lumpur (blog post in the link) we flew with VietJet to Hanoi (flight cost £40 each and lasted around 4 hours). Wow….what a place Hanoi was! It was nowhere like any of us had ever been before, so different from Europe! Hanoi has a beautiful blend of South East Asian, Chinese and French cultural influences. It’s one of the most ancient capital cities in the world filled with yummy street food, pagodas and temples that you can enjoy if you can survive the HECTIC Hanoi traffic!

Below I will give you a rundown of how we spent our 5 days in Hanoi.

Day 1

We took some Vietnamese Dong out the ATM at the airport as we had to work out ANOTHER currency. Don’t be fooled…when it says on the screen withdraw 300.000 it’s only the equivalent of £10! Then we ordered a Grab car from the airport which was an hour to the Airbnb (again very cheap)

This Airbnb was particularly gorgeous!! For 3 students travelling around SE Asia on a budget….2 double bedrooms, 2 bathrooms with showers, 3 TVs, a living room space, big kitchen, washing machine AND balcony space overlooking the Red River…this was pure luxury! I have used Airbnb on….16 occasions now and have had on the whole very good experiences.

If you would like money off your first Airbnb use my personal code when booking!

Getting out the taxi we were immediately hit with an even more intense heat than we experienced in KL….bring back the wipes and no make up days….all part of travelling they say!

We were excited to get out and explore our new location so we ordered a Grab car to the Old Quarter (unless your accommodation is exactly in the Old Quarter then you cannot really walk into Hanoi centre as it’s not pedestrian friendly).

For dinner we decided again to try a place that all the locals seemed to like and we were not disappointed! We stumbled upon a restaurant called Bo Nuong for a BBQ style dinner that you cook yourself at the table! IT WAS AMAZING!!!! Do NOT wear your best dress…oil may splatter on you (you have been warned)! We also ordered the traditional Hanoi beer which made a very good combo.

After dinner we walked further into the centre which was cool because it had a real backpacker/touristy vibe. Although nothing was western about the seating arrangements….everywhere you went you sat either on the street or in a restaurant on these child sized plastic chairs!!! Good thing we were fairly small but good luck if you are 6’2! Despite the little chairs we managed to find a stall selling 20p beers and coconut ice cream with mango….so it was still a good night!

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Day 2

After breakfast we took a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake also known to the locals as  Hồ Hoàn Gươm which means Lake of The Returned Sword. Legend has it that Emperor Le Loi was on the lake when a Green Turtle God surfaced and asked for his magical sword. After the Emperor had fought off the Chinese he returned the sword back to the Green Turtle God.

Whilst around the lake make sure to visit the beautiful 18th century Ngoc Son

Temple.img_0073img_0086

As most of you know I’m a little Instagram obsessed right now but I think it’s such an easy way to find cool spots while travelling! So….after seeing this quirky cafe all over my feed for months we had to stop for a drink at The Note Coffee! I honestly don’t think I’ve been into a more aesthetically pleasing cafe it was just so damn cute. The staff were also lovely and were happy to give us tips of where else to visit during our stay in Hanoi which lead us to the best restaurant in town but more about that later!

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Order a speciality egg coffee, keep the note you were gifted and write one for the next visitor.

This was a good egg coffee in such a cute little place….BUT….. according to the locals the best egg coffee is done properly when there is a thick creamy topping with very bitter black coffee underneath. We were on a food tour and our guide stated that egg coffee is like love….”sweet at the start and bitter at the end”...I will leave you with that thought!

After consuming our speciality coffees we had the best time taking the classic touristy shots on the tracks at Hanoi Train Street. People are literally all over the tracks taking pictures…drinking coffee…socialising…it’s a cool place, go see for yourself!

For lunch we tried one of the places that the staff in The Note Coffee recommended for the best Bun Cha in town. It did not disappoint (despite the tiny chairs AGAIN)!! Bun Cha is another traditional dish in Vietnam and is essentially noodles in a broth with meatballs, pork and mint leaves served with salad. You will find the restaurant by googling Nha Hang Bun Cha Dac Kim, Xin Thong BAO (not sure if its the name…the street or both).

Like I mentioned briefly we went on a street food tour at night which we booked through Airbnb. It was AMAZING! The company was called Local Vietnam Tours and cost £21 (so worth it). Our guide Dung was super friendly and made sure that we all had a fantastic time sampling the best of Vietnamese cuisine.

Day 3

After speaking to our guide Dung on the food tour he convinced us to spend a day enjoying his hometown of Ninh Binh which used to be the ancient capital of Vietnam. We would definitely have missed out on something very special if we did not go on a tour here. We booked through the same company (Local Vietnam Tours) for £26 and the tour lasted all day and included lunch. What an incredible time we had on this tour but it was INTENSE! The drive to Ninh Binh was 3 hours from Hanoi and on the way to guide explained some more about the history of the Provence and our schedule for the day.

I have never been so exhausted as I was at the end of that day (don’t let this put you off it’s just a little warning). We started the day by taking a boat trip down the river then we went for a buffet lunch. After lunch it was all systems go again and we cycled (in 35 degrees heat with 1000000% humidity) around the rice fields before hiking up to some beautiful ancient temples. So yeah….it was a little tiring….and hot…very hot!

When we got back to Hanoi it wasn’t too late so we went around the Night Markets to pick up some authentic souvenirs such as handmade jewellery and bookmarks.

Day 4

You can’t visit Vietnam without visiting Ha Long Bay and that’s what we did on our fourth day! We booked the tour through Charming Vietnam Travel which we found on TripAdvisor….but you can book through their own website for cheaper (£27).

Translated Ha Long means “descending dragon” because the legend states that the at the beginning of the country’s history Emperor Jade sent a mother dragon to help fight off the invaders wanting to take over the country. Ha Long Bay is supposedly where the mother dragon descended to protect the Vietnamese from the invading ships and she liked the peaceful bay so much she decided to make it her home.

Being out on the water with the cruise you definitely get the sense of mystic and magic that this beautiful place holds. During the 1 day cruise you get a buffet lunch onboard, visit the caves within the limestone rocks and get the chance to kayak in the emerald green waters.

Overall we did enjoy this trip but it is every bit as busy and touristy as you would expect. In my personal opinion it is still a MUST DO!

Day 5

Wanting to squeeze in as much as we could during our time in Hanoi before our flight we still managed to fit in the Prison museum and grab one last Vietnamese iced coffee (bitter coffee with condensed milk).

Hanoi House Cafe

I hope you have enjoyed reading about what we got up to in Hanoi! As always, any questions/advice please contact me via wordpress, email, twitter or facebook using the links at the top of my blog homepage!

Stay tuned for the next post about Siem Reap and the temples!

South East Asia – 2 – Pre-Trip Planning

It’s only 3 weeks until I head off to South East Asia and the countdown is officially on!

This blog post is going to be about how I have prepared for my first long-haul trip so far and will include how I have planned my accommodation, budget, medical care, activity planning and packing.

Accommodation

Am I really going on holiday without staying in an Airbnb? Probably not… unless its with my parents! I have stayed in many Airbnb’s around the UK and Europe and highly rate them for their affordability and experiences! To date, all my Airbnb’s have been clean and full of friendly locals willing to offer advice about the destination.

So far we have booked to stay 3 nights in Kuala Lumpur for £84, 4 nights in Hanoi for £171 and a beach bungalow on the island of Koh Rong Samloem for £132 for 3 nights.

We have another accommodation further down the island booked through booking.com and only need to book a couple of nights in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap!

If you would like money off your first Airbnb use my personal link when booking!

Budgeting

I have been working between part time and full time hours between university since the start of the year and have been trying to put £200 aside each month. In addition, the reduced section at the supermarkets have also been surprisingly helpful….I’ve started saving a lot on my weekly shopping and tried some new dishes! I was also lucky enough to borrow a backpack from a friend for the trip which has saved me between £60 and £150!

Medicine

We got a couple of injections from our local doctors a couple of months in advance so our bodies had time to absorb the medication. The travel nurse was very helpful advising us about the best medications to bring and injections to get according to the places we were travelling to. She advised to bring anti-malaria tablets, lots of suncream, anti-histamine, antiseptic and to buy an insect repellent with at least 50% of DEET. We will also include some Electrolyte powder in case of dehydration and normal painkillers.

I have also purchased travel insurance for £45 that covers £10 million for medical charges (better to be safe than sorry)!

Planning

Like I mentioned in the previous  I have loved looking at the Lonely Planet guidebooks for information about the history of the destination, must see attractions and a few off the beaten track suggestions.

In addition, I have been following various travel bloggers such as Highlands2Hammocks, Flip Flop Wanderers Marie Fe and Jake Snow who have all given me cool tips and serious inspiration for travelling South East Asia!

Before we were going to book more internal flights and accommodation last week we looked over our mini travel itinerary. THANK GOD we did because we would not have had time to breathe, never mind enjoy our experience because our plans were jammed packed! Unfortunately we have decided to miss out Da Nang, Hoi An and the Elephant Valley Project but this choice will definitely allow us to immerse ourselves in the culture of each city even more now!

Packing

It’s still a few weeks away so there is no point getting my clothes all creased yet…plenty of time for that! Butttt I have already decided that I will pack:

– 3 pairs of shoes (trainers, sandals and flip flops)

– 2 long skirts

– 1 play suit

– 2 dresses

– 1 shorts

– 2 pairs of light long trousers

– However many t-shirts I can fit

– Scarf/ shawl for visiting the temples

– 1 swimming costume and 2 bikinis

– 1 microfibre towel

– 1 beach towel (sand cloud)

– Small make-up bag ( moisturiser, BB cream, waterproof mascara, lip balm, matte lip gloss and a duo eyeshadow)

– Water bottle

– Travel adapter

The benefit of travelling with other girls is that we can share toiletries/ make- up etc!

Next time I write a blog post it will be after Asia!! In the meantime check out my Instagram  and Facebook 😀 

Dugi Otok – Croatia Series #4

This is my 4th instalment in the Croatia Series, here is number 3 if you haven’t checked it out!

Translated Dugi Otok means the “Long Island” in Croatian and it’s the 7th biggest island in the Adriatic. We loved our time on this island and could have easily spent a couple more days exploring the many hidden spots!

We stayed in Jura’s Guesthouse for 2 nights in Luka which is South of the island. He really was the perfect host and we could not have discovered so many secret parts of the island without his knowledge.

Day 1

We travelled from Zadar to Dugi Otok on the car ferry which was very straightforward despite the stormy weather. The journey lasted roughly an hour and a half and we sailed into the port at Brbinj.

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Thankfully once we got onto the island the weather brightened up!

Our first stop on the island was to visit the lighthouse at Veli Rat which is North of the island. I think we enjoyed the swing more than the kids did…..

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Veli Rat Lighthouse

By the time we got to the Jura’s B & B we were ready for dinner. He recommend we try the restaurant that was a 5 minute walk from the accommodation and it was amazing!

If you would like £25 off your first Airbnb stay use my personal link when booking.

I can honestly say it was one of the best meals I had on the whole holiday. Konoba Supina had the most perfect outside dining area right next to the marina and served the freshest fish!

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Day 2

Unfortunately we had only 1 full day on the island which was extremely busy because Jura gave us ideas for so many places to see!

A little piece of advice…there is only 1 petrol station on Dugi Otok and it’s located in Zaglav!!!

After we filled up the car we headed first to the Golubinka Sea Cave which can actually be found on google maps! Jura said that this was the perfect place to snorkel and swim into the cave. Make sure you go before 12pm as that is when the sun is hitting the hole in the cave to make everything illuminated! It was such an incredible experience (wish I had a GoPro to capture the moment)!!!

I would not recommend this activity if you are not a strong swimmer of claustrophobic. 

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After the snorkelling we drove to one of the submarine pens in Dragove that were used by the Yugoslav People’s Army. This spot is now freely accessible to the public by foot or boat.

By the time it got to the afternoon we were just wanting to relax and Veli Žal was the right place to do it. Even though the supposedly most “beautiful” beach on the island (some say even in Europe) is Saharun. I loved this beach even more as it was less crowded and I would say cleaner.

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Veli Žal

Obviously we had to check out the hype at Saharun beach as well! It has been named “Croatia’s secret beach” and can be found at the North of the island between Bozava and Veli Rat. It was a lovely change because this was the only sandy beach we visited in Croatia. The turquoise bay was very calm and perfect for easy swimming!

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After our day exploring we wanted to have dinner at what was known to Jura as the best restaurant on the island, Koniba Regula. However….of course we did NOT book in advance and it was fully booked so we headed to a tasty pizzeria opposite.

Unfortunately we had to leave the island in the morning to journey back to Germany via Lake Bled and Salzburg.

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Until next time Dugi Otok!

 

 

 

3 Countries, 1 Holiday -Bodensee / Lake Constance

I am just back from our road trip around Lake Constance and  just as the title suggests I really did get to explore parts of 3 countries!

No wonder Lake Constance (Bodensee in German) is such a popular place for a holiday. Whether you are a couple, family or solo traveller there are so many stunning towns dotted around the lake, and as my phone memory suggests countless photography opportunities! I had never been to this part of Europe before, but luckily Lukas surprised me with his secret itinerary, jam packed full of interesting places.

In this blog post I will give you a run down of where I would suggest you visit around the lake!

Switzerland – Landschlact

We were based on the Swiss side of the lake in a village called Landschlact. Again we chose to stay in an Airbnb and could not have chosen better. We were hosted by Marco in his spacious house (link to the Airbnb ). I could not recommend his home enough, it was in an ideal location to visit many parts of the lake and his hospitality was excellent! We would definitely love to stay in his home again.

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Would like £25 off your first Airbnb stay? Book through my personal link

Austria – Bregenz

Just WOW…this pretty city on the eastern side of Lake Constance should be on everyone’s list!

Pfänder

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When we arrived in Bregenz after our 50 minute scenic drive we hopped on the cable car that took us to the top of  Pfänder. The price to ride the cable car was 13 euros for a return ticket….much faster than walking.  Being on top of the mountain was incredible….the scenery was so classically Austrian, and being a Sound of Music fan I was not disappointed!

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We are never usually as organised as this (EVER) but we had already made a picnic to bring along for lunch. Off we went with our picnic and blanket to find the perfect spot to relax in for an hour or so.

We found it…. 

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If you love the look of my towel use my personal code CatrionaKe15 for 15% off all orders at the checkout! A percentage of all Sandcloud’s profits go into saving marine life by supporting conservation charities. #savethefishes

 

Bregenz Centre

Even though we didn’t quite hike down the mountain we still thought it was time for ice cream….

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It was really chilled wondering around the shore of the lake….even if it did make me lust for a boat….a girl can dream!

We even checked out the floating stage that is used for the Bregenz Opera Festival every Summer. It’s definitely another bucket list idea!

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Germany

Lindau

I keep saying that everywhere is a MUST VISIT but honestly when you are at the lake nothing is too far away so it would be a shame to miss out!

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Lindau is no exception… this old Bavarian town is situated on Lindau island . We spent the sunset hours walking along the promenade here and felt like a local sitting on the wall listening to everyone’s speakers!

After walking along the Seepromenade we made sure we found somewhere to dine that would allow us admire the view of the old harbour! We found the perfect spot….

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This picture was taken from the terrace restaurant/hotel that we had dinner in called  Lindauer Hof. It was the ONLY restaurant that had a terrace! The meal was incredible too, traditional German cuisine. I ordered a….  ZÜRICHER RAHMGESCHNETZELTES….lets just say she smiled politely and asked if I was British….story of my life.

Meersburg

On our last full day at the lake we explored the medieval town of Meerburg. This attractive town, homed to vineyards and panoramic lake views is said to be one of the FIRST places to ever build a FORT! Still to this day visitors enjoy roaming around the cobbled streets and taking in the beautiful architecture.

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Alte Burg / Old Castle

Bodensee is another beautiful part of the world that I have been lucky enough to see. I understand now why so many people holiday here and even retire.

I am a very “get up and go” kind of person, I like to be busy. Although what is the point of always looking forward to the next stage, the next thing if you are not appreciating the moment you are in just now.

Therefore, having the time just to relax and do simple things like watching the sunset or having an old fashioned picnic really hands you a pause button in a world that is constantly on the move.

3 Reasons Why You Should Join The Airbnb Community

If you have been reading my recent posts a couple of them had me raving about the benefits of using Airbnb! I am writing this post now to convince the unconvinced and clear up any confusion about the concept of this brilliant company.

I know, on the face of it the concept seems…weird to say the least. Essentially you pay money to stay in a strangers home for a period of time. However, this post should reassure you and maybe even convince you, that if you are not in your home, maybe the closest thing to feeling at home….is in fact someone else’s home.

1. Increased Affordability

I cannot shout about the affordability of Airbnb’s enough! They are considerably more affordable than hotel rooms and sometimes even hostels. As many students are generally price conscious but don’t want to miss out being in amazing destinations Airbnb is a great solution. How many times have you looked on Skyscanner for instance and found flights to Barcelona for £40 but after searching for hotels you realise they are triple the price? Yeah I have been caught out by that so many times! A cheap getaway becomes just as expensive when the average price for a hotel room in the area in £80.

2. Increased Authenticity

Airbnb is a unique portal that allows the world of the tourists and the world of the locals to merge together. When you enter into an Airbnb you quickly get a sense of the culture and attitudes of the residents in that destination. For instance, when we stayed with Michelle in her adorable alpine themed cottage, we immediately got a sense of her Yorkshire hospitality when she offered us homemade bread and jam for breakfast. It’s all in the personal touches! In addition, the hosts are often more than happy to give you some local recommendations, who knows you might find some hidden gems. I mean don’t go into an Airbnb expecting an all night bar and room service but if you are looking for a genuine sense of what it’s like to live somewhere else,  book a room and give it a go!

3. Increased Connectivity

AirBnb is a much more personalised experience compared to when you book with hotels or tour operators.  As soon as you book a room either on the app or website you get the choice to literally “Say hello” to your future hosts! This is a great icebreaker and lets you get to know a little about each other before you arrive at their home. In addition the website makes it easy to ask your host questions through it’s instant messaging feature. Can’t find the hair dryer, we’ve all been there before!

 

I hope this post has got you searching for your ideal accommodation experience! Whether it’s a cosy loft room in Paris or a beach hut in Bali there will be something cool catching your eye…feel free to click on this link to receive £25 of Airbnb credit for first time users!