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 – 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 – 1 – The Start

Firstly Happy New Year!!!

I know…long overdue…I hope you are getting on well with your New Year’s resolutions or currently breaking them because how were you ever realistically going to give up chocolate for a year…?

Anyway, it’s time to write the first blog post of the year as the flights to Kuala Lumpur have been booked and it’s time for planning to commence!

My friends and I knew that we wanted to discover somewhere new together after final exams in May and before graduation in July. After some weeks of research (which will be explained more later) we decided on South East Asia for 3 full weeks in June. This blog post is going to give you a little insight of my top tips before planning long-haul travel!

1. Initial Research Is Key

Google really is your best friend here. It is important to do some initial research before parting with your well saved funds to make sure this is the destination for you. A quick google search will tell you if you require visas, if the country has lots to offer that you are interested in, how easy it is to move around within the country and if you require any vaccinations prior to your adventure.

2. Budget-friendly Travel Requires Sacrifices

When we were checking out flights on our favourite flight comparison site (Skyscanner) we noticed that it was around £150 cheaper to fly out of London. However, as we are based in Edinburgh we decided that it would in fact cost almost the same amount after travelling down to London and paying for over-night accommodation.

In the end there were 2 flights that we were torn between, both were good but neither perfect. Without bottomless pockets we were between a Qatar Airways flight that included an 8 hour stop-over in Doha on the way there and an emirates flight that would lose a day of our holiday period as it left in the early hours of the morning.

We decided to pay £506 to fly with Emirates because the journey time was much shorter. Even though we could have enhanced our trip by stopping over and exploring Doha for a few hours we decided that this was an unnecessary addition onto our already long trip. The girls and I also thought that we would not do the city justice as we would just be longing for our final destination!

3. Research Some More!

Your flights are booked and you want to get down to business! I LOVE looking at other blogs for inspiration. My favourites for this trip so far are….

Where Charlie Wanders

Be My Travel Muse

Lovin

Also, I cannot get enough of Lonely Planet’s travel guides for detailed itineraries, hidden gems and cultural tips!

So far our 3 week itinerary looks like this….. ( as event management and business students we are in our element)!

The green sections are internal flights with the current prices next to them.

I have heard some fantastic things about the Perhentian islands from blogs like this and would love some chill out time between soaking up the new cultures!

We are still very flexible with our plans and will be looking into accommodation, internal flights and attractions soon.

If you have any advice to share with me go ahead in the comments section!

I’ll keep you updated.

Weekend in Munich – Day 1

I have just arrived home from my weekend getaway to Munich….you might have guessed from my Instagram…maybe!

I think that was honestly the quickest weekend to date and the furthest I have travelled in such a short space of time. In total I travelled over 900 miles between Friday and Sunday evening, not including my journey back home!

The past couple of times I have visited Germany I have travelled around the Southern part of the country. I have been blown away by the incredible scenery, the friendly people and the outstanding amount of carbs that I can consume in my short time in the country…. (forget the Great British Bake Off….the cakes are amazing)!

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Schuhbecks Orlando

Exhibit A

I feel my official place of residence has changed to a window seat somewhere towards the back of an EasyJet plane…..

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This is because the flights are very cheap, especially out of season! I usually fly from Edinburgh to Stuttgart airport and so far the return flight has not cost over £80. Considering the average spend on a night out is between £40 -£60 (of course, depending on if you buy the cheap vodka or not) this really isn’t much less than a flight to a new place.

Enough money and cake talk and more about The Heart of Bavaria….Munich!

It was incredible to walk around he centre of Munich as there was always something to catch your eye. Everywhere you turn it’s impossible not to notice the detailed architecture.

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Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)
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Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)
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Marienplatz
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Rathaus-Glockenspiel
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Bavarian Lion Statue at Odeonsplatz

 

Whilst exploring the centre we were also keen to see the stunning churches that produce the soundtrack to a day in Munich….all the church bells!

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Frauenkirche

When you are in Munich find some time to discover this hidden gem! The Asamkirche, this church was built in 1733. This is a beautiful, theatrical looking place tucked away between two ordinary buildings. Honestly, when we weren’t actively looking for this church we walked past it so many times and didn’t even notice! This is a must see…

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Asamkirche
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Asamkirche
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Asamkirche

After all the wondering around we went back to our cute hotel, Hotel Condor and relaxed until we went out for dinner. I have to say the location of this hotel was perfect, it was so central and close to the train station. The one to many breakfast pastries I consumed in the morning were also very good…

Studying Event Management really does get you into a particular mindset….schedules….timings…plans….however sometimes it’s more fun stumbling upon a great restaurant or bar by chance. So guess what? That’s exactly what happened.

We left the hotel and headed into the centre of Munich (only a 10 minute walk) and  enjoyed the different atmosphere the city has at night. After a little while we found this beautiful restaurant called Cafe Luitpold.

If you like dining in pretty buildings this is the place for you! This restaurant/ cafe was built in the 19th century and has retained it’s original pillar structures. They had a large menu which made it difficult to choose what we wanted to eat…so we didn’t. We selected the tapas selection and were given a tapas styled starter, main and dessert! cafe

After dinner we had a few drinks in Fedora Bar where a DJ was playing, which was a great way to end the night. I ended my first day in Munich right…. after finishing my first pint of beer….i’m a wine gal… but when in the home of Oktoberfest!

 

 

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!