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 – 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

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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!

Zadar – Croatia Series #2

This is my 2nd blog post in the Croatia Series, if you haven’t checked out the 1st click here!

After the first week staying in Labin we journeyed further South of Croatia to Zadar. The drive from Labin was roughly 4 hours so we decided to stop in a pretty town called Opatija .

Opatija

This town was a luxury travel destination in the 19th century and is scattered with incredible old villas that are now mostly hotels! We didn’t spend long in Opatija but did manage to grab an ice cream and walk along the Lungomare promenade.

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I would love to book a night in one of the historic hotels in town!

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Zadar

Zadar is a must see place when travelling Croatia! The city is 3000 years old and has something amazing to see around every corner.

We stayed in our 6th Airbnb and it was definitely one of the best so far! Maya’s Studio Room was perfect for our 2 night stay in Zadar. It had private parking and an amazing air conditioner that we couldn’t have survived without!

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

Explore By Day

During daylight hours Zadar is full of impressive sights and monuments to discover!

Sea Organ

This is one of the most unique attractions in this interesting city. The Sea Organ looks like steps leading into the ocean! Within the steps are chambers that control how the water and air get in to create a unique sound from the waves.

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Saint Donatus Church

This unusual church was built in the 9th century and is the symbol of Zadar city.

Saint Anastasia’s Cathedral

If you have time visit the largest cathedral in Dalmatia!

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Beaches

We enjoyed  swimming and relaxing at the small beaches near our Airbnb the most.

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There are many beaches around the city but the main ones like Borik get very crowded! If we had another day in Zadar we would have travelled to Nin to spend the day on the beautiful sandy beaches there.

Just before the day comes to an end, grab a blanket….maybe even a bottle of wine and enjoy what is said to be the “most beautiful sunset in the world”. 

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Explore By Night

Zadar has so much to offer in terms of nightlife – cool clubs, chilled cocktail bars and even an open-air dance floor in the middle of the city.

Lands Gate

Again, I am referring back to the entrance of the city, but it really is beautiful to see it illuminated at night!

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Lounge & Bar Ledana

This place is AWESOME it’s like walking into an enchanted forest! It’s surrounded by trees and colourfully  lit water features.

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Svarog Bar

This was one of our FAVOURITE places we found during the whole holiday. It has such a cool vibe and plays the kind of remixes that make you want to dance the all night!

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Good DJ + Extensive Cocktail Menu = My Kind of Night!

Greetings To The Sun

Visit this Zadar attraction at night to watch the ground light up beneath your feet! This monument is dedicated to the Sun and consists of solar plates that absorb the Sun’s energy, to create a unique light display at night.

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Algarve – Portugal

I have just got back from an incredible 10 day holiday to Algarve in Portugal! Our accommodation was owned by Villa Plus and was situated just outside Guia (the home of Piri Piri chicken…). The nearest town to the villa was Albufeira which is one of the most popular and lively resorts in Algarve. It was my first time in Portugal and it definitely did not disappoint. Aside from the postcard perfect coastline Algarve was home to friendly locals, an extensive choice of cuisines, lively bars and very unique clothing shops.

To ensure that this blog post doesn’t take up too much of your time to check out I will highlight my favourite places and experiences of my time in Portugal. I hope you enjoy reading!

Galé

During our first couple of days we explored the stunning Algarve coastline and found our favourite cove, that we became frequent inhabitants of during our time there. We drove to Galé beach and enjoyed the beach side restaurant for lunch. The location could not be more perfect, overlooking the waves and allowing customers to admire the unusual rock formations that makes the Algarve so unique. In particular the salads and toasties were firm favourites here…as well as the milkshakes! After lunch we continued onto the beach and further along to the next cove along as it was even more secluded. 20067973_1561604880526632_1620798786_n

Guia

Our villa was situated just outside Guia so it was an ideal place to go for a bite to eat without driving too far. As well as being the home of Piri Piri chicken, Guia is also home to Sir Cliff Richards vineyard – Adega do Cantor.

 

Adega do Cantor

We went on a pre-booked vineyard tour (10 euros per person) in the second week of the holiday. It lasted around 2 hours and went into enough detail without making people want to crack open the wine bottles early…

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Dining in Guia

Ramires

This was a very traditional Portuguese restaurant that was clearly very popular with local families. If you dine here you will definitely get a...unique dining experience. We loved it – best Piri Piri chicken we had ever tasted… sorry Nando’s! The waiter emphasised how much we wanted to order the chicken (that always came with a tomato salad and chips) by saying how long the steak took to cook. So…yeah..order the chicken.

Sao Domingos

This is where I had my second favourite meal of the holiday. From start to finish it was flawless. From the outside the restaurant looked empty but when we went inside they just managed to fit us in (definitely one to book) . This family run restaurant had the friendliest staff and amazing food. If you are a fish lover go for the monk fish medallions, they are served in a orange and ginger sauce – you’ll love it. Also if you have the second stomach for dessert like myself you must try the crepe drizzled with orange and Cointreau sauce served with your choice of ice cream.20046103_1561627887190998_1063374354_n

  Albufeira

Old Town

We also did a lot of  exploring of the Old Town in Albufeira, this was my favourite place. During the day it was a relaxing place to wonder in and out of the shops and restaurants. Also if you fancied a post-cocktail swim there is a lovely beach in the Old Town that you accessed through a beautiful tunnel carved into the rocks. There were also a good amount of sunbeds you could hire at the beach (10 euros per day) or you could bring your own towels and pick a spot. At night the Old Town came alive, it’s buzzing with energy and loaded with atmosphere! There are so many restaurants and bars to choose from here and by the time the clock strikes 9pm they are pretty much all full.19989198_1561628590524261_1750808648_n

Dining in the Old Town

As I mentioned previously you are spoilt for choice in terms of wining and dining in the Old Town. I’m a major foodie and I have to say every single meal we had in Portugal was amazing…but of course I had my favourites.

The Beach Basket

This was the restaurant that I knew I wanted to dine in before the end of the holiday. It was situated in the most perfect location upon the high rocks overlooking the beach. The meal did not disappoint , the food, staff, view and atmosphere were all incredible. We booked the table closest to the window (that was wide open during our meal) for 8:30pm to ensure that we get to enjoy the sunset over the sea. The restaurant was busy with locals as well as some tourists and had a quirky interior. Every person loved their meal, especially the people who ordered the Portuguese steak (the sauce itself was amazing). All in all it was a great find!DSC01697.JPG

Downtown

Downtown is a chain of restaurants and there were 3 different Downtowns in the Old Town. There was the Sunset Beach Club which was great for a pre-meal drink as it offers a fantastic view of the sea as well as being furnished with probably the most comfortable chairs on the island! We also dined at the largest Downtown right in the centre square of The Old Town. It had a very extensive and varied menu from pasta dishes to steaks and fish. I would highly recommend the gnocchi to any pasta lover, it was very good…only made better by me totally intentionally spilling my glass of white wine over it half way through…

The New Town

This is the liveliest part of the resort which is also called “The Strip”. Like all “Strips” it is home to an extensive range of bars and nightclubs. Top tip… if you want to enjoy the biggest clubs such as Kiss and Libertos don’t go out until at least midnight or you will be in for a very expensive night. The clubs don’t get busy until 4am…. Also if you want to dodge the drunken Brits doing karaoke avoid the bars at the very start of the strip…we made that mistake once!

Albufeira Riding Centre

If anyone visiting Algarve is as addicted to riding as I am this riding school is well worth a visit. They cater for all riding abilities and have longer and shorter rides on offer. I went for an advanced ride for 2 hours (50 euros) and it was one of my favourite riding experiences. There were lots of places to canter as well as take in the beautiful Portuguese countryside. I fell in love with a horse called Sam…

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Albufeira Marina

The marina in Albufeira was a great place to go for a drink and admire your dream yachts of course. It was also a good place to book excursions around Algarve.

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Dolphins and Caves Tour

This was definitely the highlight of the holiday for everyone, it exceeded everyone’s already high expectations. The tour was 2.5 hours and was in a fast rib boat that took us into the middle of the ocean in hopes of spotting some dolphins. The staff made it clear at the start that obviously the dolphins are wild so we may not see any…but we were very lucky. The rib had a tracking device that tracks fisherman’s boats because apparently the dolphins follow these boats in hopes of getting easy food. They were not wrong, we found 2 very playful dolphins that I just about managed to capture on camera!

After our time watching the dolphins the rib took us towards the shore again to look at the famous Benagil  Caves, they were stunning.

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In conclusion, visit Algarve. It will offer something that even the fussiest family member or friend will enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lanzarote – Puerto Del Carmen

This summer I travelled to the liveliest part of Lanzarote, Puerto Del Carmen and had an incredible time! If you love a safe, friendly holiday destination with year long sunshine then Lanzarote should be high up on your bucket list.

I found some amazing places to sample the local cuisine and sweet treats, swam with the fish at the Playa Chica cove, watched the sunset over the marina at Puerto Calero, discovered the blue lagoon at Los Jameos del Agua, teared up the track at San Bartolomé and partied at a cool music bar in the Old Harbour.

Eat, Eat and Eat again

Lanzarote is a Canary Island off the coast of West Africa and administered by Spain. Therefore the authentic food on the island in Spanish. Don’t get me wrong there are hundreds of Chinese, British, American, Italian and Indian restaurants on the island but the Spanish cuisine is one to try if you are in the mood for something different.

Puerto Bahia

My favourite meal on that holiday was at a beautiful restaurant suitable for Al fresco dining in the Old Harbour looking out at the ocean. Puerto Bahia was the perfect choice for a romantic and delicious meal. It serves traditional Spanish food as well as a lot of fish dishes. If you are a prawn fan the sizzling garlic prawn starter is a must! As well as being in a picture perfect location the food is very reasonably priced for that area.

To make the night even more perfect the staff provide you with cosy blankets to wrap around your shoulders if the open fire lanterns are not enough to fight the fresh sea breeze.     13700104_1212260568794400_8898763514840019582_n

The Buddha Bar  & La Taberna del Puerto

If you fancy getting active as well as experiencing breathtaking ocean views walk from Puerto Del Carmen to Puerto Calero. This walk start from the chained stairway in the Old Harbour and journeys along the waters edge to Puerto Calero. One tip….do NOT believe the locals when they say it will take 20 minutes, it will take at least an hour, especially if it’s a really warm day.

While in Puerto Calero have  a cocktail at the Buddha Bar and admire the luxurious boats docked in the marina. If you are peckish after your walk then head to La Taberna del Puerto and order paella dish (perfect for sharing). The paella from here is honestly the best I have ever had so don’t miss out!

Grand Creperie Orient Express

I want to give this little crepe stand a very special mention! While we were in the Old Harbour we visited this stand 3 times (once at 11pm!). These are most probably the largest, cheapest and most delicious crepes on the island (only 3 euros!!) The Nutella and Banana crepe is a must have for any fellow chocolate lover!

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You will never be bored in Lanzarote…

There are so many activities and attractions to enjoy on this island for all ages. Whether you like to chill out at one of the attractive coves or have an adrenaline rush on the jet skis you will never have a dull moment!

Jet Skiing

If you like the sound of flying over the waves then jet skiing is the activity for you to try. Book your jet ski experience at Playa Chica and prepare to have the time of your life. For a single jet ski it will cost 5o euros and 60 euros for a double jet ski.

Go Karting

Pretend your an F1 driver and race around the challenging circuit at San Bartolomé. This is  a great way to spend a couple of hours away from the beaches and crowds. You cannot walk to this place from Puerto Del Carmen but you could travel by car or there are organised busses from central locations.

Party the night away in Puerto Del Carmen

Okay so Lanzarote is definitely not a “clubbing holiday” destination but that does NOT mean that you can’t have a fun night out! The Old Harbour and the main strip is packed of live music bars. If you want a proper night club venue head to Centro Atlantico for dance floors and cheap cocktail deals! (They honestly do buy 1 cocktail and get 3 free…) 😉13775490_1212260495461074_7657718820169852411_n

 Los Jameos del Agua

Finally before you leave this fabulous island take  a trip to the blue lagoon and caves at Los Jameos del Agua. This movie background/James Bond like piece of art was created by Cesar Manrique who has various other pieces of artwork around the island. When you visit this magical place you will journey down the stone steps and be welcomed by  a shimmering lagoon. As you walk past the lagoon you will see tourists enjoy a snack and a drink at the unique cavern bar. Before you leave this wondrous place you will be directed through an exhibition about volcanoes and the island.

 

 

After reading this post I hope you visit Lanzarote and enjoy it’s unique charms like I did…