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
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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!

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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Istria – Croatia Series #1

I have just returned from my 2 week Croatian adventure and I am very excited to start writing my Croatian blog series. For my first time visiting Croatia and I saw many beautiful places that would definitely make me want to discover the rest of the country.

Don’t worry, I won’t make you read a novel of a blog post so I will split the series into 5 blog entries!

This first blog post will cover my time in the Istria region of Croatia that we explored the first week.

Labin

We spent the first week in Croatia on a couples/group holiday with friends, in a villa in Labin. Villa Rosa was absolutely stunning and perfect for a chilled group holiday (10 poeple max).

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The owners were lovely and offered us a couple of bottles of wine from the region that they keep in their wine cellar.  I found Instrian red and white wine to be light and VERY drinkable…

On the first couple of days we wondered into Labin to have a look around and some dinner. It’s not a big place but does have charming features such as the umbrellas and old winding streets.

I would highly recommend Velo Kafe for something to eat. It’s in the centre of Labin and has a cute terrace area to dine on. I ordered fish in a white wine sauce which seemed to be a favourite amongst the group….don’t worry it comes without the fish head (biggest fear…)!

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Rabac

Rabac is a lovely holiday resort town to visit which is only 10 minutes away from Labin. It’s full of gorgeous coves and beach bars to spend the day at. However, if you do decide to spend time at the beach here go to the smaller coves as the main beaches are very crowded! We got recommended Beach Girandella (blue flag beach) by the villa’s owner which was a great place to spend the afternoon.

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However, I preferred the smaller beaches around the promenade area of the town as they were quieter.

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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

Pula

After we had enough of waking up at 2pm and taking it easy by the pool all day we ventured to some other beautiful places in Istria. Pula is definitely worth a visit and is only a 1 hour drive away from Labin.

Pula is an incredible city that is known for it’s stunning beaches and ancient roman ruins. During our day here we checked out the Amphitheatre where the gladiators fought which was 25 kuna  (£3) for student entry! 

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If you have the car and are looking for adventure I would definitely recommend driving South of Pula to Premantura. You must drive to the furthest tip of this part of the island, past the Safari Bar (shown on google maps) to discover the perfect cliff jumping spot!

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 * BUY WATER SHOES! YOU WILL THANK ME LATER*

Rovinj

This place stole my heart….I absolutely loved my evening wandering around this pretty waterfront town. In many ways it reminded me of parts of Italy and if that wasn’t enough for me I could have hopped on a boat sailing to Venice!

Lukas kept having to wait for me because I couldn’t stop snapping pictures of the winding streets and steps leading down to the sea!

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We found this amazing little cocktail bar down one of the alleyways called Mediterraneo Bar. 

Untitled design (57).png39739161_287774335334333_7739606199254908928_n.jpgTake a seat on one of the colourful cushions or dip your feet into the sea while enjoying a frozen daiquiri = perfection! 

As well as this gem we also found an incredible restaurant Puntulina that really was the best place to watch the sun set over the sea. We didn’t book a table so it was just by luck that they had room for 2 on the balcony area! It was not the cheapest place to dine but we had been eating in the villa the past few nights and I can easily say that it was one of my favourite moments of the holiday.

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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.

Southern Germany Trip – Stuttgart and Karlsruhe

Stuttgart

On day number 2 of exploring we drove back into the industrial hub, home to the global manufacturers that are of course, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. However….I dodged all the car museums in Stuttgart ( a tough task in itself) and focused on some of my interests.

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So truth be told…..I went shopping…had my first Vapiano experience…took some cool pictures and visited a 217m high bar otherwise known as Fernehturm Stuttgart.IMG_2316IMG_2309IMG_2559

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Flavour of the day was again a traditional Swabian dish…called Maultaschen. I have promised myself that I will try cooking this back in Scotland! It’s basically a large ravioli parcel with meat and spinach through it. The chef was also kind enough to share the knowledge of the dish with me. Legend has it that the pasta dough acts as a disguise so that the Swabians can continue to eat meat during lent!

Karlsruhe

On the third day we spent some time in Karlsruhe. Karlsruhe is another university city around an hour from Stuttgart. This city was home to the former weapons factory but is now known for it’s vibrant student culture and of the beautiful 18th Century palace.

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Oh and I wasn’t allowed to end my 3rd day in Germany apparently without trying my first Schnitzel…which I had with my new favourite food as a  side dish….Spätzle! IMG_2309IMG_2372.JPG