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!

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 😀 

Hidden Gems of Edinburgh, U.K – Guest blog post for earthtoconnie.com

Firstly I just want to thank Connie over at Earthtoconnie for inviting me to be her first guest blogger in her new series – Hidden Gems! In this post, as the title suggests, I’ll let you in on some of my favourite ‘off the beaten path’ spots in Edinburgh.

1. Tani Modi

One word BRUNCH.

I just recently stumbled across this adorable place hidden on Hannover Street! The cafe itself is much bigger than you think and it’s extremely affordable! Order the American style maple syrup and bacon pancake stack as they are the best pancakes I’ve had in Edinburgh!

And no…I did not have an espresso martini for brunch but a fancy looking ice coffee instead!

2. Ting Thai Caravan

Do I need to say anymore…just look at this Thai food! This quirky restaurant is very popular with students as it is located just opposite Edinburgh University. You cannot book this restaurant in advance so if you want to be sure of a table try come in between lunch and dinner! This place is also great if you are on a budget, most dishes are under 10 pounds!

Top tip – bring cash as this restaurant doesn’t have a card machine!!

3. Rabble

I have been living in Edinburgh for almost 4 years now and have also only recently discovered this gem! Just below George Street you will find this beautiful bar that is perfect for date night or chilling with friends.

4. Stockbridge Market (10am-5pm)

Looking for a local experience on your Sunday in Edinburgh? Head to Stockbridge Market for the ultimate street food experience!

5. Fingal

It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Fingal, which is a new boutique hotel in Leith that I am loving working on! Most people in Edinburgh do not know yet that non-guests can make a booking to enjoy the unique experience of our Lighthouse Bar. Our bar offers Afternoon Tea, Evening Supper and amazing cocktails!

Want to be one of the first onboard?

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog post as much I have enjoyed writing it!

If you would like to read more of Connie’s blog posts, including her Hidden Gem series feel free to head over to her blog at Earthtoconnie.com. Or if you would like to follow her on social media then check out her Twitter here and her Instagram here.

Last Minute London

Last weekend one of my favourite travel buddies (my mum) and I booked a last minute flight down to London! We just flew with Ryanair for £50 each including a bag to share between us. I know….I know you are thinking why did you pay for a bag when you are just away for a few days! But….as RyanAir have changed their luggage policy since last November the days are gone that you can bring along a hand luggage bag for free.

Our flight was early so  we arrived in London (slightly bleary eyed) at 7am. We booked train tickets in advance to get us from Stanstead Airport into the centre of London (Liverpool Street Station). Getting to the station was quick and easy as it is right by the airport.

We were only in London from the Thursday morning to the Saturday night so we made a plan of what we definitely wanted to do! As we had both been to London before this blog post will not contain the main attractions but definitely a few cool suggestions! So keep reading 😉

What To See

1. The V & A Museum

To be honest, I’m not a huge museum/gallery fan but I heard that this one was worth a visit! As it was close by our hotel in Kensington we just walked to the museum. It’s the biggest art and design museum in the world and is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in some culture. My personal favourite was the Asian sculpture section. If you fancy the exhibition that is on remember to book in advance! We really wanted to see the Christian Dior exhibition but by the time we arrived at the museum they were sold out.

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2. See a show!

As this was a last minute trip we did not have a show in mind that we wanted to see….BUT…that’s how you get the CHEAPEST tickets!

Head to the Leicester Square box office and see if there are any shows that sound good! We were lucky enough to find good priced tickets to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night- Time, which we wanted to see for a while.

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3. Take a walk in the park

London is full of gorgeous parks! Last July I fell in love with Regent’s Park which you can see in this blog post.

This time we explored Kensington Gardens, found the Peter Pan statue and admired the Prince Albert Memorial.

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I also enjoyed spending time in the beautiful Holland Park and discovered Kyoto Garden!

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4. Covent Garden

No matter how many times I visit London I will always go back to Covent Garden. I love the buzz, the flower arrangements, the shops and of course…. the Instagramable benches!

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Where To Wine and Dine

1.  Lunch at The Aquashard

Okay, lets start with the big one! I booked lunch at the Aquashard (32 floors up) as an early Mother’s Day gift for Mum. She loved it, I loved it and not gonna lie…..my purse quite liked it too!

We had the seasonal 3 course set lunch menu and cocktail which came to £34 each! Honestly, we could not fault it and it’s definitely not an overrated or overhyped venue!

Just take a look at this….

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2. Lola’s Cupcakes

At almost every tube station in London sits a Lola’s Cupcake cart! On the last day we gave into temptation and bought some….#noregrets

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3.  Le Petit Sud

As many of you may have seen from my insta stories we found the CUTEST French restaurant just a few minutes from Kensington Gardens! Le Petit Sud served the freshest French dishes which we ate as we drank our wine and people watched.

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My kind of chandelier….

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If you are looking for a cosy evening venue this place also has a romantic downstairs area!

Top Tips

Okay, I am definitely not a London expert but there are a few things I have picked up during my visits.

  1. Use your contactless card on the bus and tube lines. It only costs £7 per day (you get automatically capped)!
  2. Acknowledge that from whatever airport you fly into there will be a longish journey time into London City
  3. This goes for all big cities, but never leave your bag open or unattended
  4. Bring comfy shoes!!!

 

 

 

 

 

If Home is Where The Heart is…My Heart is in Fife

I know it has been a slow start to the blog this year and I wanted to post more consistently….but life happens! I’m currently in my final year of my event management and tourism degree and things are a little hectic. Anyway, I have been home for the weekend and it dawned on me that I have never written about where I grew up! This post is all about my favourite places to visit, eat and relax around Fife. Firstly, for those who do not know where the Kingdom of Fife is, it’s a region in the East of Scotland (1 hour from Edinburgh and 1 hour and a half from Glasgow).

1. St Andrews

I’m sure most of you have heard of St Andrews if not Fife with the golfing and royal connections. For readers who don’t know this is 1. The HOME of Golf and 2. Where Prince William met Kate Middleton at university.

So with that amazing little introduction to this student seaside town I will tell you my favourite places to check out!

West Sands Beach

This is a beautiful stretch of beach that is a major pull factor for visitors to this town. You can try some water sports such as surfing and windsurfing if you are brave enough to get in the North Sea. Or if it reaches above 18 degrees and remains sunny you wouldn’t believe the amount of people who come to sunbathe!

If you are willing to splash out a little on a cocktail or nip of whisky head to the 4th floor of The Old Course Hotel to get an uncompromising view of this stunning spot.

The Himalayas

No..I’m not actually referring to the mountain range in Asia but there is a fun putting course named after it! It is open every day April to September and only costs £2!!!

This is one of my favourite childhood memories , I am sad to say that I’m still not a pro golfer. However, navigating this tricky course can fool even the best golfers….tell me how you get on!

The Cottage Kitchen

This is the cutest little cafe nestled in the alleyways of St Andrews. Grab a light lunch made with all local ingredients or indulge in their delicious home baking!

Rufflets Hotel

Just outside St Andrews is home to one of the prettiest country house hotels in Scotland. My family have celebrated many special occasions here over time including birthdays and wedding anniversaries.

The inside of the hotel has the most beautiful decor and has many separate rooms if you would like a private function. In addition, you can explore the large garden area which is a perfect backdrop for wedding and celebration pictures!

The Seasons restaurant has an excellently priced 3 course lunch menu for £20 that still includes all the frills!

2. Anstruther

Anstruther is a picturesque old fashioned fishing village near St Andrews, that is known for its harbour and award winning fish and chips! It is popular in the summer months with day trippers visiting to indulge in some of the best seafood in Scotland.

As a child I spent Summer evenings eating fish and chips from the BEST FISH SHOP which is the Anstruther Fish Bar overlooking the busy harbour.

3. Elie

Elie is another charming coastal town to visit in the East Neuk of Fife. In addition to the beach, there are many lovely coastal walks and small boutique gift shops. As a child my family owned a timeshare at Kilconquhar Castle Estate so we spent a lot of time enjoying Elie!

Elie Ness Lighthouse Walk

This lighthouse was built by David Stevenson (cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson) in the early 20th century and has become a well loved attribute of the town. One of my favourite walks in Elie is around the lighthouse. If you continue on the Fife Coastal Path you will journey past some ancient ruins called Lady’s Tower. This was built in 1760 for Lady Janet Anstruther so she can change in private for her morning skinny dip routine!

If you are driving to Elie you can park in the car park next to the lighthouse walk!

The Ship Inn

This restaurant has been open in Elie for many years and is always a favourite. It is known for it’s fresh seafood and beautiful views of the sea!

In the Summer months the patio area overlooking the beach is open for BBQ nights

Elie Watersports

Ever wanted to try SUP paddling, surfing or tubing? Now is your chance!! Grab a couple of friends and pray the Scottish weather will work in your favour and have the best time!

If that doesn’t sound like your thing and you would rather just throw yourself off the pier….hire a wetsuit and do that too! Trust me the wetsuit is essential…..

4. Crail

If you have an obsession for quirky little houses with steps down to the sea and want to try fresh lobster (literally caught that day) visit Crail!

This vibrant little fishing village is home to a very busy harbour where you can see fishermen coming and going out to sea everyday. One of my favourite spots in this village is right down by the harbour at Reilly Shellfish. This is where you can grab a picnic table and eat the freshest shellfish hidden within the harbour walls.

As well as the huge fishing scene, Crail is known for it’s vibrant Festival scene at the end of July. The festival showcases the best of Crail and the produces of the villages surrounding it.

The last year I went there was a stall for the Cocoa Tree which is my favourite cafe in the East Neuk! Perfect for a fellow chocoholic…

5. Falkland

I am saving the best till last…..home is where the heart is and my home is Falkland. Falkland really is a hidden gem but is getting even more popular as it was featured in the Outlander series which is now known worldwide!

This little village is full of beautiful architecture, former home of Scottish Royalty and surrounded by an ancient estate developed in the Victorian period.

Falkland Palace

Falkland Palace was the country home to royalty such as Mary Queen of Scots and is now owned by the National Trust Scotland. Wander around the beautiful palace and stroll through the acres of garden and orchards.

These are the entry prices shown on the website: Adult £13, Family £30, One adult family £23.50 and Concession is £9.

Falkland Estate

This estate was the former hunting grounds for the Kings and Queens that resided in Falkland Palace. It’s one of my favourite places to go when I am home, especially up to the hidden waterfall (follow the trail named Maspie Den)!

The Stag

One of my favourite restaurants in Falkland is The Stag. It is a cosy restaurant and bar located near the now famous water fountain (seen in Outlander).

After being away from home for so long and coming back, really does make me appreciate the beautiful environment I was brought up in. I hope you visit Fife and the East Neuk sometime too!

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.

Reflecting on 2018

That time of the year has come around again and people are reflecting on their best, worst, unexpected and funniest moments of the past year. I can honestly say that 2018 has gifted me a year of adventure, new friends and more ambition than ever before. 

I would be lying if I said my year was perfect and without difficulties… but this year has shown me the importance of being happy and spending time with people who really appreciate you and all that you can offer.

Okay, novel over… below are a list of my top travel experiences, top travel tips and DREAMS for 2019!

3 Top Travel Experiences

1. Krka National Park, Croatia

I LOVED trekking through Krka National Park and discovering all the beautiful waterfalls! I visited in August this year which is their busiest month. To enjoy the national park at it’s best make sure you arrive when the park opens! One of my favourite moments was swimming under the Skradinski buk waterfall.

 Student entry with valid ID is MUCH CHEAPER!!! You can buy a student ticket at the park for 20 Kn / 2,69 € whereas the adult ticket is 80,00 Kn / 10,78 €.

Check out my blog post here

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2. New York City Skyline From The Empire State Building At Night

If this is not on your bucket list yet, it definitely should be! What a magical experience this was. I visited New York City with my family in October this year and used the 5 Day New York Pass. This pass granted us access to all of the city’s main attractions which is great if you are on a time limit!

Check out my blog post here!

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3. Hohenzollern Castle, Germany

The amount of times I have visited Germany this year has been unreal…I’ve kind of fallen in love with parts of the country.

However, out of the all the places I have visited in this country this is my very favourite spot…. you are never too old for fairytales.

There is the most perfect viewpoint of this castle if you drive to Zollersteighof Berghotel where there is a free car park. Then from the car park it’s about a 20 minute walk through the woods to a beautiful viewpoint complete with a carved seat!

Check out my blog post here!

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Top Travel Tips

1. Learn Basic Phrases

I know language learning is not everyone’s favourite thing…but it can really make your experience better if you make the effort to learn a few phrases! As well as making your experience as a traveller easier, the locals tend to really appreciate you taking time to learn some of their language.  Start small…hello”, “goodbye“, “thanks” and “cheers” usually gets you through most situations! Also, I always try learning a few words with the Duolingo app before travelling!

2. Register For A Travel Money Card

I only got one recently and wish I found out about this sooner! This card allows you to load 13 different currencies onto your card and withdraw from ATMs for a smaller transaction charge.  Go and register for one at your local post office! Another benefit is that you can top up your card by using an app on your phone (like mobile banking) wherever you are in the world.

3. Do Your Research

You will have a much better experience travelling if you do a little bit of research before you go! Studying event management does mean that I naturally love whipping up mini itineraries and discovering cool hot-spots (my favourite app to do this is Like A Local). 

Also, if you are travelling to a country that has a very different culture than you, out of respect it is good to familiarise yourself with the do’s and don’t’s! For instance, in 2019 I am hoping to travel to Malaysia and have already worked out that it is rude for a woman to shake the hand of the opposite sex!

Dreams For 2019!

 

1. Find A Graduate Job Abroad

2. Move Out of The UK

2. Learn To Drive….Finally….

3. Travel To Asia

4. Complete A1….maybe A2 in German

As that ties up the end of this blog post I just wanted to thank each and everyone of you who have supported my blog this year! I am always available for advice, recommendations or even just a chat.

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and have the BEST NEW YEAR!

 

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Weekend in Warsaw

Last weekend I took little weekend break in Warsaw with my fabulous flatmates (you know who you are). It was so much fun! It felt really special to finally be in Poland as I’m actually a 1/4 polish! As well as eating, drinking and exploring I learned a few polish words, but I won’t embarrass myself by trying to spell them for you…

We booked our flights a few months in advance for only £40 from Edinburgh to Warsaw Modlin. The flight was only 2.5 hours, which is funny considering it takes longer to drive to Inverness from Edinburgh!

Before leaving we prebooked train tickets to take us into the centre of Warsaw where our Airbnb was. However, the train station was a taxi ride away and took an hour. Learning from this experience we rode in an Uber (£23) to the airport, which took 40 mins and was just a little more expensive than the train and MUCH EASIER!

On that note Uber is your best friend in Polish cities as it’s so much cheaper than in the UK!

 I had an amazing time in Warsaw and would recommend checking out these places…

What To See

1. The Old Town Market Place

This colourful square is the heart of Warsaw and one of the oldest places in Warsaw (it was rebuilt after WW2 ended).  Find The Mermaid of Warsaw and enjoy the Christmas market stalls in Winter.

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Legend has it that local fisherman wanted to capture the mermaid after she kept rescuing the fish from their nets. However, after the heard her singing they fell in love. Then a rich man imprisoned the mermaid,but the fisherman saved her. Ever since, she has been protecting Warsaw’s citizens with her sword and shield.

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2. Warsaw Rising Museum

This museum was well worth a visit. It was created in memory of the people of Warsaw who died fighting for the independence of Poland.

Entry is free of charge every Sunday

3. Palace of Culture and Science

This is one of the most iconic buildings in the city. Unfortunately we ran out of time to visit, but we heard a rumour that the top floor is the best place to take a picture of Warsaw!

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It was a little foggy….

4. Royal Castle

This is one of the most beautiful buildings in Warsaw! Spend time wondering around the lavishly designed rooms of the Polish monarchs.

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Entry is free of charge every Wednesday

Where To Eat

If you have been looking at any of my recent Instagram stories you probably saw brunch and Pierogi crop up a few times…. these were the stars of the show!!

1. Bulke przez Bibulke

Yes Polish is a very tricky language….so the link is above so you can find this gem too! This place was so cosy and is rated one of the best brunch spots in the city. Try the stack of pancakes!

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2. Restaurant Zapiecek

According to two of my native friends, this traditional Polish restaurant serves some of the BEST PIEROGI (dumplings)!

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If you want to stick to the local cuisine order a class of apple wine with your meal (it’s delicious).

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3. SAM Kameralny Komplex Gastronomiczny

Back to Brunch!!

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day… and if you don’t wake up early enough this is the perfect solution…right?!

One word….BAGELS!

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4. Hala Koszyki

This is one of the best indoor food markets I have ever been to. It’s such a relaxed environment with so many cuisines to sample. If you are vegan check out the range of vegan stalls here!

But what did I chose to eat again…..

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PIEROGI!!!!

Where To Drink

1. Czupito

This quirky vodka bar is the perfect place to start your night out in Warsaw! Try the Pink Panther if you have a sweet tooth or Rainbow if you’re brave enough….

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2. Nap Nap Cafe

This is the perfect stop for a midday mulled wine and cake!

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3. Panorama Sky Bar

If you want to take your night out to the next level check out the Sky Bar! Great cocktails, music and views!

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Bare in mind the cocktails here are more like UK prices eg £10!

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my time in this cool city and have the chance to experience it for yourself!

I’m currently planning my next trip back to Poland….people to see and things to explore!

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Newbies Guide To New York #2 Wine & Dine

If you haven’t read my first blog post about my favourite sites in New York click here to check it out!

This post, as you can imagine, is all about the top spots we found while running around NYC! The city really has something for everyone whether it’s burgers and chips, Asian noodles or pizza slices as big as your head….

1. Juliana’s Pizza

As mentioned in my previous post this amazing pizzeria is run by the pizza legends themselves….the Grimaldi’s of New York! This dining option is perfect for those of you wanting to check out the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s nestled in the cool district just over the bridge called Dumbo which is also well worth exploring.

This restaurant is so popular that you cannot book in advance, so prepare for a little wait (worth it)  or visit outwith the main dining times.

Just  note that they are closed between 3:15pm and 4pm to “stoke” the coal-fired pizza oven.

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2. Kimoto Rooftop Garden Lounge

If you spend more time in Brooklyn and looking for a rooftop bar experience head to this place! Kimoto is a good priced Asian fusion restaurant that also serves AMAZING cocktails. I think we were just incredibly lucky because we had almost the whole garden lounge to ourselves when we visited!

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  3. Joe Allen

If you are looking for a pre-Broadway meal check out this gem! Joe Allen’s is an intimate restaurant popular with locals. Everything on the menu looked excellent when we went and it changes frequently so there’s always new flavours to try!

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4. Tick Tock Diner NY

This retro little diner was situated in our hotel, The New Yorker, but is for non-guests too! If you know me you would know why this was one of my FAVOURITE meals I had in NYC. I have a MASSIVE SWEET TOOTH and heard that the pancakes in here were incredible so of course had to try them out….

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Not just orange juice…..

5. Chelsea Market

This quirky market is open from 7am to 2am Monday-Saturday and us filled with food outlets from all over the city! I would suggest heading there for lunch then walking the High Line as the access point is very closeby.

I wanted to eat EVERYTHING….

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6. Carlos Bakery

How could you walk past THE HOME OF CAKE BOSS everyday but not go in for a slice??! I know it’s impossible as it sounds…

There are so many different cakes and cannolis to chose from and they come in cute individual slice containers!

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Red Velvet cake anyone? 

7. State Grill & Bar

If you want a night to remember book a table at the State Grill & Bar in the Empire State Building! 

This really was a special night for us in New York that had been planned well in advance. We dined in the grill and had some cocktails before taking the lift up to the Observatory Deck at the top of the Empire State Building. 

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I know what you’re thinking….how could I fit on the plane after my week of indulging in New York! All I can say is we walked…..A LOT!

I hope you enjoyed my posts about my time exploring one of most amazing cities in the WORLD!