Category Archives: Thailand

All travel posts from my time in Thailand

Travel | My top 10 places to go for an adventure holiday

africa-toursMy life has always been about adventures. Call me cup-half-full but I like to view the world around me as a series of exciting opportunities that I just can’t wait to seize with both hands. Looking back, adventures have come in all different forms throughout my life. Career-wise I’ve had the amazing experience of working as a journalist and an editor, my nine-year relationship was an adventure from start to finish and more recently, you guys will know all about my travelling adventures that never seem to end. Well this life of adventure chose me and I’m more than happy to live it every single day. Since travelling, I’ve been lucky enough to live some adventures beyond my wildest dreams and I’m so excited to share some of them with you in this post as part of a collaboration with Encounters Travel. This post is taking a look at some of the incredible adventure trips I’ve taken and some that remain firmly on my bucket list… for now!

Australia

Australia was one of the biggest adventures of my life. Not only was I literally on the other side of the world from everything I knew, but I was thrown between living life in the middle of a bustling city and the dry, dusty outback. Outback life is an adventure anyone who travels to Australia should not miss out on, it was one of the most incredible experiences I have had since travelling. From working on a cattle farm by day and watching endless shooting stars at night, to learning to ride bareback and swimming in flooded rivers. It was epic and I can’t recommend it enough. If the outback isn’t for you, then head to the coast for no end of adventures from diving on the Great Barrier Reef and swimming with whale sharks, to white water rafting and skydiving, perfect for all the adrenaline junkies.princess-junk-halong-bay-vietnam

Thailand

Thailand was my first solo adventure and one I won’t forget in a hurry. Adventures came in all forms there from volunteering with elephants and exploring ruins by bike, to partying the night away on the islands and trekking through jungle to visit hill tribes. No matter what part of Thailand you head to, there is an adventure just waiting to be uncovered. For a taste of the untouched, head deep into the middle of the country to Khao Sok, an 80 million year old rainforest just packed full of exciting adventures. There’s hiking to waterfalls, swimming through caves, jungle safaris and kayaking to be done, and you can spend your nights sleeping either in treehouses or in a hut on a raft deep in the middle of the jungle. If that’s not an adventure, I don’t know what is.

Vietnam

Vietnam is an adventure for all the senses as you escape the beaten track and take the chance to explore Sapa, visiting local families and experiencing life as they live it. Kayak around a UNESCO World Heritage Site at Halong Bay, navigate the crazy traffic in Hanoi or even motorbike from one end of the country to another. For those who want to feel their pulse race, look no further than Dalat, where you can experience the ultimate adventure at Canyoning, a day of abseiling down waterfalls and freediving from huge heights. There’s time to squeeze in mountain biking to waterfalls before heading to Hoi An to taste delicacies you never knew existed.peru-machu-picchu

Borneo

One of my absolute dream destinations – Borneo is the home of the orangutan. After volunteering with elephants in Thailand, my taste for wild an exotic animals turned to another favourite and I can’t think of anything more incredible than seeing these creatures in their natural habitat. The jungle in Borneo looks absolutely prehistoric and I love the idea of seeing this incredible landscape with my own eyes, plus the opportunity to climb Mt Kinabalu would be a complete adventure. Once done exploring the centre, there is so much more waiting along the coastline from national parks to stunning wildlife – this land literally seems to have it all.

South America

I know I’ve overgeneralised here but that’s because at the top of my bucket list sits a trip to South America – I can’t break it down because quite frankly, I want to see it all. From the Inca Trail in Peru, to the Bolivian Salt Flats, to Iguazu Falls in Brazil and seeing the Amazon with my own eyes in Ecuador. From the physical challenges to the language barrier, I love the idea of throwing myself into harder travelling where I have to really learn along the way. That’s the true adventure to me. There is so much to see and do that I know I’ll never manage it all, but that won’t stop me trying. I’m hoping to experience this adventure from start to finish in 2017/18 and can’t wait.local-woman-india

India

Ever since I read the book Shantaram, India has been firmly on my must-travel list. The book describes the culture, colour and character of India so beautifully and uses such poetic prose that it made me long to experience it for myself.Travelling India just sounds like it would be such an adventure, to truly immerse yourself in the land, every aspect of it from the people, to the spirituality and the food. It seems like a country that would change the world as you know it, that would change your whole understanding of life. Any true adventure should rock you to your very core and change you as a person, India is an adventure waiting to happen.

Iceland

Somewhere I have been lusting after for years – as someone who always plumps for tropical locations the idea of experiencing the magic of this snowy land really appeals. Friends who have been have described action packed weekends exploring glaciers by snowmobile, diving into the Blue Lagoon and even riding through the mountains on horseback. But nothing would compare to my dream of seeing the Northern Lights with my own eyes, this may be one of the few times I stand still but would be one of the greatest adventures of all. Especially with my plan to also see the Southern Lights while down in New Zealand.blue-eyed-shags-antarctic

United States

Over the years I’ve made the standard trips to the US, I’ve spent Christmas in New York gazing at the views from the Empire State Building and wandering around vintage markets in Brooklyn. I’ve holidayed in Florida exploring all the theme parks and splashing my way through the water parks. But I have such an urge to one day experience so much more and how better to do it than by experiencing one of the greatest road trips. Gathering up a solid gang of mates and setting out to explore every state would be an amazing adventure. Highlights for me would be San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC and LA. But another amazing way to do it would be by venturing from one national park to the next – there are some beautiful natural sights such as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone that would be the perfect stop-offs. It is my dream to visit New Orleans either for the Jazz Festival or for Mardi Gras – what an adventure to party there!

Africa

An African adventure is probably on a lot of people’s bucket lists, but for me it goes a little deeper. With half of my family coming from Mauritius, I find myself longing to explore more of the continent from jungle to desert, and city to beach. There are so many amazing ways to have an adventure here and I’m sure you could spend the rest of your life in Africa without really delving into the depths of this land. For me, most of my ideals of Africa have centered around the idea of going on safari on the Serengeti, or waking up to the sight of giraffes and zebras roaming free, of waking in the night to the roars of lions and the trumpeting of elephants. I love animals and particularly I love seeing them in their natural habitat so this would be the ultimate adventure and a dream come true for me. One thing I must do in my lifetime is a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti at sunrise. Elsewhere, there is endless desert to explore, bustling modern cities and luxury resorts dotted along the coastline. Africa looks like a traveler’s paradise, if you’re planning a trip there check out the overland tours available from Encounters Travel here.

Antarctica

Call me crazy if you want, but Antarctica has always seemed like the most incredible adventure. Going to the coldest place on earth where nothing but penguins seems to survive and witnessing the weather and wildlife is such an exciting prospect. A place where tourism is absent, where you get back to basics and focus purely on the landscape. That is what travelling should be all about and that seems pretty adventurous to me. Sadly it is very expensive and seems like the least likely of my list, but that doesn’t stop me imagining what it would be like to embark on this adventure one day.

What has been the biggest adventure of your life? What is your dream adventure destination? Do you dream of visiting any of these places?

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Travel | My ultimate tips for backpacking on a budget

imageFor months on end you slog your guts out working crummy jobs to save as much money as possible. You while away the hours stacking shelves or getting groped as you pull pints in some bar, always thinking of the paradise waiting for you. After working a job you thought would never end, you’re finally handing over your uniform and catching that flight to the other side of the world. The dream is finally becoming a reality and already you never want it to end, so how can you keep it going as long as possible? It all comes down to the money – all us backpackers say “if travel was free, you’d never see me again” and I can tell you it’s true. Travellers are always looking for the best ways to cut corners and make sacrifices so we can have just one more adventure, just one more day in paradise. We’d rather sleep on someone’s floor for a week than stay in a hotel if it means spending another week living a life of complete freedom and excitement. When you’re starting out on your travels, it can be difficult to know how to save money and where you can cheat to make your cash last that little bit longer. After 18 months of travelling solo and backpacking across Asia and Australia – one of the cheapest and one of the most expensive places to backpack in the world – I think I’ve picked up some good techniques for saving money. After all, I planned to go for a year and managed to keep going an extra six months AND came back with lots of money saved! Here are my top tips for backpacking on a budget:

PREPARE

  • Before you go, make a short term sacrifice and give up everything to save. I worked five jobs before I went which was bloody hard, but it meant I saved £10,000 for my adventure and went nine months without working.
  • Work in different types of jobs to get experience – I made sure I had recent bar work and nanny work on my CV which scored me instant jobs in Australia.
  • Invest money in getting a good quality backpack – it will save you a lot of money on lots of cheap replacements later on.
  • Don’t waste money on buying “travelling clothes” and accessories, it’s much cheaper to buy them along the way – keep packing practical and useful.
  • Spend money on items that will last you – things like solid shampoo can be a great way to make more space in your bag and will last for ages so you don’t have to constantly buy bottles of shampoo.

TRAVEL

  • As soon as you know when you aim to be flying somewhere, start looking at flights and get an idea of how much they will cost. You can get apps to track the cheapest flights to your destination and Skyscanner is great.
  • Hitchhike – not something I have done but some of my friends travelled the length and width of Australia safely like this and had an amazing experience.
  • Don’t be surprised by visa costs – they can be pricey and you always need to budget for them in advance to avoid being caught short.
  • Be flexible – most backpackers don’t mind what day they travel on, hell they usually don’t know what day of the week it is. This can save you a lot of pennies if you’re happy to delay travel to save money.
  • Don’t pay for expensive buses and trains – often they’re no safer and a lot more boring than travelling with the locals. You haven’t travelled until you’ve been on a bus with goats and chickens!

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STAY

  • Try Couchsurfing or similar options for a chance to stay with the locals for free, you get a more authentic experience and free digs!
  • Work for accommodation – it’s an option available in most hostels and can be a great way to cut costs getting a free bed for just a few hours work.
  • Visit family and friends – no matter how loosely related people are always welcoming to visitors and want to help out. A few nights in a proper bed with  family meal can do a world of good for a backpacker.
  • There are websites that look for house sitters for while homeowners are away – free accommodation, plush homes and potentially even food thrown in.
  • Camp – there are so many amazing locations around the world to camp and get closer to nature, if you pack your own tent you could save a fortune in hostels!

EAT

  • Find a hostel with a free breakfast or free/cheap dinners, it can make a world of difference to your budget if you are getting one free meal a day.
  • Street food – trust me it is the best way to cut costs and it’s easily the tastiest food on offer. Check the stalls for hygiene and don’t eat food that has been sitting out, but most of it is cooked to order in front of you.
  • Save eating out in restaurants as a treat for with friends – having that attitude will make you appreciate it more and will save a lot of money.
  • Prepare your own dinners and live off instant noodles – its an easy way to save a lot of cash if you want to splurge on rock climbing or a boat trip.
  • Go veggie – I barely ate meat when I was in Australia because it is quite expensive and you can’t keep it for long in a hostel. I saved a lot of money and felt really healthy.

DRINK

  • Be prepared to sacrifice your favourite drink. I had to give up wine and cider in Asia and lived off cheap beer and spirits to save money.
  • Scrimp on quality to get drunk – goon is disgusting but it does the trick, so do the $5 bottles of wine in Australia, good for pre-drinking before heading out.
  • Don’t waste money on bottles of water – keep on with you and fill it up at water points – unless you’re in Asia and water bottles are the safest option.
  • Take advantage of backpacker bars and cheap deals, enter competitions and try to win booze – it’s worth embarrassing yourself for a bucket.
  • Skip the lovely coffees and smoothie bars when you’re in the cities – do you really want to waste precious money on a drink that is gone in seconds when you could save it for your next adventure?

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ACTIVITIES

  • Whether you’re in Asia or Australia – trips can quickly add up. It’s important you research and ask around to get the best deals. Don’t be afraid to haggle.
  • Think carefully about what trips you want to do, some trips will often double up on experiences so by not going on one you won’t be missing out.
  • Look for group deals and discounts, often you can save a lot of money by getting a group of mates together and filling up seats on a boat/bus.
  • Go independent – often the trips are expensive because they use specially-chartered boats/buses etc, going it alone by hiring a car with your mates, or paying a fisherman for the day can work out a lot cheaper.
  • Take advantage of free activities – whether you’re in a national park or a city, there’s endless free things to do. Check the newspapers/online for free activities in the cities or ask at your hostel. Or head out into nature and go hiking or exploring waterfalls for the day.
  • Why not check out voucher code sites like DealsDaddy for bargains when shopping – that way you can save your money for other fun activities?

WORK

  • Working along the way can really help keep your money topped up – whether you stop and work a more permanent job in a bar/restaurant, shop or something else.
  • Run an online business – whether you’re a good writer, blogger, coder or social media expert, there’s loads of jobs you can work freelance around your travels and earn good money
  • Teach English, it’s fantastic money in the right job, I have friends working in Dubai and they earn a fortune and have their accommodation paid for.
  • Find a job that helps you travel – whether it’s a career that takes you around the world or just work for a tourist attraction. One of my friends worked on a catamaran that cruises around the Whitsundays for months – her dream job!
  • Woofing can be a great way to support organic farming in the country you are travelling while getting free food and accommodation. If it doesn’t appeal, there are lots of other volunteer organisations that might be able to take you on in exchange for room and board.

Like this post? Why not vote for me as the best budget travel blogger of 2016? It takes two seconds and all you have to do is follow this link. Thanks!

Looking for other ways to cut costs? Check out VoucherShops. Or, in case couch surfing, eating veggie or fruit picking gets boring – there’s always the chance you’ll marry a millionaire or get a royal flush in the World Series of Poker!

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Thailand | Top destinations for party animals

imageLet’s be honest, not everyone goes to Thailand for the amazing culture and food, not everyone is interested in visiting temples and markets – there are a lot of people who go there just to party. Now while this wasn’t my main aim in travelling this incredible country, it’s hard to travel Thailand without cutting loose with the reams of backpackers who are just looking for a good time. It’s a fantastic country to start traveling in because there is a constant supply of travelers to meet, and with cheap alcohol filling up those lethal buckets, beautiful beaches and a taste for fire shows, it’s hard to say no to a night out in Thailand. I had some amazing nights out when I was in Thailand, it was a perfect place for me to start travelling after a year of working my arse off in five jobs and just what I needed to forget my broken heart. Thailand has a bit of a reputation for attracting party animals and I wasn’t disappointed by the nightlife, whether I was partying with travelers or locals, I always had an amazing night with a lot of stories to tell. But there are always some places that stand out above the rest as having parties more epic than others, here are a few of my favourites:image

BANGKOK

It goes without saying that Bangkok is one hell of a place, even if you haven’t been there, we’ve all seen The Hangover 2. Trust me, if you’ve ever had a night out in Bangkok, you’ll understand where they found the inspiration for the crazy events in that movie. I’ve had some amazing nights out there – one that was almost a disaster when Khao San Road was shut down early for the Queen’s birthday but turned into an epic street rave when loads of locals used their cars as boomboxes and sold alcohol out of the boots. Both locals and travellers were partying together until the sun came up, even the police joined in! Another night started out as dinner for the group, it ended up with a Ping Pong show, then us getting dragged into the male version, which was decidedly more graphic, before going to a Thai club.

KOH PHANGAN

Whether you’re headed to the Full Moon or Half Moon Party, you’re in for a treat. Sorry cultured types but this is one hell of a party you need to experience. It is full white trash fun – glow in the dark paint everywhere, buckets in hand, dancing around the beaches or the jungle until you fall over. Everyone is very badly behaved and wakes up the next morning wondering what the hell happened last night. I always thought I would hate a party like this, but I went to the Half Moon Party and it was amazing! Plus if you’re on the island for a little while, there are huge parties every night with all different types of music – we went to an amazing Jungle Party the night before Half Moon. And there was an epic all-day after party with great music. Definitely check out as many parties as possible to get a feel for the island’s nightlife.image

KOH TAO

Another well known party favourite – Koh Tao is a totally different kind of vibe to Koh Phangan and a great one to head to afterwards when you need a bit of recovery time. Everything is way more chilled there with lots of great reggae hangouts to relax in as you prepare for the night ahead. Whereas everyone goes out to get wasted in Koh Phangan, this island has a slightly slower pace that catches up quick later on. There are all the usual bar crawls and buckets on offer, but more often I found the night started off slowly at the ladyboy cabaret shows or drinking cocktails on the beach watching fire shows. Then things would escalate quickly as the buckets came out and the fire shows got more dangerous – it wasn’t surprising when people would end up doing naked fire limbo or would be raving in the sea.

KOH PHI PHI

Hailed as one of the top party islands, I could’t help but find this one a huge disappointment. More aimed at holidaymakers than backpackers, the party scene was more like an English night out and I saw some pretty disgusting behaviour. The dirtiest place I saw in the whole of Asia, it was perfectly “normal” to see lads pissing in the sea right next to people having sex. It was perfectly “normal” to see people climbing up fire displays and even buildings then falling off and severely injuring themselves but getting no help. This was the one place that didn’t seem to get cleaned up after the parties, so every day when you sunbathed on the beach, rubbish and debris from the night before would wash up around you. The one bar I do remember being good was the one with a boxing ring in the centre, people would fight for a bucket and my friend won!image

KOH LANTA

A surprising entry because this is an island for relaxation rather than partying, but after making friends with some locals who ran a reggae bar on the island, I partied with them every night. Starting at the bar with some chilled reggae or jazz, we’d end up with half the island coming to join us. Later, after closing, the bar owners would head to the one party going on somewhere on the island that night. The first time we walked through the jungle in the dark, then emerged in a full blown rave. It was an amazing night and so great to party with the locals, totally different to a backpacker party.

PHUKET

We’ve all heard the stories about night’s out in Phuket, well, those didn’t really appeal to me so I skipped Pattaya and stayed in the Old Town. It turned out to be a great decision because it meant I got to have an amazing night out with two fellow travel bloggers at a Thai karaoke bar. Now trust me, you haven’t had a night out until you’ve spent a night watching Thai people sing 90’s classics as you down whiskey. It was epic, hilarious, and I practically lost my voice by the next day from singing along so much. It was one night out that led to an amazing friendship.image

PAI

Pai is the one all the backpackers whisper about, up in the north of Thailand it is considered the one place not to be missed. After going there, I can totally see why. It attracts a totally different crowd to the rest of Thailand, much more chilled and some of the more worldly travelers. Staying at Circus School hostel, there was a party every night with fire dancers and jugglers, we could play pool and watch the sunset, skinny dip in the swimming pool. Then afterwards we would head down to the town where a myriad of amazing bars awaited – Don’t Cry and Sunset Bar were the most memorable for me, also Bamboo Bar was pretty fun. There’s several jazz bars worth checking out and lots of live music, plus everything is pretty close together so it’s easy to find where the party is at each night.

CHIANG MAI

Now I only got to have one night out there but it was pretty hilarious and eventful thanks to my party crew. I’ve heard since that Chiang Mai is meant to be pretty special for nights out – it is, after all, a university town. There are loads of great reggae and roots bars with perfect music for accompanying one too many beers and lots of laughter. THC Rooftop Bar was my favourite, delicious cocktails for cheap and great atmosphere. I’ve also been told there’s a lot of good rock bars in the city which isn’t something you’ll find anywhere else in Thailand. When I head back to Thailand I’ll definitely have to give this city another go!image

Where is your favourite party place in Thailand? Tell me about your craziest night out. Which other countries have given you a night out to remember?

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Travel | My top 5 adventure experiences for South East Asia

14214_10152623575027617_4481321525533640505_nEvery traveler is different – some are happier laying on a beach and relaxing through their summer holidays and others just aren’t happy unless they’ve got adrenaline coursing through their veins. I like to think I’m a healthy mix of both, I love lazy days with a book by the pool but I also cannot resist the urge to get out there and explore the world in exciting new ways. I’ve taken full advantage of the amazing opportunities to take part in everything from white water rafting and snorkelling, to hiking and abseiling since I’ve been travelling and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You see, no matter now hard I try to be a beach bum all my days, I just get bored and have to get moving. I love activities that get me outside and get me excited about the landscape – you’re more likely to find me camping in the outback under the stars than living it up at a five star hotel. Perhaps that’s why I always have a story to tell, because I get bored with playing it safe and the one thing that really gets my endorphins flowing is adventure. So I thought it was about time to share with you my absolute favourite adventure experiences from my travels in South East Asia:

Kayaking through the jungle in Khao Sok, Thailand

This was without a doubt one of my favourite experiences from Thailand, and worth every penny. Khao Sok is an incredible rainforest in the centre of the country that so many travelers miss because it is slap-bang in the middle between Suratani and Phuket. Trust me, if you like hiking to waterfalls and clambering through the jungle it is perfect for you, with a huge array of trips and experiences on offer. Some of the trips overlap a lot and some are a little pricey, but the one that is 100% worth it is the overnight trip to the lake. This trip takes you out for two days filled with safaris at sunrise and sunset, jungle hikes and a caving trip (see below) plus a night spent in a bungalow floating on a raft that has been built on the reservoir in the centre of the National Park. It’s an amazing trip to one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places I have been and one of the nights I will never forget. It’s not part of the trip but my friends and I couldn’t resist borrowing a couple of kayaks scattered around the raft so we could row out on the lake to watch the sunrise and hear the jungle waking up. It was absolutely incredible – one of the most peaceful moments of my entire life – at least until we heard wild elephants crashing around in the undergrowth! Not to be missed.11250993_10152789719267617_287437721692320808_n

Hill Tribe Trekking in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Up in the North of Thailand I had an amazing opportunity to really understand the hill tribe culture when I took part in a three day trekking trip through the Chiang Mai countryside, led by our amazing tour guide. He took us on a hike across the fields, villages and jungle of his homeland, proudly talking about the history and ways of his family, who we later met, along the way. It was a really valuable experience to see firsthand how they live and support themselves while getting a chance to really explore a landscape that couldn’t be more different to the beaches and rainforests of the south. We walked through forest fires, past rice fields and met friendly village children along the way. At each stop, our amazing guide cooked up a fantastic feast of local dishes all made with ingredients sourced within the village or from others nearby. It was amazing to watch as the meals were prepared, before we bedded down for the night in little huts with roofs made of dried leaves. The trekking was medium difficulty – a bit steep in places but suitable for all levels of fitness – and well worth it for the chance to spend a night camping by a waterfall. I was less impressed with the elephant ride that was on offer at the end of the trip, but I chose not to take part in this, instead feeding the elephants with sugar cane I bought elsewhere. I also took the opportunity to educate the other travelers on why I was choosing not to ride – and they in turn decided not to.

Caving in Khao Sok, Thailand

Part of the trip to the lake I mentioned above, this was an amazing experience all by itself and one I’m so glad I had the opportunity to try. When I hear caving, I think claustrophobic spaces and feeling my way in the dark. Don’t get me wrong, that’s exactly what it is but it’s not something I would have ever chosen to do so it was great to have it as part of a larger trip so I could try it out. We hiked through the jungle to these huge caves and following our tour guide, Mr A, into the darkness with nothing but a tiny flashlight in my hand, we started to make our way through this incredible cave system. Full of huge spiders, bats, and giant frogs that had never seen the outside world, the caves weren’t immediately appealing but once you looked beyond the creatures lurking within, you started to see the majesty of the structures. As we moved further through the caves, it started to get wetter until we actually had to step into a mini river that was flowing through the caves – in pure darkness other than the tiny light from the torches we wandered through the watery trail stepping further and further until we were wading through and the water reached as high as my chin. It was slippery and dangerous – good old Thailand health and safety – it was exciting and fun to be shrieking through the darkness with the A-Team. We knew we were in good hands with our tour guide and we were right – it was an awesome experience and I would really recommend it.1533715_10152703029457617_5153880471880315554_n

Canyoning in Da Lat, Vietnam

Canyoning was the one trip that everyone across Asia talks about. Long before you even set foot on Vietnamese soil, you’re hearing about Da Lat and the amazing trip that has you abseiling down waterfalls, rock climbing, sliding through rapids and free jumping from up to 18m. Pretty awesome right? I knew a long time before I went to Vietnam that I would be going to Da Lat and I would be doing this amazing day-trip. High up in the mountains, you get to see a completely different side to the country and this epic day of adventures is a fantastic way to see the stunning countryside. At just $20 and with lunch included, it’s easily the biggest bargain adventure trip I went on in South East Asia and one that will really give you that adrenaline rush. Just be sure to book through one of the two main companies that offer the trip – ask at Da Lat Central Hotel – because there have been serious injuries/deaths of people who booked with less experienced companies. This trip is not for the faint hearted.

Mountain biking in Dalat, Vietnam

I’m not much of a biker chick, before I went to Thailand I hadn’t actually been on a bicycle for ten years but they are right when they say you never forget. One of my favourite ways to get around in Thailand was by bike, especially when exploring the temples. Da Lat is the perfect place to explore by bicycle, with beautiful rides around the huge lake, places like the Crazy House to explore and lots of waterfalls and beautiful places just a short ride away. The mountainous area means the rides aren’t as easy as you might hope, the hilly landscape is hard going on your legs for the novice cycler, but that didn’t put us off. We braved crazy storms for a bike ride along some ridiculously hilly roads to check out some nearby waterfalls. With four of us it turned into a bit of an adventure as the heavens opened and lightning crashed across the sky. I would really recommend exploring this cute little town by bike, it’s the best way to really experience the landscape and a perfect way to work up an appetite before heading to the markets for dinner.

What are your favourite adventure activities from Asia? What trips would you recommend abroad or in the UK?

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Travel | My top 5 gadgets for backpackers

10488281_10152577516412617_3157113265465079401_nWhen packing for an extended trip, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the serious lack of space in your rucksack. Whether you’re someone who wants to squeeze in their entire wardrobe, or someone who just can’t stand to leave behind those chunky books, it’s never easy to decide what makes the final cut. I remember when I was first packing to come away and had no idea what to bring – luckily I ended up vetoing a lot of things because when I reached Asia I started to wish I had left it all behind and bought it cheap out there! I have met so many people on the road who have told me all their travelling secrets for packing light and keeping things simple – so many of these pieces of wisdom have had a huge impact on my journey. From rolling your clothes and stuffing your socks in your shoes, to finding multi-purpose gadgets that will cut back on the weight of your bag – there’s so many ways to slim-line your life when cutting it down to a 65l bag. Trust me, any shortcuts you find at the beginning will change your life further down the road.

Gadgets are a great way to make your life easier when on the road and a whole range of fantastic products are now available from travel and outdoor shops. I’ve tried out a few since travelling and felt conflicted over others, but I can’t deny that some of them have been a godsend when it comes to last minute packing, overnight bus journeys and any little crisis along the way. Here are some of my favourites, and a few that I’ll be investing in next time I’m on the move:

International Adapter

The most valuable item you will ever pack – not only will it work in every country so you won’t have to pack several different plugs, but they are usually very streamlined to fit neatly in your bag. It’s a good idea to get one that offers surge protection as quite often the power is unreliable or can overpower items plugged in, this will stop any of your electrical from being damaged if there is a storm or surge. Check out this one from Gap Year Travel Store for just $5.99.

Travel Towel

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I bought a travel towel when I first left home and absolutely loved it – it was lightweight, dried me twice as quickly as a regular towel and never felt damp. It made it all the way round Asia with me and was a fantastic space saver in my bag, friends who were carrying bath towels always felt a bit foolish when comparing the size of it to mine. They always come in cute colours – my first one was purple and I’m loving this new pink Solotrekk Microfibre Travel Towel that was sent to me by The Gap Year Travel Store. It’s going to make a huge difference to my packing when I get rid of the beach towel I’ve been using since Sydney, despite it being the same size, and I love that it comes in this neat little travel pouch. At just $8.99 it’s one of the cheapest and best additions to your travelling gadget collection.

Weighing Scales

I’ve never owned a set of these but have luckily always run into someone who did when I needed them most. It’s the sort of item that only one person has but the whole hostel borrows when they leave for the airport. Particularly in Australia, I’ve found certain airlines are a bit tight when it comes to hand luggage allowance and stick to the 7kg rule, even weighing to check. I’ve had o move a few things into my big bag before – and we all know how embarrassing it is to dig through your bag in the airport queue. The good thing about these is it’s just a hook so it can pack away nice and tiny when you’re ready to move on. Here are scales for just $6.99.

Waterproof Camera

My waterproof camera has been one of my favourite and most treasured possessions since coming travelling. From snorkelling and swimming with sea turtles, to splashing around in waterfalls and tubing down rivers, it has been everywhere with me capturing every moment. On so many occasions I have been the only one with a waterproof camera and afterwards all of my friends have been over the moon to see photos of all our hilarious and beautiful memories. My particular camera is a Nikon Coolpix which I would really recommend if you don’t fancy a GoPro. I actually had a GoPro as well and sold it because I found this camera a lot more quick and effective to use, plus I much preferred the picture quality.

Kindle

I’ve been conflicted over Kindles ever since they came out, I’ve been an iPad girl for quite a while so that I didn’t have to take a laptop while travelling. But I’ve always hated reading off a screen, I’m more of a traditional girl who likes the feel of a book in her hand. I’ve spent much of my time in Asia relying on book swaps, but I have to admit the books I like to read are often pretty chunk and weigh a lot. Even my Australia travel guide is huge, it would be great to cut back on the weight and space by having a Kindle to read on.

It’s amazing how such small items that seem so insignificant at home can have such a huge impact on your travelling life, but going prepared with items such as these can really help you from the second you step off the place. There’s nothing more annoying than trying to buy a cheap adapter in Bangkok as your phone battery is dying then getting one back to the hostel to find it doesn’t even work! Gadgets are one time when it is good to go prepared or make sure you buy them from a reputable company – leaving them to the markets in Asia can often mean the quality is less. Packing just a couple of these items could save you a lot of backpack space, plus a lot of time and stress later on, and who doesn’t want that? Looking for something that could make your backpacking life run more smoothly – look no further than Gap Year Travel Store for all the essentials.

What gadgets have helped you on your travels? Which items would you suggest leaving at home, and which ones should you definitely not forget?

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*This post was a collaboration with The Gap Year Travel Store, but all views remain my own.

Travel | 5 amazing massages you must experience when travelling Asia

imageI may have been living on a budget since arriving in Australia, but travelling through Asia, there was something I never scrimped on. Even when we’ve given up all our worldly possessions in favour of a super-saver life on the road, we all have to admit that there are times when all us backpackers dream of a little luxury. One thing in particular I miss since being down under is massages – back in the UK my mum and I always made sure we had a little spa break booked in to treat ourselves. Both working pretty stressful jobs with constant deadlines, it was so nice to have a full day dedicated to relaxation and pampering every now and again. Even when I couldn’t afford a day at the spa, I’d often have an evening dedicated to facials, manicures and pampering at home. It’s important to look after yourself and to allow yourself the time to really unwind. So when I arrived in Thailand, I was over the moon to realise quite how cheap and incredible the massages were – I’m not gonna lie, at one point I was getting one every day for a week until I realised I was getting addicted. You really notice the difference as a traveller, especially when you’re sleeping on rubbish bunk beds with springs in your back, or when you’re spending all day walking the streets of Bangkok or up all night dancing at a party in the jungle. Trust me, that leaves your with sore feet and a few too many knots in your shoulders, plus, if you’ve just left a stressful job and life behind, it’s nice to treat yourself and not break the bank.

Travelling across Asia, you really start to notice the similarities and some of the differences between the massages you experience – you really become an expert in knowing when you’re getting a good massage or when you’re getting one from someone who has no idea what they’re doing. I actually walked out on two massages because the masseuses clearly had no idea what they were doing and were starting to hurt my feet – but that doesn’t even make a dent in how many incredible massages I had over the five months I spent travelling Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. The further afield you go, the more you get to experience slightly more unusual types of treatment which are often quite an experience in themselves. In this post, I’m going to focus on five main types of massage I experienced while in Asia – I’m sure there are many more but these were the most incredible and the ones I would seriously recommend you try for yourself when you pass through Asia.image

Foot/Neck Street Massage

It wouldn’t be a trip to Thailand without at some point experiencing a massage on the street as you watch the world go by and let the craziness of Bangkok wash over you. I love to people watch and this was a great place to do it after a long day of walking around the city. It was heaven to slip into one of these comfy chairs while a Thai man or woman massaged your feet, or shoulders. At only around 150 baht (around £3) you can’t really go wrong can you?! My favourite place to stop was right next to a little bar that always had live music playing and it was usually the perfect accompaniment to the massage.

Thai Massage

Now this one is an acquired taste – some don’t enjoy this vigorous massage and prefer something more relaxing but Thai massage has a great effect on the body. I always left a Thai massage feeling invigorated and revived, and it is great if your muscles feel tight from lots of activities – a bit like a deep tissue massage. I personally wouldn’t have this one very often because I found that sometimes my muscles ached afterwards because it was quite rough compared to other types of massage, but if you get the right masseuse it can be amazing! This one cost around 400 baht (£4) when I was there.

Full Body Oil Massage

My absolute favourite is the one with coconut oil – this was my special treat every few weeks. I loved the way the oil felt on your skin as you were massaged and it stopped the massage from being as rough as in Thai massage. Plus the smell of the oil was just divine, your skin felt incredible afterwards because it was so soft. My favourite coconut oil massage was the very first one I had where I lay on a platform facing the ocean just after sunset on a tiny Thai island, it was beautiful watching the clouds go all shades of pink and blue as the sun slipped further below the horizon and the waves lapped against the shore. This one cost 5-600 baht (£10-12) depending on where you were.

Four Hands Bliss Massage

This one was a pretty unique experience and one I couldn’t pass up. When I was in Cambodia, I stayed at a yoga retreat where they offered this type of massage and I was urged to give it a try. Two specially trained massage therapists would mirror each other’s movements and rhythm on your body to overload your sensory capacity and send you into deep states of bliss and relaxation. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I’m so glad I tried it, at just $20 USD it was a bargain! Many came out of this massage in a real daze they were so overwhelmed by the sensations, I personally found it very invigorating and was bouncing off the walls!

Blind Shiatsu Massage

Another experience I will never forget was my hour spent with Leab at the Cambodian retreat, he is actually the person who massages Angelina Jolie at a five star hotel not far away when she visits the country, but I got to experience the deep tissue massage for just $15 USD. This was just one week after a bad bus crash left me limping and in serious pain throughout my legs and especially in one knee. I didn’t even tell Leab about this but in seconds he could tell where the pain was and set to work, we barely spoke as his English wasn’t very good, but his hands were an absolute miracle. They made an incredible difference to the pain and stiffness in my legs, I walked out of there not limping for the first time in over a week. The whole experience, just being in his peaceful presence was so healing and I was gutted when it was over! If you ever get a chance to experience type of massage – do it!

imageEven just writing this I’m desperate for a massage – the last eight months of working and partying flag out, plus three months in the bush, haven’t done much for my knotted shoulders and aching back. My mum and I are already planning a mother-daughter spa day for when I return, and I can’t wait for it after working what was probably one of the worst jobs of my life. If you don’t already have a spa day planned or can’t spare the time and money to try these Asian delights – why not put aside some money each week and treat yourself a little closer to home? You could check out Urban Retreat’s Moroccan Hammam experience at Harrods which offers a centuries old full body experience to purify and revitalise the body and soul, including exfoliation. Anyone who’s tempted to book a massage after reading this post should have a look around and definitely consider treating themselves!

Tell me about your favourite spa experiences – were they in the UK or abroad? Have you tried these massages – what did you think? 

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* this post was a collaboration with Harrods

Travel | My top city break destinations

imageCity breaks can be a great way to escape everyday life for a while without breaking the bank and without sacrificing too much of that precious time off work. Not all of us are as lucky to travel full time, and who doesn’t need a well-deserved break from work every once in a while? I’ve always been more of a beach bum than a city girl, but it’s great to check out the cultural centre of a country as you’re passing through it because I always find it gives such a different impression of the country. Plus it gives you a good excuse to give in to the tourist inside you – to do and see all the things you’ve read about. My parents love a good city break and are always jetting off for a mid-season getaway; in the last few years they’ve been to Venice, Rome, Athens and Barcelona – I’ve got a bit of catching up to do when it comes to Europe! But luckily my readers come from all over the world so I thought for my list of top city breaks I would take a look at some of my favourite cities from across the world – so whether you’re based in America, Europe, Asia or Australia – there’ll be one nearby for you to check out.

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LONDON

Of course, a particular favourite in the UK. London is a bustling, vibrant city packed full of things to do, and for me, lots of people to see. I studied near London and love returning there to visit friends and family. Plus it’s a great place to go shopping, visit one of the amazing museums, go to the theatre or spend a day at one of the fantastic markets. When I’m at home, I usually end up heading to London pretty regularly and never run out of new experiences – check what’s on listings as there are always free events going on! If you’re wanting to make a full weekend of it and want to experience somewhere new to stay. Why not try somewhere like the Rosewood hotel? Based in Covent garden, it oozes luxury and acts as a perfect luxury getaway (take me there now!).

BRIGHTON

One of my favourite cities in the UK even though I have only been twice – I last visited years ago with my boyfriend and had the most amazing weekend. It’s a beautiful city and I love that it’s right by the sea – my perfect kind of city. It has a more relaxed feel than London and is full of quaint little boutiques and independent shops when you head to the Lanes. There’s some fantastic restaurants and hotels there, and I loved staying in a beautiful boutique hotel overlooking the sea when we went.

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EUROPE

ROME

I went to Rome years ago on a school trip where we visited all the stunning historical monuments; walked around the Coliseum and threw coins in the Trevi Fountain, we pounded the streets drinking in the culture, practicing our Italian, and stuffing our faces with pizza and ice cream. I’ve always wanted to go back since, it’s a beautiful city and a perfect one if you love your food and culture, there’s just so much history waiting for you. Just remember to take good walking shoes as you’ll be out all day!

VALETTA

I went on holiday to Malta two years ago and totally fell in love with the country – it may be tiny but it’s a fantastic place to visit. Being so small you can work your way around the whole island by bus and experience every part of Maltese culture. We took a day trip to Valetta, the capital city, and loved the day we spent wandering a round the adorable little streets, around the harbour, and eating Maltese desserts from a cute little bakery in the square outside the library.

BRUSSELS

Sensing a theme here? One of the main reasons I love to travel is the food and the choice of Brussels was a great one for that. My mum and I headed here for a weekend of chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate to celebrate my 18th birthday. I loved the city, it was so beautiful and the buildings were just stunning. You could walk the streets for hours just looking around and I lost count of the amazing restaurants. It’s such a cosmopolitan city that you can eat food from all over Europe in the same street!

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FURTHER AFIELD

NEW YORK

The ultimate in city break getaways, New York has everything and more to offer. It’s a magical city and one I’ve fallen in love with over and over again, I’ve actually been there four times and still not run out of things to do. Beyond all the usual touristy activities, there’s endless restaurants to gorge yourself at, neighbourhoods within the city to explore, shopping to be done and experiences to have. I’m writing a full post on New York that will be going up over the next week make sure to look out for that if you’re planning a trip!

BANGKOK

Easily one of my favourite cities in the world – it’s a total culture shock, it’s brash, rude and extremely cheeky, you’re always in for a good time there and there is so much to see. Amazing historical monuments, beautiful temples scattered across the city, shopping centres and markets packed with everything you could imagine, a nightlife that will keep you going until sunrise. And the food, oh my god, the food. It’s dreamy and spicy, it’s exciting and unexpected. Fully expect to spend most of your time scouring street food stalls and eating the world.

HOI AN

Fancy something a little less mainstream? Head to Vietnam where one of the prettiest little cities awaits. Set upon a river, but just a few kilometres from the beach, the city has everything you could want including an incredible, rich history that lies on every corner waiting to be discovered. There are a fantastic range of shops, and plenty of opportunities to get clothes made specifically for you. Plus the food is amazing, totally unlike the food elsewhere in Asia – it brings a range of different flavours and textures to the table.

imageAfter three months living in the outback, I’ve never been more excited at the prospect of returning to a city. I’ll be flying to Melbourne in nine days and I can’t wait to experience the hustle and bustle again. Plus Melbourne has so much to offer – not only is it right by the sea but it’s full of art and music and a quirky attitude that I love. I’m looking forward to exploring and discovering all the little treasures that lurk around the city, I can’t wait to shop and be able to do city activities again like going to museums and the cinema, going to clubs and bars that don’t close at 11pm, being able to use public transport and never being far away from a shop – trust me you really appreciate that stuff after living in the Australian outback!

What is your favourite city and why? Which ones should I visit? Have you visited any of these – what did you love about it? Any cities you wouldn’t want to visit?

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Happy New Year | My 2015 highlights and what I’ve learnt | 2015

imageWow, I can’t believe 2015 is finally at an end. It’s been a hell of a year and I still can’t quite believe I didn’t dream some of it. It’s safe to say, this has been the best year of my life yet and I am happier than I’ve ever been before – if you knew how I was feeling at the end of last year you’d realise what an incredible change a year has had on my life. I ended 2014 with my life totally up in the air, I’d just quit a good, steady job, I’d put all my money into a plane ticket to the other side of the world, and I’d just broken off a nine year relationship. Pretty dramatic eh? So although I was beyond excited about my plans for travelling across Asia, Australia and New Zealand, I was also questioning whether I had made the right decision, whether I could really do this. Whether I could do this all by myself. I had a bit of a wobble in the airport over a glass of wine when I read all the amazing messages of support from friends and family, but then I realised it didn’t even matter if it all went tits up – I had the best people at home to pick up the pieces. Knowing that gave me all the strength I needed to realise it would all be fine and I was going to have an incredible adventure. So that was exactly what I did. In just five days it will be a year since I boarded that plane and set out on the trip of a lifetime, which should have been ending in just a few days but instead is still going strong with no real end in sight.

In the last 12 months I’ve been through so much – I’ve met the most incredible people and seen the most beautiful things, I’ve stayed up all night to watch the sunrise in the most amazing places, I’ve faced my own mortality and I’ve realised so much about myself and what I want out of life. It sounds cheesy, but getting away from life as I knew it has really taught me a lot about the way I want to live my life and it definitely doesn’t fit into any boxes society has carved out for me. The last 12 months has been about breaking all the rules, setting new ones and living the dream. Looking back, all the pain leading up to my decision to travel was more than worth it now because it led me to this part of my life and I wouldn’t trade this for the world. I’ve never felt freer and being trapped at home while I raised the cash to come and do this was totally worth it because I have appreciated every second since then all the more. I feel so incredibly proud of myself for doing this all alone – it’s the first time I’ve done anything truly independent of friends, family and a boyfriend so that is a huge achievement and it has been the biggest boost to my confidence. I know now that if I can survive a year of travelling solo and not only smash it, but have the most incredible time, then I can do anything!

I’ve done so many amazing things in the last year; from racing round Bangkok in tuk tuks to trekking through jungle to waterfalls, I’ve volunteered with elephants and gone hill tribe trekking in Northern Thailand, I’ve partied insanely hard down on the Thai islands and eaten copious amounts of curry and pad Thai. I’ve swam through caves and kayaked out on a lake in the centre of a 180 million year old rainforest at sunrise, I’ve hiked up to a temple to watch the sun rise over Phuket, I’ve bartered at markets and lived my days in tie-dye, I’ve clung to my friend as we raced around on motorbikes and persuaded friends not to ride elephants. I’ve spent two days on a slow boat to Laos singing annoying songs, I’ve swam through waterfalls pretending to be a mermaid, I’ve gone bowling in weird places in Laos and been tubing with a load of nut cases as we drank our way down the river bars and created chaos. I’ve fallen in love with Vietnam from the history to the food, I’ve been on cycling tours, visited waterfalls, worked out on the beach, explored markets, had clothes made for me, abseiled down waterfalls and jumped off cliffs.imageI’ve seen the beauty in rural Cambodia and the genuine kindness of the locals, I’ve been healed by yoga, meditation and the beautiful people around me, I’ve been pampered and massaged by experts, I’ve learnt all about a history I never knew happened and I’ve watched the sun rise over Angkor Wat. I’ve celebrated my 25th birthday surrounded by friends old and new in a brand new country, I’ve realised what Australia has to offer, I’ve seen cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Darwin and I’ve travelled for two months with another person. I’ve seen what the East Coast has to offer; I’ve 4WD around Fraser Island, I’ve swam with sea turtles on Whitsundays and been white water rafting, I’ve kayaked with dolphins, surfed in Byron Bay and been whale spotting, I’ve cuddled a koala and fed a kangaroo. I’ve found the best travelling family a girl could ever ask for and spent three months partying and raving my heart out with the best friends you could find. I’ve experienced the outback in Darwin and seen the Northern Territory. I’ve travelled solo across the country to live in the bush and work alone for three months.

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all be amazing – there have been rough bits too. But as one of my best friends always says, “you take the rough with the smooth”. There have been times I’ve been scared and felt horribly alone, when it’s all gone wrong and I didn’t know what to do. I’ve been robbed by taxi drivers and had to punch my way out of an argument, I’ve had to look after more than one friend after they were attacked in the most unlikely places, I’ve had to look after another friend when all of her money was stolen out of her bank account by someone we thought we could trust, and I’ve faced my own mortality three times. It’s not all smiles and sunlight when you travel and in particular those three serious crashes left me pretty shaken up. Until that point I think I always thought in the back of my mind that everything would be okay and that I was invincible but suddenly I realised that it could all come to an end quicker than you can say bye. But all of these experiences have taught me quite how important it is to live every second like it’s your last. I always have done anyway, but now it seems even more important than ever. I’ve realised that even when you’re thousands of miles away from your friends and family that there are people, good friends you meet along the way, who will come drop everything and come running to save you. And most importantly, I’ve learnt how to save myself and not rely on anyone else to do it for me.

2015 has been a year of growth, a year of triumph and success. I’ve never been prouder of myself for all I’ve achieved, and I’ve never been more excited about what the future holds. I’ve already changed my plans countless times and instead of heading home in a few days like I was supposed to, I’m staying in Australia to keep living the dream. I’ve already made travel plans for the following 18 months and I can’t wait to start living them. Instead of being the end of an incredible year and the beginning of reality kicking in, I’ve made this my reality and it feels like just the beginning of another incredible adventure. It might be egocentric but I don’t really care, this last year has shown me how amazing, strong and brave I am and it seems only right that someone who possesses these qualities would want to take on the world – so I shall. Thank you all for being with me every step of the way and I hope you’ll be sticking around for the long haul as we’ve got a long way left to go!

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Travel | Why I love visiting places untouched by time

imageI love Australia. I love it far more than I ever expected to. When I planned to come here, it was mainly because I knew I could work and save a lot of money on my way to New Zealand. Well, plans change and six months later I’m still here with no signs of leaving for another six months, I’m working on getting my regional work signed off for another year in the country and I’ve officially missed my flight to New Zealand. But I have to admit, even though I’m eager to spend another year here working and saving money, travelling to other parts I’ve yet to see, that although the country is stunning and vibrant, with incredible landscapes and people, there is something missing for me. It’s culture, history and heritage. I know Australia has its own culture and history, but the country is just so new compared to so many other places. Growing up in England we’re made aware from the very beginning of the immense history of the country; of years of kings and queens, of politics, of music, arts and literature. We grow up with castles and stately homes in our back gardens, we are raised loving Queen Liz, and Wills and Harry. When I went to Asia, that was one of the biggest draws for me – I loved the culture, the food, the music, the colour, the religion and the language that came with every country I visited.imageOne of my favourite things upon visiting each country was embracing their history and traditions by meeting the locals and spending time with them. Whether that was being adopted by an amazing Thai woman who gave up a weekend to take me on a special tour of one of the country’s greatest historical sites along with introducing me to her friends and a whole range of foods I had never tried before. Or the night I spent playing card games with a bunch of Vietnamese guys as we drank beers and talked about the history and politics of the country. In every single country I have been to, I have experienced the full depth of the country, the welcoming nature of the people and sometimes the less welcome side. There is light and dark to every country, as I found in Cambodia – but even there I managed to see the real side to the country and to find that there are some incredible people there whose kindness far outweighs many I have met at home. Watching a village ceremony take place just outside of Siem Reap was amazing – we had the chance to witness something you don’t get to see in the towns. The humble and pure nature of the ceremony was so beautiful and being welcomed in to join them was even more amazing.imageAll of these experiences have shaped my experience of travelling and it has really fuelled my desire to travel further to other countries that offer yet more of these experiences. More opportunities to learn how other cultures live and how the country’s history has shaped what we see today, that is what keeps me so fascinated by the world around me. Perhaps it is the journalist in me that really wants to know peoples’ stories, wants to know how they got there and how they live. I’m never that interested in the overall view we have of a country from the media, I love the stories of the individuals who live this life every day. I think that because of this, I have developed a list of places really want to go before it is too late to witness them in their raw, mostly untouched beauty. The world is constantly changing and so many places are on the cusp of becoming overdeveloped and taken over by tourism – bringing a McDonald’s on every corner and selfie sticks at every turn – just the kind of places I hate. So where is left to try and experience the land before time? Here’s my shortlist of places I would love to see in their full glory:

Cuba

Right on the edge of becoming commercialised by the U.S., now is the time to visit and see Havana in its full Cuban glory. Ever since reading all about my blogger friend, Mrs Ayla Adventure’s trip to Cuba and seeing her gorgeous pictures, I have been desperate to go and experience the culture first hand. I want to swim in the gorgeous sea and sunbathe on those beautiful beaches, I want to witness the incredible animals and landscapes, I want to show off my salsa dancing skills and eat all of the food, drink all of the rum while walking those historic colonial streets. If you fancy a trip to Cuba – check out the Cuba Holidays website for all you need to know.

Myanmar

Not somewhere that had ever been in my mind when I came travelling, but as I went further around Asia I met more and more people who had been there for were about to go. They told me it was a beautiful country that was relatively untouched by tourism but that now is the time to go, a few more years and it could easily end up like the rest of Asia. I loved the idea of a nation of people who weren’t yet aware of the money they could make from visitors yet – I loved the idea of visiting and just being targeted by a natural curiosity and an innocence I could fall in love with.

Madagascar

Although I’m sure much like Mauritius the main country has become very touristy, there is still so much incredible landscape and so many amazing animals you can see right in their natural habitat. Thinking like this, it’s the same principle for countries like Namibia or Belize.

Eastern Europe

This is a whole area I would love to visit – with a huge history that spans centuries there is so much to learn, so much to see and experience. With stunning castles set against beautiful landscapes, endless national parks and more, I would really love to explore this region and the bonus is that with so many countries in one area, you would easily be able to travel between them much like I did in Asia.

South America

High priority on my list at the moment because I think it will be the one area I get to visit the soonest out of all of my choices. I’m hoping to spend a few months there in 2017 travelling around and visiting countries like Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Argentina and Chile. What a way to experience full South American culture and how better than to learn a new language than by immersing myself in it? image

 

Which untouched lands would you love to explore? Have you travelled off the beaten track – which was your favourite destination? 

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Backpacking | Top 10 most useful items I packed for travelling

imagePacking is one of the hardest parts of preparing to go travelling. In your mind you dream of gallivanting on a beach with your slender, tanned frame draped in gorgeous, floaty fabrics looking like something out of an advert for Free People. The reality is, there’s just not much space for outfits like that in a 65 litre backpack! Suddenly your dreams are shattered when you realise how little space you have to pack up your whole life and carry it around with you for the next year. There’s a reason I never wrote a packing list until now, and it’s because I really do think it is difficult to provide a general one for all as each person values different items at different amounts, plus if you’re travelling to different places it makes it difficult to pack for all weathers. I had an easy job at first because I was packing for South East Asia where I knew I would be needing just very light clothing, swimwear and sandals. I packed extremely lightly and decided to buy stuff along the way if I needed more clothing, and most of the items I took with me were ones I already had instead of buying new when I knew it would be cheaper in Asia. But when it came to arriving in Australia I was totally unprepared – I had no clothes for city life just hippy tie-dye dresses and flip-flips. I had to buy jumpers and even a coat just so that I could stay warm in the Sydney winter. But I didn’t mind this too much because it just meant that I hadn’t needed to carry the items around Asia for five months with me.

I’ve definitely noticed over time that there are some items that I packed way back when I first set out in January that have stayed with me ever since and remain as useful as ever, while a lot of other things I brought with me have since found their way to the bin or charity shop. These are the things I want to talk about because some of these things are the ones you might not think of when packing your bag, but they might turn out to be the things you need most. Check out my list below:

  1. One pair of leggings, jeans and tights. These have been a saviour and are still used all the time – the jeans were my saviour when I arrived in Sydney and it was freezing, while the leggings are the comfiest thing ever to travel in on long bus rides or flights when the air con gets a bit much. Tights are just great – they can go under any dress, playsuit or shorts and help to make them look a bit smarter or just keep you warm but take up no room at all in your bag.

  2. Sportswear and a good pair of trainers. You might not be the sportiest person in the world, but when you’re walking everywhere, you’re trekking through jungles or up mountains, or you’re walking on uneven ground, trainers are a godsend. They do take up a big of space in your bag, but if you get super cute and comfy ones you’ll end up wearing them most of the time when you’re travelling, or just tie them on to the bag. Sports shorts, yoga pants and sports bras are great because they not only look really good, they’re comfy for travelling in and for doing all kinds of activities. (M and M Direct)

  3. A scarf or pashmina. Pick up one in Bangkok’s markets, they’re gorgeous. This is such a fantastic item to have in your hand luggage or handbag at all times – throughout Asia I never left the hostel without it. It’s so good to have one on a flight or bus when the air con gets too cold, or just to have it to sling around your shoulders as a mark of respect if you stumble across a temple or shrine you just have to explore. With so many religious sites in Asia, it’s always good to be prepared.

  4. Padlocks. I say plural because it’s always a good idea to have one larger one and a few smaller ones – it was so important to have a larger one to lock up your valuables in Asia because there were thieves around and your money/passport/iPad is worth a lot more there. But it’s also good to have some smaller padlocks for your bag when travelling on buses or trains. It gives you peace of mind more than anything.

  5. Memory cards. Always pack a few of different sizes just in case one is unreliable or decides to let you down when you’re in the middle of nowhere and see something incredible. You don’t want to be stuck without enough storage when you’re travelling – there’s just too much to capture.

  6. If you’re travelling in Asia, you might not arrive with it but you should definitely pick up some coconut oil. It’s amazing stuff and I swear by it – you can use it for anything, your skin, face, hair, nails, lips… And it all comes in one bottle. Trust me, when backpacking the less bottles you have weighing you down the better, plus it’s cheap over there.

  7. More than one adapter – luckily I packed three because when I arrived in Asia, I found that one of them would only work in certain plug sockets while the other would work in all of them, and my other one was specifically for Australia. Now remember you can buy them along the way so don’t carry them unnecessarily, but it’s always good to have a spare.

  8. When I first went travelling I packed make-up remover wipes, now I swear by baby wipes. They’re cheaper, come in bigger packs, better for your skin and you can use them for anything. They’re so great for when you’re travelling long-haul on a flight, bus or train and just want to feel clean again.

  9. Tiger balm or bite cream – just accept it, when you go travelling everything will be trying to eat you alive. Mosquitoes, midges, sandflies, bed bugs and all the rest – you’ll get to a point where you’ve been bitten so much your legs are a mess and you wonder what it was like to not feel itchy. It’s unpredictable and annoying but always best to be prepared – depending on where you are, you will use different products but carrying them with you is a must.

  10. Medical kit – now I’m not talking swabs and gauze, but plasters, Imodium, painkillers and antiseptic wipes can be such a saviour if you fall off a motorbike or are in a car accident and have to clean yourself up, if you become ill or get food poisoning. Just having basic supplies with you can mean the difference between infections and smaller scars, it can mean avoiding an uncomfortable night spent squatting over a train toilet.

When it comes down to it, these are definitely the items that have been used the most out of my backpack and interestingly only two of these items are actually clothes – the most practical. Bear that in mind if you’re packing for a long trip, I know it feels like the most important thing is to look the part but you can buy clothes all over the world and not many people actually care what you look like when you’re travelling – they’re more interested in the smile on your face and the stories you have to tell. I know girls who rocked up to Australia with their hairdryer, straighteners, curlers, a shedload of makeup and a whole wardrobe of going out outfits – I’ll be honest and say you don’t need it. It’s nice to have some of that stuff so you can actually make an effort sometimes, but you don’t need a suitcase full of the stuff, why not save the space and make your bag lighter for travelling further? Plus when you’re moving between places so often, nobody ever realises you’ve been wearing the same outfit on the last 10 nights out. When you’re camping in the outback and haven’t showered for a week, it really doesn’t matter what label you’re wearing. Get back to basics and enjoy it. My best advice, if you plan to travel to Asia, just pack as light as possible and buy everything there – you’ll save a fortune and you’ll only end up buying all the clothes anyway!

What are your most useful items? What do you wish you had packed on your last trip? What do you never leave home without? 

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