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imageGoing out for dinner has always been one of my favourite things to do. It doesn’t matter whether it’s street food in Bangkok, a luxury three-course meal in a fine-dining restaurant or a stuff-yourself-silly night at the local steakhouse. I’m always open to trying new foodie experiences and I’d always much rather that than a night of partying, money much better spent if you ask me! Especially when it comes to supporting independent and local businesses, I’m not really one for chain restaurants and would always much rather eat at restaurant that isn’t mass-producing its food. Give me fresh, local produce and a creative means of cooking any day. It’s not just the food – although that is a huge part of why I love it – it’s also the social experience of trying new foods with friends or loved ones, of sitting around a table and eating together. I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to meals, growing up it was always the one time of day my family all sat down together with no TV or other distractions to eat and catch up on what we had all been up to. When you’re living such busy and different lives, I think it’s important to really take this time together. As a backpacker, getting to know people always seems to be done over dinner and a few beers, eating together is once again the thing that brings us all together of an evening.imageLondon is a city full of chain restaurants and well known brands, but for me, this just doesn’t do it when I have a weekend away. I’d much rather peruse the food markets and explore quirky little restaurants with a lot more personality for a bit of a unique experience. I was invited along to review RustiKo Soho, a new independent Italian restaurant in the heart of Old Compton Street, just a stone’s throw from some of the best theatres in London. As we walked up to the restaurant, we were excited by the cosy look of the place, the quirky, candle-lit interior, and a funky blues playlist we could hear muffled behind the windows. I was promised “the vintage Soho experience” from an evening there and I can’t say I was disappointed, we were made to feel so welcome from the second we stepped in the door. The size and the decor gave it such a friendly vibe, more like you had hired out the whole venue for your friends than the formality of a restaurant. Every bar stool was already taken by those enjoying the fantastic range of prosecco, classic and twisted cocktails, as we were escorted to our table. I loved the rustic vibes of the restaurant, it was just my kind of place and I could only imagine the other levels would deliver more of the same.imageOne glance at the menu showed me we were in for a treat as we struggled to choose our favourite dishes, there was so much choice and so many of my favourite dishes. Despite having limited numbers of dishes on the menus, every single dish on there sounded fabulous and there was definitely something for everyone. The waiters were incredibly helpful with suggesting wines to go with the dishes and offering recommendations for combinations of dishes. In the end, we started with the garlic chilli shrimp and polenta chips to start, with some garlic pizza bread. It was the first time I had tried polenta chips but they were delicious, and the garlic pizza bread was a huge hit with that super melty, delicious cheese. My favourite had to be the delicious garlic chilli shrimp – one of my favourite dishes to have as a starter – I was so impressed by the flavours and spice, it was perfect and I’ll definitely be ordering that again.imageFor our second course, we spent ages choosing our dishes, but in the end we couldn’t resist the lobster linguine and the gnocchi. Now gnocchi is a dish that I’ve had a lot of disappointment over in the past, I’ve had the sad looking potatoey lumps slapped on a plate several times and decided it wasn’t for me. But finally, we tried a gnocchi that was tasty and had the perfect texture, the dumplings were cooked in a tasty mozzarella, sun-dried tomato and basil sauce that was perfect for my vegetarian sister. The absolute highlight was my lobster linguine, a dish that I have loved for many years, I couldn’t resist seeing the chef’s take on it. This time it was half a lobster cooked with cherry tomatoes, spring onions and a brandy sauce, even now as I write this my mouth is watering at the memory. It was a deliciously rich dish full of flavours, but the chef had combined them so perfectly that they didn’t overtake the delicate taste of the lobster. It’s a fine balance and there’s nothing worse than a seafood dish that overpowers seafood with strong flavours, the brandy was a perfect accompaniment. I was so impressed with the quality of the food, and the portion size, we were left stuffed and couldn’t even manage dessert!imageWatching the other patrons, I couldn’t resist peeking at their food and was excited at the sight of the juicy steaks, the light pasta dishes and the small plates (piattini) that were perfect for sharing. The couple next to us were loving their meal and really recommended the dishes, particularly the rib-eye. Showing the diversity of Soho, the restaurant was filled with a real range of people, it really showed how it was perfect for all occasions whether it was a family meal, a romantic dinner for two, or cocktails with the girls. Even better, after dinner, we were taken downstairs to explore the newest addition to the restaurant, the newly-opened basement bar, The Shed. With a real vintage Soho feel, the bar is a perfect place to relax with a drink after dinner, or to spend an evening with good friends. Just a small bar, it has a really exclusive feel as you walk down the spiral staircase to see cute wooden seating, bookshelves and quirky little decorations. I loved the swing music soundtrack and it went perfectly with the amazing look of the bar. There were already a couple of groups down there enjoying a few drinks and I noticed, that although the place felt busy and bustling, it was never so loud that we struggled to hear each other. RustiKo had managed to find a perfect balance between atmosphere and the foodie experience, and the result was just lovely. It really was the rustic Italian experience nestled in the streets of Soho, and I can’t recommend this hidden gem enough. Book your table now.image

Have you been to RustiKo – how was your experience? Can you recommend any other independent restaurants? What’s your favourite Italian dish?

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11263156_10152789718277617_6876131025164693250_nTravelling through Vietnam was one of the most exhausting stints of backpacking I have done, but one of the most rewarding. It’s an incredibly beautiful country with such a rich history, but I seriously underestimated how huge the country is and quite how long it would take to travel between places. I spent almost every night on overnight buses or trains, just trying to grab a few hours sleep before exploring the next stop on my journey. Read about how I managed to see Vietnam in 2 1/2 weeks. One of the truly amazing places I was lucky enough to visit, but sadly didn’t have time to write about in full at the time, was the breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Site, Halong Bay. Including around 1,600 tiny islands and islets, with towering limestone cliffs scattered across this stunning seascape, it’s one of the places that remains etched on my memory. You know how some places just take your breath away, how some places are just so spectacular that you can’t believe you were one of the lucky ones who got to experience it first hand? Well Halong Bay was like that for me, I got to experience it with an amazing group of people from all over the world from the comfort of our own little cruise.11266462_10152789772667617_2663953592848547660_n11070949_10152789765032617_239983065223812444_nI’ll be honest and say that the name of my cruise company has slipped my memory now, but there are endless numbers of companies to choose from. From the ultra luxurious to the backpacker party boats, there’s something for everyone. I was a bit bored of backpacker partying, so I plumped for a mid-level boat with all the comforts I needed and none of the rabble. I was excited at the thought of witnessing this beautiful place with a group of adults who just wanted to appreciate natural beauty and relax rather than chugging beer. I wasn’t disappointed, the boat was amazing, so well-equipped and comfortable for the cheap price. I shared a cabin with one other woman and we had our own en suite bathroom, it was a perfect size for the two of us and there was lots of space up on the main deck and in the cabin for us to spend the rest of the days. The inside cabin came with a well-stocked, although expensive, bar, dining tables and even a small club set-up at one end for entertainment. Up on deck was our favourite area, lots of space for sunbathing, taking in the view and relaxing.11009109_10152789763827617_4078149230160823855_n11329990_10152789718307617_2680379706561751748_nWith so many different types of cruises, come just as many options for entertainment during the trip. I chose a two day, one night trip around the bay that took us on a cruise all around the stunning islands. The first day we spent the afternoon exploring some of the most incredible caves I have seen yet, Surprise Cave, in Bo Hon Island, is absolutely huge despite seeming quite small at first glace, as you step further into it’s hidden depths you are met with an enormous cave system full of twists and turns. Our guide took us on a walk around the caves, pointing out strange rock formations that have been given nicknames over the years as light poured in through tiny cracks and crevices in the rock. It was an amazing sight and a real contrast to the stunning openness of the rest of the bay. You’re really struck by the vastness of the landscape when you come out of the caves to find a panoramic view across Halong Bay. After we made our way back to the boat, we were treated to a Vietnamese cooking class where we made our own fresh and friend spring rolls ready for dinner. It was messy, good fun as we watched the demonstration and then tried our hand at making our own rolls, with both vegetarian and meat options available.11143494_10152789718237617_480855464583478058_n11150784_10152789764887617_4287145996265943834_nThat night we enjoyed a feast of delicious Vietnamese dishes as a group, it was lovely to sit around with so many different types of travelers. Some were couples on a two-week holiday, others were backpackers who were part-way through a year-long trip, others were travelling the length of the country. It’s easy to get stuck around backpackers when you stay in hostels, it can be refreshing to meet different types of travellers and hear about their experiences as well. The evening was spent drinking beers and watching the sunset from the top of the boat – a perfect end to our first day in Halong Bay. I woke bright and early the next day and got to see the sun come up over the Bay, is was so beautiful and peaceful. No-one apart from the workers and fishermen were up yet and I felt like I had the whole Bay to myself – that blissful moment of pure stillness is how I remember Halong Bay. Then it was wake-up time for everyone else because we were all going kayaking around the Bay, I shared a kayak with one of the other ladies on the boat and we had a hilarious time trying to manoeuvre our boat around the islets. It was lovely to spend some time out on the water and it was amazing to explore the floating market and village near where we docked – it’s just amazing to witness how these people live out on the water in their little huts. Such a simple lifestyle in such a stunning setting, I felt so lucky to experience just a taste of their lives as we waved at them from the kayak.11140073_10152789718447617_1288152903033423786_n11167977_10152789718337617_8050975412757218929_nOnce we rowed our way around the islands, we couldn’t resist jumping into the clear, fresh waters for a swim under the morning sun, it was a shock to the system but the perfect way to start the day. After breakfast, we took a slow cruise back to the harbour, ending our trip with a smile. It was such a well-needed break from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi, and the stresses of travelling after a rocky start in the country. Getting out to sea was a perfect way to show you why you were travelling, why you had ventured across thousands of miles to do this – for these incredible natural sights, for the people you meet and for the amazing experiences you have along the way. Whatever you do, don’t miss a visit to Halong Bay – you won’t experience anything like it anywhere else. Read more about my experiences in Halong Bay here.1524651_10152789718367617_3879816317198010925_n

Have you been to Halong Bay – tell me about your experience. Can you recommend any cruise companies? Have you been to a bucket list location?

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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

TRAVEL

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STAY

EAT

DRINK

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ACTIVITIES

WORK

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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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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1937094_424379561084959_4293932723902172390_nFlying has always been my favourite way to travel. I love the excitement of stealing away in the middle of the night to catch a flight to somewhere exotic. I love the hustle and bustle of airports and people watching in departures as I try to guess where everyone might be going. You might think I’m crazy, but I even love long-haul flights when you can spend hours eating, drinking wine from the free bar and watching all the movies you missed in the cinemas. I’ve long since lost count of how many times I’ve soared through the air in my 26 years, but I’ve clocked up a hell of a lot of air miles in that time and had some interesting experiences along the way. From the time the pilot was forced to do an emergency landing in the Seychelles because there was something wrong with the plane, to the time my dad mixed up the flight times and we ended up at the airport before it had even opened on Christmas Day.

I’ve been lucky and never had any really bad flights considering how much I have travelled, but we’ve all been subject to those really awful passengers – the ones who make everyone’s life hell for those hours in the air. As I said, I’ve always been a bit of a people-watcher and sitting in the airport is one of the best places to do it. I love grabbing a drink in a bar and watching as everyone hurries past to catch their flight – you can tell instantly the problem passengers who will drive those sitting in their vicinity crazy over the following hours.11822581_384058798450369_6691757134935381958_n-1

 

So who really are the worst offenders?

Lads on tour

Usually late, usually drunk, always loud. Whether its lads or ladies on tour, it’s bloody annoying to be stuck sitting in a crowd of people headed for a festival or party holiday when they behave like school kids. It shouldn’t have to be spelled out for adults but throwing things around the plane, shouting and screaming at each other, and being drunk and mouthy to other passengers is not okay. I remember being on a flight to Hideout Festival in Croatia and seeing other groups acting like this – I was embarrassed to be among them. It’s possible to have fun and have a laugh while being respectful of everyone else and it starts by not getting drunk in the airport and holding up the plane.

Latecomers

I can’t deal with people who are terminally late, it drives me crazy. I’m always on time and I never understand people who can justify holding other people up. I don’t mind when people are late the odd few times, but when it is every single time and you are impacting on other people’s lives it is just rude. When it comes to flights, I understand there are extenuating circumstances sometimes, but often you see the people who stumble on to the flight last and can just tell they weren’t paying attention to the announcements, to their flight time or to anything other than the bar. When you fly, it isn’t much to ask that you get yourself to the departure gate on time. It’s important to realise that every second you hold up the plane, is impacting on every passenger’s connecting flights, transfers and delays. Every second you waste at the bar is time that could mean missing your flight altogether, or could even mean the flight missing it’s departure window on the tarmac.

Snoring snoozers

Just like screaming children, there is always a deafening snorer on board the plane. The one who snores so loud they wake themselves up and glare around the plane to see who was making the noise. People can’t help being a snorer, but if you do snore really loudly, it might help to try a mouthguard when you’re on board to allow the other passengers to get a little shut-eye during the flight.

Germ spreaders

Something that often can’t be helped but always grosses me out. One thing I hate about flying is breathing the recycled air as it is pumped out of the air conditioning over and over again during a long-haul flight. It’s made even worse when you can hear someone snuffling and sneezing a few seats over, all those germs flying around the plane and being pushed through the vents into your lungs. Maybe I’ve watched too many movies where some horrible epidemic is spread in the course of a flight, or maybe I’ve just boarded too many planes completely healthy and then felt horrendous a day later. It’s never nice being that person who is ill on a plane – been there and it’s horrible – but it’s also not great to be the person who is being sneezed over in a confined space.

Screaming children

We all know that feeling of doom when we’ve paid out half a month’s wages for that flight across the world and two minutes in a kid behind us starts screaming. I do understand it can be difficult to travel with children sometimes, when they’re bored or tired or their ears hurt and their natural response is to cry or scream. But I didn’t pay a small fortune to sit in a confined space for 14 hours with a screaming child in my ear. My parents travelled with me from when I was barely a few months old and never had instances when I screamed or cried for the whole flight, I just happily played or slept through the journey. Likewise, the baby behind me on my flight back to London was peaceful and quiet the whole journey – I didn’t even know he was there until we left the plane. It is possible, and it makes everyone’s life a bit better.

Impatient flyers

The ones who just can’t wait for anyone and jeopardise everyone’s safety in the process. This is a real pet peeve of mine – I can be pretty impatient but when it comes to travel I’m pretty chilled. It really frustrates me when you see people walking around the cabin when seatbelt signs are on, when you see people on their mobile phones when they’ve been told to turn them off and when you get people grabbing their bags and queuing to get off the plane before it has even reached the terminal. The safety measures are in place for a reason and by ignoring them you put everyone at risk because you simply can’t chill out, wait and read a book.

Panicky passengers

Those flustered flyers who freak out at the first sign of turbulence, over-think everything and hog the attention of the air stewardess when you’re trying to call them over. I totally understand that some people are nervous flyers, but there’s a difference between the ones who are genuinely fearful and the ones who are just attention-seeking and need someone to tell them to get a grip. My mum is a bit of a nervous flyer but only if you draw attention to it, if I distract her with wine and movies she is absolutely fine and actually enjoys the flight.

What was your worst plane experience? Are you guilty of any of these? Can you think of any other offenders on flights?

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Treehouse, Costa RicaI’ve been travelling since I was barely a few months old and throughout a lifetime of travelling I’ve collected endless precious memories of exotic sights, sounds, smells. From a young age one of my favourite memories was always of getting to know the locals, whether that meant being taught to fish then barbecuing up the catch of the day with them, watching morning prayers and being blessed by priests or drinking rum on the beach. Getting to know the true culture of a country is only possible by spending time talking to and living with the locals – seeing the world through their eyes. When I was backpacking across Asia and Australia solo, it was just as important to try and have a truly authentic experience alongside all the fun and games that comes with backpacker culture. I don’t choose one over the other, I think we have so much to gain by experiencing both when we travel. The more I experience of one, the more I crave of the other.Mountain Home, Zakopane, PolandThinking back over the last 18 months, some of my most incredible memories come from the experiences I had when I truly immersed myself in the culture of the amazing countries I was exploring. When I got lost in the old town of Phuket and stumbled into a famous artist’s gallery where I spent the evening talking art and painting with his daughters. The time when I spent a week living with a group of Thai Rastafarians who taught me about their favourite jazz musicians and how to crack coconuts. When I was almost adopted by an incredible woman who treated me like a daughter, introduced me to all her friends and taught me all about the ruins of temples dotted around her city. In Vietnam, the elderly gentleman who told me all about what it was like to live through the Vietnam War and how his family survived. Crossing oceans and desert to outback Australia, the amazing friends who helped me cope with three months of farm work with lazy days at the river and long nights laying in a ute under the stars. I feel so lucky to have experienced such things.Temple, Gianyar, IndonesiaThen I heard about Homestay – an alternative accommodation choice to hotels and hostels where guests rent a room in the home of a local – sounds amazing right? It offers you a totally different experience and a chance to really experience the culture, and daily life in the area you visit. Homestay.com is running in over 150 countries globally, with 25,000 live hosts ready to welcome guests and some incredible accommodation opportunities just waiting to be explored. While many of my friends have recommended trying out Couchsurfing or Airbnb for a more authentic experience when travelling, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try any of these schemes. But already Homestay has proven popular with solo travellers and backpackers who want to take the opportunity to try something a bit different and experience some magnificent properties around the world. I love the idea of getting away from hotels, which can feel so impersonal, and hostels, which can sometimes be overwhelmed by backpackers who are more interested in getting drunk. This is a great way of getting to enjoy a night in your own room, while getting to experience the life of the natives.Lakeside Retreat, Halifax, CanadaThere are so many amazing affordable options worth exploring, including a traditional Balinese house just steps away from Pulagan Rice Field UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its very own family temple for just $14 a night. In Costa Rica, travellers can stay in a treehouse surrounded by flowers and fruit orchards in the hills of San Antonio de Escazu from just $71 a night. Or stay on an organic farm in a jungle village in Northern Thailand where they grow everything from bok choi and lemongrass to longan and lychee, and guests can learn the art of Karen weaving, bamboo rafting and bathe in waterfalls for $29 a night.Romantic Villa, Mykonos, GreeceFor those who fancy testing their sea legs, there is even an option to sail from one Greek Island to another on a 50ft yacht with Steph and Andy, and their two ship cats Puss and Fluff, for $213 a night. Or if you really need to get away from it all, you can experience that real millionaire lifestyle for the tiny price tag of $169 a night when you stay on your own 75,000 sq ft private island of Zopango, Nicaragua. Head to a lakeside retreat in Halifax, Canada, to experience a one-of-a-kind home with stunning scenic lake views from $64 a night, or New Zealand offers a converted barn overlooking Mount Taranaki, an active volcano, from $73 a night. Mountain lovers will be in their element  with the wooden chalet awaiting guests in Poland from $23 a night, at the base of the Tatras Mountains it draws skiers, mountain climbers and hikers all year round.  16th C Artist's Cottage, Avignon, France

What an amazing experience to stay in any of these unique locations – I’d love to try out Homestay on one of my next trips across Europe. If you fancy doing the same, click here to book online.

Have you tried staying with the locals – what your best native experience? What was the most unique accommodation you have ever stayed in?

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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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