Istanbul: A Bazaar Weekend

One of the best things about Istanbul is just how many cultures are visually impacting the city at any given time. Bridging the gap between Europe and Asia, the city is situated on the banks of the strategically important Bosphorus strait, known historically as a meeting point for much of the Old World’s trade. Founded in 330 AD as Constantinople, Istanbul is now a modern day gateway to experiencing a mix of religion, culture and history. One of the main reasons why I wanted to visit Istanbul for so long was due to the geographical split between Europe and Asia. The cultural riches of Europe and Asia being carefully blended with Turkish and Arabic just made the ancient city incredibly exciting to visit.

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From a traveller’s perspective, a great thing about Istanbul is that it’s ridiculously cheap. Despite only stopping in the city for 72 hours, we managed to see most of the main attractions, experience traditional Turkish activities, order more Turkish food than we could finish and try the different Turkish beers (which for an Islamic country where alcohol is against the cultural norm, were surprisingly good). However, on average we spent £170 each due to it being so cheap overall that we didn’t really care about being “proper traveller” and looking for the cheaper places only.

One important tip for travelling to Istanbul is taking steps to ensure you don’t get ripped off. A major part of this is definitely downloading the taxi app “BiTaksi”. If you want to save money then this app offers the perfect platform to do so. For example, some taxis were quoting 50 Lira when you called them off the street compared to 12 Lira when you used the app. However, you could be waiting up to 20minutes+ just to get a taxi because how Istanbul is laid out is really frustrating (not least as it’s essentially three cities built directly over each other as the centuries have progressed). As mentioned earlier, Istanbul was founded millennia ago, and the city feels like it’s just been built upon over the last 2000 years instead of properly planned out. Therefore, if you have less than 72hours in Istanbul I would recommend just spending a little bit more money on calling down a taxi and haggling with them. The key thing is you can see how much the fare would be on the app and use that to haggle a price. (Note: £1 = 7.7 Lira as of 31/5/19) A heads up on the toll road going under the Bosphorus that you take to get over to the Asian side. The toll is 23 Lira, however, taxi drivers argue so much with you that in the end, the wasted time isn’t worth the Lira you save. We got 3 taxis that took the toll and paid 40, 23 and 32.

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When we first arrived in Istanbul we decided to get a taxi from the airport to the Besiktas area. Following a recommendation from a friend, we ate breakfast at a hotel restaurant near the Bosphorus river. The restaurant, Ortakoy Hotel, served a delicious Turkish breakfast which in reality we had no idea what we were getting ourselves in for. Omletes, cheese, fresh salads, olives, breads just kept coming to our table and before we knew it we couldn’t finish it. The people were so welcoming and hospitable, allowing us to try free Turkish coffee and tea which as someone that doesn’t like either was surprising really nice!

From here, we left to go to the Hagia Sofia which was located about a 5-minute walk away from our hotel that we were staying at. Our hotel, found on AirBnB, was around £30 each for 2 nights and was in an amazing location. Our place was called “The Heart of Sultanahmet & Family Apartment III” – if you’re looking for a budget place with a great location then this is the place for you.

What I will say about both the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque directly opposite, the architecture of both buildings is absolutely stunning. Truly standing the test of time, you can only stare and marvel that these buildings which were built many centuries ago stand in such perfect condition. The entry to the Hagia Sofia is 60 Lira (You can pay by cash or card). Although, annoyingly at the time of our visit, inside there was some scaffolding though this doesn’t take away from the architecture and the chandeliers inside which were really impressive. We spent some time here taking some pictures and walking around the different parts of the old church-mosque. We eventually left the Hagia Sofia before walking across the park to the Blue Mosque. Although we went into the Mosques garden outside, we didn’t actually end up going in. With it being an active mosque, we found that you need to go at the right time as when prayers are on you cannot enter.

To put our stay in Istanbul into some perspective, we landed at 5.30am in the morning and couldn’t check in until 2 pm so we did spend a lot of time in the Hagia Sofia area as we were so close to our hotel, exploring the local markets which only prepared us for what was to come. When we did eventually check in to our accommodation, however, we quickly left to head to the Grand Bazaar. It is believed to be the first shopping mall in the world, with some 5,000 venders along 60 different indoor and outdoor streets. In 2014, it was the most visited attraction in the world with over 91m visitors. As you can imagine attracting that amount of people makes for the whole experience to be “Bizarre”. It’s one of the craziest places I have ever visited, and probably one of my favourite things I have done whilst travelling. Until you go, it’s hard to imagine being surrounded by thousands of people, crammed together with people shouting you over to buy from them. But the thrill you get from haggling and experiencing the hospitality of the locals is second to none. If you only had time to do one thing in Istanbul I would 100% recommend doing this before anything else. You can also eat local cuisines as well as relax and enjoy a drink within the Bazaar as well.

Upon leaving the craziness of the Bazaar we headed over to the Galata Tower, to hopefully watch the sunset and get something to eat at its 360 view restaurant. Unfortunately, the tower had a line about a mile long all the way to the restaurants in the vicinity, so we decided to just eat elsewhere and then later go to a bar. One of the rooftop bars we went to was called “Snog” which we liked so much so we re-visited the next day. It has a really good view of the European and Asian parts of the city, whilst also giving you a great view of the tower. Although we were very tempted to enjoy the nightlife, we got home around 2ish as were we exhausted having not slept the night before. Nevertheless, the bars we did go to were actually really good! If you’re thinking of going out in Istanbul, the reviews online are all really good, and there is a pub crawl you can sign up to.

The next day we woke up relatively early and ate at one of the restaurants around where we were staying. Usually, I would get the name of the restaurant, but genuinely in the area, we were staying they were all pretty much similar to each other. Again, we enjoyed a delicious Turkish breakfast before going over to a traditional Turkish Bathhouse. The bathhouse we went to was called Cagaloglu Hamami. You can opt for a range of packages of what you want to do. We opted for the bath experiences + the face mask which was £25 each. To some, this may sound quite expensive, but I can honestly say I have never felt so relaxed during or after an activity. Laying down inside the steam room was so relaxing and allowed you to just rest and enjoy where you were. We were tempted to get the Turkish massage as well, but as we didn’t know how long it would take we opted against it.

Since we hadn’t spent much time over in the Asian part of the city, we decided to get a taxi via the app to the Fenerbahce area where we headed over to the marina and got a drink. We wanted to take some canoes out on the Bosphorus river, however, after some walking, we just couldn’t find the place where maps said it was located. That’s one thing you should just come to accept about Istanbul, taxis and maps can be very, very frustrating. Nevertheless, the marina area was really nice and due to it being such a nice day was the perfect place to stop and get a drink and a cheesecake.

When we were back in the European part, we headed over the Cistern Basilica, which had been supplying water to the city from the 6th century when the Byzantine Romans had built it. The entry fee is only 20 Lira but to be honest it was really an underwhelming place. Although I am not sure what I expected from the place, the lack of water and just the large number of people didn’t make for the place I thought it would have been….. However…

We then came across a little “photo op” area where there were professional cameras and outfits people were trying on. We decided to pay the 40 Lira to dress up and get our photo taken, and the next 15 minutes were so random that it made for such a great experience. We got dressed up in traditional Ottoman outfits, and after you can pay for the CD of your photo shoot (or just pay for hard copies of four select photos). Let me know what you think of our outfits below…

After we got changed back into our regular clothes, we headed back over to the Galata Tower area where we ate again at one of the many restaurants in the area. What I liked about this area so much was the range of food available, especially Turkish food. The good thing about Turkey is that you can tell its a very proud nation, namely from the abundance of flags and images of national figures virtually everywhere, meaning that it hasn’t just become a Western tourist trap and that its food is available everywhere.

Like the previous night, we headed over to Snog bar to catch a glimpse of the sunset and have a couple of drinks and relax on our last night. Before we headed to our hotel, we went and smoked some shisha, as when you go to Turkey it’s one of the things that the locals keep telling you to try.

On our last day in Istanbul, we only had a few things left to tick off our list. The first of them was the Galata Tower which I had wanted to go up since the first day we arrived. The entry was 35 Lira which, considering the view, is pretty reasonable. One of the reasons I really wanted to visit so much was because of the 360 degree view of the city at the top. The view was actually so good! You got to see all the major landmarks, and I do wish we had the chance to see the sunset from up here. The drinks are also reasonably priced in the tower, as coke and freshly pressed lemonade were just 7 Lira.

Finally, we ended our trip in Istanbul back at the Grand Bazaar where we just walked around, hunting for deals, and enjoying the experiences. I will repeat again, the Grand Bazaar is definitely one of the best places I have visited anywhere in the world, so if you get the chance to visit Istanbul do not miss it!

I would like to end this article by just explaining how amazing Istanbul is as a city. It can be quite frustrating, especially when you want to get from one place to another. However, the food is just sublime and the people are so friendly and welcoming. In terms of the religious, cultural and historical importance, there is truly no better place than Istanbul.


View the rest of our Istanbul pictures here.

Dog Sledding: Tromso Villmarkssenter

Back in January 2018, my friends and I travelled the length of Norway where we ended our trip visiting Villmarkssenter in Tromso. Here we experienced one of our best travel moments since starting travelling. As a big dog lover, getting the chance to dog sled in the Arctic circle and spend hours with the dogs was amazing!

However, since writing about my experiences in my Norway Part 2 post, I have had some comments and emails from readers who were worried that dog sledding is cruel to the dogs. Some other readers also commented that it was no different than elephant riding. This was when I decided to look more into Villmarkssenter to show people there was a huge difference between dog sledding and elephant riding.

Firstly, my friends and I have all volunteered to work with elephants that are now in sanctuaries, where we cleaned and fed them. Having the chance to spend our money helping elephants, instead of spending it riding and abusing elephants meant a great deal to us.

Secondly, we try as much as we can to always research into the companies we use so we don’t contribute to animal abuse.

Therefore, I decided to contact Tromso Villmarkssenter for an interview on how they treat their dogs and how their centre puts the dog’s welfare at the forefront at anything they do.

Interview:

  1. If it wasn’t for Tromso Villmarkssenter then what would happen to these dogs? And Could you explain where the dogs come from and why they come to Tromso Villmarkssenter?

Our kennel is not really meant to house rescue dogs. We are partly a racing kennel, around 40 of our dogs are in the “A-team”, the racing team – the rest is mainly running in the guest tours. We are therefore actively breeding dogs for racing, most of them live from the start until the end of their lives at our center! Since Tove bought her first Huskies in 1984, we have slowly built up our kennel by breeding and buying from other mushers.

But of course, we have also taken in dogs from people who couldn’t take care of them anymore, mostly from Norway and Finland.

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  1. Does dog sleding involve any violence to the animals?

We are mushers and dog sled racers, our Alaskan Huskies are at the same time our closest coworkers, our most important resource and biggest capital investment. Our whole company depends on their health, happiness and willingness to work with us. Our whole life revolves around them!

Any kind of abuse against dogs before or during a race means immediate disqualification and suspension from any race in the world. But it goes deeper than that because every musher depends on the willingness of their dogs to run long distances and pull our sled through harsh weather and icy temperatures. And my dogs only give everything to me, because they know I will give everything for them. We have to be like family, to support each other in good times and bad times.

  1. What kind of care does the Tromso Villmarkssenter provide for the dogs?

That our lives revolve around the dogs is not a joke. Every day of the year we keep track of their condition, from appetite to digestion, feed them (during winter 2 meals a day + 2-3 high-energy snacks like fat or salmon, depending on how they run), clean the yard, train them and administer medical care.

Our kennel is divided into 5 pools, each housing between 40-50 dogs, overseen by 6-10 mushers and a pool leader. Mushers know “their” dogs really well, strengths as well as weaknesses and how they get along with their neighbours. They know who is not friendly towards other males/females and who must be housed apart from whom to avoid fights. Alaskan huskies are very intelligent dogs with strong personalities – and sometimes they clash. In this case, every musher insight will drop what they are doing and rush in to break up the fight. Then all dogs are checked thoroughly and if they are hurt, receive all necessary medical care. Our staff can clean and dress wounds and our veterinarian is on call at all hours of the night!

Twice a day before feeding, we check the weight of each dog to ensure they get an appropriate amount of food. And during feeding, we make sure each only eats their own portion! The mushers also know the age of all Huskies and make sure young and elderly dogs only run as much as is good for them. The responsibilities of a pool leader include filing a weekly HMS report to Mattilsynet (health and animal welfare agency of the Norwegian state) to document how much each dog is working.

And whenever we interact with the dogs, we watch the way they move, so we no not miss any early signs of injuries to muscles or joints. Our huskies are by all standards top athletes and, just as humans, can get hurt if they push themselves too much. Since our dogs stay with us into old age and often all their life, we have many dogs with different health issues. Some need daily eye or heart medication, skin or paw treatment and our mushers provide this care as well.

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As part of the care for the adult dogs, another daily task is the education of the puppies born in our kennel. The first weeks they stay separated with their mothers and later with their siblings in the puppy enclosure. Aside from giving them all necessary medical care (vaccinating, de-worming etc), we also spend a lot of time socializing them. Regular interactions with our mushers as well as guests give them tons of positive experience with humans. They love visitors because when humans visit there is either food, cuddles or play time. And for the rest of their lives, these dogs will be comfortable with being surrounded by strangers and children, an absolute necessity for a kennel accessible to the public!

It is also important to stimulate their brain from an early age on through playful training and interactions with both humans and huskies. Intelligence, responsiveness and the will to work as part of a team are basic requirements for becoming a good sled dog!

All of this is only a small part of our tasks, not even including the work that goes into the actual sledding. I hope I have given you a quick insight into the in-depth care our dogs receive in every aspect of their lives.

  1. Can people volunteer at the Villmarkssenter?

To provide all the care for the dogs as well as take good care of all our guests, our staff needs to be very well trained.  All of them go through a 2-week training program before they start working independently. This is why we generally stopped having volunteers, but we often open internships for local schools and work with students.

That being said, during summer everybody is welcome to swing by and cuddle the dogs. Every day, from June until autumn, the kennel and the Husky Café is open to the public, no entrance fee or need to book a tour.

  1. What kind of interaction can people have with the dogs if they choose to book through Tromso Villmarkssenter?

Guest can have as much contact with dogs as they want! If you’d like to sit down and have your face licked, you are welcome to do that. Many huskies are jumpy and energetic, but our calmer dogs really appreciate a good long belly rub. You can also visit our hospitalized dogs and give them an extra portion of love – all of them are friendly and really looking forward to meeting you.

  1. Through the money people spend on dog sledding, how does this go to help the dogs?

A lot of our income goes to dog food (salmon, cow, pork, lamb and chicken – only the best for our top athletes!) and a working equipment for dogs. We are also constantly maintaining and improving the facilities for the dogs. Last year we spend around 1.5 million NOK on renovations in the dog yard alone, in addition to maintaining and renewing the hospital, indoor and outdoor cages and the puppy yard. And of course, we use the income to pay for their medical care, examinations, operations and medications.

I hope after this interview this has given you a deeper insight into the level of care the dogs all get, as well as the preparation and thought that goes into that care.

If you have any more questions for me, feel free to email me from my contact page or comment down below!

If you would like to contact Villmarkssenter for any more questions or want to book any tours with them their website is below:

https://villmarkssenter.no/about-us/

Ayutthaya: A Day Trip

Back in March 2018, I visited Bangkok for my fourth time in the last 7 months. Having pretty much exhausted most of the main tourist attractions, I wanted to visit other places that I hadn’t previously been to. My girlfriend, Sita, suggested going to visit the ancient capital city of Thailand, Ayutthaya. She explained how the Burmese burnt the city leaving now ancient ruins. As someone who loves history, this got me very excited to visit!

Ayutthaya is a place that you will find fun to explore if you’re interested in learning more about Thai culture and its history. However, I know some of you won’t be interested in history, temples and ruins, and so I thought I would pre-warn you!

Modern-day Ayutthaya has been built on top of the ancient ruins left by the Burmese attack. It’s quite strange to be able to walk around an ancient city that has all the amenities of a modern day city. The two intertwined so much that it does make for a great experience to be able to compare two completely different eras at the same time.

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In this post, I won’t go into every temple that we saw in Ayutthaya, as we visited most of them and there isn’t that much to say about each and every temple! However, I will sum up the best temples, and give some tips on how we got there and how we got around the city.

Starting our trip in Bangkok, we took a minibus from Bangkok Mo Chit Bus Station which took about 2.5hours to reach Ayutthaya where we got off at the final stop. (The minibus costs 60TBH for a single ticket).

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After getting off the bus, we walked around the city a little bit before hiring push bikes for the day. Originally we were going to hire a motorbike, but decided that as everything in the city is so close together, it would be fun to cycle. The bikes cost 50TBH for the day (Until 7pm). They also give you a map which clearly shows you where all the attractions are, making it nice and easy to locate your way around the city.

Soon after getting our bikes, we set off on our temple hopping tour and started at Ayutthaya’s Historical Park, which has most of the city’s ruins. If my memory serves me correctly, it costs 50TBH per temple for non-Thai citizens and 10TBH for Thai citizens. The Historical Park is probably the main attraction of Ayutthaya. As a bit of a history nerd, learning about the history and culture of the Ayutthaya Kingdom was so interesting! The site also has a model located at the front of the park which shows you what the Kingdom used to look like before being burnt down by the Burmese.

After we had finished walking around the Historical Park, we set off on our bikes again and visited Wat Phra Sri Sanphat. This was the holiest of the temples in the Kingdom of Ayutthaya. Personally, this was one of my favourites, as the architecture was just awesome. Unfortunately, like most of Ayutthaya, the temple has succumbed to the destruction of the Burmese and has taken substantial damage. Nevertheless, the damage adds to the historical importance of the building as it is where the 35 Kings of the Kingdom would come and use for royal ceremonies.

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Without a doubt, the temple that I found most interesting has to be Wat Mathathat! Its location near the Grand Palace made it one of the most important temples throughout the Kingdom. Why I find this temple so interesting is how most of the Buddha’s heads are chopped off all the statues. So when you’re walking around it’s quite a weird experience to just go past statue after statue of Buddha with no head! Another interesting point to make about this temple is that there is a Buddha head in the roots of the sacred tree. This is where most of the tourists head first so it can get quite packed. Whilst there I noticed many tourists only came to see the Buddha head in the tree and leave the site soon after. However, I would advise walking around the whole site as it makes for a really nice walk. Also, the unusual sight of headless statues makes for a thought-provoking walk on why the Burmese did this.

 

Although I was told that the Burmese were the ones that chopped off the heads as they believed gold where inside. It seems that after doing some research, it was actually looters that had cut the heads off and sold most of them to collectors in Europe and the United States. Unfortunately for Thailand, after asking for part of their heritage back they were declined as they form part of many modern-day museums.

Before we headed back to Bangkok, we decided that we should go and get some food from one of the restaurants just outside the Historical Park. The food is really good and incredibly cheap! I got a Pad Thai for only 35TBH!

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Most of the people that travel to Thailand skip out Ayutthaya as it isn’t really a place that many people have heard of before. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed my day trip to see all the ruins and I am glad I delved deeper into learning about Thailand’s history.

After the fall of Ayutthaya, Thailand decided to move its capital city to Bangkok which was designed in such a way to keep out foreign invaders. For centuries Thailand had been at war with its neighbours, especially the Burmese. By moving their capital to Bangkok, they had hoped that due to the defence of the capital being a lot stronger, this would put off future invasions of the Kingdom. 

Although I am a bit of a history nerd and thoroughly enjoyed my time in Ayutthaya,  I wouldn’t recommend going for more than one day, as all the ruins can be seen if you arrive early enough. The city doesn’t really have that much more to offer bar the ruins and temples and there are better places to spend more of your time in Thailand!

Unfortunately, as I broke my phone, the only pictures I have left of my trip are saved from what I put on Snapchat so I apologise for the lack of pictures!

Check out the rest of our Ayutthaya pictures here.

My Best Travel Moments (2015-18)

This post was inspired by one of my latest blog posts, (Top 5 Countries That I have Travelled 15-18). As this post did so well and had so much positive feedback, I decided to write a blog post on my best moments whilst travelling. However, just like the last article, being able to narrow my list of awesome travel moments down was extremely difficult. Nevertheless, after much thought here are my top 5!

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Climbing Mt. Fuji in Japan is number 5 on my best travel moments! Climbing Mt. Fuji was part of my Asia trip with Max and Haydn, so being able to experience the climb with them only made the experience better! We also met someone called Andrew at our hostel who we also did the climb with.

Although the last couple of hours back to the hostel were extremely painful as I had injured my knee running a half-marathon a couple of months before. The whole experience was incredible and looking back something I am so glad I did. One of the best decisions was definitely not taking the bus to 5th station and actually walking the entire way from the hostel. However, what this meant was an 11km walk to station 0!

 

Nevertheless, station 0-5 was a pretty easy climb and I got to see some spectacular views along the way. Being above the clouds really made for an impressive view! Another benefit of walking meant that by the time I reached 5th station, the sun was setting and the sunset was just surreal. However, at station 6, I started wrapping up and putting on as many layers that I had. Being above 2,500m and with the sun setting, it got really cold, fast.

 

 This was the part of the climb that seemed to go on for a long time as the stations started going up in halves now instead of 5-6, 6-7. The cold also started to become a big factor. I remember stopping at the side of the walkaway and laying down for a while and just shivering so much as my body temperature plummeted. The other issues were that the climb started to get a lot steeper and this meant that any slow people ahead of you made you slow down which meant that you were getting cold again!

In spite of the cold, walking in pitch black and the steep climb to the summit, I finally got to the top at around 2 am which meant that I had been walking for a total of 14 hours so far. However, the issue I had now was that the temperature was well below 0c and I had to just find a place to keep warm until the sunrise. Initially, Max and I found a bench that we laid down and drifted off to sleep. But, within minutes our bodies woke us up shivering! That’s when I saw that they let people into a restaurant type area where they charged a ridiculous amount for food and drink just because they knew people were desperate to be allowed inside.

 

After finally getting in and warming up, the sun started to rise! Rushing outside to get some pictures of the sunset as well as our climbing group, it made the whole experience more than worthwhile. The sunrise was just incredible. The different colours that bounced off the skyline and the surrounding mountains were just out of this world! I really cannot describe what a unique experience it was being able to see a sunset this good.

 

After the sun had rose it was then time for the descent back to the hostel. The climb down didn’t take as long but by the time I made it to the hostel I had been climbing for over 24 hours! However, this didn’t take away from what an incredible experience it was and actually made the whole trip more rewarding.

 

Even though I only spent around 4 days in Fuji, it quickly became one of my favourite places. It has great lakes, great mountains, gives you the chance to climb a 3,800m mountain and offers great Japanese food!

4.

Sunset Point in Uluwatu is a moment that I cannot stop thinking about. Every time I look back at my pictures from my trip to Bali, this is always one that stands out the most. Every trip always has a couple of moments that become your highlight, and this sunset is definitely that!

Sunset Point is located on the coast which has a small bar where hundreds of travellers come to watch the sunset. They bar has a swimming pool, a rooftop seating area, as well as bean bags placed everywhere. Luckily, Sita and I managed to get right to the front where we just chilled with a beer, listening to music and watching the sunset.

 

As you can see by the pictures below, the tranquillity of the place is unreal! Why this makes my top 5 best travel moments, is just because when I was there watching the waves come in and the sun setting, I just thought how amazing my life was and how lucky I am to experience these kind of moments

 

For anyone who is visiting Bali, then make sure you visit Uluwatu and in particularly Sunset Point. Personally, what I enjoyed about the area so much was that it was just full of travellers who all came to relax, have a drink and just watch the sunset. This gave the place a great atmosphere and a really nice place to chill. The sunsets that I saw in Bali, but in particular the sunset I saw in Uluwatu, was probably the best sunset I have ever seen!

3.

For those of you who read the article that inspired this one (Top 5 Countries That I Have Travelled 2015-18) then you’ll know how much I love Guatemala. As I said in that post, Guatemala was a place where we were given many warnings prior to arriving. But, as this all turned out to be hearsay and incorrect, it made the whole trip so much better.

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Climbing and camping on an active Volcano – Acatenango, is as you can imagine, a fantastic experience. One of the major reasons why I enjoyed this so much was because we met such an awesome group of people that were all liked minded. As we got to know each other, we all shared stories of our past or current trips which were really interesting to listen to, as it made you want to go to the places that they have visited.

 

One of my favourite memories of climbing Acatenango was just being around the campfire with our group just drinking some beers and watching Fuego, another of Guatemala’s volcanoes blowing smoke. (Fuego had erupted about three weeks before we had arrived). The rest of the day was spent eating, drinking and sharing more travel stories, before watching the sunset.

Again like our climb on Mt. Fuji, as darkness fell, so did the temperature. Although this time, we had a tent and sleeping bags which were actually warm. The only issue was that if you wanted to go to the toilet in the middle of the night, which I did, it was absolutely freezing! We woke up around 3.30 am to set about climbing the final 1000m so that we could see the sunrise. The climb up the final 1000m was harder than the climb up Fuji, but nevertheless we made it to the summit in time.

 

When we were at the summit our tour guide gave us some volcanic rock to hold which warmed up our hands no problem. It was just a reminder that, wow, we are actually standing on an active volcano. As the sun started to rise the whole skyline kept changing colours and you could see an entire mountain range silhouetting in the distance. I personally found the sunrise at Acatenango better than the one at Fuji just because of the whole experience of being able to camp on an active volcano.

2.

At number 2 of my best travel moments has to be dog sledging whilst in Tromso, Norway. Up until this point, my time in Norway  had just been immense. So good in fact, I rated it as my number one country to visit!

 

One of the reasons why I rated Norway my best trip to date, was definitely because we got the chance to dog sledge. What made the experience so good was that we got to spend around 3 hours with the dogs, where we got educated on where the dogs had come from and how they are looked after. Also the sled drivers were from all over the world. The driver of my sled was from Northern Italy and he shared his stories of why he came to Norway and where else he had been.

 

The main highlight of course was actually sledging! The sledging lasted about 45 minutes, however it felt a lot shorter than that. With Tromso being in the Arctic circle and us being there in late January, we were lucky enough to have apparently, the first sunrise of the year whilst sledging! Our Italian driver said it was the first time they had any sun for the last 3 months. The sunrise was simply mesmerising as the sunlight bounced of the snow and surrounding mountains.  

 

The whole day’s experience with the dogs was just so enjoyable and they give you plenty of time to interact and play with the dogs. As well as letting you see some new puppies! We also enjoyed Reindeer stew for our lunch after sledging which to my surprise was really nice. One of the reasons why dog sledging ranks number 2 for me is because I haven’t done anything like this before. It made for such a unique and cool experience that I don’t think I’ll ever forget!

1.

Without any doubt, seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland is by far the best travel moment that I have experienced. Just being able to see the Aurora is unique in itself and took a lot of patience and driving around to see it. However, the moment when I saw the Northern Lights, it was such relief and I felt so much excitement that it definitely has to rank number 1. 

 

We spent several days driving around Iceland to find the best place. We usually went near Pingvellir National Park which is about 40 minutes away from our hostel. As it turns out, hundreds of people go to the lighthouse just outside of Reykjavik to see them. So if you’re in Reykjavik and want a place where someone has spotted them, then try the lighthouse!

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Another special thing about being able to see the Northern Lights is that when they dance around it is such a spectacle to watch. I remember us just laying down on a freezing concrete path, just watching them swirl around in the sky and thinking how amazing nature and the world is.

 

What made my sighting of the Northern Lights so special to me, is that this was the third night of waiting hours in the freezing cold just hoping that I would finally see the Aurora. The night that I did see them, was my last night in Iceland, so being able to see them was just such a relief. What makes this experience even more important, is that when I was in Tromso, I didn’t end up seeing the Lights. So luckily, I got to see them whilst I was in Iceland!

 

Top 5 Countries That I Have Travelled (2015-18)

Over the last 3 years, I have visited 31 different countries, which makes writing this article a difficult task. Nevertheless after much deliberation, I have come up with the top 5 countries that I have visited!

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5.

At number 5 on the list is Vietnam. In the summer of 2017, I spent 17 days in Vietnam and started my travels in Hanoi. Before setting off to Asia, I pre-booked through Vietnam Backpackers Hostel trips to Halong Bay and Sapa. I also booked a weeks long adventure down the coast of Vietnam called the Buffalo Run.

Being able to spend a couple of days on your own private island at Castaway was such an unreal experience. Arriving on the island with a hundred different people, you get to do pretty much whatever you want. Drinking all day, booze cruise, kayaking, wake boarding, rock climbing and much more! Knowing you’re doing all of this in one of the world’s natural wonders definitely makes you savour every moment more.

Having a nights recovery, we set off on a 6 hour sleeper coach to Sapa. Spending a night out a luxury hotel we rented bikes and rode around the Sapa mountains. Bar a scary moment when I fell off my bike, I think I enjoyed Sapa more than Ha Long Bay. Being able to see some incredible views with the mountain ranges silhouetting in the background was awesome. The highlight of Sapa without doubt was the 2 day trek through the mountains, which included a home stay.

After returning back to Hanoi, we set off on our week-long adventure down to the south of Vietnam. Meeting people from all over the world unquestionably made the whole experience better. Probably the most enjoyable part of the Buffalo Run was driving the Hai Van Pass in ex-Vietnam War army jeeps. Being able to do this is something that I will never forget and would recommend anyone who visits Vietnam to do!

4.

Number 4 on my list is Thailand. My first experience to Thailand was after I visited Vietnam. Originally starting in the Thai Islands + Krabi, I can only describe these places as absolutely mad. If partying and drinking are your things then look no further than Koh Phi Phi. Although personally, Koh Tao is my favourite Island out of the four we visited, all the islands offer their own unique experience. Unfortunately, we messed up and missed the full moon party at Koh Phangan which definitely left a sour taste.

Why Koh Tao was my favourite island is because I loved diving so much. We originally just did a fun dive and then left Koh Tao, however, as Haydn and I enjoyed the fun dive so much we came back to the island after one day to get our open water licenses. I also liked how chill the island seemed – probably because everyone just wanted to dive or chill with a beer.

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We then moved onto Krabi and continued partying before moving onto Bangkok and then the north of Thailand. The north of Thailand is epic and I really do want to explore this region more. So far, I have only visited Chiang Mai and Pai but both places are just incredible! I have since been back to Thailand another 5 times and spent around 8 months of my life there. I recently visited Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand as well as Phuket and both places are just so different from each other but also sums up Thailand so well. I like that Thailand offers the traditional Thai style in some places, but then in other places, you’re having mad parties with everyone from around the world.

3.

This one may surprise a lot of people, but Guatemala is definitely in the top 3 places that I have visited. Spending only around a week here we had to rush many things, but I could have easily spent months travelling this country. This country is just epic and has SO much to offer!

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Prior to travelling to Guatemala, we read and were told all the scare stories about muggings, shootings and killings. However, after enduring a difficult trip in India we did feel ready for what we expected to see. Nevertheless, these scare stories could not have been further from the truth! What I will say is that Guatemala does have a high crime rate so do be careful but go open-minded!

After landing in Guat City we took a uber to Antigua which is an old colonial town. What I loved about Antigua was just the chillness of the place. We visited the markets, chilled by our hostels pool and ate a lot of traditional Guatemalan food! One awesome thing you can do from Antigua is climb Acatenango (Volcano) where you get to camp overnight on an active volcano! This was definitely one of many highlights from Guatemala. 

From Antigua we took a 12 hour overnight coach ride to Tikal, where we went and saw the ancient Mayan ruins. Tikal again has a very travellers feel to it and if that’s what you like then Tikal is perfect. What also made my experience of Tikal so good was that we met some people that we spent a couple of days with that we really got on with! It is also a good gateway to go and visit Semuc Champey (although 7 hours away) it’s worth the long uncomfortable minibus drive.

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Semuc Champey is just one of the must see places of Guatemala in my opinion. It’s just an incredible place! Although there are only two hostels in Semuc Champey, we opted for the one that was in the middle of the jungle and we definitely made the right choice! Sleeping in the middle of the Guatemalan jungle was an interesting experience, as well as an enjoyable one. During our time in Semuc Champey, we visited the national park, jumped off a 20m Waterfall and went caving. Like Antigua, I really wish we had more time to just relax in Semuc Champey because it was just one of those places where you sat back and just thought about how awesome life is.

Unfortunately, as we only had a week by being on such a tight schedule, we couldn’t do everything that we would have wanted to do in Guatemala. Lake Atitlan is one such place that I really did want to visit, however it does give me a great excuse to plan another trip back!

2.

Iceland is number 2 on my list. Iceland was probably my first out-and-out nature trip and its got me hooked to do more of this kind of travelling. Anyone who has been to Iceland can vouch for the spectacular geography on show. As we didn’t have much time in Iceland due to university and money, we really tried to cram everything in a small time frame. This meant sometimes going to sleep at 1/2am and waking up at 6/7am.

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One of the highlights of the Iceland trip was visiting Pingvellir National Park. Here we decided to go snorkelling through the North Atlantic Ridge (which is the separation between the North American plate and the Eurasian plate). You also have the chance to scuba dive here if you wish but unfortunately we could not do that as we didn’t have our license. Oh and also make sure your dry suit is zipped up properly (Unlike Max), or you’ll feel 2 c water rushing in!

Gullfoss is another cool area that we visited. One of the best natural things that I have experienced is definitely seeing a Geyser erupt! Although having to wait every 10 minutes to see it explode in the freezing cold isn’t that nice, the eruption is worth the wait. Gullfoss also has a series of some pretty awesome waterfalls that you can check out after the Geysers.

From here we went to a place that we hadn’t heard much about, Hraunfossar. We did take a bit of risk driving here because it was about 2-3 hours away from Reykjavik which is where we were basing ourselves. However, I am so glad that we took the risk because the waterfalls were just stunning and arguably still the best waterfalls that I have seen. What also made the whole region so good was the huge Volcano in the background, as well as the breathtaking scenery we saw on the drive.

Iceland also gave me the chance to tick 2 items off my bucket list: The Blue Lagoon, and the Northern Lights. As you can imagine being able to do both of these things was just immense! The Blue Lagoon, although expensive, was just such a cool experience and is 100% better than what you see on Facebook. Probably THE highlight of the trip though was being able to see the Northern Lights. Not only did we get to see them but we were able to get some amazing pictures of them dancing around!

We also had the opportunity to explore the southern coast of Iceland which is part of the Iceland ring road. Black Sand Beach and Fjaoragljufu are probably my favourites things that we saw on the south coast.

Although I had an amazing time in Iceland, and managed to tick 2 items off my bucket list, I simply didn’t spend enough time here and also had a really disappointing day whilst whale watching, that for now, Iceland cannot be the best place that I have visited.

1.

So the big finale.. What’s my number one place I have visited? Have you guessed yet? Well… It’s Norway! The plan was to travel from the south to the north and back down to Oslo again in just 8 days by car. A total of 5,500km! Although extremely ambitious the fact we got to do everything that we planned I think only made the trip even better. Even the immigration officer told us “Good luck!” Despite Oslo being underwhelming, the rest of the trip was just phenomenal and one that I would unquestionably do all over again.

For me the trip really started when we got to Stavanger, where we took a ferry over to Tou. Here, we completed the Pedersgata Hike which was a magical experience. We were walking through the middle of the forest in the mountains, when it started to snow! Although it’s hard to convey how cool this was, it’s absolutely one of the best hikes I’ve ever done. On our second day in Stavanger (also our last) we drove to Frafjord, which is a huge fjord which is unbelievably picturesque. This is one of the reasons which makes Norway just such a good place to see, because you constantly stop and get out of the car to take a photo as the scenery is just spectacular.  

From here we visited a waterfall called Manafossen, which was a massive waterfall where you just stood and marvelled at the beauty around you. Manafossen is undoubtedly one of the best waterfalls that I have seen! We then visited a place called Gloppedalsura which has stunning rock formations surrounded by stunning mountains and lakes on either side. Honestly, Stavanger and the surrounding areas are just simply beautiful and if you can only spare a couple of days then Stavanger isn’t a bad option! Weirdly enough, we only came to Stavanger because Haydn had to get a later flight than us.. Luckily!

After picking up Haydn, we drove to Bergen where again, we only spent a day exploring the area. Although this doesn’t seem much time I do think that this is enough time in Bergen because in spite of Bergen being aesthetically pleasing, there wasn’t that much to do here. We did climb up a mountain called Ulriken and got to Montana point which did give some awesome views of the city. Personally, I do think this is the best thing you can do in Bergen as the “World’s famous fish market” didn’t really seem like a market.

The second part of our trip is where I think it got even better but also more challenging! We began by leaving Bergen and driving for 7-hours to Geirangerfjord. After a bit of faffing about, we took a ferry through the middle of the fjord which offered some breathtaking scenery. The fjord is simply a must see place if you’re travelling Norway. It’s one of the places where you constantly are stopping the car at every single view-point to take a picture.

The next part was where it got really tough. We had a 21-hour journey up to Lofoten Island which in hindsight was probably a little stupid. However, completely worth it! Despite the fact that we didn’t really get to see much of Lofoten Island and probably could have spent 3 or 4 days here, I’m still so glad that we at least got the chance to see it! As we didn’t have much time, and we still had to get to Tromso and then all the way back down to Oslo in the next 2 days, we decided to go and see one of its best fjords (Trollfjord). As we were now in the Arctic circle, there were only 4 or 5 hours of daylight here so the skyline was permanently amazing! The colours that bounced of the lakes, mountains and snow just made the place unbelievably stunning.

Unfortunately, we had to leave and plough on for another 6 hours to Tromso, which is weirdly one of my favourite cities. Although we only spent about 15 hours here, I just really liked the chill, beautiful look the city gave you. We originally hoped we would be lucky enough to see the northern lights again. However, we were not so lucky and that did put us down a little. Nevertheless, we decided that on our last proper day travelling we should do something awesome to top the trip off. We contemplated whale watching but after a disappointing time in doing this in Iceland, there were no guarantees that we would see one here. Therefore, we decided to pay £180, yes… £180.. To husky sledge!! (Probably one of the best activities I have ever done even for the price). As someone who owns a dog, being able to spend 3 hours with the dogs and also be able to go sledging with the sun setting was just a unique experience. This absolutely ended the trip on a huge high and is why Norway is my favourite place that I have visited. Although some of you maybe gawking at the price, honestly, it’s just such an incredible activity, and you’re getting to do it with amazing scenery in the Arctic circle. For me you couldn’t really ask for anything more!

The final thing for me which really made this trip my best, is probably the fact that we had complete freedom to go to any place and to leave any place any time that we wanted. Although we had our outbound flight booked already due to university commitments, we only had a rough itinerary of places that we researched were good to see. This kind of freedom allowed us to really get to see the very best of Norway in the little time that we had, and I’m so glad that we went!

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Countries I have visited 2015-2018.

Belgium Cambodia Costa Rica Cuba
Czech Republic France Germany Guatemala
Hong Kong Hungary Iceland India
Indonesia Ireland Italy Japan
Latvia Malaysia Mexico Netherlands
Norway Oman Poland Portugal
Scotland Singapore Spain Thailand
Vietnam Wales

 

Bali: A True Adventure

During my first trip to Bali in November of 2017, I always felt like I had unfinished business there. Although I only spent 5 days in Bali, getting a big stomach bug cut what we saw short. Almost a year later, I decided that my girlfriend and I should return back to Bali to explore the areas we previously didn’t explore.

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The trip already started off on a high as when we were landing we saw one of the many volcanoes that Bali has to offer from the plane. On our arrival, we planned to stay one night Kuta as we really wanted to get to Ubud as quickly as possible. We stayed at Angkul Beach Inn Hotel, which was located right in the centre of Kuta Square. However, this wasn’t the best hotel as the cleanliness could have been a lot better. Nevertheless, it was only for one night, it was cheap and had breakfast included.

The next morning we woke up early and took a grab to Ubud. We were going to rent a scooter from Kuta as we had to eventually return back here to get our flight home. However, we decided that riding for two hours with our backpacks wouldn’t have been the most comfy. (Side note: It did probably cost us around £50 more over the entire trip as we didn’t hire a bike from Kuta, but we decided we wanted comfort over budgeting).

After around a 45 minute taxi drive we arrived on the outskirts of Ubud at our Hotel, Casa D’ Sami. Although the only downside was that it didn’t have air conditioning which was surprisingly not an issue, it was a really clean and a nice hotel. As soon as we checked in, we hired a bike for 50k Indonesian Rupiah and set about exploring Ubud. First we drove about 4 km to Ubud centre where we stopped to eat. We ate at a restaurant called Buddha bowel which served phenomenal Asian food.

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After eating, we drove the short trip to the Monkey Forest Sanctuary which was an incredible experience, if not terrifying. You can spend as long as you want here and the tickets are 50k each. Just be careful you don’t end up becoming one of the unlucky few where a monkey jumps on you and won’t jump back off. Saying that, the monkeys have obviously become comfortable around humans and do usually just sit around or play with themselves. It is quite incredible how close you can get to take a picture without them seeming to care. Obviously, it goes without saying, do be considerate of the sanctuaries rules.

From here, we went to Campuhan Ridge where we walked through the rice fields and the surrounding mountains. We got to witness an incredible sunset as well as some stunning scenery! What’s best about the Ridge walk is that it’s completely free!

Although we were in Bali, we had come across a Mexican restaurant (Taco Casa) which was absolutely rammed all day from the moment it opened. We decided for dinner we would eat here and wow it didn’t disappoint! After visiting Mexico earlier this year and falling in love with the food, I would never have expected for a restaurant in Bali to live up to the standard of food I had in Mexico – But it did! As you can imagine, the food is more expensive here than eating traditional Balinese food, but if you can afford to splurge a little then make this one of your places to eat.  When we eventually got back to the hotel, it was around midnight and we decided to go for a late night swim at the hotel’s pool.

After again eating our free breakfast, we checked out and headed to our new hotel in the centre of Ubud. The plan was to base ourselves here and then travel up to the north of Bali and visit its many waterfalls and volcanoes. Unfortunately, the place that we stayed (Alam Terrace) was fully booked for the day after our stay. Therefore, we could only stay one night here which meant we had to move to a new hotel again. However, I would definitely recommend this hotel as its quite simply stunning. The rooms are amazing and the pool is sublime.  

Before arriving at Alam Terrace we still had our bike from Casa D’ Sami, and we drove to Tegenungan waterfall. Although it wasn’t the best waterfall that we visited in Bali it was still a stunning waterfall and one that should be high up on your list. What is also convenient about this waterfall is its accessibility. Other waterfalls such as NungNung require a 2 hour drive just to get there.

When we did arrive at our hotel, we decided to just have a chill day where we relaxed and ordered room service. The hotel served incredibly cheap food, which was some of the cheapest we saw in Bali and also some of the best.

The next day we moved to our new hotel which was next door (Tenah Semaujan) and we set off early as possible as we knew we would have a long day ahead. Firstly, we visited the rice terraces just north of Ubud which had awesome views and also areas where you could go on massive swings. Do be warned that it is incredibly humid and hot walking through the rice terraces. After we had finished admiring the views,  we made the long drive north to Mount Batur national park where you have to pay an entry fee to get in (around 32k). Although we wanted to climb Mount Batur, we knew the mafia had taken it over and therefore charge you a ridiculous amount to climb. We felt that it wasn’t worth the price and decided that we would just admire it from a far. We did drive down to the lake area which was really nice although there’s not much to do there. We finished our day with again, another long drive to NungNung waterfall which was probably the best waterfall I have ever seen! My girlfriend had previously visited Bali before and said that this is one of the must do things to see, and she wasn’t wrong. As you can see from the pictures below, the waterfall is just simply awesome!

Our last day in Ubud saw us moving hotels again (Indira Cottages). As we didn’t have much planned we had a chill start to the day just trying different Balinese foods. We then decided that we would go and visit the Ulun Danu temple which is in the north of Bali. Ulun Danu temple is far away from Ubud (around a 1.5hour drive) but is a really cool temple to visit. The temple is “floating” on water and is in the midst of an incredible mountain range! The only problem with the temple is its location. Although there are some great views to admire on the drive north from Ubud, there isn’t much to see around the area. Therefore, if you are planning to come visit the temple then I’d suggest setting off early so you can go and see other things throughout the day before they close.

Sadly, we then decided to leave Ubud and go check out Uluwatu. Again, as I was ill the first time I came, we never really got to visit Uluwatu that much and I really wanted to go back. We stayed at an amazing hotel called Seno Guesthouse & Cafe for two days and I wish we had more time to have extended our stay. Uluwatu is a place that I could have stayed, like Ubud, for a lot longer than we did. During our stay in Uluwatu we chilled by the hotel pool whilst also visiting Dreamland Beach and surfed.

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We did contemplate diving as we are both licensed divers, however, Sita previously burst her eardrum whilst diving and it still causes her problems every now and then.  Therefore, we didn’t want to take the risk of it causing her problems for the remaining time we had left. As we wasn’t going to dive we made the most of our time chilling by the pool, the beach and surfing.

Beyond any doubt, my favourite moment in Bali was watching the sunset at Uluwatu sunset point. The place is just crazy! Sunset point has a bar with loads of fellow travellers just enjoying a beer whilst relaxing in beanbags watching the sun go down. Being able to experience that moment with my girlfriend was really nice and one I won’t forget any time soon. At the time I didn’t think anything would trump NungNung waterfall but I can’t recommend sunset point enough! During our last night in Uluwatu, we visited Single Fin Bar, which has some amazing views overlooking the sea. Even at night time the place is buzzing and offers great food. Although as you can imagine, with a view like that, it is more expensive than your typical restaurant.

Unfortunately, as we were running out of time, we had to cut our stay in Uluwatu short. We headed to Legion as we wanted to be close to the airport as our flight was in the middle of the morning. We stayed at Si Doi Hotel, which was decent although it had a power cut for the first night (although they did give us a 25% discount on our stay). In the Legion/Kuta area there is a lot more to do/see. There’s markets, shopping centres and just normal day to day stuff. If you do visit the beach I personally prefer Legion beach to Kuta beach just as its less packed and a lot cleaner.

Ubud and Uluwatu are definitely in the top 5 places that I have visited. Both places had just a great but different buzz about them. Ubud seemed more for the busy traveller, the one that wants to go out and explore all the different things Bali has to offer. Whereas, Uluwatu was more for the chill traveller, where you surf and watch the sunset go down with a beer. The only disappointing thing about them both is that we couldn’t stay longer. I make the point again, watching the sunset at Sunset point was just incredible and anyone who visits Bali should definitely visit this place!
View the rest of our Bali pictures here

2017: Through a lens

2017 was an amazing year of travelling for us. Being able to travel for 40% of the year allowed us to visit some of the most incredible places around the world. With the travel, there were plenty of opportunities to capture every moment through a lens. This post will show you just some of our greatest pictures of 2017.

During our trip to Iceland we were constantly stopping to take pictures of all the amazing scenery. Seeing waterfall after waterfall, being lucky enough to see the northern lights and being able to see one of Iceland’s best glaciers, we could have uploaded most of our Iceland pictures. However, we have narrowed down to what we think are our best:

Hong Kong was our first stop in Asia, and was the first time that we had been outside of Europe. Originally, Hong Kong was just a place for us to start, as we thought that it wouldn’t be as much of a culture shock. However, we soon realised that Hong Kong was more than just a place for us to get in the swing of things. Hong Kong has so many amazing things to see and we tried doing most of them A particular favourite was the dragons back hike and seeing the Big Buddha. Here are some of our pictures:

Our second stop on our 3.5 months Asia trip was Malaysia. After spending around a week in KL, it quickly became one of our favourite cities. During our time in Malaysia we also spent time in the Cameron Highlands where we got to learn about its history, its tea plantations and how local tribes hunt food.

Spending two weeks in Cambodia, allowed us to really explore Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Being able to see Angkor Wat and the many temples (many golden) during our stay in Cambodia was awesome! Cambodia has its own story and was very different from any other places we had so far visited in 2017. Being able to educate ourselves on the genocide that took place in the 1970’s by talking to locals was an extremely sobering experience.

Spending 17 days in Vietnam was truly special. Vietnam is a country that has everything that you could want. Beach lover? Then Vietnam beaches are up there with the best in the world. Prefer the mountains? Why not go for a trek in the region of Sapa. In Vietnam, we visited Ha Long Bay, Sapa and travelled down the coast as part of a Buffalo Tour where we met some incredible people from all over the world. We also got the unique experience of driving the Hai Van Pass in ex-Vietnam war army trucks. A particular favourite memory was our stay in Ha Long Bay. Being on your own private island, rock climbing, kayaking, wake boarding etc etc, whilst partying with over 100 people every day is pretty special.

After leaving Vietnam, we spent the next 3 weeks in Thailand where we visited the major travelling places. Spending the first week or so visiting the Thai Islands, we got to party on the beaches of Koh Phi Phi, obtain our diving license in Koh Tao and saw Koh Samui whilst riding motorbikes. After spending a few days in Bangkok, where we visited the Royal Palace and Koh San Road, we travelled north to explore the wonderful city of Chiang Mai before adventuring further north to Pai.

Having the chance to visit Japan whilst predominantly travelling around SEA was quite weird. SEA cultures although have many differences, also are very similar. So to experience a whole new culture like Japan was fascinating. Tokyo was different from what we expected it to be and was rather disappointed. However, Fuji was an amazing place as we stayed at a great hostel that made the traveller feel welcome and comfortable. Having the chance to climb Mt. Fuji and seeing a glorious sunrise made the whole trip from SEA to Japan worthwhile.

Lastly, we visited India where its safe to say it didn’t have the best start. After being scammed as soon as we landed, we had to shake it off and focus on making the most of our time as it was our last stop of our Asia tour. Going from a country like Japan to a country like India is definitely a culture shock for many reasons (the toilet situation is one that comes straight to mind!) That being said, visiting the Taj Mahal and spending a week in Goa and Hampi were truly enjoyable moments.