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!

45444644_474698199602731_4257969369675464704_n

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.

37803603_10216962489758444_7206436793149816832_n

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!

41991757_330720734140346_1502408246227369984_n

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!

 

Lisbon: 21st Birthday Celebrations

Before our Asia trip had even ended we were already starting planning a new trip for our 21st Birthday. As two of us share a birthday close together we wanted to share it in style. We brained stormed the usual ideas like Vegas, even flirted with the possibilities of climbing a mountain like Kilimanjaro. However, we realised that if we wanted to spend it with our friends, we would have to do something less expensive but still incredibly exciting. That’s when we thought of it… Lisbon.

For those of you reading this who have already visited Lisbon before, you’ll know why we decided on it. Lisbon is one of those cities that has such a great buzz about it, with so much to do and an incredible night life. After visiting Lisbon in 2016 and being taken aback by how much we enjoyed our stay, it was a no-brainer for us.

Coming up with an itinerary a little different from a normal trip, we decided to keep it secret from the other four people in our group. The challenge would put the two birthday boys against each other, where the teams would compete in different activities. Upon arriving at Manchester airport, Max and I (The team captains) picked names out of a hat to decide who was on each team.

Team Emilio: Emilio, Ben, Haydn

Team Max: Max, Ollie, Ed

40579269_506626096416712_7481139903514804224_n

After the teams were picked, we announced some of the rules that the group would have to follow. Some included not being able to say certain words like “TEN” or “MINE” as this led to the forfeit of ten push-ups. Other rules included: that anyone being sick lost your team points, and if you were late in the morning you had to take a random bean boozled sweet. Anyone who has tasted these before will know just how disgusting the bad sweets are. By the end of the trip we were incredibly good at doing push-ups as we got caught out so many times.

After a delayed flight, we arrived in Lisbon and headed over to our hostel – GSpot Party Hostel. The hostel is the only party hostel in Lisbon which was one of the reasons why we wanted to stay here. If you have read our other posts, in particular our Krakow post, we explained why we like to stay in party hostels for these kinds of trips. The hostel was as expected, pretty basic, but a great place to get incredibly drunk for cheap. The hostel runs a pub crawl every night where you get free beer or sangria for an hour at the second bar you visit. Also remember to get your free shots at the hostel and the first and last bars, as when you get more drunk you’ll probably forget.

On our first day back in Lisbon, we woke the group up to let them know what the first event of the trip would be – Go karting. We would take part in a 10 min qualifying session before a 30 minute race where the teams would compete for points. The point system we came up with was between 5-1, 5 being for first place. Obviously, this meant that the person who finished last would get 0 points for his team and therefore do a forfeit. Karting was really enjoyable and it ended with Team Emilio winning on points 9-8, with Max coming first, Ben second and myself third! The difference between Ollie and myself over 30 minutes was 0.5 seconds… as you can imagine the racing was unbelievably intense! As Ed had come last, this meant that he would have to do a forfeit that the group would decide later in the day.

After karting, we got an uber back to our hostel before walking the short distance to a restaurant called Bonjardim which the hostel recommended. The prices were reasonable and the chicken they served was excellent. In fact, we enjoyed it so much we ate here multiple times throughout the week. After drinking a couple of beers and eating dinner, we walked to a place called Park Bar which a friend we met in Asia recommended to us. Park Bar is a quirky roof top bar with chilled vibes. One of the main attractions of this place is that it has amazing views over Lisbon city. (Pints are around 4 euros). However, be warned it is a faff to find.

From here, we walked back to the hostel where we relaxed before signing up to the hostels pub crawl. For 15 euros you get free entry into the club as well as free sangria or beer for an hour at the second bar. You also get free shots at the hostel as well as each bar you go to. Obviously for the price its incredible value. The pub crawl is organised by hostel staff which means that you don’t have to spend time researching where the best bar is etc. The first night we signed up for the pub crawl we also signed up to the beer pong tournament for 10 euros, where the winner wins a bottle of vodka. However, we think this was fixed as every night we were there, the hostel staff won. Nevertheless, beer pong was fun and this is where we gave Ed his forfeit for coming last at go karting. We thought as it was the first forfeit we would start off nicely and just make him play beer pong shirtless. Safe to say he looked a bit of an arse.

The pub crawl was enjoyable and as you can imagine got very messy, very quickly.

After getting back at around 4 am and waking up nice and early it was time for the second event. However, before announcing what the event was it was time to give someone the dummy. This was given to the person who was the biggest dummy during the last day or night out. As you can imagine, throughout the week the nights out caught a lot of us out…

Nevertheless, not much happened during the night out which constituted as being that dumb. But we gave it to Ed as he tried getting me my drink in the second bar before losing my free alcohol cup to the bar staff. Not the best start to the holiday for Ed. (Finishing last, a forfeit and now the dummy).

At least at the next event, Ed had a chance to redeem himself as we knew that he was pretty good at it – Laser Quest. Taking a taxi from the hostel to laser quest we had a little wait in the lobby where we played some arcade games. When it was time to start, we separated into our teams and got the game underway. Team Emilio won the first two games, before team Max won the last game and getting the bonus point for having the highest combined score which meant it ended 2-2 for the day. What was nice is we got free beer in between the games which was needed as it got incredibly hot inside the arena. One of the funniest moments was when Ollie jumped into Max at full speed trying to get in between two pillars. Unfortunately, Ed did not live up to the hype and came last again and therefore had another forfeit to go along with his dummy.

40636360_707409939636256_2768110743009099776_n

After Laser Quest we got an uber back to the main square where we again ate at Bonjardim as we had such an enjoyable experience yesterday. Here, we came up with Ed’s next forfeit which we decided would be a drinking forfeit. He would have to drink 6 shots of dark rum which is his least favourite drink. Although he claimed he would be sick, we didn’t change the forfeit.

During our second night out, we signed up to the pub crawl again and started taking advantage of the free sangria in the hostel. Playing some card games, we targeted Ed as we knew he would be drinking a lot tonight and getting him sick would mean his team would lose a point. However, as everyone got so drunk we forgot about his forfeit and ended up losing each other in different clubs. However, we all re-united at the end of the night at McDonalds where we were amazed that McDonalds seemed to have ran out of everything.

The next day, we again started by giving the dummy to someone. As Ed was the current owner he could give it to someone he thought was the most stupid yesterday. He gave it to me on the grounds that I jumped out of a moving taxi after 5 seconds. Which I couldn’t really argue much with…

However, I wore my dummy with pride and announced the next event which was a scavenger hunt. Here we got booklets which explained the challenges that we had to do. The first part was finding landmarks and finding out information about them, the second part was a photo challenge and the final part was a shopping list of random things. We spent around 3/4hours doing this event before meeting back at the hostel where we set a deadline. After much discussion Team Emilio won the event 2-1 which meant that Team Max had to do a forfeit. We also said that Ed had to catch up with his forfeit that he forgot to do the night before. The scavenger hunt was a really good way to see a lot of Lisbon. So, if you want a way to see Lisbon without doing much research just look up scavenger hunts online!

Tonight, we decided to eat somewhere else, and ate near the Rua Augusta Arch. Although we knew it would be a little more expensive the smell of the food caught our attention. The food was really good here, especially the paella. However, we have been warned that the ones that had steak, weren’t overly keen.

40534913_978870672314409_9047795792428924928_n

As the night went on, we started buying Ed some of his rum shots and started using small pegs to “peg” each other. Basically, if you get pegged and cannot find the peg within 5 seconds you must down your drink. In the space of a couple of minutes, Max had downed 1.7 litres of beer which very quickly came back up. Ed then thought it would be a clever idea to buy absinthe shots mixed with another spirit which as you can imagine tasted great… Not!

By the time we had arrived at the club everyone was incredibly drunk. However, little did we know that Ed had already been sick in the club and got kicked out. As we continued to enjoy our night it became clear that Ed was missing. Worryingly, the barman said that he had got kicked out hours ago. Becoming aware of this, we left the club and started looking for him. Sadly, when he arrived back at the hostel he was visibly distraught and later we found that he had been mugged of all his possessions. Unfortunately, Lisbon does have a reputation for muggings as it seemed to have happened to a lot of people from what we have heard. It later happened to Haydn, however, Haydn did punch his mugger in the face! (Where the two trams are located on the steep hill is where muggings apparently occur on a regular basis. This is where Haydn was nearly mugged so be aware).

40615042_238702333508219_3049547924007550976_n

Nevertheless, the next morning Ed was surprisingly in a banterous mood and he had to be as I gave him the dummy for getting blind drunk. Unfortunately for Ed he was told he would have to quickly sober up as we were doing an escape room and he needed to be focused on the next challenge. As the receptionist gave us the rules of the escape room, we learned that Ed had already broke one rule. “Being intoxicated.”

The escape room which I won’t explain and ruin, was a very challenging but incredibly fun challenge. Having some general knowledge is a good little tip if you want to be able to beat the clock. Team Max won this event by being the first team out, however both teams did complete the challenge. After getting our pictures taken looking like Sherlock we decided to rent some go cars from across the road. These are bright yellow little three-wheel cars that are insane! As it started to rain the cobbled roads became stupidly slippy and the back wheel kept getting stuck in the tram lines.

We did have some near misses and hits as we nearly got arrested by the police for illegally parking and then taking off when the police came over to us. We also crashed one of the go cars as we ended up racing them on the highways. Nevertheless, if you don’t want to be reckless and stupid like us, you can take a guided tour as the car comes with GPS which follows a route of your choice. You have 3 routes to choose from and the GPS comes with audio which explains a little about each landmark around the city.

During the night time what became a common theme of the trip was we somehow all kept losing each other along the way and turning up at random parts of the night. Even though we kept doing the same thing during the nights (albeit going to different bars) we were still having a great time. As my team lost, our forfeit was to sing karaoke in the most packed bar I have ever seen. Luckily, they picked us a good song to sing – ‘Like a Virgin’ by Madonna, which wasn’t embarrassing at all.

The next day we did something a little different and went to the beach. However, as it was April it wasn’t exactly sunbathing weather. However, we would be getting into the sea as we were having a surf lesson! At the start we all were being coached on the right form and the right time to get up. By the end most of us had the hang of it and could stay up for a wave! Surfing was genuinely incredibly fun but also so tiring. Something I would recommend trying if you have not done it before!

However, the beach fun didn’t end with surfing as we had another team challenge in the form of volleyball. Unfortunately for my team, we didn’t perform at our best and lost the challenge badly. This would mean it would come down to the final challenge on our last day where the winner would take all and the loser would have to do a forfeit.

On our penultimate day, we had booked a beer bike where we get as much beer as we could drink for about 1.5 hours. The beer bike was really fun to do even though it was quite cold and rainy. Annoyingly, we had booked to have tapas but they said there had been a mix up with the booking.

The last event would be beer pong where both teams had everything to play for. With the scores tied, we played a best out of 3. Team Max won the first game before Team Emilio won the second. The last game came down to 1 cup each with both teams hitting the top of the cup numerous times. However, unfortunately for my team we ended up losing which meant we had to do the dreaded forfeit.

The forfeit was that we had to get spray tans and these tans were dark. Luckily, my spray tan came out okay as I had been to Thailand before I went to Lisbon, so it didn’t look too bad. However, Haydn’s ended up turning a nice Trump like orange.

40591371_533141497156798_6900774149765988352_n

All 6 of us loved our time in Lisbon, especially as it was a completely different type of trip to any that we had done before. Lisbon is a great place to do these kind of trips as it has a great night life, chill vibes and lots to do. Although we didn’t go and get to see the castle which we really liked the first time we visited Lisbon. We visited the Christ the King monument which is like the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio.

View the rest of our Lisbon pictures here.

 

 

 

Japan: Mission to Climb Fuji

After spending the last couple of days exploring Tokyo it was finally time to set off to Fuji. As this was our main reason for wanting to travel to Japan, we were very excited. During our trip in Thailand, we had decided that we would walk from station 0 instead of taking the bus up to 5th station like most of the “Fuji Climbers” do. Leaving Tokyo by its central station we took a bus to Fujikawaguchiko which cost around 2,300 Japanese Yen. After spending around 2 hours on the bus, we arrived in Fuji and headed to our hostel. This is where we came into a bit of trouble as none of us had any internet to google map our hostel. We decided that we should get a map from the bus station, thinking that this would make it easier for us to locate our hostel. However, we couldn’t be more wrong, as when we asked the locals for help they didn’t speak a word of English meaning we ended up walking what was only a 10 minute walk, about 1.5 hours. Nevertheless, when we got to our hostel we decided to chill and check the area of Fuji out.

One thing we would really recommend is making sure you get a good hostel or guest house in Fuji as it will help you for your climb. Many guest houses advertise tours, where your host will also take you up Fuji. Personally, we don’t recommend that you book a tour, as you follow thousands of people doing the same route. The hostel we stayed at was called ‘K’s Hostel’ and we could not recommend this enough. The hostel is relatively cheap, very nice and also the hostel was very helpful. Another thing that we liked is the fact it had its own kitchen as we were starting to run out of money, as Japan is so expensive. This allowed us to make our own food and save money that way. A useful tip is to check the weather so you know whether you will see a good sunset/sunrise, depending on the time you choose to climb Fuji. Another great thing about K’s Hostel was that they had a computer that you could use to check the weather or anything else you would like to know. The hostel was also the most chill place, with hammocks everywhere, a suntop terrace and was close to many authentic Japanese restaurants.

27267629_10215523955715992_2081556171_o

During our first proper day in Fuji we really didn’t do much apart from extend our stay at K’s Hostel as we really felt welcome and enjoyed our stay. Additionally, as we were told by the reception the weather was going to be bad the next day we chose to not climb Fuji. After chilling at the hostel during the day we decided to go and eat authentic Japanese food at an authentic Japanese restaurant. After asking the hostel where they would recommend, we decided to go to an authentic Japanese restaurant where the owner spoke no English and it was almost like you was entering someone’s home. With the menu being in Japanese we had no idea what the price was for anything that we may order. However, we thought this just added to the experience. We decided to order some ramen noodles and we have to say that these were amazing. It’s one place that if you want to eat good Japanese food, then this is the place to go.

 

 

As we decided against climbing Fuji on our second day we chose to explore the lakes and parks around Fuji. Walking around Lake Kawaguchi for about 4 hours we saw some spectacular sights and mountain ranges. Sometimes you forgot that you was in Japan, as it’s not something you expect to see. If hiking is an activity that you are interested in then walking around the lakes is something that might interest you. On our way back we stopped at a museum cafe, which was about the history of Fuji and had a beer. Also we stopped by at a local temple in Fuji which was just in a random location along the lakes pathway. The temple didn’t really have much to see but we just thought as were we already here, we may as well check it out. When we got back to the hostel, we met a traveller called Andy who also wanted to climb Fuji and was looking for someone to tag along with. Obviously, we asked if he wanted to climb with us as we didn’t want him to climb nearly 4000m by himself.

 

 

Day three in Fuji was the big day for us. Finally we were going to climb Fuji as we had made sure that the weather was going to be good for us to climb, and also for the sunset the next morning. What we would recommend is to take a small bag, probably a 20L bag, so you can put in extra layers, food and drink. This is because food and drink are ridiculously overpriced, and at the bottom of the mountain it’s too warm to wear all your layers. After choosing to start from station 0, we went even further and decided to start from our hostel. The four of us all agreed that if we were going to do it, we wanted to do it right. The walk from the hostel to station 0 was around 1.5 hours to begin with. In hindsight this probably wasn’t a good idea as the full trip to the top and then back down to the hostel took over 24 hours. Nevertheless, we were told that no one had ever attempted to start from the hostel and then walk the entire way. This only spurred us on to try this!

 

 

After finally reaching station 0 we were now on the main trail for the ascent. Most people who choose to climb Fuji get a bus to first station that costs 1,900 Yen. However, we didn’t see the point paying for a bus, which is expensive, and seemed to go against the point of coming to Japan to climb Fuji. The beginning of the climb from station 0-5 seemed pretty easy, and we were making good time in order to see the sunset. One memory of Fuji I won’t forget, is when we saw the view for the first time above the clouds. Being around 1840m in the air, allowed us to see some amazing views above the clouds.

 

 

After reaching station 5, we decided to take a bit of rest as we had been walking for about 5 hours straight from the hostel. The good thing about setting off so early, meant that we were at 5th station for sunset. After spending around 20 mins watching the sunset, we decided to start climbing again. After station 5, the climb gets progressively harder as you are climbing on ice, snow and through the dark. As darkness was approaching, there was a sudden drop in temperature so make sure you bring plenty of layers in your backpack. After layering up at station 6, we continued to head up the mountain. As its pitch dark by the time you make station 6, there’s not really much to see. However, at this point your main is aim to keep going so you keep warm. We found that stopping at some stations made you really cold and it took awhile for you to get warm again. Unless you need a break from the climb, then try to stop as little as possible. If you really want to, you can hire a bed and a room at the different stations, but these were ridiculously expensive, and really not worth it. We managed to climb Fuji, with no previous climbing experience, and although it took us ages, and we were in pain and so tired at the end, we are glad we didn’t waste money on these rooms.

 

 

By the time we had reached the summit, we had been walking for around 14 hours and now we were waiting for the sunrise. We initially, laid down on a bench and fell to sleep as we were so tired. However, our bodies were shaking so much from the cold we soon woke up and realised that there was a line to get inside a food cafe. Although we knew we would have to buy something, at this point we were so cold, and so hungry, that we wanted to buy something anyway. If you are going to do this, make sure you’re first in line when you reach the summit, and then eat your food really slowly so you can stay in the warm. The food as you can imagine is a rip-off, but when you’re hungry and so cold you have little choice but to pay the price.

27591570_10215523960996124_1431754300_n

After spending an hour in the warmth, we decided to head outside to see the beginning of the sunrise. Seeing this sunrise made the entire climb worth while! The sunrise was genuinely one of the best sunrises that we have ever seen, and it made the pain of climbing all worthwhile. If you ever get the chance to climb Fuji and see the sunrise you will appreciate just how amazing nature can be.

27583273_10215523960516112_1185967944_n

Many people start the climb by getting a bus from the town to 5th station. And although this is a lot easier, it is so rewarding actually climbing from the bottom to the top! Just keep in mind that at the top it is so cold and that you need to make sure you have adequate clothes. I remember one conversation I had with max, that is shown on the video below, saying wow it must be so cold, before coming across some of the biggest icicles we have ever come across. Also what you need to keep in mind is that when you finally get to the top you have to get back down. You could either do what Max and I did, and walk down all the way, or what Haydn and Andrew did, and walk to 5th station and get a bus back. In the end, the bus only saved them 2 hours, but obviously it meant that they could get home sooner.

27498124_10215523960956123_41246199_n

All in all, if you’re thinking you wanna climb a mountain but don’t wanna pay a lot of money to climb one, then Fuji is a great opportunity and experience to see whether you like climbing them. If you don’t end up paying for the busses there and back then climbing Fuji is free, and it is something to knock off your bucket list. Something we all agree on is that Fuji was one of the most rewarding activities that we have ever completed.

View the rest of our Fuji pictures here

Phnom Penh: Cambodia’s Old City

After spending the last 9 days in Malaysia, we flew out from KL and arrived in Phnom Penh. As we arrived in the late afternoon we decided to just walk around our hostel and sample some Cambodian food. Our first experiences of Asia were Hong Kong and Malaysia which are much different to Cambodia. Like Hong Kong, where it felt everyone had somewhere to go, Phnom Penh was just so busy. It was a bit of a culture shock as we learned as soon as we got out of the airport the roads were mental!

Before expanding on our trip to Cambodia, we would just like to point out that Cambodian food is incredible. Although most of our posts have raved about the food, (and deservedly so) we really did appreciate the Cambodian food. Not only the food, but the culture and people are incredible. Everyone is so friendly, and really make you feel welcome. You hear a lot of scare stories as Cambodia is a relatively poor country compared to other SEA countries, but we always felt safe and welcomed where ever we went.

For our first proper day, we relaxed and took things nice and slow. As we had scheduled to have a lot of time in Phnom Penh we didn’t feel the need to rush things. Although we spent way too much time in Phnom Penh (one of the many mistakes we have learned from), there were still lots for us to see and get involved with. We started our trip by just walking around the city and getting a feel for Phnom Penh. In other words, we just wanted to chill whilst still enjoying our time. As is very common in Cambodia, we were soon stopped by so many different Tuk-Tuk drivers asking us if we wanted a tour of X, Y, and Z. Some people may be put off by this constant nagging, but just remember your business is how they make a living and feed their families, and usually, the Tuk-Tuk drivers were very friendly. After a bit of persuasion, we decided to take a Tuk-Tuk city tour around the city, in which we saw the old city and the newly built part. During our trip, we stopped at many attractions, like the war monument, many Buddhists temples, and the Grand Palace. Although our day was pretty ‘tame’ compared to our whole Asia experience, for once it was nice to chill and just take in the city. The breeze you get in the back of a Tuk-Tuk is always very welcome!

During our second day, we decided to again go by Tuk-Tuk and experience Phnom Penh. During the day we visited Monkey temple, where we got to hand feed some bananas to the monkeys there. One little monkey wasn’t allowed to be fed as the big monkey, unfortunately, get very territorial over the bananas. After we visited a temple in the shape of a boat, a quite strange temple, and you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that it’s called Boat temple. This was included in the package we negotiated down, but if it wasn’t we wouldn’t recommend. The temple is nothing special and not worth going out of your way in our opinion. An activity we did enjoy was visiting Silk Island and its surrounding temples. Having to get a ferry boat over, we first visited a family’s house to see the weaving process. It looks quite a difficult task, and if you like you can purchase a pure silk scarf, tablecloth or other garments at a much lower price than you would get it at home. We then went to a more ‘industrial’ place (although not like you would see at home) where they made silk on a slightly larger scale. We got to see the silkworms here and learned more about how the silk was actually produced. There are a few other attractions at the site, such as a few (caged) animals. One of our highlights of our day was sitting on a big swing chair and just looking over the river and listening to our tour guide tell us about his life, and experience with the Khmer Rouge. Although we had to leave just before seeing a good sunset, it was a really enjoyable way to end our trip to silk island. We made one more stop off at the so-called Golden Temple. Again, the name literally explains what it is, a golden temple. However, unlike the Boat Temple, we really enjoyed walking around all the golden temples and buddhas. It had a lot more to offer and a lot more to see. Throughout our trip to Asia thus far, we had been trying local cuisine wherever we went. However, we decided to go and eat some western food at a burger place close to our hostel. The place called ‘Cousins’ was a French-owned restaurant and it served amazing food. The burgers were some of the best we have ever had, and we didn’t think we would be saying that in Cambodia.

The next day involved a bike tour that we had booked before leaving for Asia. The tour group consisted of us, two Australian guys, and our tour guide.  After cycling for a couple of hours, we reached our first destination, another silk weaving family. Here we tried some locally grown fruit: rambutans, mangosteens and dragon fruits. I have to say that these tasted delicious. After we had eaten we set off again and stopped at a local primary school where the kids suddenly became more interested in us than they did their studies. This was great fun as every child wanted a hug and a high five. The Cambodian children almost made you feel like you were a celebrity, and this was another fitting example of the welcoming feeling you got from the place. Finally, we ended our 5hour cycle tour seeing some temples and being blessed by a monk. We found this very interesting and enjoyed the experience as we had never been blessed by a Buddhist monk before.

On day 4, we met up with a friend that we had met in Malaysia. After having a catch-up and breakfast together, we decided to visit the Royal Palace and the National Museum and not do much else. The Royal Palace was a great piece of architecture, but it seemed a bit pricey for what you get to do. You are not allowed to walk inside the actual palace, which for us really killed the buzz. Nevertheless, the National Museum was very interesting and had hundreds and hundreds of artifacts spanning back over 1000 years. The Museum was a time warp into Cambodian culture and history and is worth taking a look.  Most of you will be happy to know that beer is incredibly cheap in Cambodia. With beer only being 50 cents during happy hour, we decided to have a little bit of a night out for the first time since arriving in Phnom Penh. We eventually stopped at an Irish bar at the end of our pub crawl and watch Wimbledon, where Nadal lost in nearly a 5-hour match. Safe to say one of us wasn’t happy the match went on too long.

Even though we went out the night before, we got up early so we could visit Tuol Sleng Prison (S21) and Cheoung Ek Killing Fields. As someone who is immensely interested in history and politics, learning about the genocide in Cambodia really frustrated me.  In the West, we don’t get taught about it, either at all or in any kind of depth. It’s hard to believe that the atrocities committed here by the Khmer Rouge happened only 40 years ago, and the places both feel so surreal. Almost all the local people of Cambodia have been affected by and lost family members to the evil deeds of the Polpot Regime. It made us reflect just how lucky we are that not only are we able to live in a free country, but were able to visit Cambodia and learn about the culture, history and the remarkable progress it has made since. One of the policies of the Khmer Rouge was to execute any educated people to prevent possible uprisings, and it is thought by many that this is a large part of the causation of Cambodia’s poverty-stricken situation. Comparable only to places such as Auschwitz, if you visit the country you really must visit these places to be able to take into consideration the scale of the nefariousness of the Khmer Rouge.

On our final day in Phnom Penh, we decided to make it all about the markets. The Central Market in the daytime is huge and is so easy to get lost in (trust us, we did). We must have walked down the same aisle thinking it was a different one over 5 times. As someone who doesn’t have a massive interest in markets, I had to say I really did enjoy this one. In fact, both of us did! With clothes being so cheap, we decided to buy a few tops each as we wanted something that would fit the climate and also stop the constant “Tuk-Tuk?” calls. Obviously, we opted for the ‘No Tuk-Tuk T-shirt’ each, and you’ll be surprised to hear that they didn’t work.

All in all, although we agreed that we spent far too long in Phnom Penh and could have done everything in a much smaller time frame, we did thoroughly enjoy our stay. The people really did make us feel welcome, especially our Hostel, the Sla Boutique which we can recommend. We would defiantly recommend visiting Phnom Penh so you can visit S21 and the Killing Fields, but we wouldn’t stay there as long if we went back. Again, it comes down to not pre-booking your travel arrangements, as we would have left for Siem Reap a couple of days earlier if we hadn’t already paid for the bus and hostel.

View the rest of our Cambodia pictures here

 

Chiang Mai & Pai: Hidden Gems

After spending three nights in Bangkok, we had caught up on sleep and felt refreshed. Because we went back to Koh Tao to do our diving course and had to be back in Bangkok to fly to Tokyo four days later, we decided to take a flight to Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand.

Limited on time, we knew that we had to make the most of what little we had in the north. Throughout our travels, we had heard many stories about Pai and how we HAD to go there. As the saying goes “All roads lead to Pai.” Making sure we arrived in Chiang Mai early to have the most time possible, we wasted no time in getting on the sightseeing. We checked into Chiangmai Gate Capsule Hostel, which we would highly recommend. The hostel is cheap, around £4-5 a night, and the woman at reception was incredibly helpful. The hostel offers a huge range of tours and activities that the lady will book for you, often as discounted prices, and if you booked through her the lady gives benefits such as free accommodation for one night. She even included breakfast when the tour was leaving early! We booked an elephant sanctuary tour and our bus to Pai with her, and we couldn’t help but leave a 5-star review. Our only regret is we cannot remember the lady’s name!

Hostel

After checking in, we went to get some food at a place called ‘SP Chicken’. This was recommended by our dive instructor Jason, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. He told us it was some of the best chicken he had ever had, and soon it would be some of the best we ever had. Remarkable prices and great taste, it made the 30minute walk from the hostel worthwhile. We then decided to start visiting the temples which are located all over Chiang Mai. We first visited Wat Chedi Luang where we were impressed with the architecture of the building as well as the amazing paintings inside. However, this did have a ‘No women allowed’ sign, which we didn’t know about beforehand, so make sure you research places before you go! Nevertheless, it did not put us off from going to see another temple, where we had to take a taxi truck up the mountain to go and see it. Wat Prathap Doi Suthep has to be one of the best temples or religious buildings that we have ever seen. Honestly, we cannot stress just how amazing this temple was. It was made up of many gold buildings and amazing paintings throughout the entire site. A little tip, don’t pay for the lift to the top from the bottom. They advertise that there’s a lot of stairs but it’s not worth paying for the lift. During the night time, we decided to check out Chiang Mai’s night market which was surprisingly much better than we anticipated. Stalls, food, and entertainment everywhere really made the market have a great atmosphere for everyone to get involved in.

The next morning, we woke up nice and early to meet our guide to take us to the elephant sanctuary. After about an hour and a half bus ride, which we shared with people from all over the world, we finally arrived. After having a brief introduction and an explanation why there is a need for an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai (there are many), we got to feed the elephants with bananas and sugar cane. After having fun feeding all the elephants we had to make our own scrubbers to clean the elephants. This ended up the staff getting everyone drenched and turned into a massive water fight! We then had lunch and bonded with the rest of our group before trekking to a waterfall where we all swam. The highlight of the day and there were many, was white water rafting down a river which was an incredible experience. The entire day put on by the elephant sanctuary was amazing and we would highly recommend visiting. Unfortunately, none of us remember the name of the sanctuary but if you do stay at the hostel it is the one advertised. However, the day wasn’t over yet! We asked the hostel where we could eat good Thai food. She recommended We’s restaurant, which was around the corner from our hostel. We decided to eat the Khao Soi, and what a good decision it was. A traditional Northern Thai dish, the Khao Soi was ridiculously cheap and probably the best food we had had all of the trip, which is saying a lot as we had great food in every place we visited. We would 100% recommend trying Koh Soi at We’s. We liked it so much we tried going back the next day, but it was closed. After eating some of the greatest food we have ever tasted we ended the night watching Thai boxing. As someone who hasn’t watched much Thai boxing, it began quite slow and laboured. Before it stepped up and really got intense with one fighter having a bloody nose and being knocked down three or four times before finally winning.

The next day we again had to wake up early to catch our bus we arranged through the hostel to Pai. Taking around 2 hours to get there we arrived at our hostel, The Famous Circus Hostel. This hostel is the definition of chill. It had its own pool, overlooking a phenomenal view of the mountain range, as well as hammocks around the courtyard for you to just chill and watch the world go by. After checking in at midday, we quickly hired some motorbikes so we could ride around and see all the amazing sites Pai had to offer. We started by seeing some incredible waterfalls before seeing the white Buddha. One of the funniest things was when we visited the hot springs. We were not aware that there were two different types of hot spring; one for people to bathe in, and one in which you can boil an egg. To our demise, we sat in the wrong one for way too long. What is supposed to be a relaxing and soothing activity turned out to be quite painful – a mistake we only learned about when we got back to the hostel and don’t want you to repeat! After emerging very red from the spring, we travelled to Pai canyon where we saw spectacular views of the countryside and its mountain ranges. Pai has some wonderful views, and if the waterfalls don’t win you over then the views from Pai canyon will!

On our final day in Pai, we watched the McGregor-Mayweather fight with locals and other visitors of the town. One benefit of the time difference was that we got the fight at about 10am local time, so didn’t have to wait up until the early hours of the morning like we would have had to in the UK! The atmosphere was buzzing in all the bars and it was amazing to be in there. After the fight, we had some time and petrol left, so we rode around Pai for a while and just took in all its spectacular scenery. Something we all agreed on, we wish that we had more time in Pai because it truly was an amazing place, with so much more to offer than what we saw. We spent just over 48 hours in Pai but could have easily spent a week. It’s definitely on the list of places to revisit. Later that afternoon we headed back to Bangkok to get our flight to Japan, where we would attempt to climb Mt Fuji.

View the rest of our Thailand pictures Here

 

Rome: Vacanze Romane

Famous for its ancient buildings and rich history, Rome is a brilliant city to visit. Its classical ruins mixed with a modern feel allow for a great balance when exploring the city. To put it simply, Rome has everything you could want from a capital city. What drew us to visit Rome was its ancient past and importance on shaping Europe. Obviously, Rome might not be for everyone, but if you’re interested in history, architecture, religion or art then it should be high on your bucket list.

 

Another major attraction for us wanting to visit Rome is of course its one of the major cities in Europe. And Italy as a country is known for many great things, one of them being how amazing their food is. Throughout our time in Rome, we definitely made the most out of being able to eat great Italian food anywhere. You wont be surprised to hear that Rome offered some of the best Italian food that we have ever tasted. . The vast amount of choice on offer is incredible. Pizza, lasagne, pasta, or just an ice cream; there really is something for everyone. Both the quality and quantity of the food did not disappoint.

We started our trip to Rome with visiting one of its main attractions which we are sure you will have heard before; the Colosseum is one of many attractions in Rome that is simply unmissable. The Colosseum built in 70AD is remarkably still standing. The sheer engineering genius of this building is miraculous. The tour provided offers a terrific way to experience the Colosseum as it allows you to walk inside the arena, as well as through the passageways of past gladiators. What struck us about the Colosseum is just how well built it is. It was just incredible to walk around and feel apart of its history and understand its importance in Roman society. What’s really nice about visiting the Colosseum is that If you’re going to Rome in the summer, then there are quite a few nice restaurants and bars along the way that you can relax at before or after your visit to cool off from the burning sun!

Something that we really enjoyed doing was just walking around the city, as we always like to get a feel for it. What’s awesome about Rome is that from just walking around the city, you will undoubtedly come across some of Rome’s other, smaller, ancient ruins. The ancient ruins are scattered near the Colosseum area. As someone with a great interest in History, it was easy to appreciate their significance to the Italian capital. However, if you’re limited for time then you don’t need to worry about setting aside a great amount of time to see these ruins as they’re on the way to the Colosseum. Another famous landmark in Rome you may wish to frequent is the Spanish Steps, however, this area is quite touristy and personally, we think there are better things to see. One of the better things to see without a doubt is the Trevi Fountain. Like most things in Rome, the engineering brilliance of the fountain is something to admire. In the day time it attracts many tourists, so maybe visit in the evening or at night. The area still attracts quite a lot of people but it is a lot easier to get a good photo! We visited in the day and night, and visiting in the night was so much better, especially as it was a lot cooler in the night time, less people and all lit up!

 

Although none of us are religious, that did not put us off going to visit Vatican City. It’s another one of the areas that you must go when in Rome. The tours were some of the more expensive that we have been on, but it’s such a wonderful experience walking around St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. The artistic brilliance of the Sistine Chapel is like no other and blows every other chapel out of the water. What stuck out to us was just the amount of gold in St. Peter’s Basilica. What is nice about visiting a site like St. Peter’s Basilica, is that you do feel at peace with yourself and its nice to just sit down and think about everything. As we had a pretty hectic few days trying to see as much as we could in the limited time we have, we did really enjoy just sitting down and being in an environment that brought us some peace.

 

Depending on the length of your stay, you might want some time out for a day trip to the Italian coast. As we travelled to Rome for four days before moving on to our next city, we decided that we would spend one day at the coast. Waking up early and taking a short train ride to the coast we enjoyed an awesome day at the beach. With temperatures constantly hitting the mid 30s and becoming quite uncomfortable walking in it all day, we decided that taking a short trip to the beach was what we needed. If you’re travelling by yourself or with a small party, then try and take part in some beach sports or make friends! During our trip, we met some people from all over the world and played some beach football whilst also deciding to all go swimming in very active waters. If you do have some spare time then going to the coast is something that would really recommend. Going to the beach was a really nice way to end our short stay in Rome because it was just so hot whilst we were there.

Italian Coast

Something we all agreed on but is something that we expected was that the downside to Rome is it is not a place where you would go for a wild night out. Many cities might focus on both nightlife and daytime activities, but Rome certainly puts more effort in giving travellers a brilliant day time experience. However, the positives of the city definitely outweigh the flaws as there is just so much to keep you occupied. Saying that, we did end up going to an open roof night club, which was the first that any of us had gone to, and it was an enjoyable experience. My recommendation would be, save your money on the clubs and spend more on the food!

All in all, Rome is a great city to go and visit. There really is just so much to experience, historically, culturally and spiritually in Rome.  If you’re stuck on how many days you should give Rome, we feel that going for four days is the perfect amount of time to experience everything that Rome has to offer.

View the rest of our Rome pictures here.