Riga: A Birthday Weekend Away

Back in 2016, I wanted to go travelling for my birthday. Although we had previously done a trip to Europe in 2015, it wasn’t really what we expected. However, we wanted to give travelling another go! Luckily, we gave travelling another shot as the rest is history..

I had heard many good things about the nightlife in Eastern Europe, mainly from travellers youtube videos. Also, we had been to Prague in 2015 and the night life was crazy! I remember at the time, people were quite surprised we had decided to spend my birthday in Riga, but honestly it was one of the best weekends of my life. We met a huge group of crazy people and had chances to do things that most people don’t ever do!

When we first arrived in Riga we checked into our hostel (Riga Old Town Hostel & Backpackers Pub). Honestly, this hostel is great! What I really liked about the hostel was it allowed you to meet some awesome people and have an awesome night! Unless the rules have changed, the bar stays open until 3am so you can carry on the party very late into the night! (After checking on hostel world, the bar still closes at 3am). Also between the hours of 5pm-7pm there is happy hour – which means 30% off all tap beers!

The hostel has a sister hostel round the corner, The Naughty Squirrel. This is where the pub crawl starts if you are interested in having a mad night! However, this hostel is a bit run down and personally I am really glad we stayed out Old Town. Another quirky thing about Old Town is that it has a campervan as the reception and bar area within the hostel!

On arrival, we accepted a free welcome beer (always the sign of a good hostel) and we were give a free map guide where the hostel staff told us what they key attractions were. They also explained about the tours and activities which they can arrange.

As we landed in Riga at night time, we decided to just have a quick walk around the local area and see some of the historical monuments around the city. However, with it being -5C and our hostel having a bar and a pub crawl, we decided to get ready and sign up for the crawl.

After signing up, we went to the sister hostel (Naughty Squirrel) where we played party games and met loads of people from all around the world. This was the travelling that excited us, the idea of meeting lots of cool people. Unfortunately, we didn’t really do that during our first Europe trip. We also tried a new drink, Riga Black Balsam, which although not many people seemed to like, I really did! However, having 4 or 5 of these drinks can quickly escalate your night! The amount of free shots and drinks that you get on this pub crawl, and the cheapness of the drinks means that you soon become incredibly drunk! Which for a birthday weekend is perfect!

After visiting many bars we ended up at one of the biggest clubs I have ever been in. Unfortunately I cannot remember the name, but if you sign up to the pub crawl you’ll visit for sure! Downstairs in the first room, is a takeaway shop, where you can buy pizza slices and burgers! The second room had a huge cloak room to put any coats and bags, before another room having loads of pool tables. The other remaining rooms have several bars and the final room downstairs is the club area. It is incredibly easy to get lost here, however such an awesome place!

The next day after waking up ridiculously early to say we returned about 4am, we got our free breakfast beer. Yes, that’s right! Beer for breakfast! Although as you can imagine these were going down really slowly. During the day time we walked around Rigas old town as well as walking to do some escape rooms! We ended up getting carried away and trying to complete 3 escape rooms. Unfortunately, we wasn’t very good. One of the escape rooms, was called casino and 5 people is usually the recommended number of people for this room. However, with just the 2 of us we so nearly completed it!

After spending the day walking around Riga, we went back to the hostel where we decided to try a beer tasting tray. You get 14 beers to try and some were very good beers! Others… my word were they bad! However, I would still recommend doing the beer tasting because you get to try locally brewed beers from Riga. After we finished the last of the beer tasting, we signed up for the pub crawl again and met up with everyone we saw the day before. The night went pretty much the same way as we spent the last, having a great time and consuming a lot of alcohol!

The next day was going to be our best day yet! Through the hostel we booked to go winter bobsledding! This was an amazing chance to do something really unique. We had gone with some people we had met at our hostel which made the whole experience really fun. The whole tour was a really good package. The hostel provide transportation to and from the hostel which makes your life a lot easier.

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What I loved about bobsledding is that you had the chance to do something that not many people have done! Being able to travel at speeds of 110kmh as well as experience 4G’s was such an unreal feeling. What I can say, during the run it feels a lot faster than 110kmh! The constant turning of the sleigh, and feeling every bump on the track made the experience come to life. I remember when the driver started running down the slope of the track, I was wondering if I had made a mistake as the driver had warned us that people had died before due to the drivers being poor and overturning the sleigh. However, as soon as the run was over (which it ended so quickly!) I just wanted to go and do the whole experience again. The adrenaline rush was immense!

After having done one of the most unique experiences of our lives, we were all in such a good mood on the way back to the hostel. As soon as we got back, we got some beers in and just talked about how crazy the day had been! As like the other nights, we signed up to the pub crawl again and had an awesome night! Apparently.. It was a bit too awesome as we woke up with only 1.5hours left before our flight was scheduled to depart. Now this might not sound bad, but we still had to check out, and get to the airport which was a 20 minute drive away. By the time we had got to the boarding stage, we were on last call, but thankfully made the flight home! We learned a valuable lesson, don’t get home 1 hour before you have to leave for the airport, because you will fall asleep! Not that we have stuck to this lesson..

For those of you who hadn’t thought about Riga, or maybe even heard of the place before this article, honestly look into it! Riga is a fantastic getaway city, and if you stay in the right hostel like us, you’ll meet some awesome people who just want to have a good time! If you’re an adrenaline junky, then go try out the bobsledding as it is truly an immense experience!

View the rest of our Riga 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

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

Norway: In a Week Part I

Our plan to travel the whole of Norway, from the south to Tromso in just 8 days was ambitious and most people we met were all saying the same thing; ‘good luck’. However, we never like to give up and decided that there was no harm in trying. Starting our Norwegian adventure in Oslo, we decided that just like in Iceland, we would rent a car from the airport. People reading this might ask why we didn’t just fly, take a bus or get a train, well as we are four students, we were on a budget and heard that driving in Norway is part of the fun. That is something that we would like to point out. Although some of the journeys were so long in between places, the amount of times we stopped just to look at the scenery made all the driving worthwhile.

 

After researching online for what we can do in Oslo, we found very little that interested us. Therefore, we gave ourselves half a day to see what we wanted to see and then set off on the near 8 hour car journey to stavanger. We started our day bright and early, and drove to the Opera House which is on the coast of Oslo. Side note here, if you’re going to drive be prepared for out of this world parking fees. Obviously, we knew it was going to be expensive to park in a capital city, but we spent over £20 for an hour and three-quarters of parking. Nevertheless, the Opera House did you a good view of the coast as it allows you to walk on the roof! However, just be careful if you go in the winter time like we did, the thick snow and ice walking up a slope can be fairly hazardous as you’d expect. From here we walked down the pier where we came to a place called Vippa which is like a modern, hip food court. We ate a place called ‘Hot Hot Harmonica’ where we ate chili con carne, and it was really really good. Everything is homemade, including the sauces which really added to the taste. If you can find this place, as it took us a while to find it, then we definitely recommend eating here! However, like the rest of Norway it is expensive to eat here, around £14. From here we visited the Vigeland Sculpture Park, which may be the weirdest 40 minutes of my life. For anyone who is interested in statues of naked people, this is right up your alley. After walking around the park and looking at all the weird statues, we started a long drive south to Stavanger where we would later pick up Haydn.

 

Arriving in Stavanger just before 11pm, we stayed at an Air BnB called Hostel Gusto with a lovely host called Cristian. We must just point out that along the drive to Stavanger before it hit absolute darkness we did see some wonderful scenery and stopped off at a place called Langesund, originally for a toilet break until we turned around and saw an amazing view. As we arrived at the hostel, Cristian made us feel very welcome and we asked lots of questions about Norway and about what we could do in Stavanger. He was incredibly insightful and helpful and recommended us things that normal tourists would probably not do. However, Cristian does have some cats, so if you’re not a cat person then this place may not be for you.

 

The next day, following Cristian’s advice we took a ferry from Stavanger to Tou which took around 20-30 minutes. Big warning here, ferries in Norway cost A LOT and us stating this will be common throughout this blog as we had to take so many. Costing around £30 for a short journey, we arrived in Tou on our way to do the Pedersgata hike. If you do go, when you arrive at the barriers turn left before going through as there is free car parking if you do not go through the barrier. If you do, you will find out (like we did) that you just spend an extra £20 on parking for a few hours. Nevertheless, after buying and renting some equipment from the information centre, we headed up on the hike where it started to full on snow which only made the climb more magical. We really did want it to snow as we thought it would add to the effect of us being in Norway and climbing a mountain, and it certainly did! The views along the way became more spectacular the higher you got, the only problem was that sometimes the visibility got bad so you couldn’t always see the view that well. If you are thinking about visiting Stavanger and you only have a day or two, then definitely think about doing this climb because it was one of our favourite excursions down in the south of Norway.

 

After we had departed with another £20 for parking, we headed on home by taking a different ferry that was slightly cheaper, but further away from our hostel and then went to a bar where Cristian worked at. The bar was called Boker Og Borst, and was actually really nice, with live music, and an outside that had blankets and heaters to keep you warm in the winter. The place was hip and chill and Cristian gave us some free samples of Norwegian beer which we really appreciated. He also recommended we go and check out a place called Ost pub, where it was chill but fancier so the prices were expensive even with student discount!

 

Our final day in Stavanger was going to be a relative short one as we had to go and pick up Haydn at about 3pm from the airport. Again Cristian recommended us things to do so we wouldn’t be waiting around doing nothing in the morning. All we can do is thank Cristian for recommending the things he did because the views, mountains, and waterfalls etc were out of this world. At first when we arrived at the places he told us, we were quite confused as they were random coordinates he put in google maps. However, we kept driving and just saw stunning geography all around us. Starting at the Frafjord which is a huge fjord which leaves picturesque views on all sides. If you continue to drive through the fjord, a couple of kilometers further on you come to Manafossen, which is a stunning waterfall, probably the biggest we have seen up close. We must have spent about 30 minutes here just taking pictures and videos and just marvelling in its natural beauty. From there we carried up climbing up to “Man” which is a viewpoint overlooking the entire fjord which as you can imagine was phenomenal. We did have quite a comical experience climbing down as it was so icy and all downhill that we just kept falling over constantly, something we caught whilst on video. To round the sightseeing off, we drove back on ourselves and headed nearer to the city, on the way we stopped at a place called Gloppedalsura which are rock formations, surrounded by stunning mountain views and lakes. Some of this scenery was better than anything that we had ever seen by a country mile. The second day of our stay in Stavanger is best summed up by us constantly stopping getting out of the car and saying ‘Wow’.

 

Picking Haydn up from the airport and briefly stopping at the Sverd I Fjell, otherwise known as the 3 Swords, we headed onto Bergen which was going to take around 6 hours to get there. Here we used AirBnB again as we had such a good experience with Cristian – that was the first time that we had ever used it before as we usually just stay in hostels. Our stay in Bergen was short as we had such a long trip up to Tromso and many places to stop along the way. Whilst in Bergen we started our day visiting Bryggen which is a row of houses, shops and where the famous fish market is. However, only do this if you’re nearby because there’s not that much else to look at, and the famous fish market was a lot smaller than we were expecting. We then aimed to go up the cable car to Ulriken which is a mountain that overlooks the city and surrounding coastline.

 

However, sometimes things never work out the way you want them to and the cable car was shut due to high winds. At the time we were very confused as there was no wind at all where we were standing. The good news was that you can actually hike up the mountain if you choose to, which we did. However, in the winter the hike is incredibly slippy with ice and snow everywhere with steep rocks you have to climb. After climbing for about two hours we reached a point called Montana which is very close to the top, and that is where we found out why the cable car was closed. The wind was so strong here it’s probably the strongest wind we have ever been in! It was impossible to talk or even look into the wind, so we quickly but safely climbed back down to where the wind was not as strong. From here, we looked at the incredible view that was on offer before the arduous journey back down to the car. When we finally got back to the car we set off on our way to Geirangerfjord where we would begin making our way northwards.

View the rest of our Norway pictures here.

 


 

Vietnam: Riding The Buffalo Run

After one final night in Hanoi after Sapa, we left to start the Buffalo Run. The Buffalo Run is an epic week-long adventure where you start in Hanoi and finish in Hoi An. Inspired from Top Gears Vietnam Special, the Buffalo Run gives you a great chance to experience the culture, the scenery and history of Vietnam. Like the other trips, it also gives you a great chance to meet new people from all over the world and since you’re with them for a week, really get to know each other.

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SONY DSC

On the first day of a trip down to Hoi An, we cycled to a local temple where our tour guide (Ricky) explained about history of Vietnam and its kings. After this we took a two-hour boat tour through caves and around mountains where they filmed ‘Kong: Skull Island’. This was a lot of fun as everyone we met got competitive and we made it into a race to see who could get around the quickest. This was funny as our guides who were rowing us also got competitive. We won the first leg, but unfortunately, one of us had to help another boat which was stuck after disembarking to explore an island and so we only could claim second place. After sweating profusely during the boat race, a shower at a hotel was more than welcome before taking the night bus to Phong Nha.

Day two was one of the funniest days of our stay in Vietnam, if not the whole trip. After driving from about an hour from our hotel, you get to take a 400m zip line trip across the river before entering the dark caves. In Vietnam, they have a naming method in English which is very exact. So, the dark caves are genuinely just caves that are dark. However, these caves had a mud bath right at the end, where many a mud pie was thrown when the lights were turned off. Nevertheless, it was a great laugh, especially the mud slide back into the river at the end of the cave.

Lunch consisted of DIY spring rolls, before venturing onto a cave in which 80 people became trapped and died from in a US bombing campaign. Ricky explained a lot about the history of why the US bombed the area and it was a sobering activity. What we liked about the Buffalo Run was it was a good experience learning about the history of Vietnam, with almost constant fun as well. After visiting the war cave, we went to a farm stay where we sat by a pool drinking beer and watched a beautiful sunset. It was the perfect ending to a great day and a start to a great night. We later bought drinks from a shop and stayed playing drinking games in a hotel room, having a fantastic time.

Day three, we decided to go in the back of a truck to our next place instead of taking bikes. This was a fun experience but not exactly a luxurious journey, as the truck didn’t have the most advanced suspension system. If you decide to do the Buffalo Run you do get the option the night before on your mode of transport, whether that be bicycles, scooters or a truck like us.

Day three was not as hectic as day two. We thought it was strange that our guide Ricky kept on specifying that the pub we were going to had cold beer, but the place was actually called ‘The Pub with Cold Beer’. Here, you can relax in hammocks with a beer, play volleyball, and then cool off in the river afterwards. This was a very nice addition as the volleyball got quite heated when we started a tournament that pitted the British and Irish Lions vs ‘Canasians’ (Canadians and our Asian tour guide, Ricky), especially when we introduced the rule that the losers had to buy the winners a beer each!

Also at the Pub with Cold Beer you can partake in a more unusual, perhaps once in a lifetime activity and kill a chicken. The method for doing so is somewhat brutal (a machete to the back of the neck) and not for the faint of heart. However, everyone in the group agreed that the chicken tasted phenomenal and it was a very rewarding experience to take responsibility for ending the animal’s life that you were about to eat.

On day four we travelled to Hue, whilst also stopping at a land mine museum as well as some Vietnam war tunnels. Again, our tour guide explained the history behind the land mine museum and the war tunnels. This was very interesting as the three of us did not know much about the Vietnam war prior to our trip. After arriving in Hue, at another Vietnam Backpacker Hostel, there was a pub crawl with the theme ‘shit shirt night’. The whole of team Buffalo Run made a strong effort for the event. In our shit shirts and matching shorts, we were ready for a crazy night. Here, we also met some friends that we previously met in Ha Long Bay and made plans to meet up in Hoi An.

Day five of the trip was a beach day! However, we stopped off at a temple first, where the car in which a monk drove himself into the town square and set himself alight to protest the anti-Buddhist regime was kept. After Ricky had educated us more on this temple, we finally set off to the beach and spent the day there. All of us decided to play volleyball in the sea as well as playing another competition for beer. Probably wasn’t a clever idea as we kept losing more than we were winning. In order to play, we first had to find buckets and bottles, fill them with water and throw it on the volleyball pitch, as the sand was far too hot to play on. One of the most ridiculous things we did, but Ricky had assured us it worked beforehand. If it’s stupid and it works, then it isn’t stupid.

On day six we travelled to Hoi An via the Hai Van Pass in ex-army jeeps from the war. It is also possible to do the pass on motorbikes through VBH, but we decided to take the jeeps and felt it was the right decision. This was such an incredible experience as big fans of Top Gear. We also stopped off for lunch and had a swim at the beach before arriving in Hoi An. Again, stopping at a Backpackers hostel, we signed up for the ‘Beer Olympics’ but were cheated out of a victory! But it was all just fun and games really, and there was the opportunity for everyone to get involved.

On the final day of the Buffalo Run, we rowed in bamboo boats and went crab fishing. Accidentally, one of us dropped a crab in our boat and as the guide went to pick it up the crab pinched him. This was funny though as he made a massive joke out of it and we continued to have a really fun experience. As it was our last day we had one last game of volleyball in the hostel pool before going out for our last night out together. Here we met up with our friends from Ha Long Bay and had an amazing night. Unfortunately, the next day we had to leave to Ho Chi Minh City as we were flying out of there to go to Thailand. Although we deliberated whether we should just stay another night we finally decided to leave.

On arriving in Ho Chi Minh at night and not having much time there before leaving for Thailand, we visited some markets and walked around the city a bit. We didn’t experience much of the city so we can’t say much for it. But this just means it’s somewhere we will have to go back and visit!

Overall, I wish we could have spent a lot longer than just 17 days in Vietnam. It was all absolutely incredible, and we did so much but it felt like we were only scratching the surface. If you’re going South East Asia and not visiting Vietnam, I would strongly recommend changing your schedule.

View the rest of our Vietnam 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Thailand: Islands and Krabi – Adventure Hard Party Hard

After having one of the best times of our lives in Vietnam for 17 days, (Vietnam: Home of Adventure) we finally left for Thailand. Initially, we were going to give ourselves a couple of days in Phuket but decided against this and headed straight to the islands. Arriving in Phuket late at night from Ho Chi Minh City, we went straight to bed so we would wake up early(ish) before getting a ferry over to Koh Phi Phi. The next morning, we checked out some markets in Phuket before heading over to the ferry point. Disclaimer: Before we set off on our travels, we had researched how to get from one island to another. We found very confusing information that made it sound very difficult and hard work. However, we got 6 ferries in total to all the islands and back to the mainland, and never experienced any issues and problems at all!

After arriving in Koh Phi Phi after a two-hour ferry journey, we headed over to our hostel. We had originally just booked a one-night stay at a hostel that I would not recommend. After we had checked in to our hostel, we decided to spend the rest of the day at the beach and just drink a few beers. This is one of the reasons that makes Phi Phi such a wonderful place to visit. In the daytime, you can just relax by the beach and then have a crazy night out.

The next day we checked into our new hostel where we would spend the next couple of days. I would definitely recommend Blanco Beach Bar hostel. This hostel offers trips, tips and a mad night every single night. From its fire dance shows, limbo competitions and its infamous hand grenade challenge, there’s no chance that you will not have a great night. As soon as we arrived, we signed up for their boat party. There are two prices you can pay either 1300Baht or 2000Baht. Obviously, we went for the 2000Baht, which included 10 free drinks after the boat party, a Blanco boat party tank top and a barbeque. Whilst on the boat party you can jump off the boat, snorkel and kayak, as well as meeting a load of new people that you’ll be spending the rest of the night with. It’s safe to say that the boat party is worth its money as you get drunk on the boat, as well as being able to “cash” in your 10 free drinks when you get back to the hostel.

After the boat party finished, we met up with one of our girlfriends and her friend, and one of our friends we had met in Cambodia. We’d like to say that we remembered the night. However, as you can imagine, the amount of drinking that is involved staying at Blanco’s means that night becomes hazy. What we know for sure is that there were a lot of drinks, party games and competitions. Even in our drunken state, we managed to come runners-up in the beer pong tournament. Our third and final day in Phi Phi started with a lay-in before walking around some of the shops. Later we headed to the beach where we relaxed all day, before “crashing” a pool party at the hostel next door. However, this wasn’t the best so we headed back to our hostel to get prepared to go to the viewpoint in the evening. To get to the viewpoint you have to climb hundreds of steps before finally getting there. Nevertheless, the view overlooking the island with the sun setting is phenomenal and definitely worth the climb!

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Back at the hostel, we decided as it was our last night, that we would attempt the Blanco’s infamous hand grenade challenge. For 600baht, you have to do shots of tequila, amaretto, jaeger, vodka and some even mixed with beer.  Safe to say we were all hammered after this. The good thing about staying at Blanco’s, is that the limbo competition means every time you do the limbo, you get a free shot (however it is watered down). Nonetheless, after you’ve been doing this for a long time it still gets you really drunk.

After a second crazy night out in Phi Phi, the five of us decided to get a ferry to Krabi and stay at Slumber Party Hostel. Known for being the best party hostel in Thailand, you can imagine what happened here. There’s only one word to describe Slumber Party – MAD. Free food at 8pm every night, quickly leads to getting people downstairs before free shots are dished out by the reps. A funny story was when one of us was showering, they came into the bathroom and poured a free shot into our mouth whilst we were showering. In other words, stay at this hostel if you want to party hard! The pub crawl here is immense. Paying onto the pub crawl gets you: Slumber Party tank top as well as a bucket of alcohol. (The bucket is literally just alcohol, or might as well be). The pub crawl leads you to several bars where the party doesn’t end and continues all night. The nights out that we experienced at Slumber Party were some of the best of our trip.

The second day at Krabi, we decided to do the hostels “Island Awesomeness” tour where you visit Krabi’s top beaches and go snorkelling. The first thing you do when you get off the boat at the beach is a shotgun at 10am. Safe to say many people struggled with this. Nevertheless, the day was packed with awesome stuff, from seeing the best beaches, going through caves to a secret swimming point and snorkelling. The cool thing we were shown when we were snorkelling, was to take some rice with us and squeeze it and all the fish would come. The only problem with this is, as we ran out of rice the fish started to bite us!! When we arrived back there was no time to relax, as we were forced to go on the pub crawl for the second night and enter the beer pong tournament. Unfortunately, we lost in the first round but we met loads of people so was worth it anyway. The second night we all got split up with one going home with a girl, one going home with his girlfriend and another “enjoying” his time with a lady boy…

 

The next day we took a flight from Krabi over to Koh Samui where we stayed at a hostel called Casa Luna. The hostel was very nice and the receptionist was ever so helpful. He recommended us to rent some bikes and explore some of the island. We only planned one night in Koh Samui as we had heard that it was overpriced and not worth it. However, if we had more time in Thailand we would have stayed for at least one more day as after a week of hard partying it was nice to just relax. During our stay in Koh Samui we drove to some waterfalls and trekked up the mountain to Na Muang Waterfall 2. This was awesome as we saw an amazing sunset with a stunning view. However, we would like to point out that when you get there, there is an option to take a truck to the waterfall. The people their claim its 30minutes away. But this is not the case!! They charge you 100baht to take you 2minutes down the road and then you have to climb for 30minutes. Do not fall for this scam! After we had finished watching an amazing sunset, we decided to head to a sports bar and watch some football before leaving for Koh Tao the next day.

Arriving in Koh Tao by ferry at early evening, we checked into our hostel, Taco Shack 1 and headed out for some food! We can recommend a fantastic restaurant called Seafood by Pawn. We enjoyed it so much we went back three times over the course of our stay in Koh Tao. The restaurant is usually really busy (a testament to how good it is) but the service is also really good! They serve excellent fish dishes as well as any Thai curry you could want. When you go to Koh Tao you can’t really come without trying diving. Our hostel was advertising trying some fun dives and this really interested us. One of us had already got their open water in Cambodia earlier in the trip and recommended it to us. If you book with Taco Shack 1, in the morning you are collected and driven over to the sister hostel Taco Shack 2 (The diving hostel). Here, we decided that we would go for two fun dives to see if we liked it or not. At the beginning, you learn the basics of scuba diving before heading out to a max depth of 12m. We enjoyed it so much two of us wanted to get our open water and one of us our advanced. However, the problem was we were leaving Koh Tao to head over to the half-moon party in Koh Pha Ngan the next day. Nevertheless, we decided to come back to Koh Tao after the half-moon party and take a diving course.

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Arriving in Koh Pha Ngan and staying at another Slumber Party Hostel, we quickly saw that we had made a huge mistake. Remember us telling you we wanted to go to the half-moon party? Well.. the half-moon party happened the day before we arrived. “Luckily” one of us was quite ill meaning that we would have missed it anyway as we always like to stick together. Nevertheless, it was an annoying mistake as we booked our stay at our hostel in Koh Tao in another two nights. As the island was pretty much dead, we decided to go and take on “The Challenge”. Like the total wipeout course you have probably seen on TV, there are obstacles that you must complete to get to the next level. We spent the entire day here and enjoyed it so much. The only problem is because it’s all upper body exercises, after spending five hours here we were dead. Still, when we got back to the hostel we headed out with some friends that we met and enjoyed a good night with the hostel!

After spending two nights in Koh Pha Ngan, we headed back to Koh Tao to start our diving course! The next couple of days in Koh Tao was spent with the two of us learning our open water courses, and the other, learning his advanced. Just a top tip, after saying in both Taco Shack hostels, I can honestly say that the Taco Shack 2 is a lot better. Although further away from the pier, it offers a great pub crawl and offers diving courses as well! The next three days were some of the best of the entire trip as diving is such a cool and incredible experience. We were all glad that we decided to head back to Koh Tao, even if it did leave us being skint. At Taco Shack 2 we met loads of people and got a good group together, where we went out and enjoyed the pub crawl! Passing our diving courses on our final day in Koh Tao was such a fantastic way to end our island experience. All three of us agree that Koh Tao was our favourite island and diving only added to that! Now we were leaving Koh Tao it was time to head to Bangkok and see the rest of Thailand.

View the rest of our Thailand pictures Here.