Istanbul: A Bazaar Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


View the rest of our Istanbul pictures here.

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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Reykjavik

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Countries I have visited 2015-2018.

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

 

Bali: A True Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017: Through a lens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.