Ayutthaya: A Day Trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the rest of our Ayutthaya pictures here.

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

 

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.

 

 

 

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

Berlin: The European Capital of History

Berlin is known for its history and culture around the world. The city only reunified in 1990 and it still has distinct features from its past. Berlin is almost two cities mixed into one. After visiting Berlin on two occasions, and visiting most of its landmarks and attractions, its easy to say that Berlin is one of the funnest cities to visit!

For travellers who are interested in history and culture then Berlin is a great city to visit. Of course, there are many places that have both great history and culture, but for us, Berlin is on a new level. As someone who studies History and Politics at University, it is easy to see why Berlin is one of my favourite cities. Historically, one of the most interesting things in Berlin that we visited was Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Whilst here, you can take a tour around the camp and experience first-hand the horrors people had to endure if they were unfortunate enough to become imprisoned here. The camp itself is designed in an arc so that a soldier in a tower at the front of the camp, armed with a machine gun, can shoot almost anywhere in the complex. Personally, the tale that shocked us the most was that prisoners would receive a severe beating for wearing the incorrect uniform, and a common “trick” from the guards would be to take off a prisoner’s hat and throw it onto the gravel border. If you didn’t retrieve your hat, you’d receive the beating. However, if you entered the gravel border, you’d be on the grounds of trying to escape. There were many other brutalities committed within the camp, such as suspending prisoners from bindings around their wrists, and experiments using mustard gas were trialled on prisoners.

Whilst in Berlin, obviously one activity that you have to do is visit the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall led to thirty years of Berliners being cut off from one another. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, many famous artists from around the world have come and created art pieces on it. I think the reason why the Berlin Wall is so fascinating to go and visit, is because it’s a structure like no other. The history behind the Wall speaks for itself, and it’s something I would recommend seeing if you’re planning a trip to Berlin.

Berlin is one of the great democracies of the world. A tour of the Reichstag allows you to learn and educate yourself on how German democracy has developed since the Second World War. And if you choose to go to the top of the glass dome you will also get a spectacular view of the city. As someone who has now done this twice, I can say with confidence that it is a really enjoyable thing to do as its a great landmark that symbolises so much.

Another fun and interesting activity that we enjoyed and would would recommend doing is visiting the DDR museum. In fact, we enjoyed it so much we visited it twice. If you want to get a true experience of what life was like in East Germany, then look no further than visiting the DDR museum. The museum is dedicated to the GDR and is very interactive. It gives you an insight into so many various aspects, such as, housing, fashion, and industry. A highlight was being able to virtually drive the Trabant – the most famous car in the GDR.

Whilst visiting Berlin for the first time, I was lucky enough to watch the 2014 World Cup Final which Germany won. The fan zone was absolutely packed and the atmosphere immense. This is one of the best experiences of Berlin as it was so different to anything that I have ever been a part of. It’s not every day you get to watch a country win the World Cup in their own capital city.

After visiting Berlin a couple of times the Olympic Stadium never fails to disappoint. The mega structure built by the Nazis for the 1936 Olympic Games is now used as a football stadium by Hertha Berlin. The stadium used to host over 100,000 people but has been modified and reduced to around 70,000. The impressive modification allows the structure of the old venue to be mixed with a modern look. The entry fee was around 10 euros as we were students.

Inevitably, if you are visiting Berlin you will end up visiting the Brandenburg Gate. One of the most famous landmarks in Europe, it is a must see! Although the area is usually packed it’s worth getting a snap. There are also numerous other monuments, such as the Soviet War Memorial and the huge Angel of Germany, both situated on the road to the Brandenburg Gate. In this area, there are quite a few attractions for travellers to visit. However, be careful about stopping to eat in this area if you are on a budget!

The nightlife in Berlin is quite simply incredible. Berlin is known for its love of techno and Berlin certainly doesn’t disappoint. Although we didn’t experience much of Berlin’s nightlife, when we go back we will definitely be hitting the clubs a lot harder than what we did.

If you decide to visit Berlin. You will realise that Berlin has so much to offer that it is just impossible to mention everything. But this only makes Berlin a perfect place for travellers to travel too. What makes Berlin such a great city to go and visit, is that it has enough to do for people who wish to visit for a couple of days and also enough for people wishing to spend longer.

View the rest of our Berlin pictures here.

 

Rome: Vacanze Romane

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Italian Coast

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

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

View the rest of our Rome pictures here.