18/11/2017

Into the Wild Elephant Sanctuary | Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, Thailand
It seems visiting an elephant sanctuary whilst in Thailand, or Asia for that matter, is the thing to do.  And it’s easy to see why. Who wouldn’t want to spend the day surrounded by elephants?

I knew before I’d even stepped on a plane that an elephant sanctuary was something I wanted to do on my trip to Asia. However, this wouldn’t be my first experience of elephants. I saw them in the wild while on safari in Sri Lanka and in India where I’d had to opportunity to ride them. I’d decided against this. While I really wanted to see an elephant up close I didn’t want it to be done in this way. I decided to wait until I could do it ethically. Because, honestly, the cruelty greatly outweighs my want to see an elephant up close and always will. 

Into the Wild elephant sanctuary Chiang Mai


INTO THE WILD ELEPHANT SANCTUARY 


06/11/2017

In A Nutshell: October 2017

The clocks have officially gone back! And now that halloween is over it also means the official Christmas countdown can begin. Although to be honest it’s already started, as soon as the Boots Christmas catalogue is released it’s Christmas time for me. 

Anyway I shouldn’t spend too much time talking about Christmas in my October post. I would talk about Halloween instead but I didn’t do anything this year. I have to admit I did miss covering myself in fake blood. But I did take full advantage of the halloween chocolate. Getting very few trick n treaters is a good thing.

This post was actually supposed to be posted a few days ago but I've had no internet and blogging on an iPhone does not work very well!

October 2017 summary blog post

OCTOBER ROUND UP


1. No internet


Last Monday I sat down to watch Made In Chelsea on my laptop (so I didn’t have to move from my bed) and the internet died. And not just for ten minutes like it has the habit of doing. It stopped working for over a week, in fact it was nearly two weeks before it finally came back.  

Having no internet is obviously a very first world problem and while I don't want to whine about it too much it was also really annoying. I haven’t been able to blog or do any job applications. And most importantly I haven’t been able to have my nightly Netflix binge. 

It wasn't the  end of the world,  downloaded Stranger Things 2 at work and binged watched it on my Ipad. Thank god Netflix lets you download programs. 

It made blogging a lot harder. I’ve been writing my posts on Word instead. And really if I'd wanted I could have gone and found internet somewhere but my days off work mostly involved errands or doing something else.

In a way I quite liked the unexpected break from blogging and social media. It’s gave me time to think about the posts I’m going to write without feeling like I needed to get them published straight away. My blog schedule has gone out the window but I’ve actually managed to plan all my content up to December!

2. I caught a virus 


I mean it is that time of year. While we all seem to love the crisp leaves and fresh air Autumn brings I don’t think many of us are quite so joyful at the bugs and colds that start floating around. 

I wrote about this in my burnout post. I’d managed to escape the colds at work and then ended up with a virus of some sort which not only gave me flu like symptoms but also had me up being sick for most of the night. Fun.

I’d like to say I’m feeling better than ever but I’m not. I have some sort of cold still. Nowhere near as bad but I am beginning to resemble Rudolph from the amount of times I’ve blown my nose.

3. Halloween


I haven’t done anything to celebrate Halloween this year which is a little sad because I quite enjoy  dressing up. But I can’t do a October post and not mention Halloween at all can I?

Some people love it , others hate it. In all honestly, I sit on the fence. I love dressing up but I don’t love Halloween. If that even makes sense. I don’t decorate my house or watch scary movies but I don’t sit around thinking what a pointless holiday it is. 

Having said that I may watch The Nightmare Before Christmas. I usually watch it at Christmas time but maybe I’ll have to start a new tradition. 

October in a nutshell blog post

IN RESTROSPECT: OCTOBER GOALS


1. Read three books


You know how I completely failed this goal in September and I’m pretty sure I did in August too. Well, I did it! I think I have lack of internet to thank for this.

I’m still not finished It. I mean it’s a very large book but I’m starting to think that I might have to just give up and admit that it’s not going to work. I’ve read other Stephen King books in the past and got through them quickly because I‘ve liked his writing style. But this time I’m so slow. I’m going to give it one more try. But I have read three books, which is pretty good for me. Including The Bell Jar which I read in a day.

2. Keep my blogging schedule 


I was actually doing well with this until my loss of internet. However, I have realised that while having a schedule is good there's no point stressing and publishing posts on set dates for the sake of it. 

3. Be more interactive 


I don't really think this has happened. I'm being more interactive on Instagram but twitter and general blog comments are still lacking. 

In a nutshell October

NOVEMBER GOALS

1. Book a trip away


I've booked time off at the end of November but the trip I originally booked the time off for has fallen through. 

However, I really don't want to waste the weekend as I work most of them. I'm looking into going to Copenhagen as I'd love to have one more break before the new year. 

2. Finish my travel journal


I still need to finish my journal from Asia. Yep, that trip that ended nearly four months ago now. I don't think I'll remember everything but as long as everything's stuck in and the key things are written down I'll be happy. 

3. Plan 2018


My plans for 2018 keep changing but I think I know what I'm doing now but it's too early to talk about anything properly just incase. But I need to do a lot of research and start doing a lot of applications.

Basically, I just need to sort my life out. 


______________________________

What were your October highlights? Are you excited for the countdown the Christmas?


Pin it for later!


16/10/2017

A guide to Inle Lake | Myanmar


I remember my first glimpse of Inle Lake. The narrow strip of water suddenly opened up revealing a great expanse of water. The whole lake seemed alive. We had just entered Inle Lake and it was truly stunning. 

Inle Lake is one of the 'must sees' of Myanmar. Cambodia has Angor Wat, Vietnam has Halong Bay, India the Taj Mahal. Myanmar has Inle Lake. 

Certainly not as famous as the other sights mentioned but what it lacks in status it makes up in with stunning landscape and friendly locals.
A guide to Inle Lake




















11/10/2017

The Burn Out

United Kingdom
There seems to be quite a lot of blogger burn out posts in the blogosphere lately. A lot of us seem to have lost our sparkle. And I've been feeling exactly the same. But in my everyday life, as well as, with blogging.

I'm just burnt out full stop. I don't really know what happened but the last few weeks I've been mentally and physically exhausted. Work has been more demanding and I've felt a lot more anxious. 

suffering from a burn out



09/10/2017

In retrospect: SE Asia bucket list

Back in March I made a SE Asia Bucket list before I headed off on my trip in April. It seems so long ago since I was doing all my planning and preparation! I thought I might as well do a follow up post to tell you whether I managed to tick everything off my bucket list. I decided not to make the bucket list too long or ambitious, I didn't want to feel like I had to try and get it all done so instead I chose 10 things to try and achieve. 

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap


1. VISIT ANGKOR WAT 


I actually ended up spending three days at the temple complex. We saw the famous Angkor Wat on our first day exploring, however, we never made it to a sunrise which I do regret but it was still amazing to see it in person.

06/10/2017

23 things I've learnt in 23 years

If you hadn't already guessed from the title I'm now 23 (Technically, I'll have been 23 for a whole day when this post goes live). Yay. I can't even tell if that 'yay' is sarcastic or not. I'm not exactly over the moon about turning 23 but it's hardly old. But I'm going to do a separate post on my thoughts on turning 23. 

This post, however, will be dedicated to 23 things I've learnt over the past 23 years. I sat down to draft this post thinking it would be quite easy to whip up 23 things. Oh, how I was mistaken. It's taken me a while. But here they are:

23 things in 23 years




 

02/10/2017

Maeklong Railway Market and Damnoen Saduak Floating Market: A day trip from Bangkok

Bangkok, Thailand
Today's post is all about my day trip to the Maeklong Railway Market and Damnoen Saduak Floating Market while I was in Bangkok. There are so many options for day trips from Bangkok. So much so that it's hard to know where to start when looking at them! We were initially planning on taking two, this one and one to the Bridge over River Kwai. Unfortunately that one never worked out. 

 Maeklong Railway Market day trip

29/09/2017

In A Nutshell: September 2017

And so another month comes to an end. September is over for another year! I was going to write that I can't believe how quickly the year has gone but I'm unsure whether I've found it quick or not. For once, it seems like a normal pace. It is a little scary to think that we're nearly in 2018 though!

September in a nutshell

SEPTEMBER ROUND UP


September was a little more exiting that August was. I spent a lot of it working but I can't complain because I'm lucky to enjoy my job and everyone's nice there. Plus I need the money. Desperately. My four month trip to Asia definitely dented my savings.

27/09/2017

Three days in Vienna | A Photo Diary

Vienna, Austria
Vienna was my last stop in Austria before heading to Bratislava . I spent three nights in there and managed to see a lot. I found the city quite big and never quite knew where I was in comparison to other places. I have to say out of the three places I visited in Austria (the others being Salzburg and Hallstatt) Vienna was my least favourite. That's not to say it didn't have it's good points. There was definitely plenty of places to explore and we had good weather during our visit.

Arriving in Vienna

We got the train from Hallstatt into Vienna and arrived in the afternoon. We then got the metro to our hostel (Wombats Hostel) which was on the outskirts of the city. Part of me wishes we'd chosen somewhere more central but the hostels in Vienna were pretty pricy.

The hostel was only a short walk from the metro station, we checked in and headed to our room, which we'd soon find out wasn't supposed to be our room at all! We headed to get some dinner and settled for a restaurant nearby for the sake of convenience.

We headed back to the hostel and before heading down to the hostel bar where we got a free drink each. We managed to persuade some other people from the hostel to come out and where meeting our friend who was also travelling at the club. The night out was really good and better than what I was expecting. We didn't get into bed until after 6 am! 




















11/09/2017

Visiting Borobudur at sunrise: tips and is it really worth it?

Yogyakarta, Indonesia
The Borobudur temple, located in Yogyakarta, is the biggest Buddhist temple in the world. This title means it's rather popular with both visitors and locals. I've been lucky enough to visit twice, once in 2015 and once this year whilst travelling around Asia. I can't remember many of the details from my first trip so this post will mainly be focused on my second.

I've now experienced both a proper sunrise and one that really couldn't be described as a sunrise as there was no actual sun! Seeing as I've done both I thought I'd write up a post about my visit and whether it's worth visiting for sunrise. Whether the 3 am wake up call is worth it if you don't actually get a sunrise. 

Buddha, Borobudur Temple








 GETTING THERE

06/09/2017

In retrospect: 101 in 1001 days

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Way back in 2014, the 20th of July if we're being precise, I made a 101 in 1001 days list. Incase you don't know what ones of these lists is, its a list of 101 things you want to do or achieve in the 1001 days. You can pick anything you want. I sorted my list into categories to make it a bit easier to read. I'm not going to rewrite all of my list in this post but feel free to check it out. Instead, I thought I'd write about and reflect upon some of the key things I managed to tick off and some of the ones that I never got round to doing.

HEALTH AND FITNESS  

Seeing as this is the first category in my list it seemed like the perfect place to start my review. I am not a health freak nor do I love exercise. In fact, I suck at keeping fit which is one of the reasons I chose this as a category. I have to say I didn't tick off as many things in this category as I would have liked.

I did manage to go without chocolate for a week and have since also gone without. A big success for a chocoholic. 

Going to the gym also got ticked off, although 'going to the gym' equates to about six trips so not that great...

There was a lot I didn't do in this category. The yoga class never happened. Nor did the 30 day squat challenge. I think I managed a two day squat challenge. 

Oh and I never got round to going for that run. 

But I'm even more motivated to improve my fitness now I've looked back and realised how terribly I did in this category. Hopefully, I'll tick some of these off in the future!


04/09/2017

How to plan a day trip to Mingun from Mandalay | Myanmar


Pahtodawgyi Pagoda MandalayWhen researching what to do in Mandalay a place was mentioned a lot. I researched it some more and the pictures alone were enough to add the ancient capital (one of four surrounding Mandalay) to my must visit list.

My next point of call was figuring out how to get there, it's outside of the main city along the Ayeyarwaddy river. It took me a while to find all the information I needed. A lot of websites were offering me a tour or a combined tour which was something I didn't want to do. I like to try and do things myself if possible to make the day cheaper. Seeing as I struggled to find information I thought I'd put together a blog post about my day in Mingun including all the information you need to know for your own visit! 

28/08/2017

In a Nutshell: August

August flowers


My 'In a Nutshell' posts are back. The absence of these posts was intentional but was because of my trip to Asia. I decided not to blog whilst travelling but, instead, scheduled various posts to go up while I was away. However, these sort of posts can't be pre planned like that, I can't write about what I did in June if June hasn't even happened yet!

My trip was amazing but I won't go into detail about it in this post; this post is about August and sadly my trip was already finished by then!

AUGUST ROUND UP

1.  I went back to work

When I left in April to go travelling I wasn't expecting to be going back, I'd handed in my resignation and accepted the fact that I'd need to sort out another job when I got back. Luckily, my boss wanted me back. I'm only working in a coffee shop but it's something and it was nice to be asked back. I had four days to get over the jet lag, daydream about the sun and cry because I was back in England before I started working again.

2.  I met up with friends

Travelling for four months meant that I hadn't seen my friends in a while. Especially as it had already been a couple of months before I'd even gone travelling. One of my closest friends lives in Manchester so I headed there for a weekend. My other friend lives in my home town like me so we met for brunch. It was great to see them both again, although I still don't feel like I've had a proper catch up with them yet! 


Roast dinner Albert Schloss Manchester

A weekend in Manchester

cocktails at Albert Schloss Manchester


  3.  I had a massive sort out

This seems to be a recurring activity, as soon as I'm back from a trip I sort my whole bedroom out and get rid everything I no longer want (or the things that no longer fit me!). 

4.  I started blogging again!

The decline in blog posts was an intentional break but not because I'd fallen out of love with blogging. Rather because I just couldn't commit to blogging whilst travelling. I didn't want to take my laptop with me and knew the quality of my posts just wouldn't be the same. So many people choose to blog as they travel but I didn't think it would work for me for that specific trip. Anyway, after nearly a month of being back in the UK, I'm back. It took me a while to settle back into life at home but I'm excited to blog about all the places I visited. 

SEPTEMBER GOALS 

Pink flowers




1. Read three books 

My love of reading has dwindled recently. In fact I didn't manage to finish a single book whilst in Asia. Shocking I know. Since returning from my trip I've been trying to read more. I don't want to force myself but as soon as I find a good book then I'm fine it's just getting into the book. If I get bored I find t hard to persevere. 

I've managed to read two books during August and have picked up some more from a charity shop which will hopefully be good! 


2. Exercise 

I probably sound like a broken record because I'm pretty sure this always appears as a goal in my summary posts. Well, here it is again. Let's just leave the goal as exercise and see what happens.

3. Decide what's next 


This sounds dramatic. It's not as dramatic as it sounds. I'm currently in limbo. Although I'm back at work it's not somewhere I want to work in the long term. I'm thinking about teaching abroad and need to look at this properly and decide whether I'm going to take the plunge and go for it or choose a different route. 

______________________________

So there you have it, my very short August in a nutshell. My September post will hopefully be a bit more exciting,  especially as I'm off to Madrid for a weekend break with some uni friends!

What did you get up to in August? 


Sophie 


Pin for later! 




24/08/2017

Salzburg Photo Diary

Salzburg, Austria

I usually make travel posts more informative, I do a 10 things to do or a how to spend three days, however, for Salzburg I decided to make the post a bit more personal and diary like. Partly because I thought I'd switch things up but mostly because I don't feel I explored Salzburg enough to be able to write a 'here's what you should do' type post.

After saying goodbye to the beautiful Lake Bled we hopped on a train to Salzburg. The first of our three stops in Austria. 

We spent three days in Salzburg. From the little research I had done beforehand it seemed like there was a lot to see. Having now visited I think we could of spent less time there but we did skip things like the Sound of Music tour which is probably one of the main attractions! 

Views of Salzburg


09/06/2017

A pocket guide to Zagreb


Zagreb old townZagreb was the fourth stop on my interrail trip. We'd already been to Split but Zagreb is very different. I mean I wasn't expecting any ocean or beach but the architecture of the city is also very different to Split. We only had one full day in Zagreb and it was surprisingly hot! We also decided to have our first night out of the trip in Zagreb. On a Tuesday night. Probably not the best day of the week to see what Zagreb had on offer but all the bars were surprisingly busy. More on that later!

02/06/2017

Hiking to Lipton's Seat, Sri Lanka

                                     
                                                      There are so many walks and hikes in Sri Lanka from Adam's Peak to the world's end. On my three week trip around Sri Lanka I only managed to do one. Lipton's Seat. We stayed in the town of Haputale for our walk. I wouldn't call it a hike as such, it's not too tough and a lot of it is fairly flat.

26/05/2017

University Series | General Advice

I haven't written a university post in a while so thought it would be the perfect time to write one and take a break from writing about travel. Most of my university posts including my freshers week post were written after I had finished my first year at university. However, I have now graduated after spending three years studying so thought doing a general university advice post would benefit those of you who are off to university or thinking about applying.

I'm by no means an expert but I think my three years have taught me a few things about life at university.

I thought as well as doing my freshers week post I would write about other tips and advice for the whole of first year / university experience, these are things that I have picked up over my first year at university.

19/05/2017

The highs and lows of travelling India



I only spent three weeks and India and quite frankly you could spend three years there and still not have explored the whole country. Although, I have many countries on my bucket list that I've never visited India is still on it because I barely scratched the surface.

However, while my trip to India was short I still learnt a lot about the country and travelling there. So I thought I'd create this post as a summary to the highs and lows of my time in India.

12/05/2017

The realities of living in an girl house at university

Living in an all girls house at university



The washing machine is the most sought after thing in the house


Yep, even more so than the bathroom on a Friday night. If you don't tell everyone via group chat that you're next in line for the washing machine there's a good chance that someone will have put their clothes on for wash whilst you're in the shower. Even though your bag of dirty laundry was sat next to the washing machine acting as a sign that you're next. There are no signs, no 'oh I was going to do my washing', if it's not written on the group chat there's no point. This means that sometimes it's necessary to plan your washes but most of the time I still just did it when it my basket got full.

Empty drying racks and radiators are a rare sight


Obviously all that washing needs drying. We did have a tumble dryer but it was combined with the washing machine and none of us ever figured out how to make it work efficiently. I never bothered using it but some did and still had to hang their clothes up to dry. I was sneaky and kept my clothes rack in my bedroom. If I was asked nicely I did lend it but there were two downstairs which were used the most. Sometimes you have to be selfish to get ahead. In this case to ensure you're wet clothes have somewhere to dry.

It's not constant sleepovers and movie watching


I'd always imagined that living in an all girl house or any university house would be like one big sleepover with your best friends all the time. And yes it is sometimes but a lot of the time, especially as you get further into term and deadlines begin looming for  everyone there's a lot of evenings where you'll be the only one in the kitchen as everyone's busy studying. I lived with six other girls and there were still some days were I'd hardly bump into anyone. However, there are the fun nights too where everyone's cooking dinner at the same time (this is slightly squishy but we made it work) and you all watch trashy TV and pretend you've got no studying to do.

05/05/2017

The ups and downs of staying in a hostel

The pros and cons of staying in a hostel


Any backpacker knows that hostels are part of the lifestyle. They save money and are great for meeting like minded people. However, they can also be incredibly noisy and a bit run down. Travelling for 12 weeks this summer meant that I stayed in a fair few hostels. I thought I'd write this post to summarise the pros and cons of hostel life and how to make the most of staying in one.

28/04/2017

Ljubljana Graffiti Tour

Ljubljana graffiti tour


Ljubljana was one of those places were I didn't really know what to expect. Compared to other places I'd visited I hadn't done that much research for it. So when we got to our hostel the first thing we did was take a look at the leaflets that they had in reception. There was the usual walking tours and day trips to Lake Bled but since we were already going to stay in Lake Bled after Ljubljana we didn't need to plan a day trip. Soph then picked up a leaflet about a graffiti tour which looked really cool and so we decided we'd check it out on our first full day in Ljubljana.

21/04/2017

How to survive a long haul flight

surviving long haul flights



We've all been there. Checking the time thinking that there must only be an hour left of the flight and being horrified to see that you haven't even made it half way through yet. This is especially painful on long haul flights. This summer I took four long haul flights, some of which were better than others! I thought I'd write a blogpost to share  my tips and what I learnt from taking these flights.

14/04/2017

My SE Asia Bucketlist

SE Asia bucket list


If you read my 2017 travel plans post then you'll already know I'm planning a trip to SE Asia in April. I've done quite a lot of research already and have started to finalise a route. There's so many things to see and while I hope to see everything realistically I will probably have to miss some things. I thought I'd put together a bucket list of all the places I really don't want to miss.

25/03/2017

Planning a backpacking trip around Europe

Back in September I flew off to Europe for five and a half weeks. I went with Soph my university friend and met another of my friends Tilli half way through. We had planned on interrailing through Europe for quite a long time, however, my planning for the trip wasn't as detailed and thorough as I would have liked due to most of it being done while I was in India. However, I think the planning I did was successful and so I thought it may be useful to put together a post of the general steps I took to planning the trip and tips I learnt whilst planning and whilst on the trip.

Interrailing Europe

HOW LONG WILL YOUR TRIP BE?


This seems like a sensible place to start. This determines a lot of other factors, such as where you'll visit and how long you'll stay in each place. You may be lucky and have no restrictions on the length of your trip. However, realistically they will be some sort of restriction, maybe it's the amount of holiday you get at work or the fact that you're at uni/college/school or that you only have enough money to go for two weeks unless you eat baked beans on toast three times a day for the next six months. Travel is great but I don't think anyone should have to make that sort of sacrifice. 

WHEN WILL YOU GO?


A lot of people go interrailing in the summer. Firstly, because of the good weather and secondly if you're at school, college or university then this is the only break you get that's long enough to go and you'll most likely have no work to do during the summer.

WHERE WILL YOU GO?


Europe is massive! Realistically, you won't be able to do it all, maybe not even half! It's best to focus on one area, for example central Europe or Eastern Europe. Lots of people who backpack Europe choose to do central Europe such as Paris, Rome, Berlin etc.

I personally didn't visit any of these of my trip. I chose to focus mostly on Eastern Europe and places where I wouldn't necessarily choose to go to for a weekend away or holiday. Places like Paris I could see myself visiting for a weekend or when I'm older so I didn't prioritise them.


HOW LONG IN EACH PLACE 


This links back to how long your trip will be. If you're only going for three weeks then the amount of places you visit will be quite different than a six month trip. If you're trip is quite open ended then I think going with the flow is the best approach, stick to just booking up the first couple of nights or if you want a bit more set in stone then decide how long you'll stay in the first couple of places you visit. 

If your trip is tighter and you have an exact end date then deciding how long you have in each place will help you get the most out of your time. We booked up all of our hostels either beforehand or about a week before while we were travelling. You don't have to be quite so structured. If you want the freedom of changing your itinerary then stick to booking hostels as you go. Or even just turning up. However, while I did this quite a lot in India and Sri Lanka I think it would have been harder to do so in Europe, especially in high season. A lot of the places I stayed in were fully booked or nearly fully booked and I visited in September and October which I wouldn't even class as high season. 

__________________________

HOW I PLANNED MY TRIP


Planning a trip is sometimes a bit daunting, especially at the start when all you know is that you're going on the trip. You don't know where you're going in specific but you know you'll be heading off to Europe. 

Blogs are often my first point of call for starting to narrow down where I'll be going. Oh, and Instagram but that's once I have a bit of an idea of where I'll be going. Because I was Interrailing on my trip I used the interrail website quite a lot. They have information about each country that the pass can be used in and this helped me a lot when deciding where I would go.

I also like to open google maps to start to form a route. If there's one place I want to go to that seems further away from everything else then I need to figure out if it's plausible and how to fit it into the trip. A prime example is Venice. I really wanted to fit it into my trip but it would involve a 10 hour detour and mean that we'd have to cut our time in cities such as Prague and Budapest. It wasn't on the way to anywhere I was going so I decided it was best to skip it and allow more time in other places. I'm glad I did this as Prague and Budapest both needed a few days to see the sights and it meant we were able to fit in a night in Bratislava which was on the way to another destination we were going to. 

How to plan an Interrailing trip

MY FAVOURITE RESOURCES 

Skyscanner: The place to go when you need to book a flight. Or the place to go if you're dreaming of you're next trip. I usually use Skyscanner as my starting point for checking prices. Sometimes I book directly through a website and sometimes I book through Skyscanner, it completely depends on the prices. If you're dates are quite flexible then choose to search the whole month to see which days are cheapest.

TIP: Delete your cookies and history if you've been looking up flight prices a lot. This may make the prices a bit cheaper. Or get somebody else to check the prices, a family member or friend on a different device and see how the prices compare. 

Hostel world: Some people love them, some people hate them. Hostels are
my main accommodation especially in places like Europe where there aren't really guesthouses like Asia and the price of accommodation is a bit more pricy. Hostel world is the best place to find hostels, the app makes it very easy to find accommodation on the go.

TIP: While I book most of my hostels through Hostel world it is also worth giving your chosen hostel a quick google to see if you can book directly through them as many of them are a tiny bit cheaper if booked direct.

Air bnb: Air B n B is a great place to find nice places to stay but it is also great for finding guesthouses. I always try and compare prices on booking.com and air b n b as quite a few guesthouses are on both. But the main reason I use Air B n B is when I want to stay somewhere a bit nicer as a treat. There are so many great apartments and villas on Air B n B and a lot of them are very reasonable. We stayed in one for my birthday in Prague and while it was more expensive that a hostel it was cheaper than a nice hotel and we got an apartment to ourselves including a kitchen where we made breakfast each morning.

TIP: Recommend a friend and get them to sign up and you'll both get some travel credit. Even better if you're both travelling together as your friend can book one stay and once you've stayed there you'll get credit which you can use for the next time you use Air B n B, which may be on the same trip! 

Interrail website: If you're not planning on Interrailing this might not be that much use to you but it still may be worth checking out as there are example itineraries and plenty of information on countries.

TIP: Download the app. It's free and you can check train times and routes without needing to be connected to wifi. You can also track the train you're on to see how close you are to your destination. 

Tripadvisor: I don't tend to use Tripadvisor that much, I prefer to look at blogs to find out what to see but i do like to use it for food. Sometimes I prefer to find places to eat on my own or through blogs, sometimes the best places are the local hidden gems. However, sometimes you just want to save some hassle and eat somewhere that comes recommended, sometimes this pays off and sometimes you end up in a very busy restaurant that's a little overpriced. But more often than not Tripadvisor recommendations do pay off. 

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Have you backpacked around Europe? Where did you go?

Sophie 




21/03/2017

Kandy | Sri Lanka

Kandy Hill, Sri Lanka


We arrived in Kandy on a bus from Matale. We hadn't booked any accommodation so set to work finding somewhere to stay when we got there. We'd looked online but a lot of places were booked up or very pricy because it was the Esala Perahera. In hindsight maybe we should have booked in advance. We found a tuk tuk and asked the driver if he knew any guest houses. He said he did so took us to the first one. We looked around and the price was very high, again because of the Esala Perahera, we tried to negotiate but they wouldn't budge. I don't mind paying higher prices but the quality of the room was not reflected in the high price in any way. We moved onto another guest house and it was the same problem. We asked the driver to drop us off in town and we'd found our own accommodation but he kept insisting we see 'just one more!'.

He eventually dropped us off but demanded triple the price we'd negotiated because we hadn't picked any of the accommodation he'd shown us even though we'd asked him after the second one to drop us off. After the stress of trying to find somewhere to stay our next task was to try and find somewhere with wifi to conduct our own search.

We found a bar / coffee shop so sat down to have a coffee and get some (very bad) wifi. Using the wifi we managed to find a hostel with beds available. We headed to the hostel, dropped off our bags and headed into town. The hostel was around a half an hour walk from the main city. The walk was very hilly but thankfully was downhill on the way to the city, we usually got a tuk tuk home because the hill was so steep! 

I have to say I never really got my head around the logistics of the city. What I mean by this is I usually had no idea where I was going. I'm usually quite good at getting my head around a new place, I start to recognise landmarks and work out how to get around. However, with Kandy, we could never quite get the route into town right. We ended up walking to the train station both times which was the opposite to where we actually wanted to go! It does feel much larger than anywhere else I visited in Sri Lanka (apart from the capital, Colombo).

Buddhas in Kandy







What to see in Kandy


The Esala Perahera


This is one of the most important Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka. The tooth that is held in the Temple of the Tooth is carried through the city in the procession. Being able to see this depends on what time of year you will be visiting Kandy. The festival takes place from the end of July until the first week of August. If you're in Sri Lanka in this time then it's worth checking out. I can't tell you exact dates as they vary slightly from year to year but I'm sure a quick google will tell you the 2017 dates. 

If you do visit, get a spot early! The procession starts around 7 pm but the city will get packed a lot earlier, it will start getting very difficult to get around due to roads being blocked off, trying to get from one side of the street to the other is extremely hard in certain areas. There are plenty of places to watch the procession but they will fill up quickly. We looked for a place to watch around 5.30 and a lot of areas were already full. 

Ensure you sit somewhere that the procession actually passes. We initially sat down in a space but were told that the procession didn't actually come past us, it came close but not past. There were lots of other people sitting in this area so I'm not sure if they knew. We quickly moved on. We ended up sitting right by the end of the procession. We sat 'front row' on the street but as the procession went on it was clear this was not the best position. 

TIP: Don't sit near the end of the procession, most of the dancers had stopped by this point so we missed out on seeing a lot. 

You can buy seats in restaurants or shops to view the procession from. We found these pricy. They varied from around 25 to 35 pounds, most were just a small chair in a shop front, others were more fancy. 

Streets of Kandy, Sri Lanka









Explore the markets

There are plenty of markets in Kandy to explore. I can definitely say that we spent a bit too much time exploring them. Many of the outside ones are like the usual ones you find. Set up for tourists selling traveller favourites such as elephant pants and knock off brand clothing. However, we found an inside market which seemed to be very much the same as the outside ones until a man invited us up to the top floor. This actually sounds incredibly creepy when I write it but it wasn't as creepy as it sounds. We assumed he was just going to take us to another floor of the same stands but we followed anyway as we could easily turn around if they were. However, the top floor was a bit of a goldmine. We seemed to be the only tourists up there. The stalls were a complete jumble of clothes. It was like one big charity shop. 

It was great as a lot of the clothes were the sort you'd find in some quirky vintage store except without the high prices! We got a bit too carried away. We had to look through a lot of bad clothes to find the gems but it was great. I have to say I enjoyed escaping sightseeing for the afternoon. We came away with way too many clothes and had to buy a bag to carry them all in. Not a good move but I do wear a lot of the clothes I purchased so I guess it worked out well. 

I think the market we went to was the central market but I'm not completely sure. I didn't take too much notice of my surroundings and we always ended up getting a bit lost on our walk into the centre!

tuk tuk Kandy, Sri Lanka

The Lake

This is one thing we didn't get chance to see (probably thanks to our mad shopping afternoon). We did however, see some of the lake whilst walking around the centre of Kandy. I think you can hire boats to go out onto the lake or just walk around it.

The Temple of the Tooth 


Temple of the tooth, Kandy

Elephants in Kandy, Sri Lanka


This is, maybe, the most important temple in Sri Lanka. It's also one of the main reasons for visiting Kandy. We went very early before our train to Nawalapitiya (where we'd treated ourselves to a night at a cute hotel in a tea plantation). We were supposed to go the previous day but we got carried away shopping in the markets. Long story short we got very excited over cheap clothes and bought way too many. I greatly regretted this when I had to carry all these new clothes in my rucksack!

When we went the Temple of the Tooth closed earlier than usual for the Esala Perahera festival. We had seen this on our first night but did not want to see it again so planned on going to the temple in the later afternoon. However, we couldn't so ended up having a very early start. I guess it was karma for going shopping instead of being cultural!

The entrance fee to the temple is higher than most of the others we visited but it is the most important one and this reflects in the price. You have to hand over your shoes before you enter. There are people offering to give you guided tour but we declined, we were in a hurry and didn't want to spend extra money and not be able to fully appreciate a tour.

The temple was already quite busy when we got there and we were there pretty early in order to fit it in before our train. There are various other buildings in the complex some are included in the ticket but many of the museums have a separate fee. 

Summary

  • Bus from Matale to Kandy: 40 rupees (less than an hour)
  • Easy train access from Kandy train station to traveller favourite such as Ella. 
  • Can also get the bus from Dambulla, slightly longer and costs more but still very cheap. 
  • Entry to the Temple of the Tooth: 1000 rupees 
  • Go to the Temple of the Tooth early as it can get very crowded inside! 

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15/03/2017

A Mini Guide to exploring Ljubljana

A mini guide to Ljubljana


During my Interrailing trip I saw a fair few cities; seven to be precise! Trying to plan what to do in each of these was quite hard work. Unfortunately, because of this Ljubljana got a bit lost in the mix. We visited in the middle of our trip. I wasn't particularly excited to visit the city. However, while it didn't become one of the highlights of my trip I was surprised at what the city had to offer and really enjoyed the two days we spent there.  

We had two days to explore Ljubljana. We hadn't done much planning, as I said Ljubljana was towards the middle of my trip and while I'd done plenty of Instagram stalking for places like Lake Bled, Ljubljana had taken a back seat.

Luckily, the hostel we were staying in (C Punkt Hostel) had plenty of leaflets which helped us plan things to do. The more time I spent in Ljubljana the more I enjoyed and appreciated the city. We managed to fit quite a lot into our two days and I thought I'd share my favourite things to do for anyone thinking about visiting. Or maybe, if you're not this post will make you add Ljubljana to your travel list! 

WHAT TO SEE


The castle


I'm going to be completely honest and say that the Ljubljana castle was not the prettiest or nicest castle I've visited. But it's still worth walking up to it, even if it's just to look out at the views. We didn't pay to go into the castle but were still able to walk around the grounds and some areas. It reminded me of somewhere you visit on a school trip and because we were trying to save a bit of money we personally didn't want to pay to enter. 

There are various paths up to the castle, we went up one and down another. It takes around 10 minutes to get up there and the paths are easy enough to navigate. The one we took on the way up had better views such as the one in the picture below. Access to this path is in the Old Town near the Stari Trg (Old square) while the one we took back down led to the Central Market. 

The path to Ljubljana castle



Walking tour


As with most cities there are plenty of walking tours to choose from. We chose to do a less traditional one and opted for the graffiti one instead. It was really interesting and I actually paid attention and didn't get bored. It was a great way to see the city and explore it's more unusual areas such as the Metelkova Mesto which is an urban squat and a great place for nightlife. We didn't manage to visit it at night but we stayed after the graffiti tour to explore. 

Metelkova Mesto, Ljubljana


The old town


Ljubjan Old Town is incredibly pretty. I remember my first sighting of it was a big pink building which I found out later was the Franciscan church. This was located in Preseren Square. There are lots of cute shops and restaurants in this area. A lot of the restaurants overlook the Ljubljanica which is the river that runs through the city. Such restaurants are a great place to go in the evening. There are also quite a few bars along the riverbanks. 

Old Town Centre, Ljubljana

Visit Lake Bled

If you fancy escaping the city and heading off somewhere even more fairytale then take a day trip to Lake Bled. Or do what I did and spend a couple of nights there. Either way a visit to Lake Bled is a must! It takes around 3 hours on the train depending on which stop you get off at. Or you can catch the bus. Or if you want less do it yourself then there are plenty of organised tours, less so in the winter months, to Bled. It completely depends how much freedom you want on your day trip. We saw quite a few coaches come into Bled. I would personally recommend spending a few days there because it is so stunning but if you're short on time then make sure you fit in a day trip whilst in Ljubljana. 

Lake Bled viewpoint


WHERE TO EAT

I seem to be very bad at this part of my guides. I eat plenty of food on my trips I just always forget to make a note of the name of the places I eat. Bad blogger right here. We were only in Ljubljana for a short time so didn't have that much time to try lots of different places but I did note down (ahem try and remember the names and have to look them up on tripadvisor) of some of the places we ate. 

Coffee in Ljubljana
Cafe Romeo: 

This is a slightly strange restaurant in the sense that it seems to serve both Mexican food and crepes. Which, personally, I'm all for as we doesn't love a good burrito or crepe but it is also a tad of a strange combination. I ate here twice, once to eat the Mexican food and once to eat a crepe. I didn't purposely choose to eat the two on separate occasions but I was too stuffed the first time to fully appreciate the crepe so we returned for dinner to try them out. And of course, while you're travelling a crepe is a completely acceptable dinner. I had the snickers one which was amazing. It had peanut butter, chocolate and crushed biscuit in it and no crepe I've had since has quite lived up to this one. 

Klobasarna:

If you want to try something more traditional then head to Klobasarna for some Slovenian sausage. This ones definitely not for vegetarians. It's a very small cafe with a few seats inside and more outside. There are only a few things on the menu, all of which are centred around sausage. We decided to share some sausage which comes with a bread roll and mustard. I think it was around €4.50 which is not the cheapest but sharing saved us some money. It was also very filling, we just needed something to keep us full until our train to Lake Bled and this did the job.

Organic Garden: 

On the other end of the spectrum is the Organic Garden which is also a small cafe along the same street as Klobasarna. However, this one is definitely more veggie/ vegan friendly. In fact, most of the menu was vegan including the burgers. I think they also offer a fish version of the burger but we tried one of the vegan ones and it was really good! It came in a bright red bun which was a little off putting but it tasted amazing! Not that cheap but if you're looking for somewhere with good veggie options or fancy something a bit healthier then definitely give it a go.

Kavarna Rog: 

This restaurant is not in the old town centre but nearer the student area and a few minutes walk from our hostel. We ate here both mornings of our stay before heading into the main town area. I've included it incase anyone is staying in a similar area to us. It offers a decent breakfast and the coffee is good. The service was a bit slow but it was pretty busy both times we visited. There's a nice outside seating area to enjoy your food and people watch. 

Brunch, Ljubljana
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In Conclusion: 

  • Currency: Euros 
  • Make the most of the walking tours, they're free and very informative
  • Want some nightlife? Head to the Metelkova Mesto as the sunsets 
  • Take a day trip to Lake Bled! 

Have you visited Ljubljana, what did you think about the city?

Sophie 

11/03/2017

Arugam Bay | Sri Lanka

After exploring the wonderful Sri Lankan countryside we headed to our first beach destination, Arugam Bay. I was excited to explore a new part of Sri Lanka but was also very sad to be leaving the beautiful hills and scenic train journeys that I had become used to.


HOW TO GET THERE 

We got a private taxi there, it was pricier than getting the bus but I don't think there was a particularly simple route from Ella or it took a very long time so we decided to pay more and opt for a taxi. We did want to take a tuk tuk all the way there, obviously with a driver but there wasn't one available. We ended up at a random guest house waiting for our driver to get back to us and find us a car. I think they only told us there was no tuk tuk on the day of our travel because they wanted us to agree to a high price for a car. However, we stood our ground and refused to pay their price and eventually settled on a better one.


We arrived early afternoon. After spending three hours in a very tiny car it was nice to stretch out on a bed. We then headed to get food and went to the nearest restaurant which served stone baked pizzas. Although we did make Kate's boyfriend check out the other restaurant next door just in case it had better food on offer. It didn't. The pizza was actually really good. Just like one you' get in the UK. Sometime's I find pizza in Asia a bit strange, especially the cheese! But this one was good!



WHERE TO STAY 

I can't give an personal recommendation for this. The guest house I stayed in was nothing fancy. However, this guest house was not only basic but also, quite frankly, not very nice. The promised air con might as well of not existed, the accompanying fan was just as bad. The bathroom was constantly damp. I'm pretty good at dealing with bad accommodation. I was happy to have my own private room and just accepted the problems while I was there but I definitely wouldn't go back there or recommend it to anyone.








WHAT TO DO 

Relax on the beach 

We spent our first day relaxing on the beach. There's plenty of beach which means that while there are lots of other people you can find a nice quiet spot to relax and sunbathe in. You can even take a dip in the ocean. However, the sea here is rough! I found this out when I decided to pluck up the courage and get in the sea. This was the first time I'd been in the sea on my trip but the waves were so rough I ended up being thrown to shore and resembled a beached whale. It took me a good couple of minutes to escape the waves and stand up. Probably best to wait for the sea to be a bit calmer or stick to surfing! 


Have a night out 

We decided to see what the nightlife was like that evening. We found a bar right on the beach which was full, it was fun to have a night out, the first one in our month of travel. We didn't spend too long there but enough to see that the night life in Arugam Bay is pretty good. I guess the fact that there are so many travellers and tourists here helps. 


Hire a tuk tuk for the day 

Yes, you can rent your own tuk tuk. All you need is a driving license, passport and money! 

There are a few places where you can rent tuk tuks from along the main strip. You just need a driving license and money. I think they take the drivers passport until you return the tuk tuk. I guess this covers them and ensures you actually bring the tuk tuk back!

We went the evening before to reserve the tuk tuk. Remember to bring your passport with you the next day, we forgot and had to go back to the guest house. Kate's boyfriend was our designated driver. In all honesty if he wasn't there we probably wouldn't of hired the tuk tuk as neither Kate or I felt confident enough to drive it for the whole day.


Shop


The amount of shops in Arugam Bay definitely reflected the amount of travellers there. If you want clothes or beach wear then this is the place to stock up. Unfortunately, the prices of these things also reflects the fact that Arugam Bay is set up for tourists. I'm not saying things are as pricy as they'd be in the UK but they're definitely not as cheap as other places in Sri Lanka. The clothes are nice though! There what I imagine boutiques in Bali sell. Lots of cute dresses and bikinis. There's also plenty of souvenirs on offer. 


Go surfing

Arugam Bay is known for its surfing. If you want to surf this is the place to go. I think quite a few of the beaches in Sri Lanka are good for surfing but this is, from what I heard, one of the best. I personally don't surf and didn't try it out but there are a lot of surfers here. This is also reflected in the amount of surf shops. It's very easy to hire surfing gear for a reasonable price.

You can hire a tuk tuk or mini van to take you to other, nearby beaches, these are quieter and seemed to be preferred by surfers. The two we visited were Peanut Farm beach (strange name I know!) and Panama Beach. I say 'seem' as I'm not a surfer. We still visited some of these beaches and although I didn't surf it was nice to visit them and relax on a quieter beach. 









WHERE TO EAT 

Arugam Bay is very touristy meaning there's plenty of choice for places to eat. We tried out quite a few restaurants during our stay.














                    Sun and Surf: There was a nice atmosphere here, you can sit in a 'tree house' and have your dinner or sit in the actual restaurant. They also offer various yoga classes which you can get more information about from one of the many leaflets floating around. I didn't personally try the yoga classes out myself but they seemed to be popular. There was various food on the menu from Sri Lankan to steak and chips.

Gecko Restaurant: This was one of my favourites and we came to eat here twice. The food is nothing spectacular. They offer a English breakfast which was pretty good. My favourite thing about the restaurant was the games they had on each table. The food took quite a while to arrive but we passed the time by playing snakes and ladders.

Other options:


  • Cili restaurant
  • Arugam Bay Surf resort and restaurant
  • Bay Vista


FINAL THOUGHTS 

I wasn't expecting to like Arugam Bay as much as I did. I was expecting a tourist trap. And in a sense it is. There are plenty of travellers about but the whole place has such a chilled out atmosphere that you don't feel like your overcome with other travellers. Plus it's easy to escape any crowds by wandering a bit further a field or hiring a tuk tuk like we did! 

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Sophie 

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