An Epic Year of Travel: 2017 Highlights

As 2017 is quickly drawing to an end, it's the perfect time to reflect on highlights and favourite memories created from this year's travels.

I had an amazing year full of different experiences, learning about new cultures, trying new food, making new friends, being more independent, working hard and having fun at the same time.

2017 brought me to eight different countries including Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and New Zealand.

Let's take it back to the beginning.

In January, Gareth and I's time in the Gold Coast had sadly come to an end and we travelled over a few days down Australia's East Coast on a road trip to our next home for the year in Canberra.

A stop at the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour along the way
The National War Museum, Canberra

In January, February, March and April I visited Sydney, the first two times for concerts (Puscifer and Guns N' Roses), one for a weekend getaway to see Aladdin at the theatre and another time with my mum who came to visit over the Easter break.

Luna Park, Sydney
The iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the background

Overseas, I ventured off in May on an epic four-month adventure in Southeast Asia, most of it solo. I had some great opportunities working with various hotels and tour companies throughout my time away.

I began in Bali with my friends where we had a super fun week and I then went on to visit the largest city in Southeast Asia which was a whole new experience for me.

My best friends and I in Ubud
The view from my Airbnb in Jakarta

I was so excited to next fly to Thailand where I spent a wonderful month there. It had been 4.5 years since I had last been and I enjoyed so much revisiting Bangkok's beautiful temples and making new friends there.

Wat Pho, Bangkok

My biggest highlights of my time in Thailand include the islands Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi and right up north in Chiang Rai.

The picture of paradise: Phi Phi Island
Snorkeling on a Maya Bay tour
The White Temple, Chiang Rai
Singha Beer Park, Chiang Rai

In July Gareth flew over to meet me in Vietnam and we stayed in our very first overwater bungalow! #TravelGoals. I especially loved wandering through the quaint ancient town of Hoi An.

Da Nang Cathedral pre-meeting up with Gareth
Vedana Lagoon, Phu Loc

Exploring the imperial city Hue
Beautiful lanterns of Hoi An

After exploring central Vietnam I was off solo again to Cambodia for the first time. Seeing Angkor Wat and the surrounding ancient temples was such a dream come true!

I visited a floating village and local school and learned about the devasting history centred in Phnom Penh.

Floating village
Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

I bounced over to beautiful Laos where I worked with my final hotel and started staying at hostels where I met some amazing people who I continued to travel with.

Patuxai, Vientiane
River tubing in Vang Vieng
The beautiful Kuang Si Waterfall

I finally flew to the country I was the most excited to visit: Myanmar. I only had two weeks there and I did an epic whirlwind tour starting in Yangon.
I instantly loved it for how different it was from the other countries and how extremely friendly the locals were. I had my first spotlight moment where locals were lining up to take photos with me (because of my blonde hair I'm assuming!).

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon

Like Laos, I bused from place to place, visiting Inle Lake, Bagan and Mandalay. Sunrises, sunsets, e-bikes and boat tours. I met some more wonderful new travel buddies and really enjoyed soaking up Burmese culture.

Traditional fisherman on Inle Lake
Rice fields
Sunrise over the temples in Bagan
Sunrise at U-Bein Bridge, Mandalay

When my time in Myanmar had come to an end in August I flew back to Bangkok to meet my mum. She was there for personal reasons and I was her support person, so I got to spend another three weeks in Thailand (yay).
It was her first time to Asia so I enjoyed showing her the beautiful palace and temples, the crazy shopping malls, fun food places and beautiful skyline views.

Wat Arun, Bangkok
Unicorn Cafe, Bangkok 
Sunset cocktails with a view

We also visited the beach town Hua Hin for a few nights before heading home in September. 

In October I went to Melbourne to work with a company on a Great Ocean Road tour. Seeing The Twelve Apostles was another big bucket list tick for me!

The Twelve Apostles, Victoria
Awesome street art graffiti in Melbourne

In the last months of living in the capital city of Australia, I worked with a couple of local tour companies and Gareth and I made the most of our time there.
We went to multiple live sports matches, many events on, visited nature parks, museums, even Canberra's Space Station which is part of Nasa's Deep Space Network. (I'll be writing up a best things to do in Canberra post in the new year).

On a wine tour in the Canberra region
Koala spotting at Tidbinbilla Nature Park
Feeding friendly locals on a weekend getaway in Merimbula, NSW

On December 13th our three years in Australia had come to an end and we moved back to New Zealand. Our first stop was in Wellington where I loved visiting my old favourite spots around the city and catching up with my friends.

The Bucket Fountain on Cuba Street, Wellington

We just spent a lovely Christmas in Greytown which I wrote about in more detail on my secondary blog and we are now currently residing in the Manawatu region.

There we have my 2017 travel highlights in a nutshell! It was my first year as a 'proper' travel blogger and I loved every moment! I'm so grateful to be able to travel and for the opportunities helping towards building my dream career.

I still have a long way to go and I'm excited to see what 2018 has in store for me, beginning with my first ever trip to the United States and Canada!

I also made a highlights video on YouTube if you would like to watch my year of travels:

Thanks so much to everyone who is following along on my journey, through social media and here on my blog. You all mean the world to me and thank you all for your support.

I hope you have a fantastic and safe New Years. I will be sharing my 2018 travel goals in my next post, hope to see you there!

Happy Travels,

Goodbye Australia. Hello again, New Zealand

Seasons Greetings to all!

If you didn't know already, last week I left Australia and jumped back across the ditch to good ol' New Zealand.
I've been living away for three years so coming back home after such a long time away is always a nice feeling.

I had a great time in Australia and abroad and there are definitely things I will miss and some things I won't.
I've compiled together a few lists for Australia and New Zealand stating these certain things (you will notice the majority of it is food-related)... Without further ado:

Things I will miss about Australia:
  • Awesome cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast (big, iconic and such cool city vibes)
  • The better weather (hot summers and milder winters)
  • Zing shop (epic geek store and basically where I spent all of my money)
  • Golden Gaytime ice cream in a tub (genius idea and yum as flavour)
  • The beautiful wildlife (kangaroos, koalas, platypus, wombats etc.)

The friendliest of locals

  • Mostly nicer roads with 110 km speed limit
  • Larger range of concerts and events on
  • Schnitz and Grill'd burgers (both sooo good)
  • The abundance of year-round cheap tropical fruit (watermelon, mangoes, pineapple etc.)
  • More and cheaper flights

Things I won't miss:
  • Snakes and spiders
  • Annoying flies that don't bugger off
  • The expensive price of beer and spirits
  • The accents (lol no offence)
  • The loud and noisy birds
  • Certain bureaucracy making things more difficult than they need to be

Things I'm looking forward to in NZ:
  • Seeing my friends and family
  • Going on awesome summer road trips (beautiful surroundings in all directions)
  • Homegrown Music Festival (an epic day out with the best New Zealand bands across five different stages)
  • Tip Top hokey pokey ice cream (the best ice cream in the world)
  • Doing some scenic hiking

2018 goals: Hike Mount Ruapehu's Crater Lake

  • Kiwi friendliness
  • The snow season (I have my first ever Mount Ruapehu season pass for next year woohoo!)
  • Having a big pot of NZ green mussels
  • Listening to the Rock FM radio station (I haven't listened to the radio for 3 years because Aussie stations suck)
  • FEJOAS (A delicious seasonal fruit that is uncommon elsewhere)
  • Kiwi onion dip and Bluebird chips (best combo ever!)
A Kiwi cupboard staple

  • Cookie Times, Squiggles, RJ's Licorice Choc Logs, Whittakers, Tuimato sauce, L&P (all the NZ things)
  • Being able to buy beer and wine from the supermarket (so much more convenient)
  • Burger Fuel (delicious gourmet burgers) 
  • Being back in the land of Middle Earth with LOTR spots and memories all over the country
Hobbiton, Matamata

Things I'm not looking forward to:
  • Colder summers and the wind
  • Earthquakes (eeek I'm terrified of them)
  • The narrow and windier roads
  • Being even further away from the rest of the world

Those are just some reflections, all in good fun. I have been back now for almost a week and I can confirm I have already gone crazy for many of my favourite foods that I had missed!
I can also say that I left Australia on a piping hot 34॰C day and I'm currently sitting writing this in jeans, socks and a sweatshirt... no place like home!

This will probably be my last post before Christmas so I wish everyone a safe and very Merry Christmas. I will definitely have at least one post up before the New Year so I'll hopefully catch you then. Happy Holidays!

Happy Travels,

Top Five things to do in Siem Reap

I really enjoyed exploring Siem Reap, even a whole week there wasn't enough for me and I can't wait to go back again one day in the future.

As it is for most people, seeing Angkor Wat and the incredible surrounding temples was the main reason I wanted to go there but there is so much more to see and do as well.

Here are my top five favourite things to do:

1. Marvel at the temples on a day tour

Beginning with the obvious and one of the top things on most people's bucket lists.
Siem Reap is most well known for being the gateway to Angkor Wat and the rest of the Angkor Ruins - a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Site covers almost 400 square kilometres, making it arguably one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia.

I did a sunrise Angkor Wat and full day temple tour with Happy Angkor and it was such an incredible day and a major highlight of my time there.

2. Floating village and local school visit

Another awesome thing to do is head out of the city centre to visit the nearby floating villages. I went with Kompong Khleang and it was an amazing day witnessing such a different way of life. 
We spent heaps of time on the Tonle Sap River in the midst of village life and got to visit a local school where our guide was originally from. We met some very happy and friendly children and I highly recommend the tour. All of the proceeds made go straight back to the school.

3. Check out Pub Street

Pub Street is the town centre where most tourists tend to gravitate towards. The area is nicely decorated, the restaurants and bars are cheap and plentiful and there are many market-style shopping areas nearby.
Come at night time for a totally different experience. You can try a scorpion or tarantula or sit at one of the many fun pop-up cocktail carts. I can recommend getting a banana and nutella pancake from a street food cart made fresh in front of you for only $1 - so good!

4. Phare the Cambodian Circus

My favourite evening spent in Siem Reap was at the popular show Phare the Cambodian Circus. It's modern circus-style entertainment featuring very talented high-flying acrobats.
I was completely astonished by their amazing skills and drawn in by the compelling story they told. It was fun, high-energy and even emotional.
It is again a wonderful cause and all of the proceeds go straight back into the community and help to transform the lives of Cambodian youth.

5. Indulge in the great food

I enjoyed the food in Siem Reap so much that I already have a whole blog post on it! Five Places to Eat in Siem Reap.
As well as eating your way around some of the best-rated restaurants, you could do a food tour or even take a local cooking class. There is an abundance of great cafes and restaurants to choose from specialing in local Khmer dishes, healthy vegan and vegetarian and various nationalities. Best of all - the price is unbeatable!

Those are five of my top recommended things to do in Siem Reap. Leave me a comment if you have any other suggestions to add!

If you would like to read about what I got up to in Cambodia in more detail check out my travel diary post.

Pin it! :)

Happy Travels,

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