Upcoming Travel Plans: One Way Ticket to Southeast Asia!

I have just started finalising my next big travel plans today, and as I had a whole week off blogging over the Easter break and I'm so excited from booking tickets, I just had to gush write all about it!

At the end of January, I bought a one-way ticket to Bali which will be my third time there. One of my best friends is celebrating a milestone birthday and our whole friend group will be coming from New Zealand - which will be so much fun!
With less than a month to go, I thought I had better start preparing for what came after that. I have looked into a lot of options and done a lot of research, but nothing was set in stone, until today!

My husband Gareth gets a two-week break at the beginning of July, (his only break all year) and it's also during the school holidays, meaning it's the worst possible time to fly anywhere. Flights and accommodation are double the price. We looked at everything from Bali, Japan, Fiji, Phuket - you name it, but it was going to cost thousands and thousands of dollars, and that was just for him.
I will already be floating around Southeast Asia and was planning to meet him wherever, and then return home together after me being away for a total of two months.

Just last night we started looking into Vietnam, even though we had only just visited in December. I thought - it's not exactly a destination where most people would take their kids during the holidays, and I was right! I suggested visiting Hoi An, as we didn't get the chance last time and I've heard brilliant things. It's a beautiful ancient city and it's right on the beach - win win.
We managed to find a wonderful hotel resort and flight package deal for less than $2,000 NZD - which is half than what we would have paid anywhere else. We thought about it over night and the next morning - booked it straight away! We are staying in Danang first for three nights, and then Hoi An for eight nights.

With the ending of my travels figured out (kind of - I am yet to buy my return ticket),  it was time to start booking the in-between stuff!

There are still some big gaps to fill, but this is how it is looking so far:

Travel Plans

May 16 - 25: Bali, INDONESIA

Here I will be working and also enjoying a fun week with my friends.

May 26 - June 1: Jakarta, INDONESIA

I couldn't go back to Indonesia and not visit somewhere new this time! I'm looking forward to exploring the enormous capital city.

June 2 - 8: Bangkok, THAILAND

I can't wait to return to Thailand which was my very first proper overseas destination over four years ago. That trip changed my life, so I can't wait to see how I feel after visiting a second time, this time with a lot more experience under my belt! I also can't wait to take new photographs, as my camera quality back then was rubbish.

June 9 - July 1: Unknown!

Hopefully, it will include Chiang Mai, THAILAND which I loved a lot more than Bangkok and Siem Reap, CAMBODIA. I've heard not so great things about Cambodia, but I still really wish to see Angkor Wat, so I might literally just go for two days to see that.
I have included both of them on the map above with the places I am heading to as I'm pretty sure they will make the cut!

July 2 - 4: Danang, VIETNAM

This is where we fly into to visit Hoi An, so we decided to spend a few nights here first.
It's the third largest city in Vietnam and has previously been occupied by both the French and Americans, so there's a lot of history there.

July 5 - 12: Hoi An, VIETNAM

I'm super excited to visit the ancient and peaceful town of Hoi An.

July 13 - Unknown!

I may fly back to Australia or I may not. Flights are looking at about a grand to return home during that time period (still peak season) so I might just hang around somewhere for a couple more weeks until the flight prices drop.

While I am over there I will be working - this isn't a vacation! I will continue writing blog posts and I am hoping to daily vlog my adventures for YouTube as well. I already have several jobs lined up, so far four in Bali, two in Bangkok and one in Hoi An. Travel blogging is my absolute dream job, so I am very happy and grateful for any opportunities to continue travelling, exploring the world and achieving my goals.

I will be writing a Southeast Asia Travel Diary series where I will update my travels here at least once a week with highlights and photos, as well as writing travel guides and tips for each new place I visit. Do subscribe to my YouTube channel as well if you would like to follow along with my videos.

I am very excited to head back to Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam and return to some loved places as well as visit some new ones. Hopefully, I'll be able to add a couple more countries to my list as well!

I hope you'll come along on my adventures with me and be apart of the excitement.
This is my first time ever booking a one-way ticket and making things up as I go along and it's such a wonderful feeling! It is pretty daunting that most of it will be a solo trip, but I remember feeling scared before travelling through Europe alone, but I look back on that time and think - piece of cake! I have no doubt, this will be just like that. And hey, I actually quite like travelling alone.

Do you have any exciting travel plans coming up? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Travels,
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A fun weekend in Sydney! Photo Diary

I had a splendid weekend with my partner in crime in Sydney catching a show, sightseeing and enjoying delicious food. I also got the chance to play with my new camera - the Sony RX 100 iv, so below is a mixture of photos from that and my S7 phone, as well as a little vlog I have already made for YouTube.
This was our third trip to Sydney already this year, except the last two times were just for specific things on that evening (a Puscifer and a Guns N Roses concert) and we didn't actually get to see much of the city.

This time we were going for Aladdin the musical on Broadway and we decided to stay for a couple of nights so this time we could actually enjoy some sights! (Hey that rhymed).
It had been five years since our first trip together to Sydney (and our very first overseas trip as a couple!) and I was determined to see again the magnificent Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, St Mary's Cathedral and explore the largest city in Australia some more.

Coming from Canberra, this time we decided to catch the bus, as the previous times we had driven and found it to be quite a nightmare. The traffic and driving around the city centre is rather terrible and as we were staying at an Airbnb, parking costs as well would have been through the roof. We went with Murrays Coachlines which was not badly priced and it was a pleasant enough journey (it still took four hours though because of the traffic).

Managed to catch a snippet of sunset from our Airbnb balcony
We arrived at around 6 pm on Friday evening and it was a 20-minute minute walk from the central train and bus station to Darlinghurst where we were staying.
After dropping our things at our Airbnb we ventured out for a much-needed beer or three in the Kings Cross area.

At around 9 pm we headed to Potts Point to Fratelli Paradiso which was an Italian restaurant recommended by our AirBnB host. It was very busy but after a short wait (another beer) they managed to squeeze us in. Highly recommended if you are in the area, the food was exquisite and not badly priced. I had the Tagliolini pasta dish and we shared a tiramisu for dessert.

Not the best picture - but I assure you it was delicious!
After good food and a bottle of red, we had one last nightcap at a bar before venturing back at around 1 am.

The El-Alamein Memorial Fountain
Despite a late night, we were up bright and early for a full day of adventuring ahead.
We had a most excellent brunch that kept us going for the rest of the day at a lovely little Italian cafe down the road Cafe & Cucina.

We had a big Italian-style breakfast each which was delicious (and needed). Their coffees were perfection and they also made fresh pasta dishes and their front cabinet was full of pastries, sandwiches and Italian treats - I would absolutely be there every weekend if I lived in the area!
Fueled, we headed towards the harbour, about a half hour walk away. We stopped briefly at St Mary's Cathedral for a peek inside which was at the halfway point.

The Westfield Tower

Next we powered on to the Opera House and Harbour Bridge which were just as impressive as ever. This time we actually went for a small look inside the Opera House where there is a gift shop and cafe. I would love to see a show in there and do a proper tour some day.

We then walked around to the other side of the harbour to The Rocks Market which is a great little market on every weekend. We browsed through the stalls before walking back towards the city centre.
After a stop in Dymocks and Topshop (where I fell in love with some shoes and have since purchased them) we headed back to our accommodation for a couple of hours rest.

Queen Victoria Building
Beautiful fountain in Hyde Park
Walking past St Mary's again
Once our legs had recovered we got ready to head out once more for the evening.
We enjoyed a couple of beers before finding a dinner spot before the show.

We passed the Capitol Theatre where the show is held along the way
We headed to Chinatown and stumbled upon this popular Korean BBQ restaurant Yang San Park. We ordered a mixed meat platter and a seafood pancake to share and it was so incredibly tasty. The service as well was great and by the time we left there was a long line to get in! Definitely a must-visit if you get the chance and you like Korean food.

At 8 pm it was show time! It was very musical - a lot of singing and dancing and the actors were very good. They turned it into more of a modern day comedy so it was quite entertaining.

We were both knackered after the show so we pretty much walked straight back and went to bed! On Sunday our bus home was departing at 12 pm so we were all packed up and headed out by 10 am.
We stopped for a nice breakfast at Basket Brothers where I indulged in French toast with dark chocolate, maple syrup and strawberries. Aside from being obviously very sweet - it was actually so very delicious! I had to stop myself from eating the whole thing.

That brings us to the end of our weekend adventure in Sydney. I hope you enjoyed the photos and little snippets of what we got up to.
I'm heading back again for the fourth time this year in April - so by the end of the year, I'm sure I will be more of an expert! Eventually, I will make a travel guide and top places to eat type of post once I collect more information and become more knowledgeable.

Here is the video I made for my YouTube channel if you would like to watch it:

Happy Travels,
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My big 2017 Travel goals

I briefly touched on my 2017 goals for my travel blog in my final post of last year, which as a quick overview- were to grow my blog, expand my writing in my new categories and chase opportunities to become a professional travel blogger.

I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about what my actual travel goals are for this year.
For those that may not know- my now husband is in the military and for the last two years he has been deployed to the Gold Coast in Australia as an instructor. I spent most of that first year in Europe on a study scholarship and then travelling.
Last year I joined him in living in Australia and started and worked on my blog all year.
I was lucky enough to travel back to New Zealand to visit my family, around Australia, to Indonesia, the Cook Islands and to Vietnam.

The last two years have been incredible for me and it just got me thinking- what's install for this year?
In a couple of days we are moving to Canberra, which is the capital city of Australia, as Gareth has been offered to do a Masters there. He is going to have one very busy and stressful year.
I, however, am in the fortunate position again to be able to spend the year how I please.

9.01.17  Saying goodbye to the Gold Coast

My ultimate goal is to be a travel blogger as my career. It is a lot of hard work, a lot- I know this. It is a very saturated market- but that's all a part of the challenge- and nothing excites me more. I will be spending my year pursuing my dreams and working hard towards that.

And I also want to travel.

Nothing gets my blood pumping more than travelling! It honestly is what gets me out of bed in the mornings. Travelling is all I have ever wanted to do. 
Why am I in my later twenties with no established career? Because I hadn't yet found my path, I always had no clue what I wanted to do- all I knew is that I wanted to travel.
I was floating through life with one idea after the other, thinking I could do this, I could do that. I have two qualifications and am half way through another that I now no longer wish to pursue... Nothing stuck, I wasn't passionate about anything else.
I thought once I had travelled and seen the world- maybe then I would actually figure out what I will do for the rest of my life...

That didn't happen- all that made me do was want to travel more!
Eventually I came upon the realisation that travel blogging is my calling. I love writing and I am really enjoying blogging- and I would get to do my favourite thing in the whole world- dun dun dun- travel!
Right, that's enough about me and my career aspirations for now- here are my travel goals for the year:

My big 2017 Travel Goals

⬜  See more of Australia in my final year living here: Sydney, Adelaide, Tasmania.

⬜  Join
my best friends in Bali for one of their milestone birthdays!

⬜  Visit at least three new countries I have never been to before.

⬜  Visit a new continent I have never been to before.

⬜  Work and volunteer overseas for one month.

I only have five travel goals- but they are big ones! In fact- they are huge! But I do truly believe I can achieve them all.
They each have sub-goals branching off them which I will keep to myself. But they are along the lines of: doing things out of my comfort zone, growing as a person, have meaningful experiences, give back and help others, make new friends, learn about more cultures and lifestyles, achieve something to be proud of, see more, do more, live.

New year; new opportunities

What an amazing year to look forward to! I am positively quivering with excitement just thinking about it.
I will of course keep updating my blog, so I hope you will join me this year as I try my best to conquer each challenge and goal!
Do you have travel goals of your own for 2017? Let me know in the comments- I'd love to read about them. 

Thanks for reading and here's to a great year!

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Hanoi Travel Diary & Vietnam Reflection

Hanoi, a little summary

Hanoi was a different experience to Ho Chi Minh City. Whether I liked it more or not- I couldn't quite tell, nor put my finger on exactly how the two differed so much.
I think because we were staying in the very centre of town in Hanoi the people were just so condensed into such a small space.
I enjoyed that experience to a degree- witnessing the busy hectic lifestyle, the street markets where people are literally sitting on the sidewalk chopping fish and meat. It was fascinating and I enjoy learning about and seeing such different cultures and lifestyles.

The people are such hard workers. It's hard not to notice that they work all day from the early hours of the morning right up until 11 pm at night.
The many food vendors made a good advantage of the tourists a lot more than in HCMC. There was always someone trying to sell to you and being rather pushy- especially the fried doughnut sellers. I even had a lady randomly place her wooden carry pole (which was painfully heavy- wow they are strong!) on my shoulder and placed her cone hat on my head for a photo for money (of which we politely refused).
Another observation was that the locals literally throw all of their rubbish onto the ground and sweep it into the gutter. A bin truck does come around to collect it in the evenings, but that still didn't really get rid of it all, or the smell.
The large amount of traffic in the small streets mean that scooters ride on the footpaths and also park there- often blocking the whole sidewalk so you have to share the road with the rest of the zooming vehicles. Crossing the road and trying not to get run over was a bit of a nightmare at times. I did witness a van munch a scooter with a person still on it- and that didn't help my nerves!
All of the exhaust from the scooters as well meant that there was quite a bit of air pollution and after walking around for the day you just felt very dirty and grimy. It's no wonder the majority of locals wear masks over their mouths. (This is quite like Bangkok, although you can still see the sky in Hanoi!).

I suppose Hanoi was more 'in my face' because of that, with the traffic, the pushy people and it was a tad more touristy.
It was still a wonderful city and I enjoyed it very much, especially the history of it. I really admired the centuries-old architecture of the historic Old Quarter and the French colonial influence which was also evident in the beautiful buildings, the French bakeries and language. We found the majority of locals to be very friendly, the street food was abundant and delicious, egg coffee was everywhere (my fave!) and the mirror-like green Koan Kiem Lake with the ancient Ngoc Son Temple in central Hanoi was a tranquil place in the middle of its chaotic surroundings.
Overall it was very much a typical bustling South-East Asian city, and the energy at night especially was enigmatic.

This is the second part of three in my Vietnam Travel Diary series. Here is the first one from Ho Chi Minh City if you missed it.
I spent four nights in Hanoi, with two nights in between in Halong Bay- which is why there is a gap between days in the middle.
Here is what I got up to in the capital city of Vietnam:

Day Six - Saturday 10 December

After a two hour flight with Jetstar from HCMC to Hanoi, we got a shuttle van from the airport to our hotel. It cost 200k VND for both of us ($12 AUD) and it took about 40 minutes.
One thing I noticed on the drive there looking out of the window was the dramatic change in clothing- it was Winter up here! It was still around 24 degrees though- so I certainly still found it warm enough to wear shorts or a dress. The locals on scooters however were bundled up in jackets and thick coats!
We stayed at a small hotel called Lele and Frog for the first two nights and it was a very basic and cheap hotel with everything we needed. It cost about $50 AUD a night and included breakfast and wifi.
The room was well made up and clean and my favourite part was the balcony overlooking the street below (of which we immediately purchased a beer to enjoy it with).

The bathroom was rather tiny and as we found out later the street noise at night was horrendous, but it was in a really good location- so you win some, you lose some.
After our 3 pm beers we ventured out to explore Hanoi and planned to stay out until our booked Walking Food Tour which was at 7:30 pm.
Our first stop was a delicious French bakery right around the corner from our hotel. We had a fresh croissant pick-me-up each (just as good as Paris) and browsed through many shops on the way towards the lake.

We became short-term regulars at the bakery

We passed St Joseph's Cathedral which was very magnificent

We walked around the tranquil lake and came to the centre square of the Old Quarter. The roads around as we found out are blocked off on the weekends (brilliant idea) so that people can walk freely and peacefully around the lake.
We had a beer-stop rest at an upstairs bar overlooking the busy streets below which was very fascinating. Afterwards, we ventured through the bustling market streets, just browsing and people-watching really.

Typical whole family on a scooter

After a big walk at about 6 pm we came across a busy corner which we later found out was called 'beer corner,' which had locals eating and drinking beer outside on tiny tables and chairs.
We found a more quiet spot and joined them. The old lady that served us didn't speak English but she was very friendly and even kept telling pushy sellers to shoo away from us!

After a few Tigers, it was time to meet up for the Hanoi Street Food Tour. There were only two other people with us, one from Canada and one from America. 
I don't remember the names of any of the food- but there was a lot of it and they were all delicious! There was a noodle soup, fresh jerky, spring rolls, different kinds of fried savoury 'doughnuts'.
We were taken to many local spots and sat outside on the street tables as well as in shops.
My favourite was the 'pancake' stop, which was more like a rice paper dumpling to me- but we each got to watch the professional and then try to cook it and roll it off the pan ourselves- which was a lot harder than it looked!

The delicious pancakes
Okay, my actual favourite was the dessert- which was Vietnamese ice cream and coconut rice pudding, with coconut shavings on top. It was heavenly! It was almost as good as my ultimate favourite- the Thai mango sticky rice.

Feeling very full there was still one more stop which we ventured through the weekend market and very busy streets to get to (it was a Saturday night so the streets were packed).
We had Bahn Mi and egg coffee, which I had tried before but more than happy to have again!
It was a fantastic food tour- a whole three hours of eating and the guide was very friendly. 
Highly recommended if you're in Hanoi! It cost 20 USD each.
Rather tired after a big day of walking and eating, we ventured back to the hotel (via a cool yellow lantern-lined street) and went straight to bed.

Day Seven - Sunday 11 December

After a rather noisy sleep and a delightful pho for breakfast, we went out for another big exploration. We saw the temple in the middle of the lake and found a beautiful big park with heaps of parents and their children playing as it was a Sunday.

Morning fruit vendors

Gorgeous colonial French architecture

The park with many big displays and locals enjoying the weekend

Gareth with the temple in the middle of the lake behind him

The surrounding streets blocked off was so nice!
We had an iced coffee break at Highlands and browsed through many shops. At about 2 pm we sought out Bahn Mi 25 for lunch which was recommended to us as an excellent place for the traditional Vietnamese baguettes.
There was a bit of a wait as it was a very popular place, but it was nice to sit down and we enjoyed a cold beer while we waited.
We got one each with everything on it- sausage, pate and veg and it was really delicious and the bread was crunchy. Still not as good as the one I had in HCMC- but probably second.

After our late lunch we went back to our hotel for a bit of a rest for an hour or two. Then Gareth was on a mission to get business pants and shirts tailored for him. The second shop we tried was the one and he was measured up and we chose the materials.
Across the road was a Chinese dumpling restaurant so we went there for dinner and got a set menu to share which was pretty good and again so much food, we couldn't eat it all!
The night markets were only on in the weekends so we wanted to check them out. It was very very crowded and huge- we walked through miles and miles of stalls. They had some okay stuff, but I wasn't really interested in anything. I'm sort of over buying useless things I don't need. I did, however want one souvenir from Hanoi so I decided to buy a black Vietnam T-shirt which only cost $3 AUD.
It was another day full of walking (23k steps according to my Fitbit!) so we were again rather exhausted and went back to the hotel to pack our suitcases for an early start tomorrow.

Busy weekend market

Days Eight and Nine - 12-13 December

(Two wonderful nights spent in Halong Bay: post coming soon!)

Day Ten - Wednesday 14 December

We arrived from Halong Bay to our next Hanoi accommodation in the afternoon. We were staying at Golden Sun Suites Hotel and because it was our final two nights in Vietnam, we decided to splash out a bit more than our previous Hanoi hotel (it was still only $95 AUD a night for their best room).
After welcome drinks and fruit we were taken to the 'Honeymoon Suite' and it was made up spectacularly! The biggest surprise was the complimentary bottle of wine and freshly baked cake waiting for us in our room! (Hotel review on the blog coming soon).

Very refreshing

A very nice surprise!

The view from our window
One thing that really surprised me was how dramatically the weather had changed after just two days away- Winter had come! I finally had to wear pants and a sweatshirt that had been hiding at the bottom of my suitcase.
We went out for a late afternoon exploration and ended up coming across and visiting the Hoa Lo Prison. It was first used by the French colonialists for political prisoners and then later by North Vietnam for the U.S Prisoners of War. It was very interesting indeed and we spent a good hour in there going through the old rooms and cells and learning its history.

We sat outside a nice little cafe near St Joseph's cathedral and had a delicious egg coffee (great pick-me-up!) and enjoyed a beer before heading to the tailors to pick up Gareth's two shirts and trousers.
All were very well made and for a very good price. They were called Bambou Silk if you're interested in getting a suit, clothes or dress made.

We asked our hotel for a good local dinner restaurant and they recommended Countryside which wasn't too far away. We had an incredible meal there and I will definitely be mentioning them in my Hanoi: Top Places to Eat blog post also coming soon.
We ordered a savoury Vietnamese stuffed pancake, fresh summer rolls and a meatball soup. All were delicious and it was such a feast! On such a food buzz we even ordered dessert- mango crepes.
All of this including two beers and water came to less than $20 AUD... we gave them a good tip! Tired from our Halong trip we pretty much just went back to the hotel to sleep.

Day Eleven - Thursday 15 December

It was our final day in Hanoi and sadly it was raining. We took a taxi to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where his embalmed body is preserved in a glass sarcophagus protected by his military honour guard.
We certainly weren't allowed to take photos (we'd probably be hanged!) or even have our hands in our pockets. It was weird seeing his dead body... but it was something Gareth wanted to see. Apparently we have to go see Lenin in Moscow next (if I get to go to Russia then sure!).

The Mausoleum
We walked through the Ho Chi Minh Presidential Palace Historical Site where he used to live. The palace and grounds were grand and we got to see his old cars and into some preserved rooms he used. There were many Vietnamese taking selfies with everything.
It shut for the lunch hour at 12 pm so we had a pho and coffee nearby before walking to the Military History Museum which opened at 1 pm. Thankfully the rain had stopped by then.

The palace which was roped off to visitors

Typical street!
The museum was again more Gareth's thing but it was interesting enough. There was an ancient flag tower, destroyed enemy bombers and plenty of aircraft and tanks to view.

We walked the couple of kilometres back towards our hotel and stopped late afternoon for a bit of a random feast. 'Bun cha' restaurants are very common which have set menus. They usually consist of a grilled pork plate, deep fried spring rolls and noodle soup but we asked to just have a plate of spring rolls as more of a snack. They didn't really speak English so we got two of the three and one each!
So we just had to sit there and try and eat as much as we could. It was a little annoying but we got over it quickly as it tasted too good to really care! We ate less than half of it but it only cost $3.50 AUD each... so who's to complain about that?

Really delicious!
We had a bit of a rest back in our room and then bundled up to head out again as it was getting quite cold. We were planning on just having a few bevvys in the beer corner as we were still very full, but on the way we spotted a bar called Obama's Restaurant which even had a photo of him with a beer! I found this extremely hilarious and such a winning name that we stopped for a couple of Tigers there first.

Next we walked only about 20 metres and came across some people standing outside an old temple trying to sell last minute tickets to a show.
It was for traditional music and we looked at each other and spontaneously said yes.
It was a very unique but blissful hour of a beautiful blend of female vocals and traditional instruments. It was very captivating and I'm glad we went because I just love different cultural experiences.
The government and the group of artists are trying to revive the art of 'Ca Tru' which is the ancient genre of chamber music. We weren't allowed to take photos during the performance but afterwards we were invited to take pictures with the performers so of course I hopped up!

It was about 8:30 pm by then so we decided it was time for dinner. We found the beer corner and chose a place called 'Little Hanoi' and ordered a big mixed hotpot which came with three plates to put in the broth. One with the meat, one with noodles and one with a heap of herbs and vegetables. It was a-maz-ing and a brilliant way to end our time in Vietnam. The huge dinner plus at least four beers only totalled 200k VND ($12 AUD). We ate, we drank, we were merry.

Day Twelve - Friday 16 December

After a final pho for breakfast (sniff) we checked out and headed to the airport.
Upon leaving, the staff- who were always amazingly friendly and brilliant, asked us to fill out a review card for our stay. I filled it out giving them all the best marks and added in the comment section that I'll be mentioning them on my travel blog. I handed it back to them and was almost to the taxi when they rushed out and exclaimed "Are you a travel blogger?" I said yes and I think four members of staff lined up saying "Thank you, thank you" and to wave us off.
I have never before told anyone I was a travel blogger (because I'm still pretty new) but that reaction was unexpected! I think every little bit of help they can get means a lot to them, so I am more than happy to write about them.
From Hanoi we flew back to Ho Chi Minh City, then to Singapore, on to Brisbane, then the Gold Coast.

Vietnam, a reflection

It was an amazing trip. Very exhausting, but amazing. It was good to have walked so much to counter all of the eating (and beer drinking). We saw a lot, we learnt a lot. We both left wishing we didn't have to, and that next time we should spend at least six months here travelling the whole country.
The impact coming home was more than I've felt ever before. It just got me thinking a lot.
Being able to drink fresh water from the taps, having a nice hot shower at home, sleeping in my comfy bed in my big house where I have so many things. I looked around at all of my products, makeup, so many clothes and shoes I have to continually give them away.
I picture the people on the streets, working so hard just so their families can eat. They have nothing in comparison. Sitting on the dirty hard ground or carrying heavy loads or serving 'rich' tourists like us. What do they think of us? Do they envy or despise us? Are they happy? What do they think when they are scrubbing our feet and giving us pedicures? What do they go home to? All of these questions came in a wave as I arrived in my house.
I've been to Indonesia and Thailand before and of course they are also poor countries and we are rich to them, but I came away with the feeling that they are actually genuinely happy. I didn't feel that with the Vietnamese. I know the war is still very fresh and the effects of it are obvious still today.
I have the feeling I would feel the same way if I went to places in Africa or India for example.
I guess I just really felt the unfairness of it all. I heard a lot of the people's stories from their own mouths and their own hardships, as well as seeing it blatantly with my own eyes.
That is just a small reflection. In truth, I can't wait to go back. I would love to visit Hoi An, the mountains in the very North, the Mekong Delta in the South.
But I would really love to visit Thailand again more. It's been five years since I went there- and that was my first real big eye-opening trip and introduction to foreign travel. I loved that trip so so much and I really wish to go back to see if my mindset of the country has changed at all, and maybe to just see it again and reflect on how much I have grown as a person since then. Definite goals for sure.
I have rambled quite enough for one blog post! I promise to make my third one about Halong Bay- a lot shorter!

Thank you so much if you have gotten this far and are still reading- kudos to you!
Hope to see you in my next post,

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Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Travel Diary

I recently returned from an incredible two weeks in Vietnam and this is the first of my travel diaries. Here is my second one from Hanoi which includes thoughts and reflections from my time in Vietnam, and Halong Bay will be coming very soon.
My travel diaries share a basic overview of what I did each day including particular highlights, prices and any good tips I discovered, as well as my favourite photos from the day! Here is Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), as that was the first stop:

Ho Chi Minh City is in the south of Vietnam

Day One - Monday 5 December

After a 3 am wake up call, a one hour drive to Brisbane, an 8-hour flight to Singapore, a 2-hour layover and another 2-hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City- we finally arrived in Vietnam's largest city. It was around 7 pm local time I believe (which was 10 pm our time).
We had pre-approved visas which took about half an hour to get processed before we were allowed through customs, mostly due to the line of people.
You can apply for the visa online, then once it's approved, print out the official document you get emailed to be stamped when you arrive. It costs $25 USD per person for a single entry visa which lasts for a month, which you pay upon arrival. It was a simple enough process.
We had arranged a transfer to our accommodation which was the Edenstar Hotel.
My first impressions of the city driving from the airport was that it was very modern, the streets were lined with technology billboards and lights decorated for Christmas.
Shop windows and restaurants had great displays and decorations. I was really surprised by that- because Vietnam is one of the least religious countries in the world (not that you have to be religious to be into Christmas).

HCMC (Ho Chi Minh City for short) is similar to Bangkok- in that there is crazy traffic and a million scooters zipping in every direction, usually with whole families on them!
Something I've never seen before which was the absolute highlight of my day was two people on a scooter- and in the middle of them was a dog! Such a funny sight! I wish I had my camera ready for a photo.

We checked into our hotel which was lovely, it even had a grand foyer with an enormous Christmas tree in the middle. I'll be doing a hotel review of them in the near future, so stay tuned for that!

Love the towel decos!
As we were quite tired and it was getting late we basically went straight out for a little exploration of the street we were staying on in search of food.
Our street was not in a touristy area so all of the food options were local- which was just what we wanted! We settled on a popular looking place filled with locals drinking beer and eating seafood.
Vietnam is one of the highest beer consuming countries per capita in the world- and it's incredibly cheap, from 50 cents in local convenience stores to $1-$3 in bars, depending on how up-market the place is (we were in heaven!).
We weren't overly hungry so we shared two plates of deep fried spring rolls and deep fried prawns (really good) which we washed down with a couple of Tiger beers each.

Delish dinner
We went back to the hotel after that and checked out the rooftop pool bar area which had a great view over the city. We had a nice cocktail each before retiring to bed.

Beautiful view from the rooftop
The pool!

Day Two - Tuesday 6 December

After an excellent breakfast of pho (Vietnamese noodle soup; their traditional breakfast) and plenty of coffee- of which the Vietnamese have aced, we ventured out for the day at 9 am. It was a typical hot day of about 33 degrees.
We crossed some crazy roads which although I got used to after two weeks- it was still nerve racking each time. Traffic doesn't stop in Vietnam. Not even at pedestrian crossings.
This is how you cross a road in Vietnam: you walk very slowly and keep going - and the scooters and cars go around you! Rather terrifying indeed. At least I had a human shield with me (my husband).
You're not even safe on footpaths as scooters use that just as regularly as roads- and they also park there too, often blocking the whole path and making you walk back on to the crazy road! (I found this was worse in Hanoi).
Anyway-- we ventured across roads, through beautiful parks, I saw a smoking nun and a guy carrying a tray of doughnuts on his head!

Dragons in the park!
We came across the magnificent Notre Dam Cathedral. It was impressive from the outside, but I found the inside not so special. I guess I've just been to so many amazing cathedrals that I'm pretty much a snob now!

In front of the cathedral
Across the road was the Central Post Office

We found a nifty shop that sold some pretty cool souvenirs and we both did a bit of shopping in there for presents. I even bought myself some cool Lord of the Rings cloth posters.
The next stop was the Ho Chi Minh Revolution Museum which cost 15,000 VND (Vietnamese Dong) each (about 90 cents). There were helicopters, a tank and cannon outside of the building. There was a lot of historical and war artifacts and information, but it wasn't so much my thing (it was Gareth's).
We then sought out a lunch place and came across a local food court that had so many food choices it was very hard to choose! I ended up going for a BBQ pork and wonton noodle soup and it was really good. Both of our lunches including drinks came to only $10!

We checked out the Saigon River, then the famous Ben Thanh Markets, but we didn't spend long in there. We had pretty much been walking for 5 hours straight and had sore feet so we made our way back to the hotel in the afternoon for some pool time and a refreshing beer.

Walking around town
The markets with every kind of stall inside

That evening we had booked a street food tour Saigon Street Eats on the back of scooters!
We were picked up at 5:30 pm and it was a full 3.5 hours of non-stop eating.
We were taken to District 3 (the city centre is District 1) and tried many local dishes that were all delicious.
We found the tour through Trip Advisor as it had such good reviews and it was everything we could have imagined. We had fresh Vietnamese pancakes, learned about Bahn Mi, had 'broken rice' with pork, tried frogs legs (tastes like chicken!), had a BBQ chicken and a big steam boat. Then were the desserts! We were so so full at the end and the guides were so friendly and informative about all sorts of Vietnamese facts.
It cost $55 each- which is expensive for Vietnam I suppose- but for us tourists for what we got it's an incredibly great deal as it includes transfers and beer and water at every stop. (I've been on food tours in Paris which cost more like $150 and you don't get as much).
I especially enjoyed the scooter ride home (less traffic and on the way there it was raining) and I was grinning from ear to ear. It was a brilliant night and a fantastic way to be properly introduced to the Vietnamese cuisine.

"Banh Xeo" - the Vietnamese pancake stop 
Riding on a scooter in Saigon- check!

Day Three - Wednesday 7 December

We slept in! We got over 10 hours sleep which felt amazing, as boy travelling takes it out of you! After breakfast we walked to the War Remnants Museum, which was only about 15 minutes away. It's also known as the museum of Chinese and American aggression and war crimes and it's the most popular museum in HCMC.
Outside the grounds were littered with giant US Army planes, helicopters and tanks.

Inside the museum... was another story. There were three levels which told the stories and history of Vietnam, from the first Indochina War involving the French colonialists to the most recent Vietnam War.
It was very graphic and horrifying.
I won't go into detail. But I was very shocked. They have a very tragic past which scarily wasn't that long ago at all- and the effects are still very evident today.

The German support posters for Vietnam "Solidarity with Vietnam"
The museum shut from 12 pm - 1 pm (as most places do for lunch), so we had a light lunch next door from Highlands Coffee- a very popular coffee shop you can find on nearly every corner. I had an iced coffee and my first Bahn Mi (Vietnamese baguette) which was good- but could have done with more filling, it was a tad dry.

Trying Bahn Mi!

After that we rushed back to the hotel as we had an afternoon tour booked and pick up was at 1 pm. We were going to the famous Cu Chi tunnels- which is an elaborate network of underground tunnels. It was about an hour and a half drive away.
The communist guerrillas known as the Viet Cong dug tens of thousands of miles underground and used them as hideouts, living quarters and supply routes during the Vietnam War.
We were shown around different sites, hidey holes, all of the different booby traps they used and even got to go through a part of the tunnel ourselves. The tour cost $35 each.

Showing us how they hid in the ground
Gareth struggling through the tiny tunnels as he's 6 ft tall!
It took 2.5 hours to drive back because the traffic was so bad. It was really frustrating as the site is only 70 kms away! Eventually we got back at 7 pm.
Gareth had looked up on Trip Advisor the top restaurants in HCMC and found #5 was only a five minute walk away. I was keen!
It was called Cyclo Restro and it was a 5-course set menu dinner (I will also be doing a 'Best Places To Eat' post for here and Hanoi and will go into more detail).
We started with deep fried prawns with a dipping sauce (delightful) and this decorative swan just made my heart melt! I already loved the place!

Next was a refreshing melon soup which was a delicious broth with melon that tasted like cucumber- it was so hydrating I felt like I was drinking an elixir.
Then we had stir-fry green beans with a bit of beef, a lemongrass-y chicken curry dish and a fish and claypot vegetable dish with rice. It was all simply stunning- I highly recommend this place for everyone visiting HCMC!
We were so so full and satisfied and I loved how fresh, tasty and healthy everything was.
We finished off with 'Egg Coffee' which I had heard about and was so excited to try.
It's one of the best things I've had in my life! Over a flame candle burner, it's coffee prepared with an egg on top so it has turned into a custard- you mix it together and it tastes like a liquid tiramisu- heaven!

That whole feast to our surprise only cost us $16 total- which included two beers!
We couldn't believe it. We gave them a very good tip because that was honestly one of the best food experiences I've ever had.

A quick snap on the way home from dinner (we had some sweet rice from there the next night!)

Day Four - Thursday 8 December

Today was an early start at 6:30 am as we had a full day tour booked to Long Tan- a famed ANZAC battle site.
The Battle of Long Tan was an amazing piece of history of 100 Australian soldiers holding off 2000 Viet Cong and defeating them in 1966. (Gareth my husband is in the military so of course he had to do this tour!).
Our guide was a lovely lady of about 50 years old and was very talkative- which was fine as it was a long drive! We learned a lot about her and her sad life story, as are most people's at that age growing up through the war, starving.
She in particular avoided being forced to marry at age 16 and instead travelled to HCMC to study and worked very hard jobs 18 hours a day to afford it. Her parents lost all of their land in the war and the government still to this day owns all of the land- so they were left with nothing. They are now retired with no pension so our guide has to support them as well as her own children. And she doesn't earn much even though she is very well educated. It's a hard life.

We were taken to the Long Phuoc Tunnels- similar to Cu Chi, the site of the former ANZAC military campgrounds, payed respects to the Long Tan Cross Memorial and were shown the battle sites.
Gareth really enjoyed the tour and that's the main thing! Afterwards was an included lunch which was quite a feast. They keep feeding us so much here! It was nearly a two hour ride home but we arrived back by 3 pm which was nice- we avoided the heavy traffic.
Guess what else I saw just before we had lunch-- a fluffy Pomeranian dog riding a scooter!! Okay not like that, but it was standing where the ladies feet were like it was on a skateboard and it looked so happy with its tongue wagging out and everything- again my camera was not ready!

Just a cool building I saw on the way to the tunnels!
A jack fruit tree!
Just chilling with some goats, the usual
Some great advertising there!
The memorial
The lunch spot was cool! Our guide on the right
What a feast! They gave us chips too ha #Westerners
We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling and enjoying a few drinks at the rooftop bar.
We decided to have a bit of a night out that night and had heard about a popular drinking street.
We first stopped to fuel up at a recommended Bahn Mi place from our street food tour guide the other night called 'Huynh Hoa'. It was just the next street over from our hotel and we knew it was good as soon as we saw a long line of locals lining up down the street for it!
We got one each with everything on it- which was less than $2. Cheap dinner! It was SO good. It was the best sandwich I had in Vietnam, I tried many other places after that- nothing compared!

Footpath lined with parked scooters
The best Bahn Mi!
So happy about it!

After our sandwich we spent the rest of the evening on the 'party street' which was called 'Pham Ngu Lao' which is basically a long road of bars and clubs and tourist souvenir shops.
It's not really Gareth and I's thing- but we do enjoy a drink so we thought we should at least check it out. We mostly just sat outside the bars enjoying a beer and people watching. Although a lot of people do come up to you trying to sell things.
We also browsed a few shops and I bought a cool bracelet (I collect one from each country I go to) and a cool Star Wars Yoda singlet.
We finished up at 'The View' which was part of a hotel that had a rooftop bar. I just guessed by the name that there would be a nice view and I was right!
On the way back to our hotel at about midnight we stopped at the sweet sticky rice cart we had seen the other night and tried a bit of everything. He put salt over it too so it was sweet and salty- so yum!

Busy party road
Dessert rice

Day Five - Friday 9 December

Today was our last full day and we didn't really have any plans except to walk around some more and try do a bit of shopping. We walked to Vincom Shopping Centre as it was said to be the best mall, but we didn't really find anything in there. There was however a great food court and we couldn't help going into a delicious looking French Bakery (just in case you didn't know- there is still a huge French influence in Vietnam as they were ruled by them for 100 years). We each got a custard pastry which was amazeballs.

Walking towards the mall, a typical street with vendors
So many goodies to choose from!

When then said hi to Uncle Ho (this is what the Vietnamese affectionately call their great past leader Ho Chi Minh- who now the city is named after). There is a big bronze statue of him in a court placed in front of the City Hall.
A group of young school girls approached us and asked if they could ask us some questions to help practice their English. They were so cute! We were more than happy to, especially as I had to do that last year too as an activity in my German class and only speak to the locals in German.

Sporting my new Yoda top hehe
We then ventured back towards the hotel via the Ben Thanh Markets again and had a proper look through, but we didn't get anything as in my opinion it's just mostly full of cheap and low quality things. But if you're looking for cheap souvenirs or presents then I would recommend it for that.
As it was a very hot day we had a nice swim in the pool and chilled for the rest of the afternoon.
We had heard of a great cocktail rooftop bar called SkyBar which has amazing views so we headed there at 5 pm to watch the sunset but for some reason it was shut until 6:30 pm which we were a bit disappointed about.
But it turned out to be a good thing as a big storm was rolling in and we noticed the sky was getting very dark quickly! So we walked as fast as we could to the Sky Deck as a backup- which is the tallest building in HCMC. To go up to the observatory deck it costs $10 per person or if you're just going to the bar or restaurant then it is free- but the drinks are rather expensive up there.

Gorgeous views!

It was worth it in my opinion for the view and also to get out of the rain which started hammering down just after we arrived! We spent about an hour and a half up there but the rain wasn't ceasing.
We ended up buying an umbrella to walk to our dinner spot which wasn't too far away.
Gareth wanted to go to the Hard Rock Cafe as he felt like a burger and I was more than happy to spend our last night there, as I've been to a few around the world.

It was very nice and the food was good and huge portions. There was a really talented live Vietnamese rock band playing there as well.

Haha the guy on the right

We had a couple more drinks and then walked all the way back to the hotel- we were more than happy to as we were SO full! It was about a half an hour walk and my legs were so sore by the time we got there- we had walked so much that day- over 23,000 steps.
We packed our suitcases ready for our flight tomorrow and fell into bed!

Day six - Saturday 10 December

It was an early start and we had one last pho for breakfast before checking out.

Great way to start the day!
Building I saw on the way to the airport

The airport was about a 20 minute drive away and it cost 130k VND for both of us ($8 AUD).
We checked our bags, had a coffee from Highlands and got a Bahn Mi from the airport to take on the plane with us for lunch, as it was a two hour flight.
We flew right to the top of the country to Vietnam's capital city Hanoi. And that brings us to the end of my Ho Chi Minh City adventures!

Wow so this turned out to be a lot longer and more detailed than I had intended- hope you don't mind!
I had a really great time there and felt 5 nights went so fast and it was definitely not enough!
It is such a large city that we barely scratched the surface, and I would have loved to do another day trip to the Mekong Delta as well- home to the floating markets. 
Definitely next time- Gareth and I can't wait to return to Vietnam and we are hoping we can do it properly- at least for a couple of months travelling the whole country.

Coming next will be my Hanoi and then Halong Bay Travel Diaries, so stay tuned for the next parts in my Vietnamese adventure.

Thank you so much for reading and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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Rarotonga Travel Diary in pictures

Hey all,

Unfortunately with such a small window between the Cook Islands and my next trip to Vietnam (tomorrow morning), I just haven't had the time to write up my promised Rarotonga Travel Diary. 
I do however have many notes from my trip so I will be editing this post in the future into the proper intended travel diary, much like my last one from Bali. For now- here is my week in Rarotonga in pictures!
I have had time to write my previous post: Best Places to eat in Muri, Rarotonga and make my travel vlog for YouTube which you can watch here if you're interested:

I hope you enjoy the photos anyway and can get the gist of my time there-- which was incredible! I had the most amazing week and not just because I got to marry my favourite person in the world!
Rarotonga is such a beautiful island, the people are so friendly, the food, culture, the atmosphere, The Pacific Resort where we stayed and got married was the ultimate dream wedding location- everything was just fantastic and I really cannot wait for the day I get to return to the Cook Islands!

In order, here is my travel diary in pictures:

A warm welcome late on Sunday evening

Monday 21st November

The incredible view from our room at The Pacific Resort
Feeling relaxed!

The beautiful beach-front

Enjoying many a cocktail!

Tuesday 22nd November

We got to see a traditional serenade for the opening of an international boat race

Hopping aboard Koka Lagoon Cruises for my hens day!

My sister sorted me out with the usual get-ups!

Cool glass bottom boat

My maid of honour and I

My bestest friends

Fetching us some coconuts!

The whole girls group

Sister shot


Wednesday 23rd November

Gareth walking to his doom ;)

Beautiful nature in the Pacific Resort

A cool sign next to our lunch spot that day

Can't get over that blue lagoon!

My last cocktail as a spinster!

Thursday 24th November

The big day! I took some shots in the morning

The boys cufflinks :D

My jewellery

Getting ready with champers!

Loved my hair!

Where I walked through- so pretty!

The gorgeous hand-made archway for us

Mr & Mrs

Bouquet goals :D

Reception area

Amazing cake!

Really good string band

My seat and a much needed mojito after hours of photos!

Enjoying the night!

Friday 25th November

The nest day... burgers for breakfast!

A lovely wedding gift from The Pacific Resort

Enjoying the local brews!

We went to Highlands Paradise for a buffet dinner and cultural dance show

Shot with some of the talent

Saturday 26th November

Spot of canoeing

And snorkelling!

Unfortunately my camera died after this so I didn't get any fish shots!

Dinner at Sandals, this was the best Ika Mata (local dish of raw fish salad) I tried!

Sunday 27th November

Exploring the island

Loving the Nu! (Fresh baby coconut) 

Best fish sandwiches on the island at The Moorings

After lunch I bussed around the entire island enjoing the views (it only takes one hour).

Relaxed a little on the beach before having to pack our bags

One last dinner and dessert at the nearby Muri Night Market

A final beer and sunset on the beach before out late night flight home

I'm off next to Vietnam for two weeks so I will be away from here until then.
Stay tuned for my proper Rarotonga Travel Diary, my hotel and wedding destination review of The Pacific Resort and of course plenty of Vietnam blog posts!
I'm looking forward to jumping back into writing when I return, but for now- happy December and catch you next time!
Right... time to go pack!

I’m getting married in the Cook Islands!

Hey all,

This is a quick post to let you know that I will be away from here for a little bit as I am off to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands to get married!

I will be away in tropical paradise for just over a week and when I return I plan to write a travel diary blog post of my time in Rarotonga as soon as I can!
Then I will be off again a few days later to Vietnam with my then husband (the word seems so strange to me at the moment!) for a fun and adventurous honeymoon.
We are spending two weeks there starting in Ho Chi Minh City, then venturing north to Hanoi where we will be visiting Ha Long Bay which is one of my bucket list dreams!

I recently made a video on my YouTube channel about my wedding and travel plans if you're interested:

I will be back home on the 18th of December so I'll be very busy the week up until Christmas catching up on my blog posts as well as making my YouTube videos!
For those that don't know I have a YouTube channel where I post travel vlogs, lifestyle and a bit of everything really, it's become a great creative outlet for me this year along with my blog.
I'll be doing a Rarotonga travel vlog as well as one for each of the places I go to in Vietnam.
Make sure you're subscribed if you wish to see those!
When I return I will also be writing a hotel review from Rarotonga and plenty as well for Vietnam so I will be one very busy lady!

If you wish to come along on my travels and keep up to date with me follow my social media where I am most active (WiFi dependent!):

Instagram: instagram.com/krystijaims

Twitter: twitter.com/randominic

Snapchat: snapchat.com/add/krystijaims

Thanks so much for everyone's support on my blog this year. I've hit nearly 30,000 views already which is pretty amazing. I'm absolutely loving blogging and I have big goals for the future that I am working hard towards!

I'm off at 3 am tomorrow morning so I will see everyone for a new post when I'm back by the end of November!

Peace and love,

30 Countries before I’m 30

I only recently heard this was a thing- and I am more than excited to put my hand up for this challenge!
It might not seem like such a big goal to some- but I only started travelling when I was well into my twenties and lets just say, time's-a-ticking!
I currently have been to 22 countries already, and by the end of the year it will be 24.
From 2017 I will have less than two years to complete this new challenge that I am now partaking in-- 30 countries before I'm 30!

It will be quite a task (albeit a fun one), because finances are rather limited at the moment and there's not a whole lot of time to save for six new countries in such a short amount of time.
Do you think I can do it?
This time a year ago I wouldn't have thought so, but starting my travel blog this year has been so amazing and I am really hoping it will lead to some (travel-related) opportunities!
A girl can dream right?

Below are the places I can already cross off my list. They're in order with the year above from the first time I visited (I have been back to several of these countries since).

1. New Zealand (Born in!) I have pretty much travelled the whole country except for the very bottom including Invercargill and Stewart island.

2. Australia- NZ's neighbour, this was my first overseas experience. (Currently living in).

3. Singapore- A brief stopover on the way to Thailand.
4. Thailand- 3 wonderful weeks were spent travelling around the country.

5. England- I fell in love with London in an instant.
6. France- And then I fell in love with Paris!
7. Germany- Berlin was on a whole new level of cool. I've since lived in Germany.
8. Scotland- Cold and rainy but Edinburgh was a magical city to visit.

9. UAE- A short stopover on my way back to Europe!
10. Switzerland- A beautiful country next door to where I lived for 6 months.
11. Italy- I got engaged in Rome! I loved every single place I went to.
12. Vatican City- Really enjoyed my day here. The Sistine Chapel was magnificent!
13. Austria- My time in Vienna was awesome! The start of my solo travels.
14. Hungary- My first taste of Eastern Europe, Budapest was unexpected.
15. Slovakia- I drove from the bottom of the country right to the top!
16. Poland- Krakow is one of my new favourite cities in the whole world.
17. Czech Republic- Prague was so beautiful and I loved learning the history.
18. Ireland- Dublin! I had the best time here with my friends drinking Guinness!
19. Spain- I visited a few lovely Spanish towns but Barcelona was my favourite.
20. Greece- I had an epic couple of weeks here including cruising the Greek Islands.
21. Turkey- My time here wasn't the best but I enjoyed the food and drink.
22. Indonesia- I loved visiting Bali and even went back again this year!

Coming soon/booked for later this year:

23. Cook Islands- I'm getting married here in tropical paradise!
24. Vietnam- This is our honeymoon destination, it will be a great adventure.

My goal of six new countries I wish to tick off and travel to before I'm 30!

25. Samoa- An island close to New Zealand, Samoa would be a great tropical getaway.
26. USA- New York, Las Vegas, Harry Potter World... the list of places is long!
27. Canada- Snow mountains, moose and maple syrup!
28. Mexico- Tacos, tequila and white sandy beaches? Yes please.
29. Peru- One of my biggest dreams is to trek the Andes and see Machu Picchu.
30. Japan- I have always wanted to go here- it would be such a different experience!

I am so grateful for every single one of my travel experiences and I am so excited for the future to see as much of the world as I possibly can.
There are 195 countries in the world and I know I am only just beginning to scratch the surface! But rather than this daunting me I find it incredibly exhilarating.

Do you have a list like this? What places are you wanting to cross off? Let me know in the comments and thanks so much for reading!

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Bangkok: My Experience | Guide & Tips

Thailand was my first proper foreign country I travelled to, and it was a life-changing experience. I had only been to Australia twice before- and although I enjoyed travelling there to a new country and visiting new cities and places, it wasn't much of a difference as it is so similar to my own country New Zealand (except a lot warmer!).

Bangkok was my first taste of a world so completely different from my own.
It was this trip that truly solidified my wanderlust and passion for travelling and learning about different places and cultures.
My partner Gareth and I travelled to Thailand for three weeks around three contrasting areas of the country. The entire trip was an incredible experience and I have been wishing to return ever since I left.

In this post I will run through a brief overview of our trip including the main highlights and activities we got up to, followed by some travel tips for first timers to Bangkok/Thailand.
Coming soon will be two similar posts on the other places we visited- Chiang Mai (in Northern Thailand) and Koh Samui (an island).


A bustling and vibrant city, full of coloured taxis, tuktuks and motorbikes going in all directions. It was very hot and sticky (we went in early February) and you had to shower twice a day (because your feet get pretty dirty as well walking around the streets).
But it was a real experience, as I mentioned it was such an eye-opener.

Where we stayed:

We stayed at CityPoint Hotel in Klongtoey and we both really liked it. It was clean, modern and in a great location- very close to shops and near a Skytrain stop.
The service was also great and the front desk staff were very helpful with suggestions on nearby restaurants. I would definitely recommend this hotel to others. It cost about $80 (NZD) a night.
Obviously you can stay in a lot cheaper places in Bangkok but we were also on holiday and had worked hard to save for our trip- so we did want to stay in fairly comfortable places.

What we did:

Wat Pho. We visited the oldest temple in Bangkok (also known as 'Temple of the reclining Buddha'). The architecture of the buildings and sculptures were incredible.

Chatuchak weekend market. We spent a few hours at the largest market in Thailand. There were so many stalls and everything was a very good price. I got my first taste of bartering (but I pretty much just let Gareth take the reigns!).
I also tried my very first Mango Sticky Rice there which became my favourite new lunch meal in Thailand!

Grand PalaceWe took a boat along the Chao Phraya River and stopped off near the Grand Palace. It was one of the most incredible places I had ever seen!
Everywhere you looked was so magnificent and beautiful, and we had a very enjoyable afternoon walking around the palace grounds.
(I also remember it was a sweltering hot 45 degrees Celcius and wearing a thick sarong wrapped around my legs made it even hotter!).

Thai massage. We treated ourselves to a traditional Thai massage. Let's just say I'm still scarred by that experience HA!

'Ladyboy' Show. We ventured out one night and saw a ladyboy show- because when in Thailand. We weren't allowed to take photos but that's okay- I don't think it's something I'll ever forget! It was... colourful and entertaining!

Shopping. Quite a bit of shopping was done as we took advantage of the great prices! We explored many big markets and several of Bangkok's giant malls. Even proper labelled shops such as Converse were half the price than back at home (I stocked up on my shoes and clothes!). It was also nice to be inside in the air conditioning for a while.

Sky Bar. We went to the world's highest open rooftop bar. (63 floors high!).
The view was pretty cool but as it was slightly smoggy and my camera wasn't the best back then none of my pictures turned out very good.
It's free to catch the lift up but the drinks are very expensive for Bangkok- our cocktails were $25 NZD each (so I only had one!) but it was worth it for the view.

Khao San Road. One evening we visited the notorious 'K Road'. Not for the faint-hearted. No we didn't go see a 'ping-pong show'! We just had a couple of beers sitting outside a bar and people-watched. Saw some... uh, very interesting 'going-ons'...

Explored. Mostly we just explored. We walked a lot, rode tuktuks, enjoyed the food and the awesome cheap prices of beer! Gareth even got a three-piece suit tailored and made up for him because the price and quality of that is very good in Bangkok.

Ways to get around:

Skytrain, or the 'BTS'- Bangkok Mass Transit System is a fast and reliable way to get around. The maps are in English as well and it's easy to navigate.
It only costs 20 baht per trip for an unlimited distance or you can get other group tickets if you are staying for a while.

Taxis are everywhere and a convenient way to get around. Have your destination written down as many drivers don't speak English well. Also make sure to run by the metre and say no to price negotiations- you will be ripped off.
The fare should start at 35 baht and it stays there for the first 2 kilometres. Typical trips around a few km's are usually 50 Baht.

TukTuks are an experience to be had while in Thailand, however I would recommend it for shorter trips only and try not to go during rush-hour traffic- the fumes from the other cars on top of the smog is pretty bad. (You can see why many locals drive around on their motorbikes with masks covering their mouths).
Unlike taxis, the driver will give you a price depending on where you want to go, the time of day- and what mood they're in! They usually have a 'special ' price for foreigners, but you can try barter them down to something reasonable if they want too much, otherwise just walk away and find someone else. A very short trip should cost 30 baht.

River boats are a great way to get around. You can view many temples and great architecture from the river and hop off to many attractions as you please.
There are several kinds of boats offering different services- express boats that only stop at the main piers, ferries that only cross the river (3 baht), river boats that go up and down the river stopping everywhere (10 baht), as well as plenty of tourist boats and river cruises.

Where we ate:

I can't remember the names of most places (as this was nearly 4 years ago), but one restaurant in particular I do remember was called Cabbages & Condoms- and it was recommended by our hotel. It was excellent and a very unique experience!
There were sculptures made out of condoms- but it was still a nice place! We sat in a lovely outdoor garden area filled with pretty fairy lights and the food was all fresh and delicious.
The best part was the incredibly cheap prices. We had a three-course meal each plus cocktails and I remember it only cost us around $20 NZD in total- I couldn't believe it!

Our entrees

We did a mixture of eating at places recommended by Trip Advisor as well as eating at local mall food courts, pop-up restaurants on the street and of course eating street food!
I absolutely loved the Thai food so that gets a whole category to itself!:

Thai food you must try!
You simply cannot go to Thailand without trying the following:

Pad Thai (Thai style fried noodles)
Gaeng Daeng (Red curry)
Gaeng Keow Wan Kai (Green curry)
Tom Kah Kai (Chicken in coconut soup)
Mango sticky rice (sweet coconut rice with fresh mango)
Tom Yum Goong (Spicy shrimp soup)
Khao Pad (fried rice)

Travel Tips

As mentioned always agree on a price before getting in a TukTuk and make sure the Taxi is metred.
If the driver asks to take you to a 'special place' that not many tourists know about- say no thanks. Many drivers get paid a commission if they take you to certain places such as jewellery and suit-making stores.
Be aware of pickpockets and keep your belongings close to you.

Respect the culture
Don't touch a Thai person on the head, it is sacred to them. Don't kiss in public.
Try not to raise your voice and get angry- the Thai are very placid people. A smile will get you a long way.
Shoulders and knees must be covered to visit and enter the temples.

Enjoy the food and beer
It will be better than you expect. You haven't really tried Thai food until you get to Thailand! It is abundant, high quality and astoundingly cheap. But to avoid certain stomach upsets- eat where there are crowds and if you see locals eating there. A faster turnover means fresher food.
It's the original home of pop-up restaurants. Every night the footpaths of Bangkok's major thoroughfares become pop-up dining rooms as food vendors set up shop, complete with plastic tables and rickety stools. Do as the locals do and join the budget feast.
Enjoy the cheap local beer. Be aware that Singha is 6% and Chang a whopping 7%.

Enjoy the shopping
Shopping along with eating are two national pass-times! There are at least 25 new malls under construction in Bangkok alone. Get some relief from the heat and enjoy the air conditioning and reasonable prices.
From the markets you will find a lot of fakes and knock-offs, but there are plenty of well-priced authentic brands in the malls.
Make sure you barter in the markets- the first price you're quoted should come down by at least a third.

Always carry hand sanitizer and tissues with you everywhere. The majority of public toilets do not provide toilet paper or soap. Also public toilets are quite rare, so use them when you can at meal breaks- in restaurants and bars, and you can find them at the larger malls.

Drink only bottled water as well as brush your teeth with it. You can buy them for very cheap so stock up with as many litres as you can when you first arrive and have a smaller bottle to refill when you go out and about. Stay hydrated as it is a very hot and humid city year round.

To be honest the traffic is pretty terrible and dangerous. Thailand has a horrifying road safety record- with 80 lives lost every day. They pretty much don't abide by any road rules and first in first served! So be careful. Definitely do not cross a road without using a safety crossing or traffic lights.

Get Vaccinated
It is extremely advised to be vaccinated before going to Thailand. Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid are common boosters. You can get these done by your doctor.
Also it's a good idea to pack insect repellent with you to avoid pesky mosquito bites.

Final Thoughts:

I saw things that shocked me to my core. I saw things that even made me cry (I was pretty young back then!). But that didn't stop me from enjoying my trip.
If you are travelling there for the first time yourself and you've never been somewhere like it before- just realise that it is very much a poor country and there is a lot of poverty on the streets- many homeless people, beggars and uh... limbless people, babies on the ground only lying on newspapers... I could go on.
But even so I have never met a more genuinely smiley and happy people. I was blown away by their beautiful culture and kindness towards us tourists.
I never had any trouble or concerns with safety issues.
Overall it was a fantastic trip and Bangkok is forever etched in my memory as the discovery of my desire to travel to far and wide places of the earth, and I am so grateful to have been able to experience Thailand and all of its differences.

Bangkok is the gateway to the rest of Thailand and to be honest my next destination after that- Chiang Mai- I loved twice as much.
Stay tuned for my Chiang Mai and then Koh Samui post coming soon!

Thanks for reading, do leave me a comment if you are planning on going to Bangkok soon or if you have any other tips and recommendations to add!

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My Ultimate Bucket List

I have always had an informal 'Bucket List' of ideas floating around in my head- but I hadn't got around to writing it down before now.
Putting everything to words on my blog I thought would be the perfect way to keep me accountable, and to see as well those big things that I have already achieved so far.
I enjoyed writing this list, and the majority as no surprise turned out to mostly be travel related- as that is absolutely my biggest passion in life.
This shows just how much more of the world I have yet to see and look forward to (which is so exciting!). I counted just for fun when I had finished and I have 101 things on my list!
Here goes, in no particular order:

Visit and explore New York
Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower
Visit the Taj Mahal
See the pyramids in Egypt
Ride a gondola in Venice 
See The Pretty Reckless live in concert
Meet Taylor Momsen
Live in a foreign country 
Do volunteer work
Teach in a foreign country
Go inside the Colosseum in Rome 
Go on a safari in Africa
Go bungee jumping in Queenstown
See the wildlife on Galapagos Islands
Buy a one-way ticket somewhere and don't plan
Visit every continent
See Stonehenge

Go skydiving
Swim with dolphins
See pandas in China
Ride a TukTuk in Bangkok
Snowboard overseas
Gamble in Las Vegas
Visit the Acropolis in Athens
Go white water rafting
Learn how to surf
See Rammstein live in concert
Meet Rammstein
Visit Halong Bay in Vietnam
Do the Inca Trail
Hold a snake 
Go to Disney Land
Ride a jet ski
Go to a floating lantern festival
Do the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London 
Go to Harry Potter World in Florida
See Harry Potter: The Cursed Child play in London
See Tool live in concert 
Helicopter over the Grand Canyon
See Manchester United play at Old Trafford
Have a tattoo done abroad 
See the ruins of Pompeii 
Climb up to Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro
See a bear, moose and beaver in Canada
Go zip-lining
Go to Oktoberfest in Munich 

See the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Enjoy the delights of Amsterdam
Go parasailing 
Tour the Vatican 
Ride a camel
Visit Croatia
Have a campfire on the beach
See Buckingham Palace & Big Ben 
Get lei'd in Hawaii
Drink tequila and eat tacos in Mexico
Ride in a limousine 
Spend a night in a castle
Fly First Class
Try snails in France 
Walk the Great Wall of China
Stomp grapes at a vineyard
Climb Mt Vesuvius in Naples 
See Mount Fuji in Japan
Visit Morocco
Visit Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany 
See the Northern Lights
Go to a real diner in Southern USA
Speak to foreign locals in their own language 
Sleep in an igloo
See a whale in the wild 
Do the Guinness factory tour in Dublin 

Go to a live All Blacks (rugby) match
'Lean' against the Leaning Tower of Pisa 
Swim in a waterfall
Eat Belgian waffles in Belgium
Meet the cast of Lord of the Rings 
Visit Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow
Visit Niagra Falls
Watch the sunset in Santorini 
Ride a scooter around Rarotonga
See a tornado (from a distance!)
Drink sangria and eat paella in Spain 
Visit The Holy Land in Jerusalem
Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Visit Auschwitz 
Visit the Amazon jungle
Go scuba diving
Tour the Louvre 
Horseback ride on the beach
Go to Stewart Island, NZ
Visit Hobbiton in Matamata 
See a polar bear in the wild
Travel solo 
Snorkle the Great Barrier Reef
Visit an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai 

Try haggis in Scotland 
Hold a tarantula
See the Blue Mountains in Australia 
Holiday in the Maldives
Run a half marathon
Visit the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona 
Have a snowy Christmas
Be an extra in a movie
Visit Prague Castle 
Eat pizza in Chicago
Visit 'The Beach' in Thailand from the movie
See the remains of the Berlin Wall 
Go on a cruise 
Ride a donkey 
Get married
Have a successful travel blog!
Finish my science degree! (one day...)
Write a book
Visit 30 countries before I'm 30

This list is ongoing and I will keep adding to it and ticking things off when completed!

Thanks for reading, leave me a comment on your thoughts and if you have a big bucket list you're working through yourself- if so- what's on yours? :)

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