Monday, 24 August 2015

California, USA 2015 | Hollywood

Our quick stopover in Hollywood began with a meal at Hard Rock Cafe and a visit to the Walk of Fame and Chinese Mann Theatre. 

We've been to LA before but decided to visit again as myself and my siblings were quite young last time. We went to a shopping centre to see the Hollywood sign in the distance and my brother visited a couple of guitar shops. 

We only had a couple of hours in Hollywood but it was a nice touristy place to visit; it is a shame that is was such a flying visit but I would love to go back to LA at some point to stay for longer.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

California, USA 2015 | Disneyland

I am a massive Disney fan and haven't been to the California park since I was about 11! I managed to schedule a day in with my family at the end of our trip. We got up really early and were lucky enough to be around for the 60th Anniversary celebrations. 
We stayed at a nearby hotel and had dinner at Cheesecake Factory (one of my favourite places to eat) and then went back to our hotel to watch the fireworks from the window, which was amazing. 

We did both parks in one day and managed to see Paint the Night, Soundsational Parade, Disneyland Forever and World of Colour in the evening. 

We began our day in California Adventure where we queued up for Radiator Springs Racers which was so worth the wait. We used fastpasses throughout the day and before we left California Adventure we went on Soarin', Grizzly River Run, California Screamin', Tower of Terror and Monsters Inc. We also watched Aladdin which was so amazing. 

We then headed over to Disneyland Park, we went on the Jungle Cruise, Big Thunder Mountain Indiana Jones Adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, Bobsleds and Star Tours. We did some souvenir shopping and ate lunch at Village Haus Restaurant and dinner at Hungry Bear Restaurant. 

We had such a magical day and managed to get on so many rides!

Friday, 21 August 2015

Nevada, USA 2015 | Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon

Vegas was so much fun, we stayed at the Tropicana at the end of the strip near MGM. Everything is completely larger than life in Las Vegas. We explored the strip and visited different hotels and casinos. 

Our first evening was spent watching Jersey Boys at the Paris hotel which was fantastic! We ate dinner at Mon Ami Gabi where you can look out over the strip. While we were in Vegas we went on the Big Apple Coaster in the NY hotel and went shopping in a few of the malls. We watched the fountains at the Bellagio, visited Carlos's Bakery and went to Caesar's Palace to look around. 

From Vegas, we travelled to the Grand Canyon and had the most amazing pink jeep tour. We took a helicopter ride and a boat tour at the bottom of the canyon and drove round visiting different areas of the Canyon. The view was absolutely amazing and we heard some great stories from our tour guide. 

The other trip we took from Vegas was a horse riding visit at Bonnie Springs Ranch. We went on a trail on our horses and enjoyed breakfast at the ranch. 

I loved the Vegas part of our trip, I think there is just so much to see and do. It is a great experience and I would absolutely love to go back at some point. 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

California, USA 2015 | Yosemite and Death Valley

The drive from Monterey to Yosemite was quite long but Yosemite was so worth it. I would definitely suggest getting food/petrol beforehand as inside Yosemite it is really expensive. We got out at El Capitan which was massive and then we drove to look for the Tunnel view which is the postcard view of Yosemite. 

We drove out towards Bishop and stayed at the Vagabond motel on the other side of Yosemite. It had a pool - which was very welcome in the heat -  and some great places to eat nearby. 

Death Valley is not too far away from Bishop so we didn't have to head off too early. Death Valley is one of the hottest places in the world, but just so amazing to see. We began our trip with a visit to the information point where they shared a map with us and directed us to a couple of places we wanted to see like Badwater Basin and a few sites where Star Wars was filmed. Definitely enter Death Valley with lots of water in the car and a map in case GPS does not work, because it really is extremely hot!

On the way out of Death Valley we went into a ghost town which was really interesting to see - it is a town that is now abandoned and only warranted a quick trip but all the same, good to see. 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

California, USA 2015 | Monterey and Big Sur

On our fourth day we woke up early to set off for the start of our road trip. On the way from San Francisco we visited Santa Clara as my brother is a big 49's fan. We got our rental car and drove to Big Sur and Carmel-by-the-Sea. It was a really lovely scenic drive. We drove to McWay Falls and managed to see some whales which was so amazing! 

We drove to Monterey and stayed at Motel 6 in Marina. Our first motel was actually ok! I had stayed in a motel before, but it was great value for money. 
There was a Denny's attached to our motel so we went there for breakfast before continuing our drive to Yosemite. 

Saturday, 15 August 2015

California, USA 2015 | San Francisco

In Summer 2015, alongside my family, we flew out to San Francisco and began a mini road trip around the West Coast of America. 

We arrived in San Francisco and stayed at the Da Vinci Villa Hotel. It was a great location although it did involve walking up and down lots of hills. From our hotel room we could see the Golden Gate Bridge which was amazing! The first evening we went to Pier 39 and saw the sea lions and found somewhere to eat near Fisherman's Wharf. 

During our three days in San Francisco we stayed busy with lots of sightseeing and we ate at some great places. We headed out on a City Tour which is one of my favourite ways of seeing a new city. We went over Golden Gate Bridge and visited Golden Gate Park to see the bison and to eat hot dogs! We caught the bus to the painted ladies and then to Union Sq to have a quick shop. That evening we took the night tour over bay bridge and went across the Golden Gate bridge again. We had dinner at the Ferry House Building at Gott's Roadside which I would highly recommend. 

We got up early on our next day to head to Alcatraz. We had booked out tickets in advance, this is definitely suggested at some dates sell out for particular trips. For lunch we went to Fisherman's Wharf and ate at Boudin's Bakery where they make sourdough bread. We finished off lunch with ice cream at Ghirardelli Sq. We caught a cable car up to Union Sq afterwards and completed the rest of our bus tour, taking us to Chinatown and then Lombard Street. That evening we finished with Mac n Cheese on Polk Street. 

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Thailand | Three weeks itinerary and budget

The final stop on our trip was the beautiful Thailand where we spent three amazing weeks. 

Our Stops

Chiang Mai, March 12th to 17th
Chiang Mai was our first taste of Thailand and we had an amazing time. We stayed at DeeJais Backpackers which had been recommended, and it was definitely somewhere I would stay again! Our first day we walked to the 3D Art Gallery, which was such an interesting experience! It was so much fun, we ended up spending quite a while there. We found an American restaurant for cake and ended up going back for dinner! That evening we watched Cinderella as we wanted a little break before a few busy days! The next day we headed to the Elephant Retirement Park and spent an amazing two days there. They look after the Elephants properly and don't let people ride them, rather they explain how they look after them and you get to play with them. I'm so glad we stayed the night, it was so much fun and we met some lovely people, it was nice being somewhere that didn't feel commercial. The second evening we got home and headed out to the massive night market, got dinner and went shopping. The following day we went to Sammy's Organic Cooking School which I would definitely recommend, they helped us make some authentic food which tasted so good! Chiang Mai was such a brilliant experience.

Phuket, March 17th to 19th (and March 27th)
The hostel in Phuket, the Karon Living Room Hotel, was the best hostel we stayed at in Asia, it was so nice staying there after the rest of our Asian hostel experiences, plus it was super quiet. We spend a couple of days on the beach and finding some nice places to eat and then travelled over to Koh Lanta.

Koh Lanta, March 19th to 25th
This was the most beautiful island. We had such a relaxing week here chilling out on the beach. We settled into a routine where we would get up to lay on the beach, eat lunch from 7/11, have dinner at a cute street food restaurant and chilling out in the evening. We had massages on the beach, ate breakfast on the beach and watched the sunset every night before evening walks. It definitely wasn't a party island, it was a relaxing break and I really would recommend this beautiful, friendly island. We stayed at Isara Lanta for the first two nights in our own bungalow, which was amazing and had a lovely Greek restaurant, although the beach was quite rocky.And for the last four we stayed at the Lemonade Boutique Inn further down the coast where the beach was much less rocky and left us lots of space for swimming and laying on the sand. 

Koh Phi Phi, March 25th to 26th
Phi Phi was a completely different experience to Koh Lanta and I'm so glad we went. It was crazy and we met so many lovely people. While we were there we had some great nights out, and we also headed to Maya Bay where they filmed 'The Beach' which was an amazing experience, and we were also able to do some snorkelling! I would have liked a couple more days as I would have liked to have visited some more of the island.

Bangkok, March 28th to April 1st
Our final stop and such a great place. We stayed at Chern Hostel which I could not recommend more. We had a really cheap private room which was perfect for the end of our trip. It was maybe a little far out, but we like walking everywhere anyway so it really didn't matter! Over our four days in Bangkok we did lots of shopping and visited MBK, Platinum Mall, Chatuchak Market and Khao San Road lots of times. We ate lots of nice food like 50p pad thai, mango sticky rice and condensed milk toast. We had massages and pedicures on Khao San Road, and visited Wat Pho. We had such a great time there. It is a crazy city and somewhere I would love to visit again. 

Thailand Spending
(In Thai Baht)

Transport: 2655 THB
Accommodation: 6891 THB
Food and Drink: 3470.5 THB
Day Trips (inc. Elephant Sanctuary/Wat Pho/Cinema/Cooking Class/ Maya Bay): 7156.5 THB
Shopping and Beauty Treatments: 2032.5 THB

Total in GBP: £472.94
Days spent in Thailand: 20 days
Average per day: £23.65

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Laos | One week itinerary and budget

We had a week in Laos, flying in to Vientiane and heading out of Luang Prabang. 

Our Stops

Vientiane, March 4th to 6th 
The first night we arrived quite late and ended up meeting people in the hostel straight away and going out bowling. Late night bowling is quite a big thing in Laos as lots of bars close at midnight yet bowling stays open longer. Our hostel was quite average but our room was nicely air conditioned and the breakfast was so nice! The following day we walked to COPE to find out about the UXO problem in Laos, which I had never heard of before. We wandered round the town that afternoon and found a 'Friends' restaurant, like we had visited in Cambodia, that evening to eat at before heading to the local market for some shopping. It was a short trip in Vientiane but we had a bus booked the following morning to Vang Vieng.

Vang Vieng, March 6th to 9th 
We got to Vang Vieng in the afternoon and were put in a bamboo hut, where they decided to quickly move us to a concrete room because of the heat! The room was average but there were no complaints for less than £2 a night! Our hostel was called Easy Go and was good value for the cheap price, although there were lots of geckos in the room and running water was not regular! We spent our first evening in a Friends restaurant where they play 'Friends' non stop which was so much fun! And then went back to our hostel, made some friends and went on a night out to a Jungle party. We went tubing the next day which was on our travelling bucket list! It was so much fun, I would definitely do it again! On our third day we visited the Blue Lagoon, which wasn't amazing but worth a trip there, and then spent the evening in the bars again. Next was Luang Prabang. 

Luang Prabang, March 9th to 12th
Our trip to Luang Prabang was really quick in the minibus we took, we managed to get there in just a few hours. We stayed at Kounsavan Guest House which I really liked! We went to get dinner that night and attempted to watch the sunset over the Mekong, however it was really cloudy so we didn't manage to see it. The following day we got up super early to go to and watch the giving of alms, which was interesting but there were lots of tourists being quite disrespectful. I met one of my best friends who was also travelling at the same time, and then we went to the waterfalls which were so beautiful! We also got to see bears there which was amazing to see. That evening we went to Utopia and then went bowling with friends we had met at the hostel. The following day we wondered round the town seeing the sights, and then headed to Utopia for dinner. We had such a lovely time in Laos! 

Laos Spending
(In Laos Kip)

Transport: 195,000
Accommodation: 289,000
Day trips: 98,000
Food and Drink: 580,000
Shopping: 43,000

Total approx. in GBP: £149.80
Days spent in Laos: 8 days
Average per day: £18.73

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Vietnam | Two weeks itinerary and budget

We had around two weeks planned for Vietnam (although- like everywhere else- we could have spent a lot longer there). We finished our tour in Ho Chi Mihn and decided to carry on travelling with a couple of people we had met on the tour.

Our Stops

Ho Chi Mihn, Feb 18th to 22nd
We arrived at Somerset House apartments in the afternoon ready for some luxury in the middle of our trip! My family flew over and we were able to spend a couple of days with them which was a lovely treat. That first day was Tet, which is the Vietnamese New Year, which meant an amazing night of celebrations and fireworks. We had a western dinner at Hard Rock Cafe with the family as soon as they got a taxi from the airport, and had the best evening seeing the crowds celebrating and joining in the festivities. We headed around town the next day, looked at the flower street and went to the botanical gardens, which is also linked with the zoo. The Zoo was quite horrible, the animals were in cages which definitely looked too small, and it really wasn't nice to see. The following day we went to Dam Sen Water Park, and then to The Refinery for dinner, and on the final day of the family being here we went to the War Remnants Museum, wandered round and went to the Sky Bar. The next day the family headed off so we got packed up, stayed by the pool, ordered pizza and caught our train to Nha Trang.

Nha Trang, Feb 23rd to 24th
After our first overnight train we arrived super early and camped out for the morning in a coffee shop. We stayed for 1 night at Easy Rider Hostel. The first day we went to the amazing Thap Ba Spa where you sit in mud baths, and then went for dinner and drinks that evening. The following day we lay on the beach and had a lovely breakfast at the Sailing Club. It was a very quick stop, but it wasn't worth staying longer as everywhere was quite empty due to Tet. 

Hoi An, Feb 25th to 27th 
We arrived early in Hoi An and checked into the Sunflower Hotel. Hoi An was absolutely beautiful, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it really well preserved. We wandered round town and had dinner out by the river. The next day we got a ticket which enabled us to visit much more of the Old Town, and we spent the evening getting amazing street food and sending off lanterns down the river. It was beautiful! There was so much shopping I could have done but I definitely did not have room in the backpack!

Hue, Feb 27th to 28th
We caught a bus to Hue the next day, and stopped for one night there. We stayed at the Tigon hostel. That afternoon we had lunch and then went to the Citadel. It was lovely going round without a tour guide as we were able to walk round at our own pace and see the things we wanted to see. We had an interesting dinner which was meant to be at a well recommended restaurant, but wasn't actually that nice, followed by a night out at Brown Eyes, which we LOVED!

Hanoi, March 1st to 4th
Our final stop in Vietnam after our third and final overnight train was Hanoi. We stayed at Central Backpackers Downtown which I would highly highly recommend. The first day we went into town, watched the water puppet show and had a really nice meal with the friends we had met in Cambodia as they were heading off after our Halong Bay trip. The following day we had a day trip to Halong Bay. This was lovely but unfortunately the weather really didn't hold out for us, and the views weren't amazing in all the fog and mist! It was still worth a visit and I would love to go back and actually stay. We had a tourist day in town the next day seeing Hao Lo Prison and the Women's Museum. We chilled for the rest of the day with friends at the hostel. On our final morning there we saw Ho Chi Mihn's mausoleum which was a strange experience and got Egg Coffee before catching our flight to Laos!

Vietnam Spending

Transport: 2,804,000

Accommodation: 1,582,000
Day trips, museums etc: 1,857,000
Food and Drink: 1,975,000
Shopping: 180,000

Total in Dong: Approx. in GBP £226.62
Days spent in Vietnam: 14 days
Average per day: £22.66 (over 10 days as family covered accommodation and food for the duration of their stay!!!)

Friday, 15 May 2015

Cambodia | G Adventures Tour

After our time in Australia we took a flight to Bangkok to join our G Adventures tour group for a Cambodia on a Shoestring tour. We had decided to book a tour as this would be our first week in Asia and we wanted to be guided for the first part of the trip, but we only booked a 10 day tour as we wanted to do the rest of Asia by ourselves (I will review our tour experience properly in a future post!). During the 10 days we travelling we moved across Cambodia from Bangkok all the way into Vietnam. 

Our Stops

Bangkok and Siem Reap, Feb 9th to 11th
After landing in Bangkok we got picked up and taken to our hotel. It was really strange staying in a hotel for the first time after having stayed in hostel for the past month! That evening we met the group and went out for dinner. The following day we headed to Siem Reap. That evening we went on a tuk tuk journey to a local village where we were given dinner and were able to meet the locals. That evening we went to Pub Street and ended up watching a lady boy show whilst having a massage! The next day we went to Angkor Wat for sunrise and spent the day being taken round the various temples nearby. That evening we went to the Corner Bar on Pub Street and did lots of karaoke! The next morning before heading to Phnom Pehn we visited New Hope, a school for local children, supported by G Adventures. It was really amazing to see the great work they do.

Phnom Pehn, Feb 12th to 13th
We spent two nights in Phnom Pehn. We visited the killing fields and S21 which was very emotional but also informative. S21 is a school that was turned into prison during the communist Khmer Rouge regime. The killing fields is where the victims of the regime were buried. We had an amazing dinner at a tapas restaurant called Friends which is owned by the Tree Alliance and helps offer work to local disadvantaged children. 

Sihanoukville, Feb 14th to 15th
We travelled to Sihanoukville the following day and spent the afternoon laying out on the beach. Unfortunately the beach wasn't quite so relaxing as there were people trying to sell things every couple of minutes. We found a nice BBQ restaurant though and ended up going there three times! The following day we headed out on a boat trip to a local island which was amazing and very very relaxing!

Can Tho, Feb 16th
We arrived in Vietnam the first day and stayed in a village at a homestay on the Mekong Delta. It was a great evening, they cooked us dinner and we sat around with the group and played cards for a while! We had quite a early night as the host family went to be quite early. It was amazing seeing the village and being told all about their way of life. The next morning we went on a trip on the Mekong Delta on a boat to see a floating village. I had the most amazing iced coffee with condensed milk which tasted so good!

Arriving in Ho Chi Minh, Feb 17th to 18th
Later that day we drove to Ho Chi Minh. After settling into our hotel we went to Pho 2000 for lunch and then the Ben Than Market to go shopping. That evening we met the new group that our tour guide would be taking around Vietnam and went out for dinner all together. The following day we went to the Cu Chi Tunnels. It was interesting, but we found our tour guide wasn't brilliant and that having a large group was quite difficult. That afternoon we packed off and left the hotel as we were heading off to an apartment for the next part of our trip!

Cambodia Spending

Cost of Cambodia on a Shoestring Tour: £549 inc. accommodation and transport

Food, activities and general spending: £161.68
Days spent on tour: 10 days
Average spending per day: £16.17 (excl. cost of tour)