Bangkok is the capital city of Thailand located in the Chao Phraya River Delta with a population of approx 8.2 million people – it is served by two of Asia’s busiest international airports and hosts expats from all over the globe.
HOW TO GET THERE?
Bangkok has 2 international airports – the newer Suvarnabhumi Airport and the older Don Mueng Airport (considered to be one of the world’s oldest international airports and Asia’s oldest operating airport…for those travel buffs out there).
Suvarnabhumi Airport is on popular flight routes and stopovers through Asia and is 30km from Bangkok CBD. You can also arrive in Bangkok via popular tourist bus routes from nearby Cambodia. Don Mueng Airport is home to Air Asia who sell some of the cheapest flights around Asia.
Navigating the Taxi’s of Bangkok – Getting a taxi from the airport is a much debated topic across the internet with overpricing scams prevalent – locals say a ride to downtown Bangkok should be approx 300-400thb. While some drivers will regularly charge tourists 900thb+.
It is recommended to avoid any drivers approaching you at the exit of the terminal and instead queue for the ticketed taxi’s – here you take a ticket from a designated booth and your taxi meets you at a allocated space opposite – still here at the official taxi rank drivers will try and quote high prices. Some regular Bangkok visitors recommend insisting the driver turns on the meter before getting in, if they refuse be prepared to get in to a different taxi.
We paid 500thb for our ride (we arranged this price with the driver when we got in) which although a little over priced was reasonable to us and given we arrived late and we were tired after our flight we were happy to be on our way – there is a toll road and airport surcharge that you are also required to pay which is normal.
The drive from Suvarnabhumi airport to Bangkok CBD is approx 35-45 minutes depending on traffic.
Airport Bus – The S1 bus offers 60thb tickets for BKK airport to Bangkok city and the A4 bus for DMK airport for 50thb.
Gleeming Temples, amazing Street Food and Cheap Accommodation are just a few reasons many travellers flock to Bangkok.
Take long tail boat rides to local floating markets and temples, tuk tuk rides to bars and restaurants, enjoy a cheap local massage and beer while watching the bustling city come alive or shop til you drop in its many malls. Bangkok has something for everyone.
It is the starting point for most backpacker and travellers South East Asian adventures but it is much more than just a stop before venturing further a field.
£1.20 for a Pad Thai dinner or Fresh Coconut Ice Cream in a real coconut husk! Bangkok and Thailand in general is also a great place to visit for the budget traveller. This also means for the luxury travellers out there you get more bang for your buck on hotel stays too.
Bangkok’s Temples should be on everybody’s list of must do’s while visiting the city – Wat Arun, Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho are the most popular choices.
Wat Pho Temple – Wat Pho is close to the Grand Palace and was our choice for the day, the entrance fee was only 200thb per person. The Lonely Planet guide does need updating with regards to some prices in Bangkok if you are using these as a reference.
The 46 metre long Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho is the most popular attraction here and one of the largest in Thailand. Be sure to check out the Buddha’s soles, these alone are 3m high and 4.5m long! They are inlaid with stunning mother-of-pearl patterns depicting elephants, tigers, dancers and flowers.
Most of the stunning grounds were fairly quiet allowing for plenty of photo opportunities with the fantastically detailed buildings and temples. Bring sun screen and water!
Ladies take something to cover for your shoulders and knees as is customary in all Thai Temples. My husband wore longer board shorts down to his knees (didn’t cover them) and this was ok. I also wore flip flops with no problems.
Getting Here – To get to Wat Pho we took a river boat from Phra Arthit pier (only 15thb!) It is far quicker and cheaper than taking a taxi or an expensive tuk tuk.
TOP TIP – make sure you get off at Wat Arun and swap boats to cross the river (4thb) to Tha Tian pier if you are going this direction. Here you can walk to the temple very easily. It’s also really close to the Grand Palace which is 500thb per person entrance fee but we opted out of this due to our tight budget. There are plenty of other incredible temples that are free or cost very little to visit.
Khaosan road – busy, loud, touristy and included in most tour books as a must see. It is certainly the centre of Bangkoks backpacker communities and has many bars lining the street, however a short stroll away is the ‘C’ shaped road of Soi Rambuttri. This is a quieter road but still a lively enough alternative to Khaosan Road with many street food vendors and restaurants where the vibe is a little more relaxed. This is actually where we frequented for the cheapest and most delicious Pad Thai street food and enjoyed happy hour beers whilst sitting curb side.
Most proper sit in restaurants around here (not plastic tables and chairs on the street) offer mains from 150-300thb minimum and large beers for 150thb. For comparison basic street stall bars will sell you a large beer for 90thb or 60thb in the 7-11 Stores.
Massages – you can only walk a few metres between shops before you encounter street side massages being offered on reclining chairs. 150thb for 30 mins or 300thb 1hr. If you walk to the end of Soi Rambuttri away from Khaosan Road they offer them for 100thb for 30 mins and these are a popular and great way to people watch or relax after a long day of walking around the many stunning temples.
Chinatown – at just 1km long the area is packed with vibrant street food stalls and restaurants. Busy and bustling as soon as night falls this is a great place to soak up the atmosphere and try some tasty and cheap cuisine.
4 delicious freshly cooked Gyoza for only 50thb and 10 chicken satay sticks for just 60thb. They were freshly grilled on the BBQ but they were also very busy and one of mine was still a little raw on the end. I didn’t get sick luckily but just make sure you check before you tuck in. It’s extremely busy so be prepared to queue for the most popular snacks.
TOP TIP – Getting a taxi back to your hotel from here can be a little bit of work, (as with most of Bangkok) so we walked a short distance away from the busy taxi and tuk tuk area to flag our driver down because they are known for largely inflated tourist prices right next to the market.
As previously mentioned, taxi drivers in Bangkok are notorious for not wanting to turn on the meter or for using the excuse ‘it is broken’ or cover them up. We managed to get a taxi home on the second attempt – the first one said no to the meter being turned on but the second honest taxi driver said yes. Only 50thb back to Soi Rambuttri.
*Many people opt to Tip the honest Taxi drivers a little extra – even with the tip it is likely to still be 50% cheaper than the cost of some of the tourist taxi scammers. Don’t feel bad for asking for the meter to be turned on as legally they are required to and just go onto the next taxi if you are not successful.
WHERE TO STAY?
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We were visiting Asia on a backpackers budget and luckily Bangkok has accommodation to suit every budget from shared dorms to 5 star luxury. Location is always high on our list and is worth researching when visiting Bangkok.
We opted for the well reviewed Khaosan Art Hotel. At just £15 (615thb) per night for a private en suite double with air con it was an absolute bargain. (not a sponsored post we just enjoyed our stay)
There was no lift (common in Asia) and we were on the 5th floor which was quiet enough for us because it was further from the busy street and bars below. If you are staying in a busy area in Bangkok it is worth asking for a high floor so it’s not too noisy. Downstairs had a lively bar with restaurant and provided guests with 20% off their bill. We didn’t eat here as we were busy working our way through Bangkok’s street food delights but it was busy and popular every night.
We pre-booked our stay as we were arriving late and wanted somewhere arranged for a good rate. We ended up extending our trip for an extra two nights for same price at reception with their helpful and friendly staff.
The hotel is right on Soi Rambuttri and is just a few steps away from plenty of street stalls selling Pad Thai for 40-50thb and also budget friendly breakfast options. On the corner of Soi Chana Songkhram and Soi Rambuttri the restaurant sells fruit salad, yoghurt and muesli for 35thb which was perfect for a thrifty traveller and opposite here was my favourite Pad Thai and smoothie vendor.
One thing worth mentioning is the proximity to the bus stop servicing the Airport – the S1 bus stop opposite the hotel serves a bus that offers 60thb tickets for BKK airport and the A4 bus stop for DMK airport for 50thb. This was a big plus for us travelling on a tight budget.
How Long to Stay?
A minimum of 3-4 days for your first time in Bangkok would be enough to tick off the main sights and experience a taste of what the city has to offer. And with more sights and attractions you could fill a few extra.
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Koh Mook – Could this be THE BEST unexplored island in Thailand?
When we decided to go island hopping in Thailand we only had a few weeks to fill and with so much choice it can be hard to decide on just a few. There were a few criteria that we wanted our tropical islands to meet – beautiful empty white sandy beaches and no crazy party atmosphere. After visiting Koh Lipe we had a pretty big task to complete because of how much we enjoyed it there. If you haven’t seen our Blog Post on Koh Lipe – check it out here.
After scouring the map to find islands on our journey we came across Koh Mook, found perfect accommodation and after viewing the photos we couldn’t wait to visit.
WHERE IS KOH MOOK? Located in Southern Thailand on the Southern Andaman Coast. Koh Mook is also known as Koh Muk, with Muk in Thai meaning Pearl. So welcome to Pearl Island.
HOW TO GET THERE? There are several ways that you can access Koh Mook with the most common being by speedboat or van+ferry combo.
From the Islands– You can access Koh Mook from another island (we came straight from Koh Lipe) using the speedboat.
From the Mainland– If you travel from the mainland then you can go by ferry from Pakbara Pier with Hat Yai being the closest airport. Often the ferries are combined with vans to make a package – it is much better value and far easier.
WHY VISIT? If you are looking for a quiet, undeveloped Thai island experience with a picture perfect beach then look no further.
Pro’s – Koh Mook is so quiet which means you get the relaxed island vibes. We also found food much cheaper here than in Koh Lipe with a great selection of low key restaurants. The local islanders were the friendliest we met which was the cherry on top of our visit.
Con’s – There are few beaches on this island and if you are looking for the perfect white sandy photo there is really only one, where we spent all of our time. Sivalai Beach – if you google Koh Mook this is the poster child for the island.
Technically known as Hao-Laem Beach but because the Sivalai Beach Resort sits on this beautiful peninsula this is the most common name. If you stay at this resort you have direct access to this beach and if you don’t, then its not far at all to get here. Luckily for us we were staying a mere 10 minute walk away. This beach is a big reason we came here, most days there were only a handful of people enjoying it, soft white sand, clear blue ocean, frangipanis and palm trees. It was a tropical island bliss.
Beachside dining at The Perfect Bar & Restaurant
A very highly rated place (just take in the Trip Advisor reviews) because the food is delicious and reasonably priced, it’s located in a wonderful beachside setting BUT most importantly the staff are just insanely nice. Always wearing the biggest smiles which made you feel so welcome. We ate here a few times and loved each occasion.
Cycling around the Island to Charlie Beach
You can easily hire scooters in Koh Mook or grab a free bike like we did from our accommodation. My insta worthy yellow beach cruiser was the perfect companion to explore the island. We cycled through local villages, took a cruise to our moonlit dinner reservations and visited Charlie Beach (also known as Farang Beach) on the other side of the island.
That favourite past time to while away the hours on the beach whilst you search for mermaid treasure (that’s what I like to call the shells I collect – or hoard as my husband would say!) You have come to Koh Mook to relax right? So take in the views, stroll along the beach and see what treasures you can find
This is actually one activity that we didn’t do when we were there but we heard great things.
WHERE TO STAY? We stayed at Koh Mook Coco Lodge. Offering simple bamboo huts in a palm tree grove located right by the ocean. Only a 10 minute walk from Sivalai Beach and an even shorter walk to the local town where all the restaurants are located this was the perfect place for us.
They offer free bicycles to use, the huts are really clean ( they are also made up everyday for you) and come with free bottles of drinking water. They do have their own restaurant which we had breakfast in but wouldn’t recommend it. There are also a lot of wild dogs here which some may find a bit aggressive but we didn’t mind them. The owners are very friendly but speak little English. All in all it was great value for money.
How Long to Stay? We stayed for 3 nights but you could easily spend longer in Koh Mook. If you are looking for a quiet little paradise then a week wouldn’t be a stretch.
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Koh Lipe – Your Guide to this Thai Island Paradise
WHERE IS KOH LIPE? Located near the Malaysian border in the Andaman sea in Thailand, Koh Lipe is one of the furthest islands to visit on the traditional Thai Island hopping route.
HOW TO GET THERE? There are several ways that you can access Koh Lipe with the most common being by ferry, speedboat or van+ferry combo.
From the Islands– You can access Koh Lipe from another island (we came straight from Koh Lanta) using the ferry or speedboats.
From the Mainland– If you travel from the mainland then you can go by ferry from Pakbara Pier with Hat Yai being the closest airport.
WHY VISIT? If you like white sandy beaches, crystal clear turquoise ocean, access to dive sites and a bustling town with cool restaurants and bars then Koh Lipe is the perfect fit for you.
Pros – We loved staying on Sunrise Beach as it was one of the best beaches we visited on our trip in Thailand due to the white sand and clear ocean.
Cons – It is more expensive to stay in Koh Lipe than surrounding islands. Accommodation costs more along with essentials like soft drinks and beer in the local supermarkets being almost twice the price.
Take a walk across the island to visit Sunset Beach. You can snorkel once here and watch the sunset with a cold brew or two.
Diving with Castaway Resort
Located at Castaway Resort they run daily dive activities along with snorkelling tours. You can learn to dive with them and even hire out water sports equipment.
The bustling Walking Street is where all of the restaurants and bars are located. It runs directly between Sunrise Beach and Pattaya Beach. Offering a selection of food for all budgets, our favourite was Banana Roti’s from the street food stalls. You will notice how much they love condensed milk here so a drizzle of that on your Roti is the perfect finishing touch.
Sunrise Beach Walk at Sunrise
Watching the sunrise on the beach is always a favourite pastime of ours and it was made all the easier because we stayed on the beachfront. This time of the morning is always quiet here and perfect for relaxing before a busy day ahead. You could even follow your sunrise walk with Yoga or Sunrise meditation at Castaway Resort.
Palm Trees at Andaman Resort
Walk to the North of Sunrise Beach and you reach the Andaman Resort which is home to a selection of stunning palm trees. The perfect backdrop to your island vacation photos.
WHERE TO STAY? Sunrise beach is the most beautiful beach on the island and we were lucky enough to stay at Castaway Resort. We stayed in a Beachfront Breezy Bungalow and it was just pure magic.
These two floored bungalows overlook the ocean which you can admire from either your hammock on the front deck or from your bedroom balcony (or even your bed if you feel like it). The ground floor is your spacious bathroom with steps leading up to the second floor bedroom. The bed situated in the centre of the room is the main focus and the perfect place to relax and listen to the ocean breeze.
With woven beach bags, floor cushions and lockable chests to keep your valuables safe, it’s the little touches that make a big difference. This eco friendly resort does not offer hot showers or air con but we felt neither of these were needed. With the heat of the sun, a cold shower was the perfect way to cool down and the ocean breeze provided sweet relief in the evenings. They also use an initiative called Trash Hero to help keep the island clean from plastic pollution by encouraging you to refill your water bottles (or purchasing one of their refillable bottles) from their filtered water station.
The resort has it’s own dive shop where you can take dive/snorkel trips and even learn to dive. You can take part in yoga classes, treat yourself to a spa treatment and even experience sunrise meditation. With a beautiful alfresco restaurant and bar offering fantastic food and a daily happy hour this resort has everything you need for a trip to Koh Lipe. To find out more about Castaway Resort click here.
HOW LONG TO STAY? We found 3 nights is the perfect amount of time to visit Koh Lipe
Thank You to the Castaway Resort for hosting us, our stay was gifted and all opinions are our own. We truly only recommend places that we absolutely love.
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Croatias Best Kept Secret – Kamenjak National Park!
Kamenjak National Park, Croatia. I am pretty sure you have never heard of it. If you have, then I hope you have visited because I’m gonna tell you why it’s a must in this post. When you think of Croatia you probably think of Island hopping off the coast of Split, checking out Kings Landing in Dubrovnik or maybe even checking out Rovinj as it becomes ever more popular thanks to Instagram.
Luckily for us one of our Instragram followers suggested travelling to this amazing location when we got to Croatia. We are so glad they reached out to us because they helped create some of our favourite memories. Kamenjak National Park is on the Southern most tip of the Istrian Peninsula.
You cannot camp in the National Park but you can camp right next to the entrance to the park, so you are within super easy walking distance. There are also plenty of hotels and guest houses you can stay with in Premantura. Booking.com has so many choices (all with really incredible reviews) and if you book through my link you get 10% back on your stay.
It is an absolute nature lovers heaven!! I cannot stress this enough! The water is an incredible crystal clear blue, it is clean as clean can be. There are masses upon masses of wild flowers of all different vibrant colours and varieties coating the coast. The rocky coastline is dotted with idyllic, secluded islands and there are literally hardly any cars around. You can cycle your way around the park (this is what we opted to do on our mountain bikes) or walk and find your own private piece of nature to bask in.
This little piece of Paradise is 100% well worth the visit and detour away from the usual Croatian hot spots. If you plan on visiting the stunning towns of Rovinj or Pula it’s just a short distance down the coast. You will also be pleasantly surprised with the drive back up on the East Coast. Reminiscent of the coastal roads on the Amalfi Coast past cliff hugging fishing ports. We took a few days out of our schedule to just relax here, riding our bikes along the coast and admiring the views….oh the views!
We stayed at Arena Stupice Campsite in Premantura, the location of this campsite could not be any better for the views. It’s located next to the sea and you can walk and cycle in to the park from the campsite (if you drive in you have to pay a daily fee). The camping pitches are not the flattest, many are on a slant and it’s very hard to figure out what actually classes as your pitch. But there are plenty to choose from so just take your time scouting out a spot.
HOT TIP: If you camp at Arena Stupice Campsite make sure you pre book your spot online before you arrive. You will get a much better rate and a better site to camp on. We ended up booking online when we were stood in reception as they could not offer the same online rate in person.
Plenty of visitors come here to sail, kayak, fish, hike, cycle and just spend time exploring the coastline.
We are big cyclists so started our cycling tour on the Dinosaur Trail. Fun Fact – Dinosaurs used to frequent this area in the Cretaceous period. How awesome is that?! Along the path you can explore all of the geological curiosities of Kamenjak.
The path continues around the edge of the peninsula and mainly along the coast. We stumbled upon the quirkiest little beach cafe- in the middle of no where. Imagine turning up to what looks like vegetation on the edge of the cliff with a few wooden structures outside.
You hear the murmuring of voices and make your way into the bushes to find what looks like the Lost Boys camp from Never Never Land. Safari bar is surprisingly busy for somewhere thats completely hidden. Take a visit here just to witness the quirkiness including the giant swing, sea shell dens, roller slide and tiki huts.
As you walk through the bar to the cliffs edge you reach the most stunning view and cliff jumping hot spot where the water is incredibly clear.
We hopped on our bikes to continue the ride and came across vast empty countryside, empty beaches and incredible views. We stopped to take a dip in one cove we had all to ourselves. It’s that quiet we would turn up to a beach and if there were people there we would just move to the next beach which would inevitably be empty.
A short while later we arrive back at our van in the campsite and settle in to our camping chairs to take in the view. We crack open an Ozujsko Limun, our favourite Croatian tipple and chat about how awesome our day was. All thanks to a fellow traveller recommending Kamenjak National Park. If you plan on visiting Croatia and like nature then make sure you visit here! It’s just incredible.
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What No One Will Tell You About Visiting Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is a big hitter when it comes to places to visit in Croatia. As such this means that finding places to park your camper van (if travelling this way like us) for a reasonable price is near impossible. Some campsites charge upwards of 45 Euros per night.
Using all our resources and after much research we decided to not stay in the main town and booked a campsite in Kupari. You can also find cheaper accommodation like we did by staying outside of the main city. For 15 Euro a night, our campsite was located about 20 minutes down the road. You can access Dubrovnik from here by local bus, but we decided that the more fun way (and also an excuse to make an experience out of it) was to travel by boat.
Kupari is a really interesting place to stay, it is pretty deserted and this is mainly because the beaches have empty hotels that were used a bases for the army. They were destroyed during the Croatian War of Independence and have not since been inhabited. Covered in graffiti and overgrown with weeds it’s like something out of an apocalypse movie. Imagine sunbathing on the beach as you would in a resort, but turn around and the desolate hotels stare back at you. A little eerie but something really amazing to experience. Unfortunately this was the last year that you would be able to see these hotels like this as the land has been bought by a luxury development company who will be building a Four Seasons hotel in their place. They won’t be in bad company as the 5* Sheraton is located just around the bay, also a 10 minute walk from the campsite.
HOT TIP – If you fancy a dip in their pool, you may just be able to walk through the lobby and downstairs, grab a towel from the pool boy and lay on the sun loungers for a while and take a swim. Just saying……
We decided to use Adriana Cavtat, the boat transfer company that our campsite suggested. If you travel to Dubrovnik and want to take the same boat, I don’t recommend using this company. The transfer itself is lovely but they are never on time and often get full from the previous stops so you can’t get on the boat that you have been waiting 40 minutes for. It isn’t worth the hassle and there are other providers who seemed more reliable. The views on the journey are awesome, arriving into and departing from Dubrovnik this way is just magical so I highly recommend getting on a boat at some point during your stay.
Dubrovnik is by far the most busy city that we have visited in Croatia. It is overwhelming how many people visit, and we didn’t visit in peak season. Also bear in mind that we visited in the middle of May and it was 38 degrees! Even the gelato shop manager was pointing out how hot it was for us, but nothing compared to the temperatures they normally experience – over 40 degrees.
The reason it gets busy it because:
It is an absolutely gorgeous walled city that is so well preserved you cant help but fall in love and tell all your friends about it so they want to come and visit. The views from walking along the wall are just insane.
Since Game of Thrones came out and everyone realised that Croatia is where it is filmed, and Dubrovnik in particular is Kings Landing then the city has really thrived with this tourism. Tours, merchandise, souvenirs you name it.
Cruise Ships – hoards of cruise ship tours come to Dubrovnik to experience this beautiful city so the streets are filled with walking tours.
To avoid the busy period – come out of season, like really out of season. Find out when the cruise ships are not docked in Dubrovnik so there will be a massive reduction in tourists. This way you stand a chance at experiencing this beautiful place in a little more peace.
The best part of Dubrovnik – walking along the city walls. To be honest, we didn’t do any research on this but knew it was a must do activity. So we were pretty surprised to find out that the entrance to the walls is 20 Euro per person, for us on a very tight budget this was a major splurge. But it was 100% worth it. The journey will take you a good 1 – 2 hours, mainly because the views are just to die for and there are so many nooks and crannys to discover. But also because it is so busy and wide enough for just one person you end up queuing in places.
My main tip would be to not walk the walls at midday, there is practically no shade and maybe 1 or 2 places to find refreshments along the way.
Once we walked the walls we headed down in to the town to discover what other treasures there were. There are plenty of amazing restaurants, bars and shops interspersed with old churches and museums. Take a walk along the waterfront and admire the views, or even take a boat ride out to sea to visit an island.
Have you been to Dubrovnik? What are your tips for visiting?
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If the thought of going to Las Vegas has ever crossed your mind-then look no further. This guide to the 10 Top Things To Do In Las Vegas And Not One Is Gamble, is the final nudge and will make you want to take that credit card out of your pocket and head straight to the Travel Agents. Earlier this year we spent 4 amazing nights in a Suite at The Signature at the MGM Grand, one of the only hotels in Las Vegas that does not have a casino inside. For us this was perfect-we don’t gamble, did not have the funds to either but wanted to experience what Las Vegas had to offer. Here are ten reasons why we can’t wait to go back:
I call it adults Disneyland. Imagine a place where you are surrounded by your wildest fantasies. This place is insane, over the top, extravagant, beautiful, luxurious and incredibly likeable. Even the fact that it is in the middle of the desert makes this seem like it has just been plucked out of a movie-wait a minute,it has. If you have seen movies such as The Hangover you will realise that this party destination can bring such eccentricities as drunken weddings, riding a roller coaster on top of a building or even just having the worst hang over of your life. The fact that you can buy meter long slushy margaritas and walk around town all day with them only encourages you to keep bopping along in the holiday spirit.
The BEST place for seeing a variety of shows. Whether you are a die hard Celine Dion fan or want to get back to your childhood roots and see Brittany Spears, Las Vegas is the place to do it. There is an abundance of wildly different shows from Cirque du Soleil to the Blue Man Group and something to everyones tastes.
Visit Paris, Venice and Greece all in one day. Never thought that was possible, well in Las Vegas anything is possible. Head over to the Paris hotel to be treated to an enormous Eiffel Tower or visit The Venetian to have a punt in real Gondolas whilst you are serenaded by authentic Gondoliers. If that wasn’t enough culture for you pop over to Caesars Palace to experience togas and Grecian statues galore.
Visit a swanky bar. Las Vegas has some of the most luxurious bars in the world. The place is literally dripping in diamonds and money. You can even visit a bar set inside the worlds largest chandelier-I can’t even think of anything more luxurious than this.
Watch the world famous Bellagio fountains move to music. The BEST place to witness this is by far the Hyde Bar at the Bellagio Hotel. Visit at sunset or early evening when the fountains look the best and the bar isn’t busy, then sit in the luxurious setting of the Hyde balcony overlooking one of the worlds most famous sights.
Eat at an all you can eat buffet. These are a must if you come to Las Vegas and has to be done at least once. After much internet research before we went we ended up heading to two. The MGM Grand and Bellagio. For under $30 (approx £17) you can eat as much food and drink as you like, at the MGM they even throw in unlimited champagne-yes unlimited!!! Beware though, you might find yourself rolling out if you try and eat too much, it’s hard to resist everything thats on offer.
Get on the VIP list. If you want to party then get yourself on a VIP list. You don’t have to be rich or famous just savvy and well prepared. Sign up to a free vip list website and you will be able to get your name on a list, get free drinks and free entry to some of Las Vegas hottest night clubs.
Hotel Hop. You can easily spend all day just walking up and down the Strip hopping from one hotel to the other. Each one has so much to offer you will be entertained for hours. Best thing of all-you can do this for free!
Stay somewhere luxurious. If there was ever a time to push the boat out and stay in a luxurious hotel then this is IT. Las Vegas is one of the most popular destinations on the planet and as such offers the largest variety of luxury accommodation all within one area. As it is a gambling city you are able to stay in the most amazing hotels for a fraction of what it might cost somewhere else. Choose the time of the year wisely and you could have 4 nights in a 5* hotel suite for less than what one night might cost in New York.
Get Married. Cliche-yes! But still a very popular wedding destination and with a variety of wedding chapels and reasonable flight prices you can invite your family over and have your hen/stag party, wedding and honeymoon all in one.
Now if that isn’t enough to persuade you, I don’t know what is.
“In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take”
Daydreaming at your desk, screensavers of far away paradises pop up on your computer screen and you can almost hear the beautiful and soothing sun-kissed jams floating past your ears! That is until you are interrupted by the trilling sound of the telephone reminding you exactly where you are-sound familiar?
Meet Tyler Rosolowski- an I.T expert from Auckland in New Zealand.Tyler made the life changing decision to leave the corporate world behind him and travel to cloud nine, Buka to be exact. Buka is an Island of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville of Papua New Guinea. The region is also known as Bougainville Province or the North Solomons.
Tyler has been volunteering as an Information and Communications Technology Network Adviser with the Division of Education in Buka since July 2013. He will complete his assignment in January 2014.
I asked Tyler to be a part of my Corporate to Cloud Nine Blog Post because of his particular situation. Before Tyler set out on his adventure he represented the essence of Corporate. A very successful I.T expert working the 9-5 job, like countless others Tyler had toyed with the idea of giving it all up and travelling. Here is Tyler’s story on how it all started:
“After arriving home from holiday in South Africa with close friends, one of whom was volunteering in a remote village in Africa, I made one of those lifestyle choices. The ones we all dream of in the quiet moments between phone calls and new emails.
On the night of my return I lit one of those big candles on my deck in Parnell. I decided that by the time it burned down, I would leave New Zealand on an IT adventure to volunteer my skills.
I found an excellent volunteer agency in Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA). I feel humble and honoured to follow at least a little in Sir Edmund Hillary’s footsteps and try to help others as he did.
After many leaving parties, a rather painless short set of flights, and a day in Port Moresby I arrived in Buka. This is where I rested for my first night before going to a less exotic inland location. I was the only white man I saw all day in Papua New Guinea, and soon got used to the locals looking at me, the people are really friendly.
When’s the last time you experienced travellers saw a hand written ticket? Computers are not down, they just don’t have computers. Once you pass security there are open windows where you can chat to people in the car park and pass things to. Only in Buka!
I sit here now in the heat on a beach on Buka Island, Bougainville, the breeze on my face and arms, making the layers of dried sweat pleasant again. There is the sound of kids playing and waves gently breaking on the reef.
I’m looking out at the golden sands and crystal clear waters, kids playing in a traditional dugout canoe and cooking smoke from villages lazily drifting up between the plantations and lush green forest. The taste of fresh, sweet pineapple is lingering in my mouth. I regret nothing of my escape, except not putting some rum in my coconut, which I’m told is delicious.”
When I ask Tyler how his life is still treating him volunteering on a tropical Island 5 months on-his response “Amazing!”. We can all make that escape whether it is to volunteer your skills, start a fresh or just travel.Yours, Ever The Wanderer
The art of Bartering was something that was very new to me when I first visited Bali in 2006. It was during my University summer holidays that my friends and I decided to flee the unpredictable English summertime and board a jet plane to Indonesia.
Bali is not only a cheap destination but offers a tropical paradise packed to the rim with culture. With culture there comes new lessons to be learned and the art of bartering is one that you will experience hands on, literally as soon as you land and drag your bags outside the airport to hail your taxi.
Here, at the taxi rank in the sweltering humid heat of Denpasar Airport was where I put in place my bartering technique that I had learned from a fellow University friend who had travelled to these parts in previous summers.
Tip number 1: When the taxi driver asks you if you have been to Bali before-always answer YES, even if this is your first time in the tropical paradise. They use this as a technique to see if you are familiar with their tricks to determine how much they will say it costs.
Tip number 2: Once you have decided which taxi driver to go with out of the swarms that surround you ALWAYS divide what they say is the charge by at least 2 sometimes even 3. I knew from my friends that the typical cost of a taxi from Denpasar Airport to Kuta was at the time 35,000 Rupiah, now when my taxi driver said it would cost 120,000 Rupiah I knew I was being fleeced.
The general rule with bartering is that you can do it with almost anything, even hotel rooms! However this has become a little more difficult in recent years as Bali is becoming a more popular destination since it has recovered from the negative effects of the Bali bombings.
Menu items in restaurants are a set price but if you walk into street shops ( more like a market stall) you are welcomed to barter here. Arranging transport around the island is also a good opportunity to barter as there is much competition between varying establishments. If you walk into Billabong in Kuta there are set prices but if you fancy that shell bracelet that someone has shown you whilst you are sunbathing on the beach you can definitely barter there.
As a general rule it is a customary experience to barter with the locals, it is their culture- so get involved but also don’t let them take too much advantage. It is also easy to get too sucked into the whole experience. Try to remember what it is that you are bartering for and how much that extra 2,000 rupiah means to you (approximately 10 pence or US 20 cents).
Even after I was given advice by my friend I still made mistakes, after buying a bag from a stall I was sure I had bartered correctly and gotten a bargain. £6 for a bag in my opinion was cheap but when I spoke to some friends who had been in Bali a while, they let me know that I could have got it for a third of the price still!
Generally items are pretty cheap, think 20,000-35,000 Rupiah for a pair of sunglasses-even if they have an Oakley label on them. These are fake after all.
My words of wisdom- go with the flow and make mistakes so that you can learn from them but only ever pay what you are comfortable with. If you think it is too expensive then there are always other stalls selling exactly the same thing.
In 2007 I decided to embark on my first working holiday, it is now 2013 and I am living and working in my fourth country-pretty safe to say that I enjoy the lifestyle of working and travelling at the same time.
If you, like me want to enjoy the perks of a working holiday you must first arrange to get a visa. ‘Visa‘ sounds like a scary word, one that involves lots of paperwork and preparation, I am going to tell you that you are wrong. If you follow my guide, with tips and debunked myths you will be able to spend more time planning your trip AND have more money to spend!
My number ONE tip:
When I was in New Zealand working at the Americas Cup race in Auckland, I met a fellow traveller from the UK. The conversation of visas came about and we found that we had organised ours differently. Said friend has purchased her visa through the first company that popped up on Google, it had a professional logo and being the first site she presumed it was the correct one to use. I went through the New Zealand government website and mine cost at least half the price.
Many companies are out there to persuade you they are the best company for arranging your visa-the truth is- the government website for each country offers the most reliable and best priced service.
Tip number TWO:
I am currently living in Canada and when I arrived I discussed how I organised my visa with my work colleague. She had purchased her visa through Bunac, this company offers a package of sorting out your visa, employment and CV advice, help with arranging a bank account and social security number. The cost of this package is £329 not including the visa fee, £100. I went through the Canadian Government website and paid £90 (now £100).
I obviously did not receive any of the other benefits but I was able to do those for free-and easily. A bank account is as easy as just picking one and walking in, hey presto you have a bank card. The social security number is a straightforward online application form. The information you provide to Bunac and other such companies will be the same you provide on your own application via the countries government website, so you really are paying for them to type it into the computer for you. Package deals may seem appealing but consider how much money you will save by knowing how to do it yourself, and trust me it’s very easy.
My Top Picks:
If you fancy the land down under-Australia:
Australia was the first country I visited on a working holiday visa, straight out of university I couldn’t wait to fly across to the other side of the world. The visa process is a very straight forward online application via the Australian Immigration Website
Depending on where you come from in the world determines how long it takes for you to receive it but mine came back within 1 hour! Pretty quick and hassle free!
Maybe New Zealand is more to your taste:
I lived and worked in New Zealand for 2 amazing years and highly recommend visiting this stunning country. I applied for my visa online via the New Zealand Immigration website and received it within 2 weeks.
Does Canada sound appealing?:
The Canadian visa process is a little more long winded than Australia and New Zealand so I recommend preparing far in advance, the processing times can be 4-8 weeks, they are released in different time slots and are very sought after.The visa is called International Experience Canada and you will find further information on what you need to do in order to apply at the Canadian Government Website
If you would like further advice on working holiday visas or other destinations, leave a message and I’ll get back to you.
So you are thinking about packing it all in and venturing out there into the great wild world? There is no better time than NOW. As the saying goes- “Repeat after me-I am free”, after all we are the makers of our own destiny. We made the decision to start travelling the world when we were 20 and 7 years later we are still enjoying the cultures and beauty that the world has to offer.
Where do you start? Well that is the easy part, decide where you want to go, do some research and pack your bag; easy as that. There are so many ways you can travel around the world and on all budgets. If you want to backpack across Europe or become and expat in Asia there are travel resources out there to help you do just that, right at your fingertips. The only thing that will ever get in the way of you carrying out your dreams, is you!
Fear of the unknown, fear of quitting your job and not knowing what the outcome might be, or fear that you won’t be successful or have enough money. Trust me these are all fears that have crossed my mind at some point along my past, but all you have to do is know that it is possible and it is so easy to achieve your dreams.
A few months ago someone said to me “You are so lucky”, this struck me as odd as I replied “I am not lucky, I made the conscious decision to travel”. It is a mindset that you have that can make you think it is hard, or it’s about luck when really all you need to do is make a dream and plan it.
Once you start deciding where to you want to travel to, you can research costs and make arrangements for tickets and accommodation etc. Once you book your ticket, the rest will come naturally and the excitement will follow. All those fears you had will disappear and be replaced with excitement for the future and what is to come.
For those of you who have more ties with mortgages, belongings and jobs it too is an easy dream to achieve once you know how to achieve it. There are an abundance of companies out there willing to help you with shipping belongings, putting them into storage or helping you rent out your house or flat. It may seem like a big task to start with but the end reality is what is so important-achieving your dream of travelling the world-doesn’t that sound so exciting.
Ever find yourself daydreaming at your desk with screen savers of far away places, make that dream into a reality and start planning your trip of a lifetime now. If we can do it-you can too.
The Kingdom of Cambodia is sandwiched between the fellow South East Asian countries of Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. Its current population sits around 16 million. 90% of which are Khmer and the final 10% are made up from Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese settlers.
WHEN to visit Cambodia?
The dry season in Cambodia is November to May – most travellers choose to go between the start of dry season and February where the temperature is cooler or at least the humidity is lower. A quick internet search shows temperatures of 38-40 degrees are not uncommon in April/May. We were there in February and it was in the mid thirties.
HOW TO GET TO CAMBODIA?
Cambodia has 2 international airports – typically Phnom Penh Airport is used to get to the Capital and Siem Reap International Airport is favoured for trips to view the fantastic Temples of Angkor.
We chose to fly into Siem Reap Airport from Phuket in Thailand using Air Asia. You will need to present a Cambodian Visa upon arrival depending what country you are from.
TOP TIP: Secure your visa online before you leave and print your copy. This will save you plenty of time on arrival and avoid the long queues of unprepared travellers at the airport who want a visa on arrival.
Getting to Cambodia by bus?
There are also overland travel options from neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam which are popular with backpackers and locals. The bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap will take you approximately 9 hours ($32) with the most popular and reliable company Giant Ibis.
They also operate a route to and from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to Phnom Penh with a duration of 7 hours ($18). We took this option when we travelled to Vietnam from the capital.
The Giant Ibis bus service was a great, stress free way to travel – recommended by Phil’s sister, it is easy and simple to book online prior to leaving and even lets you choose your seat. A pastry and bottle of water is provided as well as comfy seats, WiFi (in town areas) and more leg room than a National Express Bus.
Domestic Travel -Siem Reap to Phnom Penh by Bus
We took the Giant Ibis bus service from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh – $16 each for the 6 hour journey. There are plenty of Tuk Tuk drivers waiting for you in Phnom Penh so getting from the Giant Ibis terminal to your accommodation will be easy.
Our Tuk Tuk driver in Siem Reap who took us to the bus station had a ‘cousin’ in Phnom Penh who also drives Tuk Tuks – he took our pic to send to him and sure enough the Phnom Penh Cousin waded through the other drivers on our arrival and took us to our accommodation. They were reasonably priced and we used them for the remainder of our time in Phnom Penh.
WHY VISIT CAMBODIA?
Beautiful countryside, jungles, beaches and not to mention the stunning and vast temples of Angkor – Cambodia should be on any travellers list. It is a fantastic budget friendly country and Khmer people of Cambodia were among the most friendly and proud people we met on our travels in Asia. With a rich history and hugely tasty cuisine (hello Amok Curry) it was one of our favourite countries.
Cambodia’s troubled history involving a horrific genocide between 1975 and 1979, carried out by the Khmer Rouge regime where 1.8-2.5 million Cambodian people were killed has left deep scars on the population. If you are interested in cultural history then visiting Cambodia is an educational awakening.
HOW MUCH MONEY DO I NEED PER DAY IN CAMBODIA?
We were travelling Asia for 2 months on a very small budget, Cambodia is one of the cheapest of the countries that we travelled to ( Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Philippines). We budgeted the following:
Accommodation costs in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh: £16 per day for two of us for a private room in a local hotel
Food and drink costs in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh: £8 per day for two of us. You can find 50c beers in many bars and restaurants and food is mainly from local restaurants. We did find that it’s not as common to find street food vendors in Cambodia compared with Thailand where it is very common place.
WHAT IS THE CURRENCY IN CAMBODIA?
The best currency to have in Cambodia is USD. The official currency of Cambodia is Riel (KHR) but the only time that you really need to use it is when anything costs less than $1 USD. This would be when you purchase anything from the local corner shops, if you pay in USD they will often give the small change back in Riel. We wouldn’t worry about getting Riel before you arrive in Cambodia . Tuk Tuk drivers, Angkor Wat tickets and all transport is paid in USD.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IN CAMBODIA FOR 7 DAYS?
Angkor ArcheologicalPark – Siem Reap
The temple complex at Angkor was the centre of the Khmer Empire that once ruled most of South East Asia. The Temples are 5.5 km north of Siem Reap – originally built as Hindu temples, they were later transformed into places for Buddhists to worship. The UNESCO World Heritage Temples of Angkor are one of the busiest tourist sites in all of Asia so forward planning is highly recommended.
The most popular temples are Angkor Wat, Ta Phrom, Angkor Thom and Bayon. There are two main routes that you can take to see the temples – the small loop and the big loop. These temples are all on the small loop and this route is perfect for first timers and if you only have one day to visit.
The most popular temple of all and a hot spot for sunrise photo sessions. We visited this temple last on our day trip (we are not morning people so didn’t come for sunrise) and it wasn’t busy at all. This may be because we were there during midday when most tourists are stopping for lunch.
As you leave the temple there are plenty of stalls offering big bottles of water at reasonable prices. Given the heat it is a great idea to stay hydrated, especially as you need to make sure your shoulders are covered at all times which can mean you get pretty darn hot.
Ta Phnom is where you can live out your inner Lara Croft or Indiana Jones dreams and explore the ruins that are slowly being reclaimed by nature. Whilst we visited they were undergoing renovations to bring the crumbling temples back to their former glory. This is also one of the most popular temples after Angkor Wat. If you don’t go on a guided tour with the crowds of other tourists you can easily skip past the crowds and have many parts of the temple to yourself. It is truly magical and seeing the tree roots take hold of the temples is unlike anything we have seen before.
The “Great City” and the last capital city of the Khmer Empire. From here you can visit Bayon Temple with the many sculptural decorations. It is simply beautiful and a must on the temple circuit.
The first temple that we visited on our trip – this is normally the last on the small loop route but we asked our driver to go the opposite way round that most tourists do. This meant that when we arrived we were almost the only people there. Having a temple to yourself is so incredible, its like you are walking through time.
Other must see Temples are the Elephant Terrace on the outside of Angkor Thom and Banteay Srei for its detailed stone artwork.
The Best Way to Visit the Angkor Temples
By Tuk Tuk– The best way to visit the Angkor temples are to hire your Tuk Tuk driver for the day from Siem Reap. Prices for this are generally settled at around $25 and your accommodation should be able to help you organise this as they have reliable drivers contacts. The driver will take you on whichever route you choose (even if you want to go off the tourist map routes) and will be waiting outside each temple to collect you. They are super friendly and patient but one tip we do have is if you come across a great Tuk Tuk driver, try and use them for the rest of your trip. When we arrived in Siem Reap our first hotel organised a driver to pick us up from the airport and he was fantastic. We didn’t get their details and when we moved to another hotel the next driver we used for the temples was a great driver but wasn’t as easy to communicate with. You can also hire a guide to come in the Tuk Tuk with you to show you around the temples for the day.
By Bicycle- You can visit the Angkor Wat Temples by bicycles that you hire for the day or on guided tours. The temples are located quite a distance from one another, so if you plan to do this make sure you give yourself enough days to see all the sights you want. Be prepared for very hot weather where cycling might not be the most comfortable mode of transport.
Walking – You walk around the temples but you cannot walk from one temple to the next, unless they are located in the same area.
Guided Tour– Many people opt to travel on guided tours to see the temples which does mean that you will be walking in large groups and won’t have much time to explore off the beaten path. The upside is that they are informative and a great value option if you want air con inbetween the temples.
How much does an Angkor Wat ticket cost?
As of 2019 -The Temples of Angkor require entry tickets: $37 for 1 day, $62 for 3 days and $72 for 7 days. You can pay in USD cash and pay by credit card.
Can I buy Angkor Wat Tickets online?
No – you can only purchase your tickets in person.
Where to buy Angkor Wat Tickets?
At the Official Angkor Park Pass ticketing centre located several km from both the entrance to the temples and Siem Reap. You have to have your photo taken to appear on the ticket so all of your party need to be present to purchase these tickets. If your hotel or travel provider sells you tickets – these are not valid. The Official Angkor Park Pass ticketing centre is the only place to you can get these tickets. They are open from 5am (sometimes earlier) until 5.30pm. It is located on Street 60. See map below, the temples are to the North of this map.
This is the best tip! If you can pick up your Angkor Wat tickets after 5pm the day before you plan to visit, you can enter the Temples FREE for sunset without using your next days ticket (The sunset trip cost $15 in a Tuk Tuk from Siem Reap). As the ticket office is also located separately to the entrances, picking them up the day before will save time when you want to visit the next day, especially if you plan to visit for sunrise.
We asked our driver to take us to watch sunset at Angkor – we didn’t specify where and trusted them to take us to the best spot. He drove us to pick up our tickets and then took us to Ta Keo temple, a wonderful temple that you can visit on the small loop but does get extremely busy at sunset. You can watch the sunset from the top of the temple as the sun goes down behind the trees. They limit the number of people coming into the Temple so make sure you get there early to secure a spot.
Best time to visit Angkor Wat?
We recommend starting your day early – if you arrive at 7.30-8am then the crowds from the sunrise sessions will be having breakfast so it’s less busy and a lot cooler. Visiting the temples can get extremely hot! Take plenty of water and comfortable shoes (flip flops will ensure your feet get covered in orange dust) along with loose fitting clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. We heard this advice prior to going and it isn’t an exaggeration. If Siem Reap is hot, the Angkor Temple site will be even hotter!
Pub Street Siem Reap
The heart of Siem Reaps tourist centre, Pub Street comes alive as evening sets in. Close to the Old Market the area is filled with neon lights, street food, restaurants and bars.
Many travellers will end their Angkor Wat tours here with a cold beer or ice cream. There are happy hours to be had along the various alleyways and main streets, we found a few bars offering 50c beers which we were happy to partake in. Food will be most expensive here though so if you want cheap eats head to the side streets. ( Head down the page to our where to eat in Siem Reap section for some inspiration)
You will find plenty of massage vendors here offering foot massages which are the perfect way to end a long day of walking around the temples. For only a couple of dollars you can get a 30 minute foot and lower leg massage.
It is more family friendly than the similar streets in Thailand but the party will go late in some of the clubs and live music venues.
Other sights in Siem Reap
You can visit the Artisan Angkor Silk Farm for free in Siem Reap – there is a bus that transports you to the farm where you are guided around the factory and watch first hand the silk products being made. It is a very interesting process and a fantastic opportunity to understand the tradition. The farm is located 20 minutes from Siem Reap in the countryside and is in a beautiful setting. They do have a large gift shop where you can purchase items if you wish, however it is not forced on you.
The Killing Fields – Phnom Penh
The Choeung Ek fields are located 16km from the countries capital and are one of the most harrowing and memorable experiences we have ever encountered.
Cambodia’s past troubles are well documented but visiting one of the actual sights involved in the Khmer Rouge’s genocide is an important educational stop.
The audio tour provided is very detailed and provides a deep insight into the areas past. The Memorial Stupa located here is very hard hitting and filled with the remains of some of the victims that tragically lost their lives here.
The entrance fee is $5 per person and a tuk tuk ride from Phnom Penh is approximately $15. The local Tuk Tuk drivers will advertise this excursion the first time you meet them and we recommend organising a day to visit.
We also visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum also known as S-21. This was a school turned torture and execution centre for the Khmer Rouge and where many of the victims were housed before being taken to Choeung Ek where they were executed. When you travel to Phnom Penh be sure to add this educational stop to your tour as it’s well worth visiting to ensure we all learn from past mistakes and make sure that future generations are never in this position.
Other Phnom Penh Sights and things to do
There are many other sites in Phnom Penh that you can visit and many of them charge an entrance fee. The most popular ones are:
The Royal Palace – the royal residence of the King of Cambodia. Entrance: $10.
The National Museum – Cambodias largest museum of cultural history. Entrance $10
Wat Phnom – Buddhist temple built in 1373. Costs $1 entrance fee and is on many lists of places to see in Phnom Penh. It isn’t the most interesting temple to visit but will entertain you if you need something to do.
HOT TIP– Hotel Swimming Pools, In many hotels in Phnom Penh you can visit their swimming pools for a small fee. This includes 5* hotels right down to the budget ones. We found Blue Lime Hotel and they let you use their pool for only $5 per person. It was a tropical oasis and the perfect way to spend an afternoon relaxing and cooling down on a budget if your hotel does not have a pool.
WHERE TO EAT IN CAMBODIA
Where to eat in Siem Reap
On a Budget and feeling hungry in Siem Reap? A short stroll from Pub Street is Pot and Pan. We visited this small restaurant more than a few times during our stay in Siem Reap and it was very popular. The prices were cheap and the food was great – the 50c beers were certainly among the cheapest and super close to Pub Street. They also do fantastic pizza and $1 Margarita cocktails.
Close to the river was Christa Bar and Restaurant. We also ended up here more than once and the traditional Amok and Khmer Curries were among our favourites.
Occasionally a cocktail is needed and the best place we found was the hidden tranquil garden setting at WILD – instagram pictures galore! This new garden cocktail bar is worth seeking out. They also serve creative homemade spring rolls with various flavours – we recommend the Taco Loco! They are located next door to Christa Bar and Restaurant.
Where to eat in Phnom Penh
Our favourite cheap eat in Phnom Penh was at David’s Homemade Noodle – the noodles are made fresh by hand as you watch, then served to you in a variety of different combinations. They are also known for their tasty fresh handmade dumplings available boiled or fried.
These guys get busy so an early dinner or lunch is a good way to go (Before 7pm), popular with families and backpacker tour groups.
We also enjoyed Pka Chan – they served delicious Amok and this place is also home to the famous 50c beer which is perfect for the thirsty traveller.
WHERE TO STAY IN CAMBODIA?
We were visiting Asia on a backpackers budget ( a very lean one) and luckily Cambodia is as cheap to stay as its neighbouring countries, if not cheaper:
Where to stay in Siem Reap:
In Siem Reap we opted for the well reviewed The Tiney Fork Guesthouse.
At just £19 for 2 nights for a private en suite double with air con it was a bargain AND breakfast was included each morning.
As is common in Asia there was no lift and we were on the top floor. It seemed like everywhere we stayed we were on the top floor.
Martin from Germany was one of the owners and was an awesome host – we enjoyed a drink on arrival and he went and arranged a local sim card for us while we waited. We felt that he went above and beyond for us during our stay.
Downstairs has a small bar where breakfast is served and they have local tuk tuk drivers who they can arrange your Angkor Wat trip or airport/bus transfers with. We preferred using their recommendations because you know that they can be trusted.
Another option in Siem Reap is the Aster Villa – we spent the night here in between hotels and wished we could’ve stayed forever (unfortunately they were fully booked). The family run hotel is only 15 mins from pub street.
They organised us to be picked up from the Airport for free which was another bonus (and is common in Siem Reap), it makes arriving in a new country a much more relaxed experience. At just £15 for the night including breakfast, our huge room was a pleasant surprise.
The pool was perfect to cool down when we arrived and the free bikes made getting around to explore a breeze.
Where to stay in Phnom Penh:
During our stay in Phnom Penh we stayed at the centrally located Fancy Guesthouse – close to the waterfront and markets this was an ideal base to explore the capital.
We did move to another accommodation after here but it was terrible and we don’t recommend it.
We spent 7 days in Cambodia split between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. The Temples of Angkor are possible to explore in a busy day as we did, however lots of travellers like to get the 2 or 3 day tickets so they can take their time exploring.
Other popular sights in Cambodia include the towns of Kampot, Sihanoukville, Tonle Sap and Battambang. These would add approximately 2 days each to your trip itinerary.
We had 10 days available before heading to the Philippines and so we opted to spend 7 days in Cambodia and the final 3 in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. The bus route from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City was direct and so it meant we got to see a little of Vietnam before flying to the Philippines.
We hope you enjoyed reading our Ultimate 7 Day Budget Guide to Cambodia and hopefully it helps make the planning easier for your own trip. We tried to include the important information we wish we had known before we visited. Cambodia is a beautiful country and there is more that we would love to explore one day, but for now we have visited the main tourist sights and have memories that will last a lifetime. We would like to point out that we enjoyed Siem Reap far more than Phnom Penh and in hindsight would have spent a few more days there.
Whistler is a town situated just a 2 hour drive North from Vancouver, nestled at the bottom of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. The area is famed for being one of the largest ski resorts in North America as well as a mecca for adventure!
Summer sees the ski resort transform into a mountain biking paradise with a whole host of summer adventure activities for the adrenaline junkies or visitors looking to enjoy British Columbia’s great outdoors.
Being so close to Vancouver, Whistler is perfect for a weekend or week long getaway. With Vancouver’s International Airport located on popular routes to and from Australasia and Europe, it is also a great opportunity for a stopover. When we flew back from New Zealand to the UK we stopped in Vancouver and had a 10 day holiday in Whistler, and it only cost us an extra $500! If you want tips on how best to do this, let me know in the comments below ( I used to be a travel agent so have all the travel hack secrets).
What can we do in a weekend in Whistler?
Whistler has a huge selection of accommodation options and we were lucky enough to stay at The 4* Crystal Lodge & Suites located right in the heart of Whistler’s village district, with shops, bars, cafes and restaurants right on our doorstep. Being so close to all of the action means you have more time to fill your weekend with activities.
Our Crystal Queen Room had all the modern comforts you’d expect and felt more like an apartment than a hotel room, our huge comfy sofa (which pulls out to make an extra bed) was perfect to kick back with a glass of wine and enjoy a movie night on the flatscreen TV. After we checked in with the friendly hotel staff it was time to relax in our room before we headed out for the evening. The deep soaker tub and a glass of red wine hit the spot. If you are feeling active you can use their Fitness Centre and then relax in the Sauna afterwards.
The hotel also has weekly complimentary hosted receptions between 3.30 – 4.30pm that include BC’s finest Craft Beers, Crystal Cocktails, Signature Wines from Basalt Wine + Salumeria, Gelato or Hot Chocolate with Baileys or Self Serve Iced Tea.
Being just a 2 minute walk from the Gondola Hub it was a perfect base to access all of Whistler’s activities. Mountain Bikers and Skiers will have their Ski’s and Bikes valeted (complementary) and be on the slopes in no time at all. They even have a bike wash with a new Bike Tuning Station so you can mount your bike and rebuild using the tools attached from the comfort of your hotel.
In winter there is a games room for all the big kids and upon check in you receive a Crystal Advantage Card which offers discounts for dining, retail and salons in the village.
Dinner that evening was enjoyed at Basalt Wine + Salumeriawhich is conveniently accessed directly from The Crystal Lodge as well as from the Village Stroll.
Basalt has a cosy outdoor patio dining area in a fantastic space to watch people go by. Their charcuterie and cheese boards will have you’re inner foodie covered. We enjoyed some dishes from their 3 course prix fixe menu.
Get ready for your tastebuds to start watering because I have listed below what we ate – just because it was so damn delicious I just had to share.
Calamari with Lemon and Chilli Falafel with tahini mint yoghurt to start was just what the doctor ordered followed by a New York Strip Steak and Sumac Roasted Fish with apple caper tomato salsa, cured yam + chickpea hash, swiss chard and butter chicken sauce. For dessert I opted for the Coconut, Lemongrass and Ginger Popsicle with salty roasted peanuts, lemon raspberry kombucha granita and smoked coconut toffee. Phil had the Cheese Board with welsh cheddar, le gruyère classic, house made labneh and fig + caramelized onion jam. Isn’t that enough to make you start drooling.
After a couple of awesome Basalt cocktails and yummy Canadian craft beers we were ready to turn in for the evening so we were rested for our action packed next day!
We start our leisurely morning with breakfast in bed (OJ and pastries from the local market) and relax by the outdoor heated Swimming Pool and Hot Tub which is open 365 days a year. Plush pool towels are provided and it’s the perfect way to relax before our afternoon of adrenaline activities begin.
There are an abundance of adrenaline filled activities to choose from in Whistler and we decided to do the BC RZR Tour from The Adventure Group (TAG). These are 4WD Off Road buggies that will take two people up Cougar Mountain on an adventure of a lifetime. The TAG office is located in Whistler Village and after a short ride in the minibus out to Cougar Mountain, about 20 mins north of Whistler, we arrived at the TAG base camp.
We are introduced to our RZR Guides and supplied with our helmets and goggles. We pair up and get into our RZR’s (there was plenty of time to swap over drivers, so no fighting for the drivers seat haha) excited to see what lay ahead and set off into the Canadian Mountains with our guide.
It was unbelievable what terrain we were able to drive up, over and through in these 4 wheelers. Novice and adventurous drivers alike will have no problems piloting these through anything the Canadian wilds throw at you. Watch out for the big puddles though, you will get wet if you go full speed ahead as demonstrated in the first 10 minutes by a driver on our tour who got very muddy.
We climbed up Cougar Mountain to some fabulous views over the adjoining mountain ranges, great photo opportunities await and plenty of time to experience the old tracks of the mountains. Driving through the Hemlock, Fir and Red Cedar forests you feel like you are a million miles away from civilisation.
Our off road tour lasted approximately 2.5 hours and after that a hot shower was needed. Wear old clothes if you are visiting over the summer months as the terrain is very dry and dusty. Queue hilarious dust beard photos when removing your helmet at the end.
We head back onto the minibus heading for Whistler and say farewell to the base camp…for now! Later that evening we also planned to come back and visit the spectacular Vallea Lumina which is also hosted in the evening by The Adventure Group.
We first saw a video online forVallea Luminalast year and have wanted to go ever since, they have tours running from sundown via a complementary shuttle from Whistler Village during the summer months.
Once the sun has set and you arrive back at Cougar Mountain the whole place is transformed into an immersive ranger camp complete with campfires and songs set amongst the festoon lanterns and log cabins.
Ranger guides will send you on your way into the dark forest guided by lit walkways – soon after we began we were greeted by the most amazing light shows and visual effects amongst the giant forest.
Sound and lighting effects galore will have you feeling like you stepped straight into an enchanted forest Disney movie and have the magical feels all around. When exploring the sights and wonders of the forest make sure to stop and wait at the installations for their surprises.
Our walk took approximately 1 hour from start to finishing back at the basecamp, where buses are waiting to take you back to Whistler -that is if you are done enjoying the campfires at basecamp of course.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to stay in a Pod Hotel? Well Japan is not the only place you can experience this unique style of accommodation. Canadas first ever Pod Hotel opened in Whistler last year and we spent two nights enjoying the boutique delights that Pangea Pod Hotel offers.
Designed to be the perfect mix of Hotel and Hostel, Pangea Pod offers everything you need when travelling on a budget to get your mountain adventure fix but still seek little luxuries – A rare find in Whistler.
Located in Whistler village, the adventure capital of British Columbia and only a short 2 hour drive from Vancouver, Pangea Pod Hotel is perfectly situated. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon and walked into the building located directly in the centre surrounded by shops, bars and restaurants. The Whistler Bike Park and Ski Lifts are a short stroll from the front door. The outside the building fits in nicely with the mountain village vibe but as soon as you walk in you are met with an incredible arty, modern decor.
Check in is done through a computer and you are given a room key on a wristband that also acts as a tab for your drinks and food if you wish. It’s all very efficient and I love how quick it is.
We walk up one flight of stairs to our Suite and find our Pod which is located on the top “bunk”. Each Suite has several Pods, including an upstairs level and a balcony overlooking the village. Our Pod is spacious and includes all the amenities you might need for your stay including power sockets, a fan to cool you down, shelving, clothes hangers, hooks, mirror and a locker for your valuables. There is plenty of space for your luggage and the bed is very spacious. If you need any extras ( ear plugs, hair dryer etc) you can simply text reception and they will deliver these to you. A curtain pulls across to give you privacy and makes the Pod feel very cosy.
The Suites have several showers which are modern with rain shower heads and come kitted out with shower gel and shampoo (perfect for me as I forgot to pack these items!) The toilets are separate from the showers and there’s a changing room and separate sink to save people waiting in line when it gets busy. Music plays so you can sing in the shower if you fancy.
We spent our first evening relaxing in our Pod and enjoying a Happy Hour drink in the Living Room, Pangea Pods communal dining area which is so stylishly decorated. If the weather is nice you can head to their rooftop patio and enjoy uninterrupted village views. Afterwards we explored the village sights, ready to have a day filled with adventure the next morning.
After a comfortable night in our pod we head down to the Living Room for breakfast. We choose a window seat because I love to people watch with the village located directly below. The breakfast menu has everything I could want to order including Bacon Eggs Benedict, Avocado on Toast, Smoothie Bowls and Pastries. Non hotel guests are welcome for breakfast, lunch, dinner and evening (or day time) drinks.
After breakfast we start our day by exploring Whistler on the Gondola and head up the mountain. On our way up we see three bears in the bike park, two cubs and their momma. (unfortunately I don’t get my camera out quick enough so have no photos) It’s a beautiful day and at the top we head to the Inukshuk. Placed here to commemorate the 2010 Winter Olympics it has become a must see, especially due to the stunning mountain backdrop. The alpine hiking trails are closed at the moment so it’s a quick visit and we head back down to the village.
We grab a quick bite to eat in town and head to Lost Lake – about 20 minutes walk from the Village and the perfect place to relax and cool down on a warm summers day. The beach here gets pretty busy so we walk around the lake to a dock that is far quieter (this may have something to do with it being clothing optional…)
After a leisurely walk through Lost Lake Park we head back to Pangea to relax before dinner. There is free WIFI throughout the property so you can catch up on all your social needs or even kick back and watch some videos.
Dinner is served in the Living Room and we opt for the tasty flat bread pizzas and a cocktail. The staff here were great, they mixed me my own custom cocktail not on the menu, thanks to me and my Margarita craving. The food is so delicious – I recommend the Butternut Squash and Goats Cheese Flat Bread. You will also find charcuterie boards, soups and sandwiches for everyones taste on the menu. To allow us to further enjoy our evening we loved watching the live music. All week there is a comprehensive entertainment schedule so you will always find a reason to come back.
To end the evening we played a game of chess which Phil won, much to his delight as it was his first ever win at playing chess. There is a huge selection of board games which they encourage you to play, even if you don’t want to order anything from the bar which I think is the perfect hostel attitude yet you are located in a far classier atmosphere.
If you want to bring your toys – mountain bikes for the summer and skis/boards for the winter then you can lock them up in their spacious Toy Box. There is also a bike wash and repair station located outside.
We can’t wait to explore more of Whistler this summer , keep an eye out for more awesome posts of our trip in beautiful British Columbia. Check us out on Instagram for daily photo updates here
Thank You to Pangea Pod Hotel for hosting us, our stay was gifted and all opinions are our own. We truly only recommend places that we absolutely love.