The Silent City of Mdina, Malta

After exploring much of Valletta, we decided to take a trip over to Mdina, a historic fortified City in Malta. Mdina was founded in the 8th century by the Phoenicians, and served as the capital of Malta until 1530. There are only 300 inhabitants inside the city walls, it’s seen Roman, Byzantine and Arab rulers come and go and still stands today.

I had read that the bus system on Malta was really good, so we decided to travel that way.It would take us two buses to get there and after possibly the worst buffet breakfast I’ve ever seen, we were off! We were staying in Sliema just over the water from Valletta and luckily could take a bus from right outside our hotel!

The first bus took us to Tad-Daqqaq, only when we tried to catch the next bus, it was full and drove right past us! Not to be deterred we tried another bus stop and had the same problem and again and again. Luckily we spotted this amazing looking church at the end of the street we were waiting on and decided to go check it out. Lucky we did as it started to pour down with rain!

We just made it and found out the church was the Mosta Rotunda, a beautiful 17th century church set in a lovely square with cute shops and restaurants around it. Upon entering we found out an amazing story of a WW2 bomb that came through the roof of the church but didn’t explode! You can see a replica of the bomb in a small museum at the back of the building.

The inside was really pretty too, and there’s a small air raid shelter you can check out just in front of the main entranceway. After looking around the rain had stopped and the sun started to come out, after waiting for another two buses that were both full we decided to walk to Mdina as it was only an hour away.

The countryside was beautiful to walk through and the roads weren’t very busy so it felt pretty safe, and then Mdina came into view and it was breath taking. Sat up on a plateau, the walls are made of a lovely honey colour brick. It was a bit of a slog up the steep hill to Mdina, but it’s even more spectacular up close.

We entered through Mdina gate and were immediately on architecture and travel heaven. There are cute churches, alleyways and squares to discover, along with amazing old doorways and steps.

The views from the terrace by Fontanella tea rooms are gorgeous. We were going to stop and have a drink there but it was pretty busy. So we carried on wandering and found this amazing place called Coogis.

We were sat in the courtyard, looking around thinking how pretty it was when the waiter came over and asked if we’d rather sit on the rooftop. Of course we jumped at the chance, it was super pretty up there and we enjoyed a nice Cisk, the tasty local lager while we marvelled at the countryside spread out before us. We had some salad and pizza which was really good.

Nice and satisfied we headed outside of the walls and into Rabat, the surrounding town. I had read about some cute churches and the possibility of ancient Roman catacombs and in the parish church of St Pauls we found both! The actual church is a beautiful building and the little old lady working there who showed us to the catacombs was so lovely.

We got to go down there by ourselves and even though it was spooky it was so cool, I think there are larger ones nearby but we were happy with our cute little one. So it was time to leave, it had been so much fun and luckily this time the bus would take us all the way to Valletta. In Valletta we stopped off at one of the many bars that you can find on the stairways and had a drink. Then it was time to say goodbye!

We got the taxi-boat across to Sliema and grabbed a couple of huge slices of pizza, following it up with our daily dose of gelato. We finished the day sat on our little balcony at the bayview hotel, drinking Cisk and reflecting on Malta being the perfect holiday destination.

Bergen and the mountain trolls.

I arrived in Bergen after an amazing few days in Tromso. Which you can also read about if you scroll down here.

Bergen is located in the Southwest of Norway, surrounded by fjords and mountains. It’s the second largest City in Norway behind Oslo, and averages 231 days of rain a year!

I was excited to visit for the hiking, cute wooden houses of Bryggen, and to see some of Norway’s famous fjords.

I took the flybussen into the City, it took 30 mins and cost about £10. I stayed at the Bergen Budget Hostel which was basic but the cheapest option!

I immediately set off to explore the City, passing some fun troll street art. Norway is famous for trolls, watch Troll Hunter to learn more.

I was heading towards Bryggen, the old centre of Hanseatic leagues empire. It’s full of colourful wooden houses that line the waterfront.

Built in 1702 after a fire had destroyed most of the City, it’s now a UNESCO world heritage site. Make sure you explore the little alleyways between and behind the houses, where you can find shops and restaurants.

If you continue along the waterfront past Bryggen you come to Bergenhus Fortress, some of the buildings here were built in the 1240s and it’s one of the oldest stone castles left in Norway.

I turned back here and followed the waterfront round in the opposite direction, keep an eye out for some of the amazing street art pieces that are dotted about the City. For fish lovers there’s a fishmarket on Strandkaien, and the main shopping streets are just up from here.

The streets around Sydneskleiven are really beautiful, and there are some great views from the end of Oysteins Gate and St John’s Church is right by here too. I took a little detour through the university area and walked around the lovely Lille Lungegardsvannet lake.

This only took the morning as I had arrived into Bergen early, so I decided to go hiking! You can take a cable car up to the top of Floyen mountain near Bryggen and once up there you can walk to your hearts content. The views up here of Bergen and out to sea were incredible.

I headed to Granbakken, a little mountain lake first, along lovely little wooden walkways through green forest. It doesn’t take long to get away from the crowds around the cable car spot.

The lake was frozen over which was cool, and there were some awesome places to stop, one where I dangled my legs above the forest below!

From here I decided to walk through the forest to Skredderdalen, and followed the river up to lake Nedrediket. This took me along ridges, with more views of Bergen, and following the raging river up towards the lake was amazing.

I was loving the walk and continued on to a bigger lake called Storevatnet, you couldn’t even see the other side of this one due to some fog.

I noticed some steps going up alongside the lake and thought the views from the top would be amazing. Unfortunately when I got to the top this fog rolled in and I could barely see in front of me.

This led to a rather dicey hike across the tops of the mountain in thick fog, snow and ice. Honestly there was a point where I got a little bit worried, luckily google maps worked the entire time, so I could easily follow the path along to Rundemanen, a little heritage museum that had a proper road heading back down towards the cable car.

Apart from a section of road that was closed due to an avalanche the rest of the walk down was pretty nice, the fog had subsided. It took me around 5 hours in total to hike around the mountains, and I was definitely ready to eat something.

So I stopped off at a pizza place in the City, I was so tired that I went back to the hostel and pretty much passed out.

I wish I had gone around the City at night to see it from a different perspective, but there will always be next time!

A Kiek in De Kok and Dark Tourism in Tallinn.

So today there were more than a few sore heads this morning, I needed food, so a few of us managed to drag ourselves up and out. I had heard of a pancake place called Kompressor and it did not disappoint!

We ordered potato balls, cheese balls to share and pancakes, check out the menu here. It was delicious, the garlic sauce that came with the snacks was amazing, and the pancakes were soooo tasty, just what we needed! Plus the price was so cheap!

Feeling partly refreshed, we were back on the sightseeing game. It was time to visit Kiek in de Kok, the artillery tower from 1475 with the amazing name. The name comes from early German, due to the ability to see into people’s kitchens from these tall towers. I think we must’ve said the name about 1000 times between us all.

The actual tower is impressive, the walls are 4m thick and you can spot cannon balls dating from 1577 stuck in the outer walls! Inside is a museum with some really cool features, lots of interactive moments including a medieval torture device you can test out! You can do a bit of dress up, and the views from the upper floors are immense, especially out of Toompea hill and the cathedral.

After stopping for a coffee we met up with the final members of the group, there’s a cute little train you can take around the town for those that don’t want to walk too much, very handy for a hangover. We checked out the Kalev Marzipan Museum, a very random shop selling every conceivable item made out of marzipan. It’s worth a little wander around and a fun gift for someone back home. They use molds that are around a hundred years old, and claim that Estonia were the inventors of the sweet candy treat!

Our next destination was quite the opposite of a sweet treat, we were heading to the Museum of Occupations and Freedom, I love learning about a countries history and I think it’s important to know what it’s citizens have been through till this point. It was really interesting learning about the occupation and resistance in Estonia. I will always love the story of the Baltic chain, when 2 million people held hands to form a line from Tallinn all the way to Vilnius in Lithuania as an act of peaceful protest against Soviet rule. Read more about it here.

Our last stop was the old KGB prison cells, at only 5 euros it’s small but very interesting and you really get an understanding of the horrors and suspicions that people faced everyday. It had a pretty creepy vibe too, it’s a top destination to visit for dark tourism, and I always find places like this really eye opening.

After this we went for dinner at a bad curry house, but sometimes you make wrong choices hungover! Everyone was up early the next day to travel onwards so after a little night time walk around Snelli park it was time to chill in the apartment together. Snelli park was actually really pretty, the water was all frozen over and couples were taking romantic walks along the banks. Plus the sight of the old castle and buildings up on Toompea was amazing, unfortunately my phone battery had died so I couldn’t take any pics.

The next day I was taking the star ferry over to Helsinki to spend a few days there, while everyone else took the bus to Riga to fly home. The report back that I got of the bus was really positive! Comfy seats, air con and in-seat entertainment for free! The ferry was really easy too, I bought my ticket at the terminal on the day and it was amazing travelling across the Tallinn bay and the gulf of Finland with ice blocks floating past. Apparently the Blatic has a really low salinity so it freezes over much more than other bodies of saltwater.

48 Hours in Minsk.

Entry to Belarus

Belarus is the forgotten child of Europe, more closely linked with Russia than any other nation, it’s only recently changed the rules for entry. When I visited I had just started applying for the visa, but stopped after they allowed 30 days entry through Minsk airport.

I flew through Vilnius in Lithuania as I couldn’t find any direct flights from the UK to Minsk, and my plan was to take a train to the Ukrainian City of Lviv. Unfortunately I didn’t read the fine print, which stated you had to leave through Minsk airport!

After a 3 hour train journey to the border, I was taken off the train and given a stern telling off and questioned by Belarusian border guards, made to sleep in an abandoned train overnight and shipped back to Minsk where I had to book a flight out to Kiev. I was lucky that one of the guards seemed to feel sorry for me, and came and got me in the morning before giving me instructions on how to get back to Minsk.

Belarus

While this was all a big hassle and meant I missed out on visiting Lviv it was certainly an adventure! I also really enjoyed my time in Minsk, it was such a different place to anywhere I had ever been before and I found it quite charming.

Located as far East in Europe as you can get before hitting Russia. Belarus shares a border with Poland and Ukraine and is the 13th largest country in Europe. 40% of it’s area is forested, making it one of the greenest countries in Europe. I had 48 hours to explore Minsk, the capital. A City that has reportedly been destroyed and rebuilt 8 times!

Minsk

I was visiting in November so it was pretty cold, but i was hoping for some snow to add to the beauty of the place. I arrived mid-afternoon and took a bus from the airport to the City centre which was around 45 minutes.

I decided to walk in the cold evening air to my hotel and enjoy some sights.I was staying at the Yubileiny Hotel which was near to a few of the things I wanted to see. It was very soviet, much like a lot of the City and a little old fashioned, but it was cheap, comfy and staff were very friendly.

My Top Sights

Number one on my list was the Museum of the Great Patriotic War otherwise known as WWII. We get a lot of Western history around the war, but I always fin dit interesting to see what happened in other parts of Europe and the World and the fact that they call it a completely different name intrigued me. So this was the first sight I wanted to look at. It’s also hard to miss, located on a hill in a huge green slice of land called Victory Park.

It’s amazing architecturally looking very modern but also with a hint of soviet in there. I had a wander around the park and then found an amazing statue of a soldier and his wife. It really spoke to me and I thought it was beautiful.

The museum itself is so interesting, loads of good information and everything had English alongside the Belarusian. The final memorial hall is also a must see, towering above you it’s a truly stunning place.

The next place on my itinerary was Minsk Old Town on Trinity Hill. I followed the river South for about 1km and had great views across to the cute traditional houses. Don’t forget to stop at the small island in front and check out the awe inspiring Sons of the Fatherland monument and the crying angel statue.

The old town has a few traditional shops and the cobbled street and pastel houses are nice to see. This area was actually built in the 1980s to show visitors a small slice of old Minsk as over 80% of the City was destroyed in WWII.

Crossing the river takes you over to more of the old town, with a cool statue of citizens using measuring scales, with a beautiful church in the background with it’s distinctive Eastern orthodox architecture.

In fact Minsk seemed to have hundreds of amazing statues dotted across the City. You can also find the Palace of the Republic here with it’s dominating architecture and the Palace of Culture.

I continued my journey down Praspiekt Niezalieznasci to the Belarusian State Circus, another grand old soviet building, you can come here to watch some interesting acts. Though I’m not sure what the animal welfare situation is like so I chose not to go to a show. There are a couple of funny statues just outside too, and Janki Kupaly Park is just across the road. I love how every park has to have some sort of statue mounted in it.

I decided to check out Gorky Park as well, which was just a little further up the road and across the river. There are so many green spaces in the City it’s brilliant, this one is home to an old fashioned ferris wheel and the planetarium.

It was a cold day and suddenly little snowflakes started falling as I walked through the park. It was beautiful so I sat for a moment to enjoy the scenery.

I also realised that Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who assasinated John F Kennedy had lived right around the corner from here, so I had to go check it out. I walked around the apartment block but couldn’t really find or see any evidence that he lived there but it’s a cool slice of history hidden away here.

I stopped at the National Art Museum to check out a exhibition on Lenin, the former head of Soviet russia and a revolutionary. This was interesting and apparently there are over 400 Lenin statues in Belarus alone. I love the soviet imagery, it’s so grand and imposing. The City really started to come alive as the sun went down and I headed back out into the streets.

I walked back towards the old town and stopped off at the State Opera house, I tried to buy a ticket but unfortunately the show for that night had sold out so get there early to buy your tickets.

I watched the sunset behind the little houses of the old town and walked back towards Praspiekt Niezalieznasci and Oktoberpl station, nearby is a little pyramid which shows the true centre of Minsk that all roads in Belarus lead to called Kilometre zero.

I walked straight down the street, passing lots of restaurants and shops to see the statue of the Archangel Michael, and a monument to the victims of nuclear war. Further down however was the main reason I wanted to walk all this way.

The statue of Lenin surrounded by these huge domineering communist era buildings. It was all very imposing and I visited in the day time too so I could get the contrast.

My last stop were the Gates of Minsk these resemble two castle towers. I had read that it was impressive at night and it certainly was, the towers are 11 storeys high and the clock weighs 300 kilos! They were built in 1953 at the height of soviet imperialism. I thought it was ironic that there is now a Mcdonald right next to it.

The Statues and monuments in Minsk are really cool, because of my border debacle I had to come back to Minsk and felt like I had seen a lot. So after a quick google I found this website http://tobelarus.com/minsk/64-sculptures.html and decided to do my own little tour. It was really fun and walking around I got to see a lot more of the City and the bas-reliefs are really impressive the best one can be found on Niamiha St.

I really enjoyed Minsk, I hope with the new tourist visas more people opt to come and explore this underrated City.

Bohol adventure! Chocolate hills and Tarsiers.

Today was going to be a good day! I had my guy coming to pick me up in the morning for a full day of adventure.

I had a quick breakfast and off we went, our first stop was the Xzootic Animal Park, unfortunately this was a really run down zoo that didn’t look like the best place for the animals. I felt really awkward just being there and refused to hold the animals for pictures as it just didn’t feel right. If you’re offered a similar tour I would ask not to be taken to these ‘zoos’.

My driver was amazing though, he set my phone up to the tuk tuk Bluetooth and had us singing along to 80s and 90s power ballads, he was also great in stopping anywhere he thought I would find interesting so I could take pics.

Our next stop was an ecotourism park, basically it was just so I could zipline across this valley and back, all for about £5. It was great, at first I was a little apprehensive about the safety but once there I felt completely confident.

I loved it, zooming along with this amazing rainforest beneath me. A great way to get the blood pumping!

After this it was a little more sedate, we stopped at the man made forest. This place is beautiful, with mahogany trees forming a tunnel through the greenery. If you have more time there are some walking trails you can do through the forest too. It was also lovely and cool under the shade.

The chocolate hills were up next! Probably one of two reasons people head to this part of Bohol. Unfortunately they’re not giant hills made of chocolate, but are named because of the grasses that grow on them and turn brown when surrounded by a sea of green forest.

Nobody really knows why they’re there, these bumps in the scenery that stretch for miles in this one place. We arrived and my driver dropped me off, agreeing on a time to meet because he couldn’t park up by the visitors centre.

I had a quick browse of the souvenirs and looked out at the landscape. It was beautiful, there’s a stairway up to the top of this hill, which gives you 360° views of the hills surrounding you and a better idea of the peculiarities that they evoke.

Everyone up there were super friendly and offered to take pictures of me with the hills etc. It was a bit of a sweaty climb in the heat but you’re rewarded with a lovely breeze at the top.

It was another wonderful experience and I was so excited for the next one! We were off to see the Tarsiers. This is the other activity that Bohol is famous for. We stopped a couple of times on the way to get a drink and look out at the amazing countryside.

Then we arrived! Tarsiers are one of the smallest primates in the world, are fully carnivorous and they have the largest eyes per body size of all nammals and their status is critically endangered in the wild. Bohol is one of the only places in the world you can see these weird but adorable creatures.

The center was exactly what you would expect, with some information and then you entered the park, it’s a big space for them and there were employees stood almost guarding them against tourists getting too close or being too loud. It’s the only successful conservation center for tarsiers at present. Allowing them to live in a semi wild environment.

It was amazing seeing the Tarsiers, they remind me of little Gremlins.

This day had been so action packed and it was only mid afternoon! So our last stop was back in Loboc. The river cruises here are famous, it’s 250 peso and you get a buffet dinner, desserts and drinks with alcohol extra.

I found the queue system a little confusing but eventually made it onto the boat, which then lazily made it’s way upriver. There was music and we stopped twice to watch some traditional dancing. The food was good and I had a couple of beers to get into the spirit of things.

It was fun seeing the river in the day time and watching families fishing and kids playing with natural slides and rope swings.

You reach a small waterfall and then it’s time to head back to town. My driver took me back to the hotel and I lounged around in the gardens reading before getting another early night.

The next day I was leaving, but not before I took a morning paddle boarding lesson. This time it was just me and the instructor and after setting off I immediately got up onto my feet! Once you’re up I feel like it isn’t too difficult to keep your balance.

I had the most fun doing this, it was so serene and the instructor was really friendly. It took around an hour and a half in total as we leisurely paddled up stream. The water is such a vibrant blue/green colour.

Once back at the hotel, I paid up and started my journey back to Cebu Island via the Jeepneys. My driver from the day before even gave me a free lift to the Jeepney stop! The kindness from the Filipinos is unparalleled.

I arrived at the ferry terminal after stopping off at a small shrine to the blood pact the Spanish Legazpi made with the Chieftain of Bohol in 1565. I even had to ride clinging on to the back of a Jeepney which was definitely an interesting experience!

Anyway, I was soon on the ferry and ready to explore a little of Cebu City!

Gold Coast Getaway, Coolangatta.

So I had arrived in Melbourne, ready to explore a bit of Australia for a few months. So one of the first things we did was book a flight up to the gold coast.

The gold coast is Queensland’s second largest City/Metropolitan, it’s south of Brisbane and the beaches stretch over 43 miles of pure paradise.

The flight is so quick, and we were soon in an Uber to our cute little home for the next two nights. The Pink Hotel in Coolangatta is Instagram friendly, comfortable and cool. With a secret piano bar, a rooftop terrace and a rock bar.

Check in was nice and easy, the rooms were large with interesting features. We loved the pink fluffy flamingo robes!

After a quick freshen up we went out to explore Coolie. It was warm but with a cold wind and we decided to walk up around snapper rocks and to point danger. The beach was white sand, clear blue water and plenty of surfers, it was paradise.

We were pretty hungry, so we stopped for lunch at this great little place on the main strip called Raw Energy. The food was so good and very vegetarian friendly.

After that recharge we walked around the little peninsula at snapper rock, spotted brush turkeys, lizards and rainbow lorikeets, watched the surfers and enjoyed the beautiful views.

Up on point danger we looked out for whales, and checked out the monument to Captain Cook and some nice little war memorials. There were even turkeys up here! The views down the coast we stunning.

It was pretty windy up there, so we wandered back down and decided to stop for a beer. We chose the rainbow surf club, with it’s cute balcony overlooking the beach and ocean.

Lucky for us it was happy hour! So we sat and watched the surfers, the sun slowly going down and enjoyed ice cold beers. Then to our surprise we noticed fins in the water, and before we knew it a pod of dolphins started leaping, splashing and playing right in front of us to the backdrop of a hazy orange sun.

Sadly there were a lot of bushfires inland and you could see the smoke up high causing the sun to go an eerie red as it set.

This was such a great experience so we were buzzing as we walked back to the hotel. We got changed and decided to try Eddie’s Grub house, the bar attached to our hotel.

It was pretty cool, they had a really fun live band playing country/rock music. The beer was good and the food was delicious, especially the jalapeno hush puppies!

Filled up with great food, we walked over to an interesting statue, marking the divide between two states, Queensland and New South Wales. So we took a couple of fun pics of us in either state and took a little walk along the beach. We finished the night off with ice cream.

The next day we hit the beach, at first the weather was a little cold and wet, but by midday it had brightened up and we had fun paddling in the water, relaxing on the beach and enjoying our little picnic we had put together from the Woolworths on the main strip.

It was great to relax, and we spent most of the day here, going over to the rainbow club for more happy hour drinks and then enjoying the view from the top of the hotel.

Tonight we had a drink at the Coolangatta Hotel, watching the lorikeets come in to nest for the night. Then we walked over to have what is probably the worst pizza of my life. I always thought pizza was something you couldn’t get wrong, but Earth and Sea pizza restaurant managed it.

The pizzas came out with about a cm of water under the base so they were really soggy and super small for the price. Definitely avoid it!

It didn’t dampen our spirits though, so we got mcflurrys from McDonald’s and wandered back to the hotel. I peeked into the piano bar which looked really cool but we were getting up for sunrise in the morning so called it quits.

That morning we got up while it was still dark, got dressed and walked up to point danger. We stood looking out over the ocean, watching the sun slowly come up. Then the most amazing thing happened, we spotted something big come up out of the water and disappear.

There was a little pod of Humpback Whales swimming right past us! It was truly a breathtaking experience and my first time seeing Whales! Sadly they didn’t breach but they did a lot of tail slapping which was fun to see.

We were both super happy to enjoy this experience together, it’s definitely worth getting up early to catch a glimpse of these majestic animals.

Breakfast was at the Bread Social, a really good bakery where we shared a blueberry custard donut and savoury eggplant pie. It was delicious and we’d definitely recommend going there for breakfast/lunch.

The rest of the day was spent on the beach, swimming in the cool clear waters, walking along the surf and then it was nearly time to go! We ate some tasty pokebowls on the hotel rooftop and then took a taxi back to the airport. It’s less than ten minutes away so it’s a great place to stay.

Then we were back on a plane to Melbourne, through the smoky haze of the forest fires which gave the landscape a weird look.

It was a great little getaway and we’d definitely go back to Coolie! I can’t wait to explore more of Australia.

Dakeng Hiking Trails, a Taichung Story.

The Dakeng hiking trails were one of the first things I found online to do in Taichung, and I was so excited to finally hike!

I was up early-ish, got breakfast and snacks from the 7/11 and found the bus stop that would take me to the start of the trails.

There are 10 trails that you can follow, ranging from easy, through to medium and hard. 1 to 5 are the furthest from the City and are definitely on the harder side. I decided I would mix it up a bit and start at 1, continue to 5 and finish off at 4. There’s a map below so you can check the routes.

I took bus number 66 to the start of trail 1, it was a pretty long journey but mainly because I didn’t check the times and just had Google maps to help me out!

Armed with snacks, water, and grape soda, I was ready to go. Trails 6-10 are the easier routes which are laid out as paths with only gentle inclines. However 1-5 trails are mostly made up of log steps and stairs which you have to concentrate on a little more as some people have slipped a leg through the gaps and broken bones.

There weren’t many people around when I began my hike, and I soon found myself alone. This was only unnerving when I passed a few warning signs for snakes and hornets! I started thinking…is this going to end in disaster? However I love being surrounded by nature and I wasn’t about to give up.

The beginning of the hike was through beautiful woodland, I spotted some big spiders and I had a variety of butterflies fluttering around me. Then I reached the beginning of the log trail.

It’s a stunningly designed walkway which looks amazing, and as I slowly started my ascent I could glimpse some amazing views through the foliage.

You basically follow the spine of the mountains along, so eventually the thick foliage gave way to an extraordinary green landscape as far as the eye could see. With some pretty huge spiders hanging about.

I won’t lie, I did find it hard going at times, as you climb pretty high. Along the routes are little cabins or picnic areas. These were great to stop in and get some shade, have some food and hydrate.

There were groups in some of these areas cooking loads of different dishes and it looked like everyone was having a great time. The weather was also amazing! It ws so hot I had to take my top off to stay a bit cooler.

By this point I was almost at the end of trail 5, and ready to tackle the hardest route, 4. Luckily for me I did it this way around, as going down was pretty steep and I read that going up is super difficult.

I saw a few big hornets and had read that there were monkeys around too but I didn’t see any. I reached the end of the hike and made it to the main road. I wasn’t sure about buses but after about 20 minutes one turned up!

I jumped on, and then off again in a small village, I noticed a bubble tea shop and an icy cold drink was much needed in the heat.

My next bus appeared and I had a big decision. I wanted to try and get back to the Gaomei mudflats but as I passed through the City I realised it would be another stressful attempt to get there before sunset.

So I hopped off the bus and checked trusty old Google maps for something interesting. I was near Providence University and I spotted a little blue camera nearby on the map. When I got there it was a cool little street with loads of awesome street art!

So after taking some fun pics I realised I was pretty far from my hotel, so I took the bus straight down towards my part of the City. I was starving after all the hiking and couldn’t wait to eat.

Unfortunately I couldn’t really find anywhere near my hotel, until I stumbled upon a little rice place. I ordered kimchi rice and devoured it. Then headed back to my hotel, I was on to my next destination tomorrow. The capital of Taiwan, Taipei.

There are so many amazing and fun things to do in Taichung that I didn’t get to see. So I’m looking forward to visiting again!

Hong Kong and Victoria Peak.

After leaving Hanoi it was a short flight to Hong Kong, it’s so easy to get into the centre using the airport Xpress. I wasn’t feeling too great but I had booked a night at the Metropark at causeway bay earlier in the year so I was excited to have some more luxury.

I checked in and immediately took in the stunning views over Hong Kong Island at Victoria bay. I loved it and the rooftop pool was incredible! I decided I would go up Victoria peak for the sunset and off I went, stuffed full of anti-flu meds, I took the Subway.

It’s so easy to take the underground, you can get a 24hr pass or pay stop to stop. I went to central and then started the ascent to the tram that would hopefully take me up to the peak. Unfortunately I got a bit lost, my map apps wouldn’t work in between the big buildings, I felt like crap and it was so humid I couldn’t stop sweating.

So by the time I eventually found the tram, and realising I had walked halfway up the peak before walking back down, the queue was huge and I knew I wouldn’t make it for sunset. I was annoyed because it was a clear day and I had read they can be few and far between in Hong Kong.

I decided to make the most of it so walked along the harbour side and watched the old junks with their red sails ferry around the water. I got some Durian ice cream, I thought I would try it and it was not a good idea, definitely an acquired taste!

Night started to fall and I took the Ferris wheel near the ferry port to get an amazing view of the City. It was so cheap too, the HSBC building was the best but all the lights were insane!

I walked back along the harbour watching the lights on the mainland. I took the Subway back to causeway bay and found a dumpling shop, got a load of veggie dumplings, a few soft drinks, then found moon cake at another store.

I took it all back to my hotel, and devoured it while looking out over the City. I wasn’t sure what to think of Hong Kong after my first day, but I was looking forward to exploring more over the next few days.

I woke up the next day feeling worse than ever, with a definite case of tonsillitis. So I went to the shop and got salt, proceeded to drink gallons of water and did a load of salt rinses. I tried to enjoy the pool again but it wasn’t the same, I also had to check out of the hotel and into a tiny cheap one in the centre of causeway bay.

It was the smallest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in, but it was only £20 and the location was amazing. I stopped and had lunch nearby waiting for check in time, I was frustrated because I had lost almost a full day, but I forced myself out, and managed to get to the Victoria peak tram in time for sunset.

It’s a fun journey, very touristy but the views you get at the top are spectacular. I took a couple of the City by day, then enjoyed a gorgeous sunset over the mountains and sea before the main event. Hong Kong lights up at night in an incredible way, and Victoria peak is one of the best places to enjoy it.

Once I had taken it all in, I headed back down on the tram and wandered towards the central-mid-level escalators, the longest ones in the world! It spans 800 metres and it’s a great way to see the City without having to do the leg work, and I found a random art installation at the top of the escalators.

I found some cool street art around this area too, which I definitely want expecting. I finished the night with a beer and some more veggie dumplings. Tomorrow I was up early to head over to the big Buddha and explore mainland HK.

Hanging in Hanoi for 48 hours.

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam and gateway for a lot of people into the amazing country. Not only is it the entry point for Halong Bay but it’s also a great place to explore for a few days. After my last visit I couldn’t wait to explore again, see some new places and check out some new sights.

Arriving at Hanoi airport, it’s easy to get a taxi into the City and I had planned ahead by downloading Grab. It’s the Asian version of Uber and you can either pay in cash or through an account. Last time I visited Hanoi with friends the hotel was erm… cockroach friendly, so I had booked a nice one called the Light Hotel in the old quarter.

I had 48 hours before flying on to Hong Kong, so what can you do in that time??

Vietnamese Food

Is there anything better? It definitely ranks up there with my fave foods, so what better way to start the day than with some Phó the clear noodle broth that everyone in Vietnam eats.

Fancy an on the go lunch? Banh Mi is sold everywhere, French influence is found in the baguette and pate but the rest is solid Vietnamese…filled with fresh herbs, vegetables and pork.

Wash it down with Vietnamese coffee and finish it off with a French pastry, the influence from being a former colony is still strong in the food. Dinner could be fresh whole fish, BBQ or one of the egg pancake dishes like Banh Xeo where you wrap meat skewers up.with peanut sauce and crunchy salad leaves.

Stuck for dessert? Some Vietnamese cakes could go down a treat, with their blend of European and Asian flavours, or try some fresh and tasty Asian fruits!

Ho Chi Minh

The former leader’s presence here is impossible to miss, with his mausoleum dominating one area of the City along with the huge museum dedicated to his life and legacy.

The area around the Mausoleum is nice to walk around, with some gardens and the famous downed B52 plane hidden in a small lake nearby.

The museum is interesting if you enjoy learning a little about a country while you’re there, and really interesting if you’re a history buff. Especially with the information on Vietnam’s communist era.

There is also the big lake nearby which is nice to stroll around, or cross the central road running through it and check out a temple, war memorial and grab a drink or an ice cream.

Old quarter

The famous old quarter is full to the brim with coffee shops, hole in the wall restaurants and street eateries.

Unfortunately it’s also full of the same souvenir and tour shops. Its definitely a worthwhile visit to wander around and now and again you’ll find a little slice of the real old quarter.

On this visit I only spent time there in the day, but the nightlife is cheap and fun. It really starts when the curfew hits and you’re snuck from bar to bar.

The other cool thing can be found on street walking the length of Phung Hung St you pass life-like paintings of Vietnamese and Hanoi life. It’s super instagrammable and you can have a lot of fun posing at each place.

Hoan Kiem Lake

Found within the old quarter, the area around the lake is great to take a stroll first thing in the morning and, as the sun goes down you’ll catch all the locals exercising and enjoying romantic walks. It’s the small temple in the middle of the lake that most people come to see, crossing a lovely red bridge it’s a peaceful sanctuary in a very busy City.

At night everything is lit up beautifully and it’s a great place to come before heading into the winding alleyways of the old quarter.

Hanoi Train Street

I didn’t know this existed last time I came, but I wish I had! Found just on the outskirts of the old quarter, it’s cool to walk along the tracks in the daytime.

The fun part of this street is when the train comes through, usually in the evenings or more frequently on the weekend. You arrive early, pick one of the tiny bars and sit on the typical plastic stools drinking a nice cold beer or cocktail, chat to the locals and wait.

Then when it’s nearly time, you edge right up to the walls of the street and watch as the train comes down…filling the street as it zooms past. It was really fun to do and our bar got us to put coins with our names on the tracks. If we found then flattened it’s supposed to be good luck, and I found mine!

The Rest

There are a few other things you can do whilst in Hanoi, Hoa Lo prison is interesting to find out a bit about how the French treated the Vietnamese. Thang Long, the Imperial City doesn’t quite live up to its name but was pleasant to walk around, I liked the bunkers the most. There are even a couple more lakes to wander around that aren’t far away. Of course the aforementioned Halong Bay is an amazing place to visit. Hanoi is also a great start off point to explore the North such as Sapa.

The real essence of Hanoi though is immersing yourself in the culture, food and people, and enjoying the neverending sea of motorbikes that somehow part around you as you cross the road.

Yangon and the Giant Pagoda

So I woke up late today after bumping into a fellow backpacker that I had met in Inle lake, who was staying at my hostel. I decided to go out and look around China town after breakfast.

The streets around my area were all numbered so I started at 30th Street and just meandered up and down each street towards number 1. The food stalls were really cool and I visited the Chinese temple on 18th Street.

On my way back I walked through a huge market along the side of the river and sat eating some random fruit watching these colourful boats transport people from one side to the other. I walked back to the hotel and chilled out on the rooftop reading my book for a couple of hours and eating some random veggie food I had gathered earlier.

I was basically killing time before I walked up to Yangon’s number one sight, the Shwedagon Pagoda. This golden temple is 326 feet tall and surrounded by more pagodas and statues to make a whole complex of temples.

There are varying reports of when the Pagoda was built, but the earliest date is the 6th century!

It’s certainly a spectacular sight and it was definitely great going late afternoon, the sun going down cast an amazing light over the big golden temple, and the locals arrived lighting candles and incense which added to the atmosphere.

I was wandered around for a couple of hours before walking back down into the City, I stopped off at a cute little bar called O’thentic brasserie for a drink, and then had a couple of ice cold black tiger and vegetable tempura at a sports bar. I headed back to the hotel and packed up ready to sleep before heading off to Vietnam via Bangkok the next day.

I had a great lie in before getting some more pancakes for breakfast with some fruit from the nearby market stalls. I checked out from my hotel and walked up to the train station. I had Google mapped and decided that it would be fun to take the local train to the closest station to the airport possible.

I’m so glad I did it, we slowly chugged along through the City and surrounding suburbs. I enjoyed chatting to the locals and watching the buying and selling going on, it was almost like a real market!

We arrived at my stop and I jumped off, backpack on and started to walk. It was a little longer than I thought but you could get a taxi, I just felt like I was committed to walking at that point.

After about a 40 minute walk I got to the airport, grabbed a cold drink and waited for my flight. I got some nice vegetable pad thai while I was waiting and I next thing I was flying towards Bangkok.

I arrived late into Thailand, around 8pm and my flight was at 8am, to save money I had decided I would sleep in the airport. So I settled down in a comfy-ish spot of 3 chairs together and managed a few hours sleep. I was so excited to be heading to one of my favourite Cities from my last trip to Vietnam, Hanoi!