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.

Time to chill on Siquijor, Island of Witchcraft

Siquijor is a small island in the Philippines known for it’s mystical mountain healers, witchcraft and superstition. It’s also got some amazing little beaches and forest interior.

I was travelling there from Dumaguete on the ferry, which took around 2 hours and cost less than £2. We also saw dolphins on the relaxing boat journey! A real bonus.

Like most places in SE Asia a huge group of tuktuks, taxis and taxibikes awaited us, so I showed one guy my hotel, popped a helmet on and off we went. There’s basically one road around the island, with a few smaller ones leading Inland, so it’s hard to get lost!

Arriving at the hotel it was around lunchtime, so I checked in and realised I was actually staying in a small shack in someone’s back garden. It was very basic but super cheap and I thought at least it’ll be an adventure. If it sounds up your street the hotel is Lagkaw sa Sawang.

I dropped my stuff off and decided to try out a jeepney, the bus like transports found all over the Philippines. It worked a treat as I jumped up into the back and, once at my destination paid and jumped off!

My destination was Paliton beach, a small expanse of white sand, turquoise waters and not much else. It was another little paradise and I lay here for the whole afternoon, swimming and reading.

I got chatting to some guys who were opening resorts on the island who were a little bit cringe, but it led me to chat with two German girls and we sat enjoying the spectacular sunset and agreed to meet for dinner later.

The sun had set and it was pretty dark along the small track to the main road but wasn’t sure if I jeepney would be coming, so I started to walk to the next barangay which is like a village. From here I took a taxibike back to the hotel, got changed and went for dinner at a lovely restaurant called Baha bar. They did great vegetarian food and the beers were ice cold.

The next day I rented a motorcycle from the owners of my little hut for 300 peso a day, I was nervous but I had been on the back of bikes a few times now and got used to it.

So off I sped! My first stop on a island wide tour was the enchanted Balete tree. Around 400 years old it is said to have magical properties. It’s literally on the main road and after paying a 10 peso entrance fee you can sit under it, dangle your feet in a small stream and let fish nibble away.

It was starting to get super hot now, so I decided to head up to Cambugahay falls. There are a few waterfalls dotted around the interior but this one is supposedly the best. You park up then walk down quite a few steps to be rewarded with this beautiful blue pool of water and cascading waterfalls.

I was in heaven and enjoyed cooling down in the second pool, watching people swinging into the first pool from little treehouse. I lay back under the waterfalls and watched the sunlight through the trees.

I had to have a go on the swings, it cost just 10 peso for a go, so I had a few and it was so fun! Swinging out and dropping into the beautiful water. I spent a couple of hours here just relaxing and enjoying the natural theme park.

So I carried on around the interior of the island, enjoying the views over the hills, when I noticed signs for a cave. So obviously I took the small dirt track to a dead end, where a guy took me down into the forest.

We ended up at a small cave entrance, and with a head torch we went in to explore. There was a bit of clambering and some cool formations in there along with bats, but it was probably only a 10 minute journey to the end and back. It was only £1.50 though.

I was pretty sweaty and grimy by the time I got back to the bike. I met the girls again for dinner and drinks and then gave one a lift back to their hotel.

Today I was my last day here, so I was going to hit up another beach, and explore the interior more. So off I went on my little bumblebee bike to the opposite side of the island. Riding around is definitely the best way to get about, and the views from the bike were lovely.

Salagdoong beach wasn’t that great though. Compared to Paliton it’s busier with a restaurant pumping out music, what looked like a very rundown water park and two beaches that were really busy. I lay down and went for a swim, got an ice cream and did enjoy it, but I kept thinking of how great little Paliton was.

There are also meant to be some concrete boards you can jump into the sea from but I couldn’t find them. As we got into the afternoon I decided to get up into the mountains. Driving up I found a cute little hill to walk up and view the whole island from, it was epic.

I got back down and as I drove off noticed a snake in the grass! I tried to swerve but didn’t have time so I either ran over it or just missed it, but I wasn’t going back to check! I drove on and went down past some gorgeous colonial buildings. I didn’t know what else to see and couldn’t make my mind up.

So I took a leisurely pace back to the hotel, when I went into my hut, there was a huge huntsman’s spider crawling along my stuff! I absolutely shit it. I couldn’t get past the spider to get a shower or fresh clothes. So I did what any sane person would do. Closed the door and left.

I went to the main town by the port and treated myself to pizza, chips and a banana shake, and tried to decide what to do. After a couple of beers I went back with determination. When I got there I couldn’t see the Huntsman anymore, but that wasn’t really a help. So I spent the night with all the lights on, attracting all kinds of insects. It’s fair to say I didn’t sleep much!

I had to laugh at myself, because I know that the huntsman aren’t dangerous, but I did not want to wake up with one on my face! I decided as I carefully packed my stuff up the next day that it’s all part and parcel of staying on such a mystical island.

Cebu Island and the Whale Sharks.

So I arrived in Cebu, and knew I wouldn’t get to Oslob, my next destination until the following morning. So I took the bus from the airport into the centre which was really easy. Then took a grab bike to my hotel, it was a cute place I ate in their restaurant and went to bed early.

I was up at 6am ready to walk over to the South Bus terminal. It was easy to find the correct bus and staff were helpful in buying a ticket etc. The bus takes around 3 and a half hours, it actually got pretty busy too as we wound our way South. It also only cost about £2! You can do a day tour but these can cost up to £80 each.

I was heading to a place where you’re guaranteed to see whale sharks, and as I had got closer to the day I started to read that it was a bit controversial. There are arguments on both sides of this, with some saying that by feeding the whale sharks the fishermen are interrupting their natural migration.

There were also issues with boats injuring the sharks, however there is also research that shows the coral and fish in the area are flourishing because the fishermen are no longer using poor techniques to catch, as they’re making money from us tourists. Plus the local government are continuing to introduce stricter rules when it comes to entering the water and numbers visiting.

I decided to check it out, I’d like to say it was out of interest but I definitely wanted to see these magnificent animals. They’re the biggest fish in the world, and are beautiful gentle beasts.

I arrived in Tan-Awan where I was staying, dropped my stuff off at the hotel and went straight to the Sharks. I got offered a few prices as I walked up, just ignore them and go straight to the people there. It cost me 1000 peso, which was around £15.

We sat through a very thorough guidelines video and talk of the dos and don’ts once we got in the boats, we had to shower before leaving to wash off any sunscreen as it’s damaging. The people working there genuinely seemed to care about the whales but it was pretty hectic.

Once in the boat you get taken out to a spot, jump in with snorkels and watch as the sharks glide past. Surfacing now and again, you couldn’t touch or go within 3 feet of them. Although the fishermen try to control the tourists there are some that are ignorant and try to get close. Also a lot of the tourists couldn’t swim but still jumped in and started thrashing about. So watch out for arms and legs that could hit you.

I was amazed by it all, I’m usually nervous being out of my depths and sharks terrify me, but I think I was so in awe of them that I didn’t even think about it.

The only thing I found uncomfortable was just the number of people in the water at the same time, and I’ve read that they are limiting numbers more and more which is good.

After the buzz of seeing these amazing sharks I decided to keep the adventure up and go to some nearby waterfalls. It cost 200 peso for return trip in a mototaxi, 20 peso entry and 60 peso return for motorbike down to the falls from the carpark. It’s only about 15 mins from the village.

Tumalog falls were incredible, totally different type of waterfall to what I’m used to. It’s about 100 metres tall, and instead of a steady flow of water it sprays down the side of this cliff sparkling in the sunlight. There’s a huge pool at the bottom that you can swim and relax in. Plus the rainforest environment is beautiful to relax in.

I spent a good two hours here, the water was cold and refreshing in the heat and I couldn’t stop looking at the waterfall from different angles.

After a full day I finally checked in to my hotel, Casa Bonita and chilled out for a bit then went for a wander around the little village. There wasn’t much going on, but there are a couple of little stores selling food and a few restaurants. I ate at the hotel again. Some lovely fried veggies and rice. Then I was ready for another busy day tomorrow.

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!

Back once again in Bangkok.

Waking up in Chachoengsao I packed up the few things I had taken out of my bag and Liam, via 5 minutes of driving down the wrong side of the road got us to the station.

The ticket cost about 10 Baht to take us on the hour long journey to central Bangkok. I got some tasty coconut batter snacks for the train and we began our short journey. It was so pretty as we passed rice fields filled with storks and the scenery starting to become less country and more City.

Liam had recommended a hotel near Asok train station so we alighted there and ten minutes later we were checking in. It was a really nice hotel and I had splurged for the executive lounge so we could get breakfast, afternoon snacks, and free drinks in the evening.

After a chillout by the pool with a Pina colada we got some free lunch at the lounge and headed towards Siam Square for the magical rainbow cheese toastie. Bangkok is pretty easy to navigate with its metro and SkyTrain and along with 7/11s they make a nice reprieve from the heat.

We arrived at Siam Square and found the Hokkaido Cheese Toastie shop on the ground floor of the mall. We ordered some drinks while we waited for the rainbow toastie and then realised they were cheesy drinks! Actually they were delicious, Liam had strawberry and I went for matcha and they had a cheesecakey float on the top.

Then the rainbow toastie arrived and it was everything we were hoping for and more. So pretty but also super weird as the different colours are different fruity flavours. But cheese.

We wandered around the mall for a bit checking out the randomness of it all, then found the Hello Kitty cafe. I was super excited but it was actually a bit disappointing inside, and the menu was overpriced so we didn’t stay. Instead we walked along the skywalk, checking out Erawan shrine from above and finally jumping the SkyTrain back to Nana for a beer and to people watch.

We sat here for a while watching ominously as dark grey clouds closed in on us before the heavens opened up. It was past 6 at this point and we wanted to enjoy the free drinks and food at the hotel, and after a soggy 40 minutes of being packed into the SkyTrain and metro like sardines we made it.

The food was great and they had plenty of vegetarian options, Liam was super happy he could drink white wine too as it’s something of a luxury for him. Feeling a bit tipsy we got changed before heading to Tuba antique restaurant and bar. A cool little place off the beaten track that Liam had suggested.

We arrived via taxi and it was pretty cool, lots of random objects dotted about the place and tasty cocktails which were huge! We sat at the bar and chatted through the night till I was too tired to talk. So we walked slowly back to the hotel and I passed out almost immediately.

I woke early in the morning, and went for a refreshing swim before trying literally everything vegetarian on the breakfast buffet. I waited for Liam to wake up and we got ready to head out. We wanted to head to Chang Chui market with its cool abandoned planes but realised it’s closed on a Wednesday.

Instead we headed to Jim Thompson’s house as a last minute decision, and it turned out to be pretty cool. It wasn’t super expensive about 200 Baht, this includes a tour of the house in your language. It was cool seeing this snapshot of post WW2 life for an expat and the gardens and decor were stunning. It’s also easy to get to, just take the SkyTrain to National Stadium and it’s a 5 minute walk from there. We also checked out the canal just past the house.

e took the BTS down towards Lumphini park, this place is famous for its water monitor lizards though unfortunately Bangkok council had the majority of the big ones removed as they were becoming a nuisance in the City, including one casually walking into a Tesco.

The park itself is a nice break from the city and you can rent bikes or pedalos. We visited in 2015 and it seems like it’s in a constant state of fluctuation. We enjoyed the lizard hunt and were rewarded for our endeavours by spotting a big one eating an even bigger fish.

From here our plan was to take the BTS around to Sala Daeng and hit the unicorn cafe, but Liam dropped his phone somewhere in the park. Luckily a local found it and we managed to get it back but by this point it made more sense to walk down to the cafe.

It was about a 25 minute walk from Lumphini to Silom district where the cafe is and it was totally worth it. Bright and garish it was like a crazy acid trip, with unicorns hanging from the ceiling and the most colourful desserts menu I have ever seen.

We ordered some iced drinks and one of the rainbow waffles, the drinks were so sugary and sweet we had to wait for the ice to dilute them a little but the waffles were incredible.

Buzzing from the sugar rush we wandered up towards the main street in Silom near the BTS and grabbed a couple of beers. We were going to head to some of the gay bars but they didn’t open till 6pm and like needed to get back to Chachoengsao.

It turned out we probably could’ve gone there as the BTS was full of commuters so we decided to risk the Bangkok traffic and take a taxi for 100 Baht. Google maps said it would take 45 minutes but almost 2 hours of bumper to bumper cars we finally arrived at the Avani.

Liam quickly sorted out a taxi back home and I prepared for my morning departure to Myanmar, the first official leg of my tour.

Gili T and the Waterlice

Even after doing so much sightseeing every day, 2 days of relaxation and chilling out was enough for us so we decided to take a boat trip out to some cool snorkeling spots where we might see more turtles and some other cool sealife. Our hotel organised it and after being escorted to the boat we jumped and were given the chance to have flippers.

The boat was fun and pretty rocky as we crossed between the islands to Gili Meno and turtle point! Once we reached our spot everyone jumped in and followed our snorkel guide. As we were swimming it felt like something had stung or bit me! I had a bit of a panic and quickly looked around me but I couldn’t see anything.

This continued for the rest of the swim as we watched turtles far below us grazing on the seabed, one of them came swimming up to the surface and the whole group went crazy trying to get close to it, why can’t we just enjoy things without having to touch?

I later found out that the little stings I was getting were from sea lice – more on them here : https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/oceanfit.com.au/education/sea-lice-an-itchy-problem/amp

The swim took us to our boat which had gone ahead and was waiting for us all. We jumped back on and sped off to the next snorkelling spot a little closer to the shore. The fish here were good and it was fun being a bit further out than I had dared the day before, but after the 3rd spot it all became a bit too similar. Even though we were in a group of 20 or so I never felt too crowded apart from the turtle moment.

We stopped on Gili Air and had a little wander and a beer to celebrate a good days snorkelling before heading back to Gili T as the sun was starting to go down. When we got back Peter decided to go for a massage, but I was only interested in seeing that amazing sunset one more time.

So I walked over to the West side of the island and sat at a table, ordered a beer and watched an incredible sunset over Bali. It was sad to think that tomorrow would be the last day we spent in Asia. That night we went back to the BBQ place where I had lobster and Peter had steak. It was so good and cheap compared to back home, but expensive compared to the rest of Bali.

Gili T and the Turtle

Today we decided to relax on the beach on the North West of the island and do a lot of snorkeling, so we met up with Liv and Jord and took the same track from yesterday up to the beach.

It was hot and beautiful as we walked along, showing the others the swings and pointing out a few of the more interesting parts of the route. We made it to the beach and, donning our masks we started off through the shallow rocky water to get to the good stuff. We did see a few starfish on the way, but as soon as we dove into that clear water a whole world was revealed.

We saw all sorts of colourful fish, definitely more than the day before and as we got further out huge schools of fish greeted us and we followed them around, spotting some pretty big fish in the depths.

I even saw a barracuda hovering near the surface only a few feet away. Thankfully we didn’t see anymore sea snakes, and it was nice alternating between snorkelling and sunbathing. I would say that you could do with getting some aqua shoes as the shallow part of the sea was pretty rocky and spiky.

After sunbathing and relaxing with a beer or two Jord and I headed back out to snorkel. We went pretty far out and saw some big fish and even tried to find some reef sharks to no avail. After about an hour or so we were about to give up our turtle hunt when I noticed something in the distance. Wildly gesturing to Jord we Sam like mad men in that direction and as we got closer our excitement grew. It was definitely a turtle!

It was so majestic as we swam alongside it, we took a few photos and the turtle seemed so relaxed. We followed it for quite a long time before realising the sun wax going down and we were a good 20 minute swim/walk from the others. So we said our goodbyes to the turtle and headed for shore, making it back just in time to watch the sun set behind Mount Agung. It’s definitely in my top 3 sunsets I’ve ever seen, the sky was such a deep red as we sat there listening to nice chill out music and sipping a cold beer.

After all the excitement and swimming we were pretty tired so headed back to the hotel and ate at the restaurant before turning in, wondering what tomorrow would bring.

Gili T and the Seasnake

The journey from Ubud to Gili Trawangan, the largest of the 3 Gili Islands should, on paper, be simple. However, these types of journeys are rarely easy in Asia. Our taxi was late picking us up, and I knew as we got on that the empty mini bus was a bad sign. Sure enough we went to another 3 hotels to fill the bus out before heading off to the port of Padang Bai where our 1pm boat would be waiting for us.

We arrived at the pier just before 1 to crowds of people, and no sign of any boat. Basically a boat would come in, they’d shout a company and everyone with those tickets would board. Luckily we could buy beers, juices and snacks while we waited. I think our boat arrived at around 4pm. We randomly met a couple from a village not far from where I grew up who were waiting for the same boat.

We all crowded on, I bought a few beers for the 2 hour boat crossing and we sat near the back. I had read that the boat crossing wasn’t great and it turned out to be very true, the boat stank of petrol fumes and was pretty rocky. I was stood by the door with a bit of breeze but I don’t doubt the reason everyone fell asleep was because of the fumes.

Finally we made it to freedom and jumped off onto Gili T, after a full 8 or 9 hours of travel. Luckily it’s not a huge place and it was only a 15 minute walk along a main track which circles the island to our hotel, the Pearl of Trawangan. A beautiful bamboo restaurant and bar awaited us and a lovely little cabin in amongst the foliage.

We were pretty tired and once we had unpacked and relaxed for a bit we walked out to the beach and had a little wander before heading to the restaurant and enjoying a couple of beers and some great food. We had a little walk up the strip and sat on some bean bags at a beach bar. We were soon ready for bed so went back to our cabin and had a great night’s sleep.

We had a bit of a lie in the next day and enjoyed the free breakfast back up in the restaurant. Our plan today was beach beach and more beach, our hotel opened out onto beautiful white sandy beach and we chose a spot with some loungers and set up camp.

After a while sun bathing we decided to cool off and do some snorkelling. I’ve only really been snorkelling in Koh Samet, Thailand and this was a million times better. There were fish everywhere as we swam along grassy banks and over rocky areas.

As I was following some fish over one grassy peak I was greeted by the sight of a black and white striped sea snake heading straight toward me. I basically panicked, thrashed about a bit and turned round swimming like hell in the opposite direction. Looking back I probably scared the snake more than anything but there was no way I could act cool when one of the most poisonous animals was coming towards me!

I didn’t let this put a dent in my snorkelling fun and continued to explore, secretly hoping to see a turtle. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and after trying to relax a bit more on the beach we got itchy feet and decided to spend the afternoon walking around the island.

We stopped our stuff off and started heading along the one track. The walk took us past super posh looking resorts, little huts selling magic mushrooms and a bit of a rubbish tip in what looked like an abandoned hotel development.

The best bit was finding some bleached trees out on the beach with a swing to enjoy the scenery and take some great Instagram pics. We continued on to the next bar and stopped for a drink and some shade from the sun for a bit.

Gili T is such a relaxing place in the daytime, the weather was gorgeous and you could see excellent views of Bali and Lombok across the sea.

We continued around the island and hit the beginning of the main strip, this is full of bars, hostels, restaurants and street food.

We grabbed a bite to eat at Scallywags, a BBQ place with unlimited salad bar and a hatch where you can order various meat and fish and tell them how you want it cooked, which sauces, rubs etc you want on it and they’ll then bring it to your table.

The food was really good, even the salad bar had some good stuff on it. Once we had eaten our fill we met up with the couple from the pier the previous day and went for a few drinks and a dance on the main strip. We had such a good time and agreed to meet up the next day to do some more beach chilling and snorkelling.

How do you spend a Summer’s day in Andorra? Hike! 

Andorra is usually known for it’s skiing, but La Vella being the highest capital City in Europe I knew there must be some great hiking trails. I headed to the tourist centre by the river and gathered the info I required. Stopping off at a supermarket I grabbed supplies and had some very chocolatey croissants to energise me. 

I had been told to take a bus from Carrer de la Valira up towards de la plana. It was pretty easy using basic Spanish to get up there and the driver pointed me in the direction of a path up into the mountains. 

The view from here was pretty good so I couldn’t wait to get higher up. The first part of the hike was a gentle incline through  some shaded woods along a little stream. I had an idea of where to head towards but after hitting a couple of forks in the path I wasn’t quite sure where I was going apart from up. 

I got to a bridge and crossed over a mountain river I had started to follow. This was the first point of meeting some fellow hikers, a family of 5 walking up. They would be they first of only 3 groups I would see in 6 hours. I was completely surrounded by nature, and it was magnificent. I had my headphones in and my indie/folk playlist to keep me company as I continued up a path that was becoming steeper and steeper by the minute. To make matters more interesting it was also getting hotter and hotter. 

I went past an old stone church and farmhouse, the last piece of civilisation I would see for a while, and emerged out of the trees to views that were breathtaking. 

I had already climbed pretty high, following the path that wound up into the wilderness and stopped to re-hydrate with some spicy gazpacho. Another couple of hours into my journey I would be cursing the fact that I thought a 500ml bottle of gazpacho would keep me hydrated for 6 or 7 hours of hiking. Right now though I was thinking how delicious it was as I popped a few olives into my mouth and grabbed a babybel. 

I continued my walk, passing a stream pouring out of a crack in a rock, as it was getting warmer I splashed the ice cold water over my face. It was so refreshing as I began to walk through more forest, the dappled floor ahead of me dancing as the leaves moved slowly in the wind. 

The peacefulness of it all was great but by this point I had been walking for around 2 and a half hours I decided to keep hydrated by filling my empty gazpacho bottle with the fresh mountain water from the river. I wasn’t sure how much longer it was to the top, luckily Google maps was working up here! It said about 2 km longer but now it was getting steeper. I made my way (slowly) up, following the river before emerging into a beautiful mountain meadow.

The last bit of the climb followed the river up but it was now nothing more than a little stream flowing underground beneath me. It was really hard going now, I was tired and had to stop every 5 minutes or so because of the heat. I finally made it to the top, 2200 metres above sea level! 

I was hoping that the mountain but on the map would be similar to one I hiked to in Romania, with food and drinks and somewhere to sit and enjoy the view. Unfortunately it was just a camping hut with some beds, tools and signs of recent use. It would be great fun to camp out there in the Pyrenees with your mates. Exploring the area and having bbqs, another time maybe! 

I spent a little time up here catching my breath and recharging my batteries, knowing it was going to take at least 3 hours to get back down. Once ready I started the long descent down, it wasn’t actually so bad, I managed to emerge from the forest looking over the City and followed the roads down, I stopped at a shop and treated myself to an ice cream and downed a huge bottle of water. 

I followed the river back towards the hotel, going past more statues, and finally making it back after 7 hours of walking. I loved every minute of it and the best part was only seeing about 8 people in total. Great to have all of that nature to yourself, I collapsed on the bed and chilled out for a bit before going downstairs and having a couple of beers at the bar and chatting to the locals. 

At this point it was late but I was starving so I quickly googled nearby restaurants and found a cool sounding burger place called ‘and burger zero’ It was amazing, chilli cheese fries and incredible burger. Not sure if it tasted even better because of the hike though. It’s my last day of travelling tomorrow and another early bus journey down to Barcelona, Spain. 

Andorra, the highest capital city in Europe! 

Another early wake up this morning… there are no lie ins on this whirlwind tour! I had found information a little vague on transport to Andorra from Toulouse, so I went to the bus station located near the main train station early to get a 10am bus. I didn’t want to miss it so ended up being an hour early. 

In the end it was pretty easy to find, you just pay for the bus when you’re getting on and it was well signed posted. I caught up on a bit of sleep for the first part of the journey but wanted to take in the views when we started to climb up into the Pyrenees, the mountain range that separates France from Spain. They speak Catalan in Andorra and I knew a bit more than French so was looking forward to trying it out. 

Andorra itself is a small, independent principality which has, unusually, two heads of state, the Bishop of Urgell in Spain, and the French president. It is probably best known for it’s ski resorts, of which we drove through a few on the way to the capital, Andorra La Vella. 

The journey took around 3 hours and was pretty pleasant with the views, I finally arrived in the City centre and headed straight for my cheap ass hostel. On the way it was hard not to notice the giant portrait on the mountainside above the City. 

The actual City is a mish-mash of ugly tower blocks and pretty houses dotted around the mountains. The fact that it is completely surrounded by these mountains make the views amazing. 

There’s a fast flowing river running right through the centre and I followed this up towards my hotel, passing the impressively futuristic spa Caldea. 

The hotel itself was pretty dire, but for the price it was clean and the hosts very friendly, which is all you need really. 

As usual I ditched my stuff and went off to explore, following the river back down I passed a great Andorra La Vella sign and somw interesting statues. The air was so fresh and it’s such a clean place, I was starting to love it already. It was great to think I was staying in the highest capital City in Europe too. 

Since I had only had a snack for breakfast I was now starving, so being naughty I ended up in a McDonald’s after walking along the busy and modern shopping streets, Andorra is a tax haven and so duty free is meant to be good value here. 

My tour of Andorra continued towards the old part of town to see the Casa de la Vall, Andorra’s historical parliament building since 1702 and of course, Sant Esteve, another church. 

I walked up into the old town which is actually a lot prettier than the grey 70s looking buildings that the capital seems to love. 

The parlient building itself was okay but the terrace in front of it afforded me amazing views of the mountains I would be conquering the next day. 

I later found out that there’s a few more lookout type spots you can walk or drive to. One in particular with some interesting statues at the viewpoint. 

I found some hiking trails including one that spans the whole country! In all honesty there aren’t a lot of “sights” in Andorra La Vella, it’s more about getting out into the countryside. I decided after 5 days of walking I would treat myself to an evening in Caldea Spa. 

For 30E I got access to all the pools and saunas and at first I thought it was maybe a little pricey but the amount of facilities they have is incredible. It’s also nice sitting in a warm jacuzzi looking up at the mountains surrounding you. I imagine in Winter it would be even better. 

I enjoyed the Turkish baths the most, hot and steamy but with ice cold water available when it got too much. I would definitely recommend a visit especially if you’ve spent the day hiking or skiiing. There was even a musical water show towards the end of my visit. 

I spent an hour or so just wandering the streets, all lit up and people out and about playing games and doing salsa etc. It was really nice and it came across like a very peaceful place to live. 

Onwards to the next day and a full days hike!