48 hours in Kiev, Day 1.

Ukraine

Kiev is the capital of Ukraine, the 2nd largest country in Europe behind Russia. Located in Eastern Europe, it shares a border with Russia, Belarus, Romania and Poland. I wanted to visit Ukraine so I could enter the Chernobyl exclusion zone, and Kiev is the best place to do this from. I had also found cheap flights from Ryanair, unfortunately they cancelled these so I had to re-book with British Airways. There are some no go areas of Ukraine at the moment due to the annexation of Crimea by the Russians, so check the UK government website for up to date advice.

Kiev

It was founded in the 5th century, has a world heritage site amongst it’s many Orthodox churches, the world’s deepest underground railway line and it is where Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt met to discuss them organisation of post WWII Europe! Unfortunately and much to my dismay the chicken kiev wasn’t invented here! Communist symbols and street names were outlawed here in 2015 to attempt to move away from Russia and the Soviet Union.

Top Sights of Kiev

I arrived late into Kiev and took the sky bus found in front of terminal D and B to the main station. This took almost an hour, I didn’t see much as it was already dark by the time I got there. There is now a train that runs twice an hour and only takes 40 minutes to the City. I stayed at irisHotel right by the station for a couple of nights, then changed to the Fire Inn for the last two nights. Both were cheap, comfy and clean, the Fire Inn was in an old fire station which was pretty cool.

I started my tour of Kiev by heading to the Ukrainian State Museum of the Great Patriotic War. I had just visited one in Belarus and it was so interesting seeing how the two nations portrayed the war so differently, especially how they perceived Russia/The Soviets.

It’s another really interesting museum even if you don’t have much interest in history or WWII. The most impressive part of the museum is outside where you can view the Motherland Monument.

Standing at 62 metres tall it dominates the skyline above the museum. It was finished in 1981 and has been exempt from the decommunisation law because of it’s WWII significance. It looks like something out of a sci-fi film and it’s one of the grandest statues I’ve ever seen.

There’s also a monument to the UN, the founders of Kiev and a load of cool tanks and a nice park area around the museum. You can walk straight from here past a few cafes and shops to the next big sight, the Pechersk Lavra.

A monastery with a huge cave complex underneath it with several saints and religious figures reported to be buried there, it began in 1051 and the complex now consists of several pretty orthodox churches and you can visit the catacombs for a small fee. You aren’t allowed to take photos in the catacombs but are free to wander around the rest of it and take as many pics as you like. It’s definitely one of the best things to do here.

There are a couple of museums and art galleries nearby but I didn’t visit them, instead heading to the Holodomor Genocide museum, here you can learn more about the famine caused by Stalinist policies such as collectivisation in the early 1930s that killed an estimated 7.5 million Ukrainians.

It’s a harrowing tale, especially the propaganda used such as spreading tales that the peasants were hoarding food for themselves instead of giving to the wider collective of the USSR. Just along from here is a memorial to the Unknown Soldier.

Next up was the Mariyinsky Palace, completed in 1752 it’s the official residence of the president of Ukraine in Kiev and is joined to the parliament of Ukraine. It was built in the baroque style and the first royal figure to stay here was Catherine the Great! It was badly damaged in WWII and has had a couple of major restorations since then.

It’s a beautiful building and the adjacent park is lovely to wander around too. You can check out the old Dynamo Kiev stadium before walking over the park bridge and enjoy amazing views over the river Dnipro and to the East of Kiev.

I followed the walkway past the Museum of Water and stopped for a picture with a big bronze frog, you throw a coin in it’s mouth for good luck.

It was starting to get a bit dark and walking through the parks was so nice as they were all lit up, and if you follow on from the frog you get to the Friendship of Nations Arch.

Another throwback to Soviet rule it was completed in 1982 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the USSR and 1500th anniversary of Kiev. It’s a huge 50m diameter rainbow shaped arch made of titanium, with a bronze statue of russian and ukrainian workers underneath.

During eurovision it was lit up in rainbow colours and renamed the arch of diversity however after 3 weeks it went back to normal. It was supposed to be removed and replaced with a memorial to soldiers fighting russian rebels in the East of the country, but it still stands as far as I’m aware!

I was starving now as I had only had a cute little hotdog from a place in one of the subway stations, it was delicious but I needed something more substantial. After a quick google I headed to Veterano Pizzeria, I liked the name and I adore pizza!

The decor was so cool inside, with army memorabilia on the walls and table tops made from bullets. The food was really good too and I had a couple of beers to go alongside the pizza and cheesecake.

I spent the rest of the evening wandering down Khreschatyk St, a huge avenue runnning through central Kiev, it was stunning!

All the buildings were lit up and it was almost like Vienna in it’s grandiosity. So far Kiev was nothing like I was expecting, and I was super impressed. I stopped at Independance Square, where there was a huge mural of chains saying ‘freedom is our religion’, an I love Kiev sign and some cute statues.

I had walked so much today in the cold but I had enjoyed every moment. I would have missed a lot of things that I found by mistake if I had taken the underground or taxis/buses. I also thought it was amazing that half of Kiev seemed to be out, drinking coffee from little huts on the pavement all wrapped up. It was very European. On my way back to the hotel I passed this stunning building called Volodymyr’s Cathedral, I couldn’t wait to explore the rest of Kiev!

It’s a Quokka thing, Rottnest Island.

Today was a big surprise! We were headed to Perth for my Birthday, unfortunately the flight was delayed by about 5 hours so we arrived late. This left us little time to explore one of the most isolated Cities on earth, as we were only here for 2 nights and the main day was for Rottnest Island!

We arrived at the airport and took a taxi to our Hotel Rendezvous we dumped our stuff and headed out to find food. We headed straight to William Street where I had read about some cool sounding restaurants, and after wandering about for a bit we settled on this cute little Italian called Francoforte Spaghetti bar.

It was some of the best pasta either of us have ever had! We had the pasta broccoli and the eggplant sugo, and we just feeling very happy. Obviously we needed to follow this up with dessert so we headed to Whisk Creamery. This place is a pudding palace! I got a salted caramel cronut with vanilla soft serve. Craig opted for a fish shaped green tea ice cream Taiyaki.

The next day we were picked up at our hotel and whisked away to the Northern port at Hillary’s. We were given our bikes here while we waited for the ferry. It takes around 45 minutes to cross to the island and it was a very choppy sea that day!

You land on the Western side of the island and immediately have free reign to do whatever you like. The only cars on the island are maintenance vans and passenger buses so it’s super easy to cycle around.

We checked out the map and decided to try and do a full loop of the island after grabbing some refreshments, we set off. Starting off South we passed a few buildings and then we were out on our own, I was desperately trying to cycle and look for Quokkas, the reason we had come to the island.

Quokkas are small Marsupials that can only be found on Rottnest Island in the wild because of invasive species on the mainland. They’re also one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. Balancing on the bike I spotted movement in the undergrowth and came screeching to a halt, I moved as stealthily as a 6″1 man can, and spotted a little Quokka! I was so happy and the little guy wasn’t bothered by us at all.

Continuing on we stopped at a couple of nice beach areas, and did a bit of rock climbing as I looked for sharks. They are often seen around Rottnest and the Western Australian coast. There’s a cool website you can use to see where the most recent sightings have been. We also stopped to look for Quokkas in the bush to no avail.

As we continued to cycle on we got a little lost, then the heavens opened up above us and the rain came pouring down! Without coats we got absolutely soaked, but we didn’t care as the sun came back out it seemed like hundreds of little Quokkas suddenly emerged from the undergrowth. One took a real shine to Craig and we got some great pics.

Totally happy despite our soggy clothes we cycled on to the big lighthouse in the middle of the island, it’s not free so we didn’t climb up, instead we sheltered from the next wave of rain next to the toilets.

Carrying on towards the South West we had some amazing views of the island, and more Quokkas! This time one decided I was very interesting and came hopping over to give me a sniff, we got some great selfies with him and started to dry off as the glorious sun came out.

Finally we reached the furthest tip of the island, and it was so worth it, the rock formations in the sea were incredible. We sat and had our little lunch and enjoyed the waves crashing through the rocks. This had taken us a few hours with stops along the way so we thought we better start the journey back.

On the way we saw more Quokkas, making my excitement at seeing the first little one a little over the top. The cycling started to get a little harder as I’m not the fittest, and even though it was mostly flat there are some steeper hilly bits, just don’t be too proud to stop if you need to! Again we stopped at a couple of nice points, it was a shame the weather wasn’t a little warmer as the beaches looked amazing with the white sand and clear blue waters.

As we neared our destination we passed a huge lake which smelt pretty eggy, like sulphur, with loads of different birds who didn’t seem to mind the smell one bit. Once we arrived back to the main area we had about an hour till our ferry. At first we were going to continue cycling but it started raining again so we settled for a couple of beers.

There were even Quokkas near the shops and restaurants! It’s probably harder to miss one than find them. We took the ferry back, and it was just as rough, I was in hysterics watching Mr Bean while Craig was trying his best not to be sick along with most of the other passengers. Soon we were back on dry land, handed our bikes back and back in Perth. After all that cycling we were ravenous, we thought we’d head back to William St but on our way we noticed that a burger chain called Grill’d were doing vegetarian night!

Feeling like it must have been a sign, in we went and ordered a classic veggie burger along with a beyond meat burger and 3 types of fries, including zucchini which were delicious! We sank a couple of beers, and then headed back to the hotel. It had been such a fun day out, those little Quokka are everything!

Temple trekking in Yogyakarta

After spending a few days in Bali just relaxing and really not doing much at all, I was looking forward to having a little adventure over on Java island. The City of Yogyakarta is only an hour and 20 mins away from Bali by plane and couldn’t be more different! The flight was cool, going over volcanoes peaking through the clouds.

This is more authentic Muslim Indonesia, less touched by tourists but with some amazing sights to see. I arrived early and after a taxi to my hostel, The Arjuna homestay. I booked a taxi through grab, it was 8 hours for £23. It was the first time I had used this feature and it was so good! Our first stop was Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist monument. It was built in the 9th century but was only rediscovered in 1815 completely covered in volcanic ash.

It took us about an hour to get there, and my driver parked up and pointed me towards the entrance. Be prepared for a lot of sellers trying to get you to buy food and souvenirs on the way in and out of the temple. It cost £16 to get in this was a combo ticket with a temple I would be visiting later, and I was greeted with an amazing approach to the temple to really set the scene. I started to climb this huge complex, its incredible, and even knowing it was restored I still couldn’t believe the magnitude of it. You could get lost going up and down the steps.

There were cool Buddha statues, with more than a few missing their heads and then towards the top you start to see these huge stone bell type structures, each one housing a Buddha. The views of the countryside from the top was also amazing.

The walk back was a bit depressing with some sad looking chained up elephants and more people trying to sell me stuff. I had to wait a little while for my Grab driver to turn up because it was call to prayer so I bought a big pocari sweat and relaxed in the shade for a little while

Our next stop was Mount Merapi, Indonesia’s most active volcano that last erupted in May 2018. I had read you could do a jeep tour of the lower volcanic slopes and see the volcano. Again we parked up and I was pointed in the right direction.

This time the jeep tour cost about £24, it would be less if you weren’t a solo traveller. I greeted my new jeep driver and hopped in. It was pretty fun driving off road, and crazy that you could see where old villages used to be. There was a huge eruption in 2010 that sadly claimed hundreds of lives.

We stopped at a few old buildings, with some possessions inside that you could see the effect the lava had on them and some background to Merapi. The mountain is sacred to Indonesians and they even have a shaman who looks after it.We drove past valleys formed by lava flows and took some pics at a place where huge chunks of rock had landed miles away from the volcano.

My driver was a full on Instagram photo shoot connoisseur, he had me trying all sorts of poses. Especially when we got to the view of the volcano, don’t expect to be that close as it’s so active. It was covered in cloud when we got there, but after ten minutes or so it cleared slightly and I got the view of the volcano! It’s pretty unassuming for something that has caused so much damage and death.

Our last stop was a bunker that actually got buried by 6 feet of lava. Sadly two men had taken refuge there and died from the heat. It was pretty eerie and not very big inside, I couldn’t imagine being trapped in there.

It was definitely a fun adventure and the jeep company were really good. It was now on to our last stop, Prambanan! This time we were heading to the largest Hindu shrine in Indonesia, and the second largest in SE Asia.It was built in the 9th century and believed to be a response to Borobudur, to show that Hinduism had claimed dominance in the region.

I loved it here, unfortunately a lot of the temples have been damaged over the years from earthquakes, looting and volcanic eruptions but it was beautiful. The temples that remain are so amazing. I arrived as the sun was setting and it gave the whole place a mystical quality.

You can climb up and explore inside some of the main temples, spotting little Hindu statues hidden away. I had a lot of fun taking pictures from different angles and took a lot of selfies I think! The temple complex is still used by the Indonesian Hindu community to perform sacred ceremonies and rituals.

There are so many temples in this area, but I didn’t have any more time to explore, so I walked back to the car. Again be warned that you have to walk through a small market to exit. With everyone trying to sell you things. Back at the hostel I wanted to check out Milas vegetarian restaurant nearby but I was tired and just had some veggie Nasi Goreng, dipped my legs in the pool and headed to bed. The hostel was nice at first, but when I woke up in the morning I had been bitten all over by what looked to be bed bugs! My first ever time after 15 weeks and 3 holidays in Asia.

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!

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.

Hong Kong and Tian Tan Buddha

Today I was off to check out one of the biggest tourist sights of Hong Kong, Tian Tan Buddha! To get there you take the subway out to Tung Chung, from here you can either hike or take the cable car. I chose to take the cable car and treat myself to the glass bottomed booth. On reflection I wish I had prepared and hiked to the Buddha and taken the cable car back. The walking route looked really cool, I’m not sure how long it would take but the scenery was amazing from the car as we flew over the bay and up into the mountains.

On arrival you wander through a touristy village area with shops and restaurants, before you pass under a lovely archway and past statues of the Chinese Animal signs for each year. This leads to a huge square with steps heading straight up to the huge bronze statue of Buddha. It was completed in 1993 and symbolises the close relationship between man and nature.

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It’s pretty impressive, there are quite a few steps to get up to the base of the Buddha, but there’s a small art gallery underneath with air con which I used to cool down. The Buddha is surrounded by six smaller bronze statues that represent the six perfections that are necessary for enlightenment.Not only is the Buddha amazing, but the 360 views you get of Lantau Island and out towards the airport.I had such a good time here and would definitely recommend it! I took the cable car back down after looking for souvenirs in the village, and took the subway back into the City.

My next stop took me to East Tsim Tsa Tsui stop, where Bruce Lee was only a short walk away! Usually found on the Avenue of stars, it was being renovated when I visited and all the famous statues and hand prints are now found at the nearby Garden of stars. There are also other famous statues and handprints from Chinese stars such as Jackie Chan and MIchelle Yeoh. This is a fun thing to do in the City and something I was really excited to see and get a selfie with Bruce!

From here I headed to Nathan Rd, this is one of the main shopping streets with smaller roads interconnecting more shops, restaurants and malls. So I wandered around here for a while, picking up some ubiquitous bubble waffles and bubble tea. I ordered chocolate waffles and matcha tea and both were super tasty. I wasn’t sure where to go next so I checked Google maps and noticed a cartoon avenue! Similar to the avenue of stars, this avenue is filled with famous Hong Kong comic stars with the iconic pig Mcdull being the most recognisable. This was definitely a fun little side adventure and it took me out of the heat of the City and into Kowloon park, it’s a green oasis amid the bustling, chaotic streets surrounding it. There are a couple of nice little ponds and fountains and the shade was beautiful and cool. It would definitely be great to grab some street food from one of the many vendors on Nathan Rd and retire to the park for a little picnic.

Next on my little tour was Chungking mansions, known as one of the cheapest places to live in Hong Kong it’s filled with a multiculturalism rarely seen. Although it’s mostly residential, you can find various restaurants from around the world here, lots of electronic and clothing stores and foreign exchange offices. I actually thought it was the more famous and instagrammable Montane Mansion and I wandered around for a while trying to find the iconic view of the apartments. I soon realised I was mistaken but I bought a couple of T shirts and the diversity of the shops was really interesting.

My next location is a must for anyone visiting Hong Kong, it’s cheap, easy to do and you get amazing views and a fun little boat ride, it is of course the star ferry! The area around Tsim Sha Tsui pier is nice to have a little wander, with the old railway clock tower and nice views of Hong Kong Island. The actual ferry costs HK$2.70 for a top deck seat which is definitely worth the little ride. I did think I would be on one of the red sailed junk boats at first so don’t be disappointed! It also helped that the ferry would take me back over to the Central ferry pier and HK island.

I enjoyed sailing across Kowloon bay and it was great to get shots of both sides of Hong Kong, it’s such a huge City, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many skyscrapers clustered together. I arrived back on the island and relaxed back on the pier for a little while thinking about what to do next and enjoying the cool sea breeze.

After a pretty full day I decided to take a nap and then get ready to go out in the evening, I wasn’t sure where to head and then remembered the Temple Street night market up on the mainland was meant to be a cool place. So I got ready and took the subway to Jordan, which is just a short walk from the markets. It feels like a different place on the mainland, busier, more neon lights and signs everywhere and maybe a bit more of how I imagine the rest of China would be in the Cities.

The markets were good, with loads and loads and loooaaddss of souvenirs, clothes, and electronics etc, there are also plenty of restaurants surrounding it to have dinner. I struggled finding anywhere that did anything vegetarian however, so I decided to go back to the island and try some of the gay bars out. I started off at T:ME bar which was a nice little place and had a cool vibe. I asked someone there where else they’d recommend and found myself in FLM, this place reminded me a bit more of somewhere I’d find back home in Manchester. So I googled and found a place over by Lan Kwai Fong, Petticoat Lane is a pretty cool venue and space, I liked the outside terrace area and after enjoying a couple of (pricey) beers I went back over to Causeway Bay and got some yummy veg dim sum and hit the sack.

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.

Exploring the ancient Cities of Myanmar.

Today I was up super early, I got everything ready the night before including a shower so I could get up 15 minutes before Min Min was picking me up. This was still 4:30am but I was excited enough to not feel too tired, Min Min was waiting for me outside and off we went towards U Bein Bridge, the longest wooden bridge in the world. It’s located south of Mandalay and is a popular spot for sunrise and sunset.On the way we stopped at a pagoda where the monks were washing the face of Buddha, people arrived to pray and attach gold leaf to the body of the Buddha. It was a nice little start to the day.We drove out of the City and into the countryside, arriving at U Bridge at around 6am. It was so quiet and only 2 other tourists around, unfortunately it was also really cloudy so I wouldn’t get a good sunrise. I still loved walking along the bridge and taking with the locals, I even found a little chameleon friend.OOnce I had walked to one side and back it was on to the next part of the tour, the ancient Cities. We stopped at a huge broken pagoda, destroyed by an earthquake, I had the freedom to explore the whole place, and I had it all to myself. After about 20 minutes or so I was ready for breakfast, with Min Min waiting just across the road from me.Breakfast was a traditional Myanmar dish consisting of thick cold noodles with egg and a chilli, garlic peanut sauce. It was delicious and came with a banana plant soup. I ate it so fast the lady serving in the little covered shack was asking if I needed more! Even the little side dish of bean sprouts with a slice of lime tasted really good.Once breakfast was finished it was back on the bike to continue onwards. We now headed to Innwa, one of the ancient Cities of Myanmar. The bike journey was so cool, passing by old temples, banana tree groves and rice paddies. We passed the old ancient walls of the City and really went off road.The main place to see is a huge stone temple that you can explore, with a white and gold pagoda adjacent to it. I really enjoyed this place, it was a beautiful building and again I wandered around without seeing anyone else.After I had been on my little adventure around the area, we continued to an old tower that had also been damaged by earthquakes, we didn’t linger here as you’re not able to climb it so no exploring!The next stop was a small partly damaged pagoda with some cool Buddhas and great views of people working in the rice fields. This place was so peaceful, with villagers going about their morning duties and the scent of incense filling the air.Our last stop in the Southern area of Mandalay was an old wooden monastery. I believe it’s used to teach children, but I couldn’t see anyone around, just a few squirrels and some dogs guarding the steps up, so I didn’t dare to climb them.Next on the agenda was Sagaing hill, to get there we drove back up towards Mandalay before crossing the river over the …. bridge. Min Min stopped for me to take some pictures of the Irrawaddy river up close, then we started to ascend the hill.Again I had to get off at the steepest part but it was definitely worth it as we reached the top and I took a short uphill walk to reach Soon U Ponya Shin pagoda, I hadn’t done any research on this so it was a great bonus. The bright blue curve of the temple along with all the Buddha inside was amazing. Plus the view of you walked a little further up over the whole river delta was spectacular.We drove back down and stopped at one more pagoda, a controversial one that the government had painted gold against the community wishes. This one was good but I was a bit pagoda’d out at that point. We continued our drive and stopped for tea at a little teahouse while we waited to go to the next temple.This next one was really cool, mainly because we got to watch the monks there chant and ring their bells before queueing up for food from one of the nearby villages. There was a lot of ceremony involved and it felt great to be able to watch it. They eat lunch at 11:30 and that’s their last meal for the day.It was a long drive back into Mandalay but interesting to watch day to day life and the locals would always wave and smile when they saw me going past as a westerner.Arriving back in Mandalay Min Min wanted to show me one last point of interest, Shwe In Bin monastery. I’m so glad he did as it was a beautiful wooden building with lots of intricate design. Monks walked peacefully about and I probably spent more time there than in some of the others places due to its beauty.I was soon back at the hostel and ready to relax after being out for over 8 hours it cost me 20000 kyat for the whole day with Min Min, including food and drinks, he was so great and explained a lot about Myanmar life. I chilled out till the early evening coolness and had a wander around the hostel area. I don’t know if I was just in the wrong place but it felt like there wasn’t really much in the way of shops/restaurants or bars in Mandalay.That evening I walked up the night market which wasn’t great, before finding a little restaurant on the street called Shan Ma Ma. It was similar to the night before, you ordered your main dish then got some sides and soup to go along with it. After explaining I only ate vegetables I was soon tucking into we great food again.Suddenly the whole street went dark and I realised it was a power cut. My second of the holiday. Luckily the restaurant had a back up generator so I finished my meal with a beer before walking back some very dark streets and I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

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.

Returning to South East Asia.

After 6 months of travelling to a new European destination every month I decided I needed to do something bigger, for longer, and so after checking flights via Skyscanner app I was booked on a flight heading to Bangkok and returning 2 months later.

I was super excited and immediately started planning my trip, adding Myanmar, Hong Kong and the Philippines to the top of the list of must see countries.

Another 8 months flew by and before I knew it I was on the plane from Manchester to Bangkok via Dubai. The highlight of my flight was watching the sunrise over Iraq, it was absolutely beautiful.

My plan was to meet up with my friend from Wales, Liam who had been living in Chachoengsao town for the past few years. Located just 45 minutes from Bangkok airport, I landed and once through immigration was soon on my way via taxi. This cost around £20 and took approx 50 minutes.

I arrived at Chachoengsao train station and 30 seconds later Liam turned up On his moped and I got my first glimpse of the town. It wasn’t much different to places like Nong Khai and Kanchanaburi that I had visited previously.

Stopping off at a 7/11 I grabbed some fun sounding snacks and a cheese toastie, the ultimate Thai snack for foreigners. We made it back to Liam’s cute Thai house and after a quick tour we sat on his little patio drinking Leo beer and catching up.

I was pretty tired after only managing a couple of hours sleep on both planes and after a few hours I needed my bed. I was up late in the morning the next day and Liam had a plan for the day. So off we went on his moped, I didn’t like driving one when I was last in Thailand but I quite enjoyed being chauffered around on the back of his.

Liam took me around the town and showed me some of his fave spots, by early afternoon it was getting super hot so we went to one of his favourite bars, an amazing little place on the river with views of a gorgeous temple called Wat Sathon.

We sat here watching the boats go past drinking some beers with ice to keep them cool. After a couple of hours we decided to leave, though our way back was blocked a bit by a market that had somehow popped up while we were drinking.

As Liam navigated his bike back up through the crowds I walked up, marveling at all the goods on show. Once we were free I got a couple of nice pictures of the temple and we headed back to his place to cool down and get ready for dinner.

Unfortunately about 30 minutes after getting back to Liam’s the sky opened up and rain started pouring down. I knew this would happen as I’m visiting at the back end of rainy season. What we weren’t banking on was the power to go out!

Sat in darkness with just the occasional lightning flashes and car headlights giving us a glimpse of the outside world we patiently waited for it to calm down before we could set off to the restaurant. As I sat there something landed on my leg, and being the epitome of calm I jumped up shouting before realising it was just a frog. (Liam had told me he’d found a snake in his living room not long ago so that was definitely in my mind)

The rain eased off a little and we were too hungry to not risk going out, praying the power would be on in the town centre. Luckily for us it was and we were soon sat on the river once again in an amazing wooden Thai house.

This was the first test of my vegetarianism, and it wasn’t great. The only dishes on the menu I could eat were fries, an egg salad and some vegetable side dishes and rice.

Luckily for me the egg salad and fried morning glory were super tasty and the rice helped me fill up, my whole meal cost about £7 including 2 beers, I knew that Thailand would be one of the more expensive countries I would be visiting too.

Heading back we were hopeful of the power being back on but as we turned down the road the street lamps were off and the 7/11 closed. Getting back to Liam’s we know we were up early the next day to catch a train to Bangkok so abandoned the evening and went to bed.