First impressions of Cyprus

The plane landed smoothly on the tarmac at Larnaca airport, but the plane of Russians started clapping vigorously and smiling at their loved ones like they had survived a near miss. Larnaca airport seemed fresh, clean and relaxed after the chaos of Moscow Domodevodo. I picked up my luggage, bought a sim card and a Lipton iced tea and strode out into the sun.

I got the bus to Larnaca centre, not a long journey, but I found myself looking at the passing scenes with a manic grin on my face. I was in a new country, a country I knew little about and it excited me greatly.

The bus dropped me off right next to the beach. The strip was full of modern restaurants and coffee shops like Starbucks, Pizza hut and the Hard rock cafe. Not exactly what I was expecting. Nevertheless it was nice to stroll down the street and watch the people relaxing in the bars and restaurants. I couldn’t find my apartment so I asked in a local shop. The woman was incredibly kind and sincere and gave me much-needed directions in English.

I eventually found my apartment, it was a stones throw from the beach. The owner was once again genuine and kind, offering me as much advice as he could. I chose the apartments because it was called apartment Stephanie, and it didn’t disappoint.

I left my bag in my room, had a quick shower and headed out to explore. I had been advised to walk further down the beach to see the more traditional area. After six months of winter in Moscow, it was nice to feel the sun on my bare skin. It wasn’t hot but pleasant and I enjoyed strolling down the beach, watching the laughing Cypriots and the many tourists.

Happy to feel the sun after an eternal winter

I decided to stop off for some food and ordered a feta cheese crepe. Once again the service was friendly and genuine, there’s no fake smiles here. I decided to eat my meal on the windy beach to the sound of the waves crashing. It was so peaceful.

For some reason I decided to walk an hour out of my way to see the flamingos at the salt lake. It was just my luck that the flamingos were stood right in the middle of the lake, I could only see their shadows in front of the setting sun.

On the way back to my apartment I decided to walk through the narrow residential areas. Everywhere seemed a little dilapidated with flaking paint and broken balconies. However sporadic bursts of colour and the noises of living coming from the houses made it seem quite romantic. It was like I was on a movie set.

I explored a small mosque and an extremely old church located just metres away from each other. I love it when religions can live in harmony. I was yet to learn about the Turkish occupation of the North side of Cyprus and the problems that face the people because of this division.

Grand Mosque, Larnaca
St Lazarus church, Larnaca

In the evening I strolled along the beach-side bars and restaurants. Cypriot teenage boys walked proudly with their arms draped over their girlfriend and chatted in an animated and confident fashion with other groups of teenagers. I saw many nationalities of tourists too, all going about their business in a relaxed manner. It’s at times like this when I feel lonely. I guess it’s the downside of solo travel. I spotted a packed local kabab shop and enjoyed a chicken gyros and a beer in solitude.

Cyprus seemed like a relaxed and happy country. I immediately warmed to Cypriots with their honest hearts and sincere words. I had originally planned to spend 6 days in Paphos, diving and relaxing. But I realised that I wanted to see more of this beautiful island. The next day I rented a car and set off travelling around the island. It was the first time that I’d driven in over two years and i felt nervous yet exhilarated.

I felt at home.

All inclusive in Egypt- My experience

I sat on my bunk bed in the small, cramped and fairly dirty dorm room. I entered the WiFi code and checked my Facebook messages. One was from my Mum, ‘Having a great time in Egypt, you’ll have to come with us next year when you’re back, our treat!’. At the time that sounded absolutely great. I was backpacking in Malaysia at the time and was having a hard time falling in love with Kuala Lumpur. An all-inclusive holiday in Egypt sounded like luxury compared to this dank hostel in China town.

All inclusive holidays have never really appealed to me. Even before my sabbatical I’ve always loved being free when I travel. Freedom to go where I want, see what I want and do what I want. I likened all-inclusive holidays to a kind of holding pen for people scared of the real world. I was excited to find out for myself what this new travel experience had to offer.

Accommodation

As soon as we arrived at the large hotel we had to pass through a metal detector, albeit a metal detector that wasn’t working but nonetheless a metal detector. The air was thick with the sound of Russian voices talking passionately and I could smell rum even though it was before 11am.

We were whisked to our accommodation on a gold buggy, passing through landscaped gardens and beautiful flowers. Outside each block of accommodation was a small ‘private’ pool. At first glances it looked like paradise. I had my own bedroom and the luxury of two beds to choose from each night. The room was spotlessly clean and the beds were the comfiest I’ve slept in in my life. Every evening when I arrived back to my room there would be towels arranged on my bed. The first night was swans and the designs got more and more complicated cumulating in a grand elephant on my last night! It was a harsh reminder of my single status each night!

Probably the best room I've ever stayed in.
Probably the best room I’ve ever stayed in.
First a swan...
First a swan…

 

Then a flower...
Then a flower…
Lastly an Elephant! The cleaner must have been feeling creative!
Lastly an Elephant! The cleaner must have been feeling creative!

Resort

From the first night it was clear that we weren’t the target demographic of the resort. The announcements were in Russian, the music was in Russian, even the food menu at night was geared towards a Russian palate! I came to Egypt expecting to be enveloped in Egyptian culture but surprisingly encountered more Russian culture during my stay.

The resort was beautiful. As well as the pools there were nice gardened areas and quirky statues scattered around the place.  The pavements were lined with palm trees and at night fairy lights lit up the resort. It was lovely to see children delighted with the big stick of cotton candy made at a stall on the way to the restaurant. There were a few shops selling souvenirs too and I had fun haggling and talking to the owners who seemed delighted to have the opportunity to speak English!

One of the private pools
One of the private pools
The resort in the day
The resort in the day
Quirky creatures in the resort's gardens
Quirky creatures in the resort’s gardens
Palm tree lined walkways
Palm tree lined walkways

snow white and tweety

Food and alcohol

Let’s not kid ourselves, unlimited food and alcohol are a big reason why people choose all inclusive holidays. This particular resort had Mexican, Lebanese, Indian and Italian restaurants that you could book in to a certain number of times each week. Other times you could eat from multiple buffet areas.

The food wasn’t bad but it wasn’t amazing. On holiday I usually love to treat myself with delicious food but at this particular resort the food was passible. The Lebanese restaurant was the best, the food was served on a mini BBQ to keep it warm and I enjoyed eating Arabic food. The worst restaurant was the Mexican restaurant where I found pieces of metal in my fajita, God knows how it ended up there! In typical English fashion I complained to my family but did nothing about it.

Now, alcohol. If warm beer floats your boat you should book a holiday here pronto! I happen to like my beer ice-cold so I had to ask for ice cubes when I ordered my beer which was met with puzzled looks. At first I was amazed at the large list of cocktails but was disappointed to see that they were mostly made with the same few ingredients and cheap alcohol. Despite drinking all day I don’t think I got tipsy once which makes me think the alcohol was watered down.

I spent a few nights counting the stars on the rooftop bar and enjoying flavoured shisha. Sometimes I could hear the atmospheric call to prayer and was reminded that I was in Egypt.

Enjoying shisha on the rooftop bar
Enjoying shisha on the rooftop bar

Entertainment

For me, the best thing was watching people getting involved in the entertainment! All of the entertainment was in Russian so it was hard to get involved. Watching the enthusiastic Russians get involved with comedy shows and dance to loud techno music was entertainment in itself!

I did get involved in the aqua aerobics in the pool daily though, which was in Russian. It was fun to just splash around and share a smile with a Russian lady or two.

Most days were spent by the pool, reading and topping up my tan. After four months in cold England it was just what I needed. After a few days I did get quite bored so decided to try something new.

Many Russians booked ‘sexy photo shoots’ and it was fascinating seeing people in bikinis perch precariously on a rock and pouting seductively. No place was out of bounds in the search for the perfect photo-op. I saw people swishing their hair under the waterfall in the pool and clambering over the fountain in the main lobby!

Having a drink outside the resort, cold beer at last!
Having a drink outside the resort, cold beer at last!
Me and my Mum in our matching Egyptian print dresses bought from the gift shop.
Me and my Mum in our matching Egyptian print dresses bought from the gift shop.

Snorkelling and Scuba diving

For some reason I didn’t quite belive people when they said that the Red Sea was the best place to scuba dive. I went on a days snorkelling trip with my family and had an absolutely great time. I loved being on a boat and actually seeing Egypt rather than an artificial oasis. While snorkelling I faced my biggest fear: Conger eels! I actually managed to stay still in the water and watch as they cavorted amongst the coral.

Snorkelling fueled my passion for the sea and I was soon booking Scuba diving trips daily. For most trips I was with the same group of people, advanced scuba divers from England. I learnt an awful lot about the Red Sea and diving from them. One day I was paired with an Egyptian guy from Cairo and it was great to hear his opinion of Egypt.

The actual scuba diving in the red sea was world-class. I had hoped to see a shark but unfortunately it was the wrong time of year. I did see Napoleon fish as big as a ford fiesta, shoals of brightly coloured fish and more sea turtles that I could count.

Sunbathing on the back of the scuba boat
Sunbathing on the back of the scuba boat

The Beach

To get to the beach you didn’t even have to leave the resort. You just walked through a passageway under the road to reach the resorts private beach. I found this quite weird and wondered why they did this. The beach itself was ok. There were too many rocks to actually swim in the sea so I just enjoyed a paddle. because the beach was also part of the resort I found it quite boring. There was no unusual people to watch, no one trying to sell us trinkets. Just my family and scores of Russians!

selfie

Can you spot the Russian doing a manly pose?
Can you spot the Russian doing a manly pose?

Area/Neighbourhood

If you head outside of the resort there are shops, bars and restaurants. The area the resort was situated was quite quiet but it was easy to take a taxi to a local shopping centre. It was nice to have a look around the shops and enjoy a decent meal and cold beer, but to me it just didn’t feel genuine. The majority of people at the centre were tourists. When I travel I want to see how local people live but there was no opportunity on this type of holiday.

Staff

The staff at the resort were charming. They were witty and so friendly and were so curious about England and English culture. They did seem quite overworked though which was quite upsetting. Many work long hours each season to provide for their families. One bar staff was quite creepy with me each time I interacted with him, so much that I would ask my Dad to get a drink for me whenever he was around.

What did surprise me was the lack of women, both inside and outside the resort. During my time in Sharm El Sheikh I saw just one Egyptian woman. Where are all the women?

Would I recommend an all-inclusive holiday?

Personally all-inclusive holidays are just not for me. I prefer to interact more with the local people and during my tie there I felt like I was in a protective bubble. Saying that they are good value for money and a great for a relaxing beach and pool holiday. I would recommend them to families or couples who want to just get away for a week and have no worries whilst they’re there.

Would I recommend Egypt?

I wouldn’t say that I saw the real Egypt during my time in Sharm El Sheikh. It’s a resort town and much of it is built just for tourists. When you stay in an all-inclusive you are removed from the country you are staying in, in a way it’s like a separate world.

I would visit Egypt again for the scuba diving. Next time I visit I would book a full 5 days of scuba diving, with a day at each side reserved for unwinding by the pool. The diving in Egypt is amongst the best in the world, I was reminded of this when I scuba dived near Koh Phi Phi last summer. It just doesn’t compare to the variety and sheer number of fish in the Red Sea.

10011236_10154046245585271_2165738789355040409_n

 

Have you ever been on an all-inclusive holiday? If so what did you think? Would you go on one again?

 

 

 

I’m heading to Egypt!

 

If you follow me on my Facebook page you will know that I will be heading to Egypt next week!

I’ve only recently come back from Krakow, a place where I spent a very reflective 6 days drinking Polish beer and vodka and learning about the very dark history of Krakow from Medieval times through to World War two.

Now it’s time to travel to my fourth continent and experience a very different side to travel. For the past three years I have travelled on a serious budget, even sleeping in $1.50 a night dorms in Cambodia and taking 10cent train rides through rural Sri Lanka.

Now it’s time to experience all inclusive travel!

I will be staying in Sharm El Sheikh which is located on the tip of the Sinai peninsular lining the beautiful Red sea. I’m excited to spend two weeks basking in the warm sun and using the PADI I gained in Thailand by scuba diving in the Red sea. I want to see Nemo or maybe even a (friendly!) shark.

Recreate my ‘endless summer’ of 2013!

I’m also excited to have my towels transformed in to beautiful statues on my bed each day, sad I know.

Although Sharm may not be classed as ‘real Egypt’ because it doesn’t have magnificent cultural icons like Cairo, I’m looking forward to just soaking up the atmosphere in the souks and observing daily life in Egypt!

File:Red sea-reef 3990.jpg

Have you every travelled to Egypt or Sharm El Sheikh? If so what did you think of it? Have you ever travelled on an all inclusive holiday?

Ten Months of Travel: Summary and Review, Part One

north island

My tenth and final month of travel was spent in beautiful New Zealand. After feeling thoroughly underwhelmed by Australia, a country I had initially dreamed of emigrating to I had no idea what to expect of Australia’s quiet neighbor. I had nothing to worry about, I soon fell in love with the natural beauty and laid back lifestyle. The food was amazing and the people were genuinely friendly with a similar sense of humour as the British.

It was just what I needed.

The first week was spent visiting family who I had never actually met before! Initially I was nervous about sopending time with someone who I’ve never met before but after a week I didn’t want to leave. My Dad’s cousin was absolutely lovely and made me feel very welcome. I also got all of the inside gossip about what New Zealand is REALLY like!

 

 

The beautiful Coromandel

I went for a weekend away to the beautiful Coromandel Peninsular with my cousin’s workmates, (Who were all midwives…). Apart from hearing far too many gory stories about childbirth I had an amazing weekend. I visited a winery and vineyard, saw a pod of killer whales just ten metres from the beach and even got a proposal from a Kiwi boy who didn’t want me to leave New Zealand!

Was it a sign? Am I meant to live in New Zealand?

coromandel cheeseandwine

Look at that beautiful food and wine!

I discovered that the world is a very small place when an acquaintance messaged me on Facebook to tell me that her best friend was in New Zealand, alone and wanted someone to travel with! Could the timing have been any more perfect?! Her best friend actually went the same school as me and it was so nice to travel with someone with the same accent, who knew the same people and places that I grew up with.

My initial plan was to rent a car and drive across New Zealand, my friend Ashley had actually booked to travel on the Kiwi Experience bus, a sort of semi organised tour. I decided to join her and had a very easy, fast paced month of travel where I met some amazing people and did many things that I would only do once in my life!

 

All aboard the Kiwi bus! I’m rocking head to toe grey…

The first stop on the Kiwi Experience bus was the Bay of Islands in the North. Most people stayed here for a few days but we decided to stay just one night. I enjoyed getting to know other travellers on the Kiwi experience bus and took a ferry to the cutest little island Russell where I saw a manta ray in the clear blue waters of the marina!

kiwi

Auckland tower

The next stop was Auckland, I stayed there in the suburbs for the week I spent with my family but I never actually had chance to explore the actual city. My friend took a few of us on a whistle stop tour of the city and I ate one of the most delicious burgers of my life.

We travelled up to the Coromandel Peninsular to the amazing hot water beach, it really does have to be seen to be believed, like many of the crazy geo-thermal wonders of New Zealand. We dug our own hot spa on the beach, such a surreal experience.

hotwater

Helping to dig the thermal spa on hot water beach!

In Waitomo I got to see glow worms! It’s hard to believe that the actual ‘glowing’ part of the worm is it’s faeces! As we travelled down the country to Rotorua we visited the amazing Hobbiton. I’m a big Lord Of the Rings and The Hobbit fan so I was in my element posing near the cute Hobbit Houses. I really was in my element!

hobbiton

 

Rotorura is a small town that smells like eggs because of geothermal activity. Right next to the hostel that we were staying at there were bubbling pools of mud and water that were only surrounded by fences the year before. The Te Puia geothermal reserve was where I saw a geyser erupt and ate an egg that was cooked in a geothermal pool.

egg tepuia

Te Puia

Then we travelled to Taupo, a place I was dying to go to and secretly dreading because I would have to jump out of a plane at 12,000 feet. Luckily I didn’t wimp out and skydiving was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Even to this day I still can’t believe that I had the guts to willingly jump out of a plane! In the evening I went on a relaxing cruise on Lake Taupo and wore my skydiving T shirt with pride! I wanted to hike the Tongariro crossing but unfortunately it was closed due to bad weather. I was still buzzing after skydiving so I had a well needed chill day in the hostel.

 

boat

Feeling on top of the world after jumping out of a plane at 12,000 feet!

River Valley was a peculiar stop. It’s not really on the tourist trail and it’s basically a lodge in a secluded location. Most people went white water rafting but I used the time wisely and had a nap. I was finding this fast paced travel really enjoyable but also really hard. I was used to travelling at my own pace and staying in each place for a minimum of 3 days, here I was lucky if we stayed somewhere for 24 hours! It was good not having to book or research anything and to have a ready made group of friends for a month!

My last stop on the North island was the surprising little city of Wellington. It lived up to it’s name of ‘Windy Wellington’ but was a charming and beautiful little city. One day we took the cable car to the  botanic gardens at the top of the hill which had fantastic views of the Sea and the city. I also had a much needed Chinese massage for only $20. It’s a place where I could see myself living in the future.

wellington

Have you ever travelled to New Zealand? If so did you find it very different to Australia? Have you ever travelled on the Kiwi Experience bus?

 

 

I’ve been nominated for the Leibster blog award (For the second time running!)

Ooh, I was nominated for the Leibster blog award for the second year running by Char Williams from LovefromCornwall.com.

So here are the answers to the 11 questions asked by Char!

1) What motivates you to blog?

I enjoy writing and imparting my knowledge to others. When I was planning my big trip I absorbed the itinerary and packing list of every solo female travel blog I could read. I have experienced and learnt so many things on my travels and I want to help both newbie and experienced travellers.

2) Top three favourite blogs?

Adventurous Kate and Never ending footsteps are my favorite blogs. I love their writing style and they are what inspired me to travel to South East Asia and follow in their footsteps.

I also used to love Girl and the world, she inspired me to travel to Sri Lanka even though it’s not a typical backpacker destination. Unfortunately the website is no longer updated.

Beautiful Hikkaduwa in Sri Lanka

 

3) What was the best day of your life?

Wow, what a hard choice! Climbing Adams peak was special, we started climbing at 1am and watched the sun rise from the Buddhist temple at the top. It was a very special travel moment.

4) The best place you’ve ever travelled to?

Koh Tao was my paradise. Good food, beautiful beaches and it’s where I got over my fear and completed my PADI.

5) Who would you hate to be stuck in a lift with?

David Cameron.

6) …And who would you love to be stuck with?

Baz Lurhman (The director of The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge), I would love to see inside his amazing mind.

7) Most embarrassing moment of your life? (I’ve had many!)

Forgetting that I had a knife in my hand luggage when going through security in Australia, oops!

8) Describe your ideal Saturday… no cash/travel limits!

Wow, I guess I would wake up in a luxurious hotel in the Maldives, enjoy breakfast on the beach then go for a scuba dive.

I would travel to Naples for lunch, enjoying real Italian pizza. Then head over to Rome and Venice for some sightseeing.

I would then skydive over the Grand Canyon in America and enjoy a steak with a cowboy in Texas. Mmmmm

I would then pop over to Iceland to see the Northern lights before enjoying a few drinks in an icebar then falling asleep in a big, fluffy bed.

That would be my perfect day if a time/teleportation machine was invented.

9) As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

It sounds really boring but I wanted to be a dentist or a geologist. I collected rocks and was fascinated about how they were formed and where they were found.

Saying that I was also obsessed with Tomb Raider, I wanted to visit the places she does in the games. Now I can say I have 🙂

10) Favorite song ever?

I absolutely love Porcelain by Moby. It reminds me of a time in life where I went against everything that I knew and planned a whole year away. The song is featured in the Film ‘The Beach’ and it was always my dream to go there. In August 2013 I realised my dream and travelled to Maya bay in Thailand.

11) The best advice you’ve ever been given?

‘Decide what you want to pack in your backpack then just pack half.’

I took a massive bag and greatly overpacked for my trip. I was in South East Asia for most of it where just a few vests, pair of shorts and a dress or two would have been perfectly adequate. Don’t be like me and carry a 20kg backpack around the world!

 

My nominations are:

George on the go

Y Q Travelling

Helen in Wonderlust

My Eleven questions are…

1) What is your most essential possession in your backpack?

2 What is your least essential posession in your backpack?

3) Where was the first country abroad that you visited?

4) What spf do you use? (If any?)

5) What is your favorite travel song?

6) In your opinion what country has the best food?

7) What continent is your favorite?

8) What backpack/suitcase do you use for travel?

9) What is your favorite foreign beer?

10) Have you ever kissed a fellow traveller?

11) Describe your ideal Saturday… no cash/travel limits!

 

I look forward to hearing your answers!

 

 

 

You can keep up to date with my adventures by following my Facebook page. I update it daily and it’s an easy way to contact me.

https://www.facebook.com/PearlsandPassports

Eight months of Travel: Summary and review

8months

Month eight was the month where I had to say goodbye to my beloved Asia in Exchange for a new country and a new continent, Australia on the other side of the world!

I started my month in Koh Phi Phi after a last minute decision less than 2 hours before the night boat departed. It was probably one of the best decisions of my travel and let me say goodbye to Thailand in style, in the one and only Maya bay from the film ‘The beach’!

 

 

The sight of Maya bay got me through hours of overtime at work as I was saving for this trip. When I arrived in the bay it made my life feel complete. It was a surreal experience. I had dreamed about this place and this moment and now it was happening. I felt so happy and so proud of how far I have come in my many months of solo travel.

In another last minute decision I decided to travel all day and night to Kuala Lumpur to spend time with a good friend that I met at the retreat in Cambodia. It was well worth it and I had one of the best days of my travels going shopping, gossiping, eating  Nando’s and sipping cocktails overlooking the imposing Petronas towers.

 

It was lovely acting like a normal girl again!

I then travelling on the most luxurious bus ever to Singapore. It had complimentary food, a blanket and a console in the chair where I could watch films! After travelling on the back of pick up trucks in Asia I appreciated this small luxury!

My last days in Singapore were spent chilling at the amazing happy snail hostel. I feel so at home there and I love the comfy beds with quilts. I went shopping in Orchard and ate as much Singaporean food as I could fit inside me.

On the 30th September I arrived in Australia. Initially I was excited but then spent a few days suffering from reverse culture shock.

 

I soon picked myself up and recovered a bit when I moved to a more sociable hostel with a pool. I spent my first week in Brisbane due to a lack of planning. I even had to buy a guide book because I had no idea about anywhere in Australia and unlike Asia, you had to book in advance and not decide two hours before….

I love Australian marsupials and visited the amazing Australia zoo, home of my idol Steve Irwin. Whilst there I held a croc and was amazed at the croc show in the crocoseum. I had to hold back my tears when I read the many tributes to Steve that were dotted around the park. He was a man of passion who loved what he did.

 

I hope to find my passion one day. Something that makes me spring out of bed everyday and where I make a real difference to the world.

I visited the Lone Pine koala sanctuary where I cuddled a koala, fed kangaroos and met many of Australia’s wildlife population. I also walked around Brisbane’s clean city streets.

After a week in a city it was time to move on so I travelled North to Noosa and spent a night at a flashpackers hostel and travelled to the countryside to spend three nights at the Gagaju bushcamp where I discovered my talent in life, canoeing!

 

I spent a few days with a friend in Labrador and it was so nice to live a normal life and sleep in my own room. Small luxuries like privacy and just relaxing on the sofa with a cup of tea are hard to come by when staying in hostels!

Surfers paradise was a little taste of home, it reminded me of Blackpool! I had my first big night out in Surfers paradise and tried to bodyboard in the massive waves,I’m glad that I survived… It made me vow to do a surfing lesson whilst I’m in Australia though.

 

I decided to give the small resort town of Coolangatta a shot after Surfers Paradise and I’m so glad that I did! I loved the relaxed town centre and the beautiful beach. I saw a whale breach in the ocean whilst I was having a coffee in a cafe, it was such a unique experience. I would love to see these beautiful creatures up close one day!

 

After Coolangatta it was time to head to the busy Byron bay….

Modes of transport= Night bus from Sihanoukville to Bangkok then a variety of buses and ferrys as I island hopped.

Number of cuddly toys bought= 1, a crocodile to remind me of my time in Australia Zoo.

Number of times someone has said ‘G’day!’ to me= 262

Bucket list item ticked off= 1, holding a koala!

Lessons I have Learned= You need change to grow as a person. Accept it.

Number of cool bags bought= 1, food is so expensive here in Australia so I’m having to cook for myself for the first time in 7 months!

Number of times I have gawped, open mouthed at the crazy creatures in Oz= 3736

So there it is, my summary after 8 months of travel! Travel is amazing but not always easy as I realised when I suffered from reverse culture shock when I arrived in Australia. I no longer suffer from culture shock but I’m travelling quite fast in Australia which means that it’s harder to meet people to travel with. It’s worth it though because I get to see as much as I can of this vast country.

Have you ever visited Australia or South East Asia?

Have you ever cuddled a koala or fed a kangaroo?

 

 

 

 

 

Seven months of Travel: Summary and Review

kohrong

My Seventh month of travel was a very different month for me, I travelled very fast compared to normal but it was one of my best months yet!

My month kicked of in the gritty seaside resort Sihanoukville. Despite looking worn out Sihanoukville has a hidden charm. It’s extremely cheap and you could easily live off $5 a day if you budgeted very hard!

I stayed at Utopia, little did I know that It’s known as the scuzziest place in Sihanoukville. You can get dorms for as little as $1 a night if you don’t mind sleeping on a mat on the floor in a line with other people. I opted for the ‘deluxe’ dorm that had air com and a private bathroom. I think it’s called the deluxe dorm because it’s the only one without bedbugs though….

The nightlife in Sihanoukville is amazing! You can get free drinks from most bars, cheap beer and ‘buckets’ for as little as $1! (They are cut open Sprite bottles instead of actual buckets though). They also sell laughing gas, something that I had never seen before. I loved my nights in ‘Snooky’ but there wasn’t much to do in the day.

One day I took a ferry to Koh Rong where a French child projectile vomited all over himself. This was quite a scary sight, not dissimilar to the exorcist. Luckily as soon as I stepped off the ferry all my worries went away.

Koh Rong was my idea of paradise!

A handful of bars, guesthouses and restaurants are dotted along the pristine beach. The sand is white and so fine it looks like talc. I spent three very content days and nights in Koh Rong.

My Cambodian visa was running out so I took the overnight bus to Bangkok. As always the bus ride was very eventful and I was spooned by an Asian man and nearly fainted at the border because I was suffering from severe food poisoning. No one helped me even though I made it clear that I was struggling. Traveling solo makes you realise that no one really cares about you and you have to be strong and look after yourself.

Bangkok was heaven after months in poorer Asian countries. I spent my days buying a whole new travel wardrobe and drooling at all of the beautiful makeup and toiletries that I could buy! I was also in heaven thanks to my beloved 7-Eleven! I went on a day trip to the floating markets, the bridge over the river Kwai and I also visited tiger temple where I got to stroke actual tigers!

It was then time to experience the Thai islands, something that I had been looking forward to for all of my trip! My first island was Koh Samui, despite being quite touristy and full of couples and families I had a fantastic time thanks to meeting a great group of friends! The nightlife in Koh Samui is legendary!

Drinking buckets on a night out in Koh Samui

I travelled to Koh Tao with a group of friends that I met in Koh Samui. I fell in love with the island instantly, it’s so chilled out. The town area is small and pedestrianised. I spent the first few days eating delicious food (They sold Spanish omelette! yay) and relaxing on the pristine beach.

On September the 9th it was my birthday! I normally hate my birthday, It’s a day of reflection for me and I hate getting older. Luckily I have so much to be thankful for at this time in my life. I spent the day sunbathing in my new bikini, I had a massage and enjoyed Mexican food and cocktails in the evening!

Life is good!

It was then time to face my fears and complete my PADI qualification! I’m normally such a wimp when it comes to the sea but I challenged myself, faced my fears and gained my PADI open water certificate! I will write more about scuba diving in a future blog post.

It was then time to head to Koh Phangan and tick the full moon party off my bucket list! I spent my time there in a 40 bed dorm and once again met some lovely friends. It was amazing to see the population of the town swell as the full moon party neared. The pre parties really put me in the mood for the main night, the full moon party!

The actual full moon party could not be more different to how I celebrated the last full moon. At the last full moon I was at the retreat and spent the evening chanting around a fire and throwing rice in to it. This month I was partying in neon on the beach with over 20,000 other people! There were skipping ropes of fire, ‘death slides’ and loads of crazy sights to behold. The pre parties were such good fun too. The mood was amazing and watching the sunrise was one of the most beautiful moments in my life.

 

 

I rounded up my seventh month of travel by taking a night boat, bus and ferry to the beautiful island of Koh Phi Phi where I got to tick another item off my bucket list!, I will tell you more about my time there in my next monthly round up!

In conclusion month seven was one of my easiest months of travel. I made amazing friends which really does enhance the travel experience. I spent the month doing what I like to do best, partying and lazing on the beach. I also spent most of the month in my favorite Asian country, Thailand. It’s so easy to travel here and the food is amazing!

Next month I will be leaving my beloved Asia and heading to a whole new continent, AUSTRALIA! I’m kind of scared and apprehensive about leaving Asia, it’s been my home for seven months after all!

Total countries visited=2, Cambodia and Thailand

New travel wardrobes bought= 1, I replaced nearly every item of clothing during a crazy shopping spree in Bangkok! I had actually forgotten how to shop believe it or not…

Number of times I was spooned by an Asian man on a night bus= 1, on the night bus from Sihanoukville to Bangkok.

Modes of transport= Night bus from Sihanoukville to Bangkok then a variety of buses and ferrys as I island hopped.

Night ferry’s taken= 1, from Koh Phagnan to Surathani. We had to sleep on tiny thin mattresses lined up on each side of the boat (It actually reminded me of the dorms in Utopia…). The guy next to me actually put his leg over me as I was sleeping…

Number of buckets imbibed= 13, I had a very fun time on the islands, the hostel owner even gave us one free because it was his birthday!

Bucket list item ticked off= 2, to attend the full moon party and visit the beautiful Maya bay in Koh Phi Phi.

Lessons I have Learned= Have fun and enjoy the friends you make on your travels whilst you can. You never know when you will meet a group of like minded people again.

Number of 7-Eleven toasties consumed= 36

Number of 7-Eleven iced lattes imbibed= 10, I had to give them up because they started giving me heart palpitations, so tasty though!

 

 

 

Contracting Dengue fever when travelling: What’s it like?

beach

I was unfortunate enough to contract an infectious tropical disease during my travels, dengue fever.

Dengue fever is a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes  If you keep up to date with me on Facebook or Twitter you will know that I’m in Thailand now. I contracted dengue fever on the beautiful island of Koh Chang, not far from the Cambodian border.

I was staying in a charming little bungalow right next to trees and the beach. The bungalows were so ‘rustic’ that there were little holes in the huts (because they were made from wood), the door didn’t shut properly and the bathroom was a squat toilet and shower…..outside! No sinks, no mirrors and no modern amenities. That’s what I liked about my stay in Ice beach bungalows. It felt like I was back to nature and I could hear the animals in the jungle at night. Just like camping!

 

 

Little did I know that getting back to nature would cause me to get the dreaded Dengue fever!

The bungalows were heaven for mosquitoes  There was stagnant pools of water around the bungalows and in the bathrooms. I would very often get a shower after the beach, here I would get bitten by mosquitoes every time! Once I even shared my shower with a massive spider!

It was kind of worth it to shower in the sun or under the stars….

All of this stagnant water was the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes  Mosquitoes seem to love me anyway so I got bitten more than any of my friends.

I never dream’t that I would catch a tropical disease by getting back to nature for a few nights!

One day I woke up and my whole body ached. It felt like I had been in a fight or something.  I put this pain down to lying in a funny position and I tried to go about my day as normal. I even had a massage on the beach which made me feel even worse. I went back to my bungalow early and had a nap.

Needless to say when I woke up I was raring to go! I got dressed and went to the bar with my friends, dancing in to the early hours.

This cycle of feeling ill, aching and then feeling a little better continued for days. I had diarrhoea so I just thought that it was the effects of that.

On my friends second to last night I felt REALLY ILL. I felt dizzy, I had a temperature and I was aching everywhere. Still I went and partied for a few hours because it was my friends last big night out. I just took a few paracetamols and tried my best to have fun.

The next day I was really ill. I am normally quite a motivated person but it took me hours to even get dressed. I would attempt to put an item of clothing on and just lie down for a bit.

This was not like me!

I managed to meet my friends for breakfast and then I slept all day until dinner. At dinner I could barely eat my pizza, I had no appetite. This is extremely unusual for me. I felt dizzy and confused, like I was not fully participating in what was going on. I went to bed after dinner and vowed to go the hospital the next day. I could not live like this. 

Part of me was terrified that I had malaria and I just wanted to be at home.

The next day I woke up with a horrible red rash covering my whole body. This scared me immensely so I made my way to the international hospital.

Once there they took my blood pressure, temperature and a blood sample to see what the problem was. I tested positive for dengue fever and my platelets were dangerously low. I was also diagnosed with food poisoning because I had had diarrhoea for over 5 days now.

Dengue AND food poisoning? Just my luck!

It cost me £178 to be told this too, as If I wasn’t feeling faint enough!

At least I didn’t have malaria though, that was my greatest fear!

For the next 5 days I moved to a more luxurious bungalow with en-suite, a nice big comfy bed and no mosquitoes . I was ordered to take paracetamol every 4 hours and drink as much water as I could. I just slept for the first 2 days, even going for a fruit shake seemed like a big effort and I would take hours to prepare. Every bone in my body was aching, even lying on my bed was painful.

 

 

I felt so alone and just wanted someone to  Every bone in my body was aching, even lying on my bed was painful.help by getting me some food or something. It’s at times like this that solo travel sucks.

I went back to the hospital for a blood test and was told that my condition has worsened and that I would have to be admitted to hospital if they went any lower.

Great.

I continued to nurse myself back to health. I felt so nauseous and had no appetite so it was hard to eat. I was prescribed anti sickness tablets to take before meals. They didn’t work. I forced myself to eat ‘English’ style food like scrambled egg and beans on toast and fruit shakes.

 

Eventually I started to feel a little better. I would spend the days outside reading instead of just sleeping. I was so pleased when the Doctor said that my bloods were back to normal again! Yay! He said that I would feel weak for a while but that I was now free of Dengue.

I stayed put in my bungalow for 2 days and tried to get back to normal. I started eating Thai food again and I went to the beach on my last day.

Overall having dengue fever was horrible and I was fully prepared to go home if my condition hadn’t got better. I felt so weak that I couldn’t cope on my own and I would have loved to have someone to help me with things. I did it all on my own though.

If I can look after myself during dengue fever I can look after myself during anything now! It was so hard but I did it!

Now i just need to try and avoid contracting malaria…..

Have you ever had dengue fever? If so was your experience similar to mine? Do you think you could have nursed yourself back to help alone like I did?

Becoming a beach bum in Hikkaduwa

swim

When I initially booked the flight to Sri Lanka I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that it was a small island South of India and that it was near to the beautiful Maldives. Two things came to mind, curry and beaches, two of my favorite things!

As soon as I woke up on that first day in Sri Lanka I was nervous to actually go and explore. I was in Sri Lanka for goodness sake and I didn’t know what to expect.

Luckily for me I started my travels of the island in Hikkaduwa, a tourist area with an absolutely gorgeous beach that seems to go on for miles. Most of the shops, bars, restaurants and guest houses are arranged on a straight road, Galle road that actually spans the South West coast of Sri Lanka.

I spent my days in Hikkaduwa talking to locals (Especially the cute children in their pristine school uniforms), taking in the sights of Galle road, Relaxing at beach side bars and sunbathing on the beach.

Hikkaduwa was the perfect introduction to travel and Sri Lanka. It was the perfect balance of Convenience and exotic. It had all of the tourist facilities yet  it still felt like I was in a very different country.

Local women wore the most beautiful saris. I loved saris so much that I actually got a quote for a sari! I chose a beautiful fuchsia pink fabric and everything. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that I would look like a weirdo whenever I wore it. A beautiful weirdo though.

The local women also carried umbrellas around with them in the daytime, even when it wasn’t raining! This was to protect their skin from the sun and to maintain a pale complexion.

Whenever I wandered on my own locals treated me like an endangered species, staring at me wherever I went. Inquiring about where I was going, where I was from ect. At first I found this a little strange considering that there’s quite a lot of tourists in Hikkaduwa but it soon became one of those things that I just accepted. It was quite nice being called ‘beautiful’ at least three times every time I went to the shop!

The sun in Hikkaduwa was very strong and I got sunburn’t a few times despite wearing sun lotion. I love the beach but the beach doesn’t love me!

Every photo that I took of the beach looked like a post card. Azure Indian ocean, golden sand framed with lush greenery and tall palm trees. I can see why people think that Sri Lanka is the original ‘garden of Eden’.

 

 

Hikkaduwa has a coral reef but unfortunately a lot of the coral is dead due to fishing boats and the Tsunami in 2004. It still has an amazing variety of fish in the ocean though, snorkeling in Hikkaduwa is a must.

I went snorkeling with a local boy from a dive school, he showed me the best place to see the fish and I saw many types of tropical fish, sea urchins, anemones  sea cucumbers and even a turtle!

Yes that’s right, I swam with a turtle in Sri Lanka!

When I wasn’t admiring the local sea life I would swim in the ocean and allow the waves to push me around a bit. I love feeling the rush of the Ocean!

The Ocean has quite a strong current producing some good waves, this attracts a lot of surfers to Hikkaduwa. All of the surfers seemed to be varying shades of mahogany with bleach blonde hair. In the evening they were found at the beach bars smoking weed and ordering two evening meals each!

Every night around 5/6pm a turtle that’s 200 years old would come to the beach! A man tempts the turtle to come to the shore with pieces of grass so that people can see the turtle and take photos. I was amazed at the size of the turtle, it also had green on its back. This was the first wild turtle that I had ever seen in my life, it was a very special moment.

 

 

My favorite bars in Hikkaduwa were funky de bar, vibration and top secret. I loved sitting and watching the magnificent sunset each evening with a beer in hand. Does life get better than that?

 

 

I spent eleven nights in Hikkaduwa, a lot more than I was originally going to spend. Staying in one place and getting to know it well was the perfect thing to do in my second destination of my trip. It gave me a cahnce to get used to the very different culture of Sri Lanka, time to get to know locals and work out the ‘right’ prices of things so that I didn’t get ripped off.

I think that I was spoiled by this beautiful beach. Can anything in the rest of SE Asia compare?

Hikkaduwa was my paradise.

 

What do you think of Hikkaduwa? Have you come across any better beaches on your travels?