New Travel plans: I’m heading to Krakow in Poland!

On Wednesday I celebrated my two month anniversary. It’s been two months since I got back from my amazing 10 month trip to the other side of the world and back.

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The beautiful Old Town square in Krakow

Although I’ve enjoyed being back home It’s been hard adjusting to ‘normal’ life again. A life where I can accurately plan what I will be doing for the next few weeks if I want.

Did I mention that I hate repetition and knowing what I will be doing each day?

I decided that two months at home was enough for me and that I was ready for a new adventure. I’ve always been interested in the history and culture of Poland and I’ve always wanted to visit Auschwitz. I visited Dachau in Munich in 2012 and it touched me more than I can ever imagine. I learn’t a lot about world war two and humanity despite having more questions than answers when I walked out of the gates.

So I decided to combine my love of history, culture and beer and visit Krakow!

Krakow will be my first foray into Eastern Europe, a place that seems very mysterious and intriguing to me. In the past I have only visited Western Europe and I can’t wait to see how different it is.

I’ve even started to learn basic Polish, It’s a lot harder than any other language that I’ve attempted to learn but I’m trying my best!

I’m back on the road, if only for 5 nights….

 

Have you ever travelled to Krakow or Poland? Do you have any tips for me?

 

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!

 

 

 

Becoming a beach bum in Hikkaduwa

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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?

 

My ‘Sex and the city’ night: Experiencing Dubai’s nightlife

sex and the city, dubai, barasti

Coincidentally a friend was also staying in Dubai at the same time as me. We were both too busy to meet up before my big trip so we decided to meet up in Dubai instead….

Like you do!

I was a short taxi ride away when I received the text message to visit my friend who was drinking at a nearby yacht club. I hopped in to a taxi and made my way to the sports bar where he was drinking with a colleague.

 

 

Seeing a friend was just the thing that I needed on my first day of travel. It brought familiarity in to my day that so far felt like a dream.

I spent an enjoyable evening at the yacht club, having a few beers. I was then lucky enough to see inside his mates apartment near the marina. From his balcony he had an amazing view of the marina and surrounding architecture. I wanted to take a photo but was to shy!

I then decided that I could cope with living in Dubai at some point!

We then jumped in a taxi and made our way to an expat bar ‘Barista’. Barista was half inside, half outside right next to the beach. You could see the Atlantis on the palm from the bar too! It felt so surreal to see the grand architecture all around me as I was drinking alcohol in a place with sharia law.

All around us people were drinking beer and smoking shisha.

Was I really in Dubai?!

It felt really Western and unlike anywhere else that I had been to in Dubai. Because Dubai is an Islamic city most places do not sell alcohol apart from the expat bars. So we sat down , enjoyed some tapas, had a few beers and smoked some shisha. 

 

basasti, Dubaishisha Dubai marina

What surprised me about the expat bar was what the women wore. The women wore tiny hot-pants, mini skirts and tight dresses. It felt like normal Dubai rules do not apply in these bars. Dubai also has a lot of prostitutes in the various bars. This surprised me greatly!

Overall Dubai seems to have a lively nightlife. I was there on a Sunday night so I can only imagine what it’s like of a weekend! There is also an ‘Irish village’ in Dubai believe it or not!

Does every city have an Irish bar?

My sex and the city was a well needed reality check on my first day of long term travel. It just proves how small the world is.

I wonder who else I will meet on my travels…..

 

 

Saying Goodbye

father and daughter

As I write this in exactly 48 hours time I will be high in the sky on a plane travelling to Dubai; the first stop on my big trip. I am so glad that I booked two weeks off work to prepare. Everyday has been filled with sorting my (many) possessions and completing little errands for my trip. There is so much to organise! More than I could ever have imagined.

I have had my two big goodbye meals this week. With my school friends from Widnes and with my family. Both have been quite emotional affairs. Rather than being my chatty self at these gatherings I have been quite withdrawn and contemplative. I’m happy to be realising my dreams but the enormity of what I am about to do is starting to sink in. Watching my parents cry tonight was especially hard, as was hearing that they don’t want me to go.

I will be travelling to countries I have never been to, alone! I have never even been out of Europe before! I am well aware that many women have done a similar solo trip but mine is slightly different because i’m going to Sri Lanka as my first proper stop. A country without a set ‘backpackers trail’ like countries like Thailand. Saying that, that is one of the reasons why I was drawn to Sri Lanka; because it’s different and real.

Believe it or not i’ m still trying to perfect my packing list. I have a pile of clothes that I want to take but I know that I will have to reduce that pile considerably. I will be carrying all of my possessions on my back so it’s imperative that I don’t take too much. In a way it’s unfortunate that i’m a girly girl. It would be so much easier to pack lightly if I preferred shades of khaki and trousers rather than flowing dresses and floral prints!

I want to buy unique clothes when I’m away too so I want to keep some space for that or send clothes home as I get new ones.

Sooooo much to think about.

 

In the end I know that it doesn’t really matter what I pack. I can get most things out there; people want and need the same things wherever they are in the world! Even if something isn’t available people manage to get by! Most other backpackers will be in casual clothes anyway. I’m well aware that I’m already a fashion anomaly with my penchant for dresses!

Tomorrow I will be assembling my final packing list. I think what I am about to do will really sink in then. I’m sure that I will be filled with excitement as soon as I step on the plane. Until then I’m thinking about what I’m going to miss. Which is normal.

Everything will be the same here when I come back in a year. Just like I never went….

300 year old Feria in Linares, Litres of Beer and Botellion

feria, fiesta, Spain, Andalucia

I had the privilege of attending a Feria (Fiesta) in Linares, Andalucia. The Feria has been held every year for over 300 years. Even more of a privilege was to share this experience with my Spanish friends who actually lived in Linares where the feria was held!

There’s nothing better than travelling with locals!

I have never attended a Spanish feria but I knew that they have a reputation for being crazy!

The Spanish know how to party!

As we approached where the Feria was taking place I was astounded by the sheer size of the Feria! Scores of tents were at the very back of the Feria, each holding their own ‘party’ with different drinks being sold and different DJs playing a variety of different music. There was also a very busy fairground and massive crouds of people.

Mnay women were dressed in traditional Andalucian dress (commonly known as flemenco dresses!). They looked absolutely beautiful.

We made our way in to one of the ‘beer tents’ and our lovely Spanish companions treated us all to a strawberry mojito. The music was very loud and the tent was full of people. Such a party vibe. I think that myself and my American and Australian friends were the only non Spanish people in there. For that reason I felt a little uncomfortable because I look so different to Spanish girls, I am not small and petite and my red hair stood out. I felt like a giant compared to everyone else.

tent, feria, Spain

After a quick trip back to the hotel we met up later in our Spanish friends favourite tapas bar which sold massive 1 Litre jugs of beer/Sangria and 5 tapas for 6 Euros!

Yes you read that right! 6 Euros for all of that food and drink!

 

beer, sangria, Spain

Enjoying my LITRE of beer!

After lining our stomachs it was time to hit the feria for the second time! We made our way to the entrance of the feria but It was absolutely packed! It took ages to try and weave our way through the crowds so we decided to get a good vantage point from where to view the fireworks at midnight.

They did not dissapoint!

The fireworks started at midnight and Spanish, English and American music was played during the display. We managed to get some beautiful photos and it was a beautiful memory. It was especially poignant when ‘what a wonderful world’ by Louis Armstrong was playing. It highlighted how happy I was and how blessed I was to have experiences like these.

feria1

 

It truly is a wonderful world.

 

After the fireworks we headed to a friends house to get the alcohol for Botellion. Botellion is a Spanish tradition which is basically drinking on the street! People drink on the street in England but it is usually not as refined as the Spanish way. We got Rum, Coke, ice and glasses for the Botellion. I would never have thought that I would be drinking on the street from a glass with ice….

The Botellion was held in a local park which was absolutely full of people, all drinking. Surprisingly there was no trouble and quite a relaxed and chilled out vibe amongst the revellers.

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botellion, Spain, Spanish

 

Again it was a privilege to participate in Botellion, something that I had heard a lot about from Candeleda. Unfortunately we could only stay for one drink because we had to leave early in the morning for Valencia. I would have loved to have stayed all night with the Spaniards though.

Maybe next time…

 

Have you ever attended a Spanish Feria/Fiesta? If so what was it like?

 

 

 

Missing Munich

 munich, germany, artchitecture

 The post travel blues really do suck. I realised yesterday that I’m a lot happier when I’m travelling than when I’m static at home. I crave new social interactions and I love learning about different cultures, histories and languages. Travel enables me to do all four everyday!

Ah well, only 14 more weeks until I set off on my big trip. My next task is to learn basic Arabic to help me get by when in Dubai.

Bigger is better in Germany! A massive beer and a massive pretzel! Mmmmm…
Me in a typical Bavarian hat!

Germany here I come!

Germany, Munich, street

Today I am going to embark on my second solo adventure! It’s different to the last one because I have nothing arranged once I get to Germany. I’m just going to get to the hostel and see where life takes me!

During my time in Germany I hope to practice photography and see some of the amazing museums and architecture. I also hope to visit Salzburg (where the sound of music was set!) and Dachau concentration camp.
I’m not going to lie, I’m also looking forward to trying German food and beer!

Prost!!!

My pint of Stella at the airport, my holiday tradition!