Beautiful Langkawi

Those who know me know just how much I love Asia and the island life, so our trip to KL and Malaysia last month was my dream combination. As you know, we spent the weekend in KL (you can read about it here if not) and then took an short flight across to Langkawi. Oh. My. Goodness. Langkawi (cue heart eye emoji). Langkawi is up there with one of my favourite islands I have ever visited and here is why:

The Island

Langkawi island is divided up into different areas which four main tourist areas: Pantai Cenang, Pantai Tengah, Pantai Kok and Daitay Bay. When researching places to stay in Langkawi and reading different blogs about the island, I got the feeling that the different areas were similar to the Gili Islands:

  • Pantai Cenang: Known for being a popular tourist spot with the busiest beach town on Langkawi Island, housing cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops, and duty-free outlets along its picturesque beach strip. It is also home to high-end resorts, chalets and budget hotels with views of the gorgeous sea. At night, it is transformed into a busy nightlife hub as visitors mingle with locals and enjoy cheap drinks with their feet in the sand at beachfront bars and lounges.

I got the feeling this would be like Gili T / Gili Air.

  • Pantai Tengah: Known for being aimed at moderate to wealthy travellers with good dining and people looking for a more laidback, calmer nightlife scene alongside a good range of restaurants, affordable spa centres.

I got the feeling this would be more like Gili Meno

  • Pantai Kok: Known for its peaceful vibe, surrounded by lush rainforest. Not a great deal of nightlife but calm and good dining options.

I got the feeling this would be more like Ubud

So after reading various blogs and articles (check out this easy read on Langkawi tourist info) we decided on Pantai Cenang due to the reviews on its gorgeous beach and great dining options.

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The Beach

One of the absolute highlights of Panti Cenang is the gorgeous beach. Pure white sand and crystal clear water, it really was paradise. Every morning after breakfast we would go for a walk along the beach front and see an array of sea life from starfish, crabs, hermit crabs (my fave) and sadly a few washed up jellyfish. But the morning walks along the beach were the is perfect way to start the day – and to catch a good tan as well.

We stayed at the Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa which has a private beach attached that was lovely and peaceful. But as you walk further along the beach it becomes full of life and buzzing with a mixture of tourists and locals. There’s a great selection of water sports and vendors offering parasailing and island hopping trips. There is also a selection of bars and restaurants that offer casual beach dining and fire spinning shows in the evening.

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The Food

We were in our element with all of the fresh seafood on offer in Langkawi. A lot of the restaurants have live seafood stations were you can choose lobster, crab and fish caught locally. These are a selection of our favourite restaurants in Langkawi:

  • Orkid Ria Seafood Restaurant – this restaurant is rated as one of the best seafood restaurants on the island and the queue out the door speaks for itself!
  • Islandish Restaurant – another restaurant with live seafood which was just as tasty as Orchid Ria but much better value for money.
  • India Palace – honestly, some of the best Indian food I have eaten in my life! We ordered a selection of samosas, poppadoms, butter chicken served in clay pot and prawn biriyani. The food was amazing.
  • The Cliff – this restaurant had absolutely breath-taking views at sunset with a very romantic vibe. The staff were extremely friendly and the food was delicious (I would absolutely recommend the chicken in cashew nut sauce YUM).

The Activities

Half day island hopping tour

We booked on to the half day island hopping tour with one of the local vendors in the town (I can’t remember the name but there were several stalls popped up that offer the same trips). We tried to barter but the prices were standard at each vendor and we paid RM 65 per person for the tour. We were picked up from our hotel and taken to the far end of the beach where all of the boats were moored up in the sea but we were required to wade through to be able to get on the boat.

The first stop on our trip was Pregnant Maiden Lake. We were told that the island was named as this because it looks like a pregnant lady laying down …. we will just take their word for it to get to the lake we had to climb several hundred steps up and then down to the lake but the views were absolutely beautiful once we made it down. There are a range of activities there including kayaking and peddle boats but we decided to just sit on the edge of the pontoon and relax for the hour.

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The next stop was to see the eagles feeding. I didn’t realize that they tempted the eagles in with crab meat but it was a crazy sight to see them swooping down at such a speed so close to the boat.

The final stop on the tour was the beautiful Pulau Beras Basah island. The beach was perfect and we just walked around and found a spot to sit and relax. And we really did relax until the monkeys came and began trying to steal everyone’s food and bags! We stayed well clear of them but they managed to get their hands on the crisps and noodles of the couple next to us!

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The trip was actually a lot more physically intense than we realized and there was a lovely little lady called Patricia, who we made friends with on the trip, who at 82 struggled with getting on and off the boat but still got off at every stop on the tour to enjoy her day! What an inspiring woman.

Lunch in the padi fields

The Laman Padi rice fields were located just out the back of our hotel so we decided to visit one lunch time. We sat in the fields in one of the little wooden huts which was such a beautiful setting to have lunch. We ordered the sharing platter with beef rendang, rice, soup, prawn crackers and a salad. The beef rendang was lovely and the food was served on a banana leaf which felt really authentic. The food was really reasonably priced costing approximately 50RM for the sharing platter.

You can also do a tour of the fields and visit the rice museum which seemed a very popular activity with the tourists coming into Pantai Cenang.

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Other activities in Langkawi

The island has so much to offer and we didn’t get the chance to experience all of the wonderful trips and activities that we wanted to! We had read about the beautiful Seven Wells Waterfall that is located on the north west side of the island. We also wanted to take the cable car ride up to the peak of the mountains, we had been told that you can view the whole island from up there!

We left Langkawi feeling so relaxed and refreshed that we were ready to tackle our next crazy Asian city : Singapore!

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Exploring KL

As we landed in Malaysia I was so excited to start exploring my 34th country and to finally be back in South East Asia. We were really impressed by KLIA airport – it was huge!

Getting there

The flight to KL from Dubai is around 7 hours plus the 4 hour time difference, so we left Dubai at 9pm and arrived in KL at 8am the next morning.

We read online (this site was super helpful) that it is relatively easy to get a taxi so we headed down to the lower ground where there’s an Airport Taxi kiosk. You have to pay 2RM (approx. 40p) for a ticket and you choose whether you want a budget taxi, Premier Limo, Super Luxury or Family Service taxis. We opted for budget as it was the cheapest option but nevertheless, it was comfortable and had AC (and to be honest we slept most of the drive to central KL anyway). The drive from the airport is around 50 minutes however there was so much traffic – we must have hit the morning rush hour or something – so it ended up taking close to 2 hours! Our hotel had quoted 150RM for a transfer from the airport but we paid our budget taxi 55RM including tolls and a tip.

Accommodation

Kuala Lumpur had a variety of hotels ranging from luxury 5* to budget hostels and motels. We decided to stay at Traders Hotel (part of the Shangri La brand) and we were sold on the view from the hotel room of the Petronas Towers. Right from checking in the staff were extremely helpful and even though we arrived at 11am our room was prepared and ready for us. The concierge were also so helpful with recommendations of things to do and getting around the city.

Traders Hotel run a free shuttle bus every 15 minutes to Suria KLCC mall (but it is only a short walk). It is also situated in front of KLCC park which was lovely to walk through and sit on the grass for some down time. The only downside of the hotel was that the swimming pool was indoors whereas other hotels nearby, such as the Mandarin Oriental, W Hotel and Four Seasons, all had amazing outdoor pools. But we didn’t intend on spending a huge amount of time at the hotel during this trip so we didn’t mind too much.

Sightseeing

We got to our hotel checked in, dropped our bags, got changed and we’re out of the door within 30 minutes ready to explore with my strict itinerary for the day!

  • Thean Hou Temple

We jumped in a taxi and went straight to the Chinese Thean Hou Temple. Our taxi driver explained that it’s quite difficult to flag taxis down in that area and so left the meter running and waited for us to look around. The temple was beautiful with hundreds of red lanterns, ornate statues and flowers all around.

  • Sri Mariamman Temple

A driver then took us to Sri Mariamman temple which is the oldest Hindu Temple located in China Town. We decided to leave the taxi and continue exploring by foot. We had been with our taxi driver for approximately an hour and a half and the meter only totaled 65RM.

  • Petaling Street Market

Petaling Street Market in China Town was a crazy array of shopping and street food and it was bustling with tourists and locals combined. We spent an hour or so just walking around and seeing what all of the stalls had to offer before heading back to the hotel to chill whilst admiring the amazing view of the Petronas Towers again from our room!

  • Batu Caves

We flagged down a budget taxi that drove us around 20 minutes to the Batu Caves which are located slightly out of the city centre. It’s free to enter the Batu Caves and you do not require any tickets or tour guides. You do need to dress respectfully but you can rent scarves / long skirts from the base of the steps.

We climbed the 272 stairs up, relatively quickly I must say, and explored the inside of the caves and the shrines. We saw the infamous monkeys hiding out inside the temple scouring for any goodies they could steal from the people inside! One monkey got hold of a mans bag which, to the monkeys delight, contained a coconut and we watched, amazed, as the monkey started smashing the coconut on a rock to open it!

We then descended down the 272 stairs and found out little taxi driver waiting to take us back to the city!

  • KL Canopy Walk

This was another nice (free) activity to do in the city. The canopy walk runs through a protected garden area in the centre of the city and you walk up several steps (not a great choice post Batu Caves, but we still had fun) and the canopies guide you through the tops of the trees, heading towards the Manara KL tower.

We decided not to enter the Manara Tower as there was a huge queue and entry charge up to the viewing platform. So instead we walked (a long walk) back to our hotel, stopping off in the KLCC gardens first.

  • KLCC Gardens

The gardens are located out the back of the Petronas Towers (between the back of the towers and the back of our hotel, conveniently). We stopped in one of the supermarkets located on the ground floor of the KLCC Suria Mall to get some drinks and snacks and sat out in the park, taking in the view and lovely weather.

We really enjoyed exploring KL but found that a few days was enough to cover off our itinerary. If you would like to read more about dining in KL, check out my other blog here.

Dining in KL

If I had to use one word to describe dining in Kuala Lumpur I would say “overwhelming” purely because there is so much choice! Kuala Lumpur has a huge range of high end restaurants, budget cheap eats and also street markets to choose from during your stay.

We were lucky enough to stay in an area that was surrounded by high end restaurants with Michelin Star ratings however, we feel that we are spoilt for choice with this style of dining in Dubai, so during our stay in KL we decided to eat in the more rustic, authentic restaurants and street markets.

Here is a run down of our favourite eateries during our short stay in KL:

Little Penang Kafe – Suria Mall

We found ourselves in Suria Mall as we were staying close by and a Malaysian friend had recommended that we find a Little Penang Kafe during our time in Malaysia. We wouldn’t normally choose to dine in the mall but the food did not disappoint. The food was authentic local cuisine and we ordered a seafood noodle dish, chicken rice dish and a side of minced prawns in pastry (kind of like an opened spring roll). This restaurant was a great dining option for local cuisine in a not so authentic setting!

Chinoz on the Park

We visited Chinoz twice during our stay in KL. The first was for an afternoon drink in happy hour, it was lovely to sit amongst all of the plants in their little outdoor terrace area. It also had a lovely view of the KLCC Park.

We then returned for breakfast the next morning as it was the only restaurant we found open for breakfast at 9am on the weekend. We both ordered poached eggs on toast with a coffee which was lovely (and much cheaper than breakfast in the hotel).

Hakka Restaurant

This was one of our favourite meals in KL! The restaurant was a 5 minute walk from our hotel and it had a huge outside dining area but it was full to the brim when we arrived! We waited, only a short while, to be seated and ordered a selection of local dishes. We ordered salt and pepper shrimp, pork belly (which was amazing, I wish we ordered a bigger portion!), Hakka fried rice and black pepper crab. The food was really reasonably priced given the size of the portions.

It was a lovely setting and buzzing atmosphere and I would definitely recommend this restaurant to people visiting.

NZ Curry House

We had read great reviews on Trip Advisor about NZ Curry House so we thought we would try it out for lunch – and we were not disappointed. I ordered the Nasi Goreng with chicken which was a huge portion with almost half a chicken and Ryan ordered a local noodle dish with prawns, we both shared a garlic naan bread which came with a small portion of dal curry to dip and also had a sprite each. The bill came to 27RM!!

The restaurant also offers a daily set menu with a drink for 5 RM (equivalent to £1!). It is definitely a cheap and cheerful dining option if you’re dining on a budget. The setting itself was quite basic but the food was lovely and definitely worth a visit.

Meng Kee Grill Fish at Alor Street Food Market

I am so glad we (Ryan) had done our research on Alor Street Food Market before going because it was absolutely crazy and packed full of stalls and restaurants offering a huge variety of local cuisine. We had read great reviews about Meng Kee so decided to give it a try.

We got a table slightly set back from the busy walk way so we could enjoy our meal but still see the hustle and bustle of the street.

We ordered spring rolls, a local noodle dish with beef and a platter of grilled pepper prawns. The portion sizes were generous and the food was delicious. The prawns were quite large and seasoned beautifully.

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We also had two beers and a water and the bill came to a total of 111RM. I would definitely recommend this restaurant if you’re looking for local cuisine in an authentic setting.

Ryan also found restaurant Wong ah Wah had great reviews and is famous chicken wings. Our other option was Cu Cha which serves the traditional Char Kuey Teow dish.

We definitely did not leave KL feeling hungry. It would have been lovely to try out some of the Michelin star dining options but maybe we can save that for another trip! This post has also made me realise that I like taking pictures of Ryan and food!

My bucket list – 30 things before 30

So my birthday is approaching, which makes me happy because we get to go on holiday, and I will be turning 27 which is one step closer to 30. So it got me thinking of all the things I would love to do before I’m 30, given that I have three years to make it happen, and it’s prompted me to write a bucket list!

I have cheated a little bit, by including five things I have already done, but I definitely consider these to be bucket list moments of my life over the past few years, so they deserve to be included on the list. I know some of these items on my list are absolutely once in a lifetime holidays and experiences, and honestly, I don’t expect to be able to tick them all off in the next three years, so this might end up being a rolling bucket list of forty things to do before I’m 40!

But, here is my absolute dream bucket list of thirty things to do before I’m 30:

  1. Hot air balloon ride

Those of you who read my blogs will know this is something I have already ticked off, and it definitely was up there with one of the best things I’ve ever done. I was lucky enough to do a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey, where every day, weather permitting, 150 hot air balloons grace the sky at sunrise. Even if riding in a hot air balloon isn’t your thing, just watching them all float up over the mountains at sunrise was breath taking.

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  1. Swim with turtles

Swimming with turtles out at sea has always been a dream of mine and we were finally able to do this whilst visiting Muscat in December. Sadly, we didn’t have any cameras / go pro with us so we just have the memories to last for this one!

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  1. Skydive

Ryan and I did a skydive with Skydive Dubai when we first moved here in 2015 which I had booked as his birthday present. I don’t really count myself as the daring and adventurous kind, and I’m not sure if I actually would have the courage to do it again, but the skydive over the Palm is one of the most mind blowing moments of my life. The views were insane and we were so lucky that it was such a clear day, we could see for absolutely miles!

  1. Take a cooking class in Asia

A cooking class is such a great way to fully immerse yourself into another culture, and that’s exactly what we did in Nepal. We started by walking to the market to purchase all of the local produce to cook our meals; we got a lift in a tuk tuk back from the market and we got to cook four dishes of local Nepalese food – but eating it was definitely the best part!

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  1. Seeing elephants in the wild

When I first decided to go travelling at 19, I spent eight weeks in Thailand, two of which I spent volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park (just an FYI, this is the most amazing place in the whole world). ENP has created a sanctuary for elephants that have been rescued from tourist riding, the logging industry, the circus and many other terrible places that elephants just shouldn’t be. Having spent two weeks with these gorgeous animals, I wanted to see them for myself in the wild, and also with their tusks.

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As a surprise, Ryan booked a 5 day holiday to Kenya and took me on safari. Ryan had been speaking with our tour guide and told him how much I love elephants and so he was determined to find some for us. As we were driving through Tsavo National Park our guide started shouting “fresh poo, FRESH POO” and as we drove round the corner we saw a watering hole with an entire herd of ele’s including babies, and the big daddy’s with their huge tusks. I burst into tears, it was one of the most magical moments of my life.

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Now for some items on my bucket list I haven’t yet ticked off…

  1. Go camping in the desert
  2. Swim with sting rays
  3. Swim with sharks
  4. Visit Japan to see the cherry blossom
  5. Go wine tasting in Cape Town
  6. Walk along the Great Wall of China
  7. Ride in a vintage car in the South of France (I would say drive but I’m not a very good driver!)
  8. Visit the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia
  9. Camel / donkey ride in Petra, Jordan
  10. Swim in the dead sea
  11. Cruise down the River Nile
  12. Surf in Sri Lanka
  13. Stay in an igloo (Norway, Switzerland, Austria and Finland)
  14. See the Northern Lights
  15. Helicopter ride
  16. Get married (just over 6 months to go!)
  17. Go to an England football match
  18. Buy a house (sadly with all of this travelling, being a proper adult and buying a house is being pushed further and further down my list…)
  19. Visit the place my Mum was born in Singapore
  20. Horse riding in the desert / on the beach
  21. Visit the Pyramids
  22. Go on safari and stay in a safari lodge
  23. Visit Alcatraz, San Francisco
  24. Wine tasting tour in Napa Valley
  25. Have a BBQ in the desert

We have a few trips planned / pencilled in for this year, but obviously our priority is the wedding in August (and so ticking off number 21 from the list). But, in March I am hoping to tick off number 24 when we visit Singapore and head to either Changi Museum or Changi Beach to see the place where my Mum was born 50 years ago.

So, if anyone has any tips / advice for any of the above items on my list, please let me know as I would welcome all recommendations!

A look back on 2018

2018 was an amazing year for me, travel wise, in my work life and also in my personal life. I visited 6 new countries, returned to 4 countries and visited home three times to see family. I wanted to write this blog to reflect on some of the amazing memories I made last year. 

2018 NYE in Germany

We saw the new year in from Frankfurt in Germany. Although it’s a country I’ve previously visited it was the first time Ryan and I visited together. Frankfurt was also a new city for me. When we booked the trip a lot of people asked “why Frankfurt?” Honestly, the reason was because we got such a good offer on flights from London to Dubai with a 3 day layover in Frankfurt so we thought, why not?! One of the highlights of this trip was stumbling across a wine and food market where people were out dancing and singing in the streets, drinking wine and it was only 10am! Inside the marquee was a huge food market and we went from stall to stall trying cuts of hams, cheese, breads and olives, we were absolutely in our element!img_0512

To celebrate New Years, we went for dinner at a teppanyaki restaurant called Kabuki. There was a chef for every table of 8 and the food was absolutely delicious. We finished our meal at around 11.45 and headed out to the bridge to watch the fireworks. It really was the perfect way to see in the new year. 

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Tbilisi, Georgia

This was the first new country of the year for me, and honestly, not a country I had ever really considered travelling to. Ryan loves to ski and since we moved to Dubai in 2015 we hadn’t been skiing together. Georgia was the perfect option for a ski holiday from Dubai. The flight was less than 4 hours, ski passes and equipment hire is super cheap (especially compared to Europe) and we had the slopes almost to ourselves – which was great for me only just being off the training slopes in Ski Dubai!

We spent three days skiing followed by one day in Tbilisi to explore (and drink lots of wine). It’s given us the bug to look at skiing elsewhere in 2019 (please Ryan!) and we are exploring options close to Dubai such as Romania, Azerbaijan or Lebanon. 

It was after this trip that I first decided to start documenting our travels, and you can read about skiing and Tbilisi here.

The Philippines

Our second new country of the year and I have to say my favourite holiday of 2018 (obviously Italy will always hold a special place in my heart and I will get to that soon) but, I have such a connection with Asia, I think it’s because when I first travelled solo at the age of 19 I spent two months in Asia exploring Thailand. The Philippines really was everything I imagined it to be and more, it is the most breathtaking country I have visited with so much natural beauty, the people are some of the friendliest I have met and we just loved the chilled out island vibes. 

We spent time on Coron island, which is an island just of Palawan, and also in El Nido. I would love to return to explore more of what the Philippines has to offer.

Nepal

The third new country that we visited for a long weekend in June at the end of Ramadan was Nepal. As I’ve said previously, we really try to make the most out of the long weekends and public holidays we get in the UAE and a long weekend in Nepal was the perfect escape from hectic Dubai life. The flight to Nepal is less than 4 hours from Dubai and you can pick them up relatively cheap (we don’t mind budget airlines). When we landed in Nepal, my ele pants were straight on, my backpack on my back and we were off to explore for the day. Kathmandu was a world away from the built up shiny city that is Dubai but the vibrant, crazy, chaotic streets of Kathmandu captured me. 

Although we only spent two nights in Nepal, we worked the flight times so that we had three full days, packed full of activities and we felt like we had been away for a lot longer. 

England

I decided to take a short trip back to England in April as I was feeling a bit homesick, Ryan stayed in Dubai whilst I travelled back alone and spent the full four days in Lowestoft with my family, which was exactly what I needed. Our second trip home was in July, the reason we were flying home was a surprise 80th birthday party for my Grandad and we decided to make a little holiday of it. 

Every time we travel home we split the time between Kent and Lowestoft. This trip was lovely because we spent so much time with our families, the weather was amazing and the World Cup was on! We spent a day in London at Hyde park – you really can’t beat London in the summer!

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Mini Euro Trip

We were lucky enough to be invited to a wedding in Scotland in August and decided to make the most of being in that part of the world. So we spent four days in Prague, three in Scotland followed by five in Italy

Our euro trip ended in a way that I didn’t see coming, with Ryan proposing on our first night in Positano. I know I said the Philippines was my favourite holiday of the year, but Italy really was a dream. 

France

We returned to Dubai after our engagement and started looking at wedding venues for 2019. We fell in love with the idea of a wedding in France and found some stunning venues which meant we had to take a last minute trip to France to view them! Ryan and I got engaged on 28th August and confirmed our venue on 29 September – there was no hanging about!

Our trip to France was unexpected but extremely important and we now have plans to return to our wedding venue in April to trial the food etc. and then of course we will be returning in August for our actual wedding day!!

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Turkey

Turkey was my fifth new country of the year but Ryan wasn’t invited on this holiday, it was a girls only trip! Cappadocia truly took my breath away and it was a definite bucket list moment for me. I know social media often portrays things to be better than the reality and having seen so many amazing photos of Cappadocia I was worried it would be the same.  But honestly, the photos don’t even do justice to the magical sunrise with 150 hot air balloons coming up over the mountains. And riding in a hot air balloon basket 500ft Up in the air over the valleys and the mountains, this holiday was definitely one of the highlights of my year. 

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Oman

Last but not least, our final new country that we ticked off this year. Muscat was a real treat and took us by surprise with its natural beauty and all of the amazing outdoorsy activities you can do. The highlight of this trip was another bucket list moment for me as we swam with turtles out at sea (and didn’t get a single photo but I don’t care, the experience was amazing!)

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I wrote this post on the flight from Abu Dhabi to London as we were flying home for Christmas. I feel truly grateful for every country we visited, all the people we met and all of the new experiences we had in 2018. I know that Ryan often jokes that we go on too many holidays (and that we need to save for the wedding blah blah blah) but I love travelling, I love holiday planning and I can’t wait for the new adventures that lay ahead for 2019. Currently we have our March holiday booked which consists of two nights in Kuala Lumpur, four nights in Langkawi and two in Singapore so if anyone has any recommendations for those, they are always welcome!

A Weekend in Kathmandu

We’ve just got back from a jam packed long weekend in Nepal – although if you saw the size of my suitcase you would have thought we were travelling for months! I was really unsure what to expect in Nepal, so here are my travel tips and a look into our weekend in the vibrant city of Kathmandu!

Visa Entry

If you are entering the country for less than 15 days, you can obtain your visa on arrival. The process is relatively easy you just fill out the entry card and then submit your information on the computers they have available – although half of these didn’t work so we had to queue for a while. You then have to pay $25 per person for the visa. We were advised to take cash to pay for the visa so we had $100 note however, because it was dated pre-2006, they would not accept it! We didn’t have any other money on us and were very reluctant to allow us to pay by credit card (I don’t know why!) But we finally paid by card and were able to pass through.

Accommodation

We stayed at the Kathmandu Guest House which offers free airport collection so our driver was waiting for us when we arrived at the airport. It took approximately 40-45 minutes to get to the hotel as the traffic was rather chaotic heading through the centre of Kathmandu. The hotel was relatively cheap, we paid around $125 for two nights with breakfast. I would highly recommend this hotel as it’s in a great location in the centre of Thamel which is buzzing part of Kathmandu and full of different bars, restaurants and is very tourist friendly.

What to wear

I’m usually fine with packing lightly but for this trip I felt like I had to pack so many options! Firstly, it was a very last minute trip (and when I say very last minute, I mean we booked 30 hours before travelling!) so I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. Secondly, I don’t know many friends who have travelled to Nepal before so it wasn’t as easy as just searching their Instagram to see what outfits they took with them!

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When travelling, I always like to be respectful of the culture and dress appropriately. I find throughout Asia there is a real mix of what is acceptable to wear and where – on the Thai islands you can wear beachwear but then you are required to cover knees / shoulders when visiting temples or local villages.

The vibe in Nepal is so chilled so I found myself wearing lounge trousers / ele pants for walking around and sightseeing which I just wore with a t-shirt. I also had  a few maxi dresses which I wore with a scarf/shawl which was also fine. It is advised when entering the temples that you cover your shoulders and knees so I just carried my scarf with me at all times in case I needed it. I did see some girls wearing denim shorts and vest tops around the town and no one seemed phased by it, I just think as long as you are respectful you can’t go far wrong.

Day 1

Annoyingly, our flight was delayed by 3 hours leaving Dubai, we were initially due to land at 9.30am but didn’t actually land until 12.30! So by the time we got to oimg_1169ur hotel we had missed our first morning so we had lots of making up to do. We booked a 3 hour walking tour with a company called Welcome to my Yard. WTMY are a non-profit organisation who work with young people and families in Kathmandu who may bit at risk and provide community based support, practical education and training schemes. The tour was excellent and our guide was so informative! We were picked up from our hotel and were taken all around the hustle and bustle Of Kathmandu Valley. We got to visit the markets, temples, Durbar Square, the Royal Palace and Museum. We had lassi and samosas for luncimg_1124h  from one of the street vendors which cost as little as 25 rupees (about 20p) – the street food was amazing and we would never have been able to find these places without our guide. We saw and learnt so much in the short 3 hours and I would definitely recommend using this company as the money goes towards helping the people of Nepal who need it most. You can find the organisation here: http://www.welcometomyyard.com/

Day 2

On our second day, we spent the day at Hotel Mystic Mountain for an incredibly relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu! We hired a driver to take us from the hotel to Nargarkot and up to Hotel Mystic Mountain for the day. We paid our driver 6,000 rupees and he waited for us the whole day before driving us back to Thamel. The drive was approximately 1 hour 45 each way on mountainous terrain but it was worth every second.

We visited on a Saturday and they have a deal whereby you pay 3,000 rupees per person for access to the swimming pool and facilities and also a 3 hour BBQ from 12-3 with a complimentary drink. The food was delicious and we had a great selection of meats from the BBQ which were cooked with Nepalese spices. They also had a Mongolian noodle section which were all made fresh and brought to you. The highlight of the hotel is the infinity swimming pool which overlooks the mountains and paddy fields and on a clear day you can see Mt Everest. We visited in June which is monsoon season but it only rained for 5 minutes during our stay but because of the weather it felt like we were up in the clouds. I would absolutely love to return to this hotel for a few nights to fully unwind and relax but would highly recommend a day trip here if you don’t have the time to stay.

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Day 3

We booked the Nepalese cooking experience very last minute, only the night before but the reservation process was really easy as it was all done online. But, this was possibly the highlight of our trip! It started with a trip to the market to buy the local produce for our dishes. We stopped in a spice shopimg_1338 where we could also purchase our own spices. We then took a rickshaw back to the cooking class. First of all we had masala tea which was lovely! We then made a variety of local dishes which all tasted great (if I do say so myself!) the young girls who taught the cooking class were so lovely and friendly and really made our experience authentic, teaching us local language and songs and were really knowledgeable regarding the local cuisine. For anyone looking to do this cooking class you should definitely arrive hungry because by the time we left we were stuffed full! We also received the recipes via email so we can hopefully recreate the food! The class is located just behind Kathmandu Guest House so is really central and easy to find, you can find them online here: http://www.nepalcookingschool.com/

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We decided to do a bit more sightseeing on our final afternoon and visited the Garden of Dreams for a coffee which was nice and relaxing. We then visited Swayambunath Stupa (aka Monkey Temple) where we walked the stairs to the top of the temple but didn’t have enough cash on us for us for tourist entry so had to walk back down again! But I loved being around all of the monkeys!

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After our very long and tiring day walking around the city, we found an Irish Bar to sit in and watch the football – well, Ryan sat and watched the football, I disappeared to have a foot massage which was definitely well deserved.

One thing that amazes me about the Nepalese is their resilience. Nepal was hit by an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude in 2015, the effects of that earthquake are still very visible in Nepal. Due to its geophysical location, it is predicted that Nepal will experience a magnitude 8 earthquake once every 80 years but still, the people in the community are working with the government to rebuild some of the temples and palaces that were destroyed by the earthquake. In Durbar Square we saw a group of women sat scrubbing the original tiles from the building which will be used once again to restore the building as close to its original design as possible.

This country has so much to offer and you can do anything from mountain treks to a safari or a yoga retreat! I loved our short stay in Nepal and would love to return one day as we only touched the surface!

The Dream that was the Philippine’s

We have recently returned from the most amazing trip to the Philippine’s, I was so sad for the entire 17 hour journey back to Dubai – and not just because Cebu Pacific didn’t have TVs on the flight!

We had a slightly hectic start to the trip, the first leg of the flight from Dubai to Manilla was around 9 hours, and we were due to arrive in Manilla with approximately 2 hours transfer time before our connecting flight. However, we were delayed by around an hour and a half leaving Dubai and by the time we landed in Manilla we had about 25 minutes to make our next flight.. in another terminal! Thankfully we only took hand-luggage with us and the queue at immigration moved pretty quickly.

We had read online beforehand that there is a free shuttle bus that you can take from the international terminal (Terminal 3) to the Domestic Terminal (Terminal 4) that comes every 30 minutes and can sometimes be delayed. So we grabbed a taxi instead – the yellow taxis are airport taxis and when you queue you will receive a token which outlines your taxi driver, taxi number plate and journey charges. To cut a long story short, we made it to the (closed) check in desk but because the flight had not started boarding they allowed us to check in and get on the flight – thank God because this was the last flight of the day and I really didn’t want to deal with the hassle of spending a night in Manilla and arranging a flight to Coron for the next morning!

So, the second leg of the journey was a short flight from Manilla to Coron which took around 45 minutes. The views as we flew into Coron were stunning, the scenery was so untouched it looked like we were flying directly into Jurassic Park! We had our hotel arrange a transfer which consisted of a 30 minute drive to one of the ports and then a 30 minute boat ride to our hotel; as you can imagine, by this point we were exhausted and couldn’t wait for a drink!

Coron – El Rio Y Mar

We, eventually, started our holiday by spending four nights at El Rio Y Mar which is a hotel on a small island off the coast of Coron. The hotel resort was the only thing on the island which was absolute bliss! From the very first moment we arrived on the island we were greeted with a warm welcome and a song from the staff and we knew that we had arrived in paradise! The staff were extremely friendly and couldn’t do enough for us during our stay. We had booked one of the cottages along the seafront, the room had a lovely rustic feel to it.

We spent the next day doing the Coron Islands Day Tour which was an excellent day exploring the beautiful islands and lakes of Coron. We visited Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake, Siete Picados Marine Park, Maquinit Hot Springs and Coron town – I will blog separately about the island hopping tours in Coron!

There was a short hiking trail around the back of the hotel which we walked one morning. There’s an easy route and a difficult route – or as the staff described “hard and harder”! We took the easy route and it only took 20 minutes at a very leisurely pace, whilst wearing flip flops.. The views from the top were beautiful and we could see the whole resort and more. On the walk back down we even saw a wild monkey which made my day!

We felt so relaxed at this resort, literally as if we were on Couple’s Retreat! They had plenty of equipment for activities that you could take out free of charge including paddle boards, kayaks and snorkelling gear. It was my first time paddle-boarding and I was motivated to stay on the board because we were advised that there had been sightings of box jellyfish close to the shore! I loved paddle-boarding and, unlike Ryan, I found I was quite a natural!

The staff could not do enough for us and the night before my birthday they gave me a birthday cake and sang happy birthday around our dinner table which was lovely. I felt so relaxed during my whole time at El Rio Y Mar I didn’t think the next stage of the holiday could top it…

Coron to El Nido

We travelled between Coron and El Nido on my birthday and although 4 hours of it was spent on a ferry, it was an adventure and something very different to my previous birthdays! We booked the ferry in advance online with Montenegro Shipping Ferrys which leaves from the pier just outside of Coron Town. The ferry cost around for £35 (1800pp) and I’m sure we could have haggled this down but we booked in advance online to ensure a seat as we were on quite a strict timetable.

When we arrived in El Nido we took one of the tricycles to the resort. The tricycle should be 50pp, we were quoted 100pp by the driver and instantly bartered the price down and he didn’t argue with this, so be sure to haggle!

El Nido – Mahogany Beach Resort

Thankfully we only had hand luggage with us as I don’t think we would have been able to fit in one tricycle with a suitcase each! The resort was about 10 minutes tricycle drive from the harbour and we stayed in a lovely cottage near the beach front. We had to give our breakfast order to reception the night before along with a time and this was brought to our terrace each morning as our wakeup call.

The resort did not have a restaurant but this was no problem at all because as you leave the resort onto the beach there are several restaurants either side (I will blog separately about all of the amazing restaurants we ate at during our stay in El Nido!).

We booked an island hopping day trip with Bay Breeze Travel and Tours, one of the local tour vendors along the beach front. We paid 6,500pp for a private day trip of the highlights from tours A and C which included: Seven Commandos Beach; Helicopter Island; Matinloc Shrine; Secret Lagoon beach; Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon.

As we were leaving Helicopter Island (named due to it’s resemblance to a helicopter?) we were lucky enough to see a turtle swimming in the sea! We didn’t have enough time to get our snorkel on and jump in as the anchor was already up but we were so excited as it’s the first time either of us have seen a turtle in the wild! Secret Lagoon Beach was one of the more unique islands we visited. The boat moored up at what looked like a mountain wall, we then had to swim through a small hole, you could keep your head above water to swim through, but when you got through to the other side the water was shallow and it had a hidden beach inside!

We also loved the small lagoon, which was our final stop of the day. You have to rent kayaks as the boats can’t fit through the lagoon. The water was so clear it was beautiful we could see starfish on the bottom of the sea floor! I would definitely recommend booking a private tour because it gives you more flexibility to spend as long as you want at each of the destinations.

When leaving, we took a flight from El Nido Airport. It took 30 minutes on a tricycle from Mahogany Beach and cost 350pp. I was so depressed for the whole 16 hours journey back to Dubai, I really did not want to leave! The Philippine’s has such a raw beauty, it feels completely untouched and I hope that it can stay this way. All of the restaurants / bars we came across used recyclable straws made of bamboo, none of them had plastic straws. Similarly with carrier bags, almost all of the vendors used paper bags which was refreshing to see. I would love to return and visit some of the other islands and also explore a bit more of El Nido.