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sirwanderlust

Things Not To Miss In The South Of Vietnam

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Ho Chi Minh City

This city in the South of Vietnam is one of my favorites places to venture about, as there honestly is so much to do. If you’re looking to spend a week here I can assure you, you will be able to fill your days with daily tours and venturing out on your own. If you’re wanting to learn about the Vietnam War then you have arrived at the right destination. Most tour operators are reasonable with their prices; however as always through Asia, the price is negotiable so don’t be a sucker and over pay.

What not to miss:

  • The Cu Chi Tunnels Half Day Tour ($5 USD for Transport & $5 Entrance Fee) showcases a region that was bombed during the war. This region is scattered with hundreds of kilometers of tunnels that were used by the Vietnamese to hide from the Americans throughout the war. Here you will learn some history, climb inside the tunnels yourself and for those interested in firearms you can shoot a range of guns on the range.
  • The War Ruminant’s Museum ($2 USD Entrance) This is a must when visiting Vietnam to learn about the war. As confronting as it may be for some, this is an eye opener as to what went on during the Vietnam War, what the rest of the world thought about the war and the damaging aftermath of Agent Orange.
  • Ben Thanh Markets (FREE) Looking to pick up some souvenirs or rip off handbags, wallets and watches then this is the place to visit. At night there is a regular night market, which also offers great food options. Remember to bargain on the prices as they will shake you for everything you have!
  • Baba’s Kitchen (Farely Priced) I ate at this restaurant in 2011 and have recently returned. The food is just as delicious as before. Don’t get me wrong eating Indian food in Vietnam does seem strange however this is hands down the best Indian food I have ever had!

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Nha Trang 

This beautiful stretch of coastline in the south of Vietnam has so much to offer you. Once you see past the abundance of Russian writing on majority of the billboards and menus across the city, you will see the true beauty that is Nha Trang. There are many hotel and restaurant options to choose from. I would highly recommend the Azura Hotel ($18-$20 USD per night) one block from the beach and in the heart of all the action.

What not to miss:

  • SCUBA Diving ($75 USD for 2 dives, gear and breakfast) and/or Snorkeling. You should get out onto the reef and adventure. It’s something truly special. I highly recommend diving with Rainbow Divers (click here to read my review).
  • Thap Ba Mud Baths ($10USD +) Looking to relax in the fresh mud baths and leave feeling refreshed? Make your way here, and you will not be disappointed.
  • Watch a sunset from the beach of Nha Trang (FREE)
  • The Local 2 Restaurant This place has awesome food at a cheap price of around $2+ USD and has the cheapest Saigon Beer we could find in Vietnam $0.30 cents USD.

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Hoi An

This destination is a short taxi ride from Danang. The taxi costs roughly $20 USD to your hotel if your bargaining skills are good otherwise you can be safe and go on the meter which may be a little more. Once you arrive in Hoi An, you will almost feel like you are somewhere else in the world. If you have been to Cartagena, Colombia you will know what I mean. With a French colonial style of architecture this city is beautiful with such a cool vibe. If you’re in the market for tailored clothing and have a few days to play with then this is a place for you.

What not to miss:

  • Exploring the beaches. Jump on a bicycle, into a taxi or tuk tuk and make your way to the coastline and spend the day laying out and observing the stunning scenery.
  • My Sons UNESCO World Heritage Site ($5 USD for Transport & $5 Entrance Fee) If you’re all about the history of Vietnam then adventure to the old temple ruins. Quite a fascinating day tour with guides who will try and answer any question you throw their way.
  • Dining at ANY riverside restaurant! Most restaurants offer a set menu which is well worth the money. Best bet is to walk the riversides during the afternoon and return in the evening to dine at a place that fits within your budget. The restaurants all vary in prices. Don’t be fooled if no one is dining downstairs as most have a second floor or ‘roof top’ where most people will go to catch the fresh breeze and sunsets over Hoi An.

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Here is a summary of the cost for my travel through the South of Vietnam via Train. NOTE: Always book these at the station directly. Don’t book online or with a tour operator. You can always check online for the schedules at https://vietnam-railway.com/

Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang (10 hours) – $31 USD Soft Sleep

Nha Trang to Danang (13 hours) – $25 USD Hard Sleeper

#TravelInReality Week 5

Hey everyone! We’re writing this from our lovely hotel room in Vientiane – the capital city of Laos. This is the fifth post of our #TravelInReality series. If you haven’t read the intro, you can go here. Also, you can read last week’s post here.

We will be answering questions about traveling together as a couple – the good, the bad and the ugly. We’ll be writing week-by-week, and this week we traveled from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng to Vientiane. If you have any questions you want us to answer, leave a comment below or send us an email!


 

1.) Where did you travel to this week, where did you stay and how did you get there?

This week we travelled from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng and Vientiane via mini bus, and stayed in modern and clean, but budget hotels.

2.) What was the most challenging part of this week?

KP: The week had gone super well until the very last night. Let’s just say we were really close to pressing cancel on our flights to America and parting ways. I’m not even sure how or why it all got to that point, but it’s what happens when you don’t communicate the little things that piss you off. It eventually boils over. We’re fine and dandy now after a long chat.

Sam: Having to deal with Kelly and her breaking computer. After pouring tea into her mouse pad early last week in Luang Prabang. This week the mouse pad slowly began to stop working which caused all kinds of arguments and frustrating moments.

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Tubing in Vang Vieng

3.) What was the most annoying thing he/she did this week?

KP: It was raining pretty hard while in Vietntiane one night, and I made it pretty clear that I didn’t want to walk back the 2 km in the rain because I wasn’t feeling good. For some reason, Sam was hell bent on walking back, and got mad at me because I wanted to spend the $4 on a tuk tuk. It’s what started the whole fight explained above.

Sam: The most annoying things was when we were completing work in a small café in Vientiane Kelly had a little bit of a cold so she was sniffling every two seconds. On top of this with her computer issues I watched her get frustrated and angry over and over again.

4.) What three things are you grateful for in your relationship?

KP: Ability to overcome obstacles, mutual respect and differing strengths/weaknesses.

Sam: Health, Smiles and Laughs.

5.) What was the number one topic that came up the most?

KP: Deciding on our accommodation for the next month or so. Sam likes to stalk Agoda.

Sam: Where shall we stay and Scuba Dive in Indonesia’s Gili Islands!

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Exploring Vang Vieng

6.) What was the best bar or restaurant you went to?

KP: We had such a fun time in Vang Vieng, which is filled with bars and restaurants, but my favorite had to be Jai Dees. It’s a hippie dippie bar that plays old school classic rock with a really laidback owner.

Sam: This would have to have been all the bars on the tubing river in Vang Vieng. All these bars have such an awesome atmosphere!

8.) What was you favourite memory from the week?

KP: We met an amazing British couple – Will and Rachael – in Vang Vieng while tubing down the river. We had such a great time tubing, partying and chatting all day/night. The tubing is definitely still ON!

Sam: Tubing down the river in Vang Vieng in the pitch-black dark of night singing the lion king with our newfound friends.

8.) If you could tell your partner one thing you wish he/she did differently, what would it be?

KP: I wish he would try to learn Spanish with me so we could speak in a different language together.

Sam: I wish she didn’t get so frustrated with the smaller things in life and found a resolution before getting frustrated and angry.

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Beautiful Laos

9.) From 0 to 10, 0 being “I could break up with him/her right now” to 10 being “I could marry him/her right now”, how in love do you feel after this week?

KP: All week we were so happy and had such an amazing time, so much so that I would say we were at a 9 most of the week. After the argument though, I’m pretty sure we were both feeling around a -2. Things are better now, but still feeling a little down from that.

Sam: Well technically we did break up one night after coming back to our hotel for about an hour. We were both in quite irritated and frustrated moods and fireworks flew. I was online about to cancel all of our flight and go our separate ways. Kelly was packing her bags and ready to check into another hotel. However somehow we managed to talk it out so in the space of an hour we went from a 0 ‘I broke up with you’ to about a 6/10 you’re all right!

Fun Fact About Sam/Kelly:

Sam managed a pub in England a few years ago.

Kelly falls asleep in all forms of moving transport almost immediately.


 

 

Stay tuned for Week 6!

A Family Wedding In Cartagena, Colombia

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I recall the day my brother brought home his girlfriend Kelly to our home in Sydney to meet the family. I was surprised that A.) he had a girlfriend and B.) she was such an amazing person. I was always interested in what lies he had let on to have her so interested in him, but once I saw these two together it was so easy to see this was the real deal. A few years passed and he went down on one knee unknowingly to anyone whilst they were away for her birthday in Tasmania. We were all excited with the news and immediately my brother let us know the wedding would be held in Cartagena, Colombia so we could have the wedding around Kelly’s family and friends as she had been living away from them for the last few years.

Now after receiving my invite and blocking out the dates for the wedding and travel I began to figure out a small pattern. My brother had proposed to Kelly on her birthday and the wedding would be one year and one day after the proposal. Seems like he wanted to make it easy on himself and only have to fork out a couple of gifts a year. Now onto the wedding…

KP and I were living abroad prior to the wedding in Thailand and made the journey back to Australia where we would then board a plane and fly to the states then onwards to Cartagena, Colombia for the wedding. To say I was excited about arriving in Colombia was an understatement!

Before arriving in Colombia, KP and I had booked an Airbnb apartment for one night before we would move into the lavish condo within the walled city where the wedding would take place. We were picked up from the airport by a pre-arranged taxi driver and dropped at our accommodation. We were led upstairs to a room that was not what we had booked. After speaking Spanglish with the owner, we received a refund and booked a hotel closer to where my family was staying. Unaware to both myself and KP our taxi driver had called my brother’s fiancé after dropping us off and said ‘Are you sure you want to leave your family here?’ When we heard all I could do was laugh it off although once reflecting on how the events unfolded it was a little strange that three people escorted us out of the apartment and made sure we got into a taxi safely.

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Anyway we now arrived at our new hotel Hotel Aqualina B&B and checked in. For anyone looking to stay in Cartagena this place is awesome with a full Colombian-style breakfast included for a reasonable price. The evening was spent catching up with our family for dinner and venturing out to the famous bar on the Old Wall, Café del Mar, where we soaked in the spectacular view of the city with a beverage in hand.

The following morning KP and I took some time to venture out on our own to the Old Wall to see the walled city in the daylight. The streets and over hanging timber balconies suffocated in vibrant colored flowers decorate the colonial style streets of Cartagena’s walled city. The entrances to the storefronts and homes are large and made of all types of material from metals to woods with such intricate designs and colors. Walking the cobblestone streets of the walled city was such a cool experience.

We had all now moved into the spectacular property which would be the venue for their wedding. KP and I were deemed the fittest out of the entire Tolliday and Ramirez families and were crowned with the highest of privileges with a bedroom on the fourth floor up three-spiral staircases. At times it almost felt like we were up in the clouds having to carry ourselves up what felt like Everest. Not to complain though – our room was very comfortable with a large bedroom and bathroom and a gorgeous view out across Cartagena from the rooftop.

Before Kelly’s birthday dinner and the booze bus through the walled city area, I took some time to venture through the enormous property. Each level had several different bedrooms, living spaces, huge kitchen with in-house staff and a refreshing pool amongst it all. In all honesty, this property was breathtaking and I don’t think my photos nor video will do this place justice!

After dining at the house for Kelly’s Birthday with her family and friends, we were out the door and into the booze bus for a night of partying. The bus toured around the walled city whilst we partook in sing-a-longs, dances and mandatory beverage sipping. Once the booze bus came to a stop, Kelly’s brothers and cousins took me under their wing and out of the walled city to a traditional Colombian bar to get the true experience. I don’t know what it is but I feel like Australians are not born with the gift of dance. Colombians on the other hand can really shake it. Needless to say we danced until the early hours of the morning to Colombian songs that I didn’t understand.

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The wedding was the following day, and it was a slow rise for myself as my joints hurt from trying to ‘shake it’ in the club. I made my way down to get suited up with my brothers and dad and then participated in a mandatory beverage to celebrate his last moments as a single man. The wedding ceremony was beautifully spoken in both Spanish and English. My brothers fiancé looked amazing in her dress as she was walked down the aisle by her father. My brother’s lips quivered and his eyes twinkled. Their vows were both hilarious and loving confessing their true love for one and other.

After the ceremony it was time to get the party started with delicious food and beverages. We now changed into traditional Colombian clothing to wear for the remainder of the reception, which is basically white cloth pants and top. Extra light and breezy; however, for people like me it becomes transparent after ten minutes in the heat. Everyone at the wedding was dressed so nicely. The men looking sharp as ever, and the women out to impress in fabulous and colourful dresses.

After the ceremony Kelly and my brother were taken around the walled city by horse and chariot to arrive back at the property and announce their return with a huge entrance of fireworks and sparklers.

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After a beautiful three-course dinner it was time for speeches. My brother’s speech was not only hilarious picking on every family member who made it across the world to be at their wedding, but he also performed his speech for a second time in Spanish to my amazement. Then came the cutting of the extravagant cake and the bride and groom’s first dance.

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Next up – we were heading into the ‘Crazy Hour’ where the professional dancers arrived downstairs in the strangest of costumes and we were all up on our feet wearing masks and blowing whistles to the finest of Colombian dance tracks. Even my 84-year-old grandmother embraced this and would have been awarded the gold medal for her efforts. The rest of the night was honestly a little bit blurry perhaps due to the mandatory whiskey shots handed to me from Kelly’s family members. After partying the night away outside our elderly grandmother’s room until 8 am, it was time to climb into bed for some well deserved rest.

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All in all, the wedding was spectacular. KP and I honestly felt like we were living out a real life movie. It was all so surreal in the most awesome way possible. Everything was so colorful and about having fun, dancing, celebrating and truly letting loose.

Congratulations to my brother and Kelly for finding one another, and thank you for making both KP and me a part of your wedding. You have added to our life experiences and this will be something we will never forget. I hope you like the short video.

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#TravelInReality Week Four

Sabaideeeeee from Laos! It’s our last night in the ever so peaceful Luang Prabang in Laos, and we definitely weren’t as “peaceful” to each other as we could have been this week. This is the fourth post of our #TravelInReality series. If you haven’t read the intro, you can go here. Also, you can read last week’s post here.

We will be answering questions about traveling together as a couple – the good, the bad and the ugly. We’ll be writing week-by-week, and this week we traveled from Phong Nha to Hanoi and Halong Bay. If you have any questions you want us to answer, leave a comment below or send us an email!


1.) Where did you travel to this week, where did you stay and how did you get there?

This week we traveled from Hanoi to Luang Prabang in Laos. We flew with Vietnam Airways, which was a huge time saver because the bus would have been 30+ hours! We’ve been staying in small, but clean guesthouses in Luang Prabang.

2.) What was the most challenging part of this week?

KP: I had a bit of an unnecessary meltdown at one of the waterfalls and ended up slipping down the mountain and ruining my white shorts. I just lost it, and Sam got frustrated with my ridiculousness. The next day, I spilled water all over my laptop, ruining the keyboard/touch pad. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty. I’m not afraid to admit that I was definitely the most challenging part of the week.

Sam: Hiking with Kelly through the region of the Kuang Si Waterfalls. Lets just say she wasn’t a happy chappy hiking up the mountain and then falling on her arse down the muddy slope!

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Kuang Si Waterfall where said meltdown occured

3.) What was the most annoying thing he/she did this week?

KP: He wanted to climb up a muddy mountain that ultimately was the reason why I fell down.

Sam: Complaining about the walk up to the peak of the stunning Kuang Si Waterfalls. Then almost attempting to guilt trip me into staying down the bottom and not seeing the view from up above.

4.) Did you do anything romantic?

KP: After we got into that fight, I went up to the top of Mount Phousi in Luang Prabang by myself for sunset because we had originally planned on going that day. As the sun was setting and I was by myself, Sam popped up out of no where and gave me a big hug without saying anything.

5.) What are the three things you are the most grateful for in your relationship?

Sam:  Arguments, Forgiveness and Respect 

6.) What was the number one topic that came up the most?

KP: Either about what adventure we were going to get into that day or about our friends back home and what they’ve been up to. Seems we’ve been talking to them a lot more this week than most.

Sam: Contemplating our future and what we will be doing after travel.

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Sunset on the Mekong River

7.) What was the best bar or restaurant you went to?

KP: Any of the restaurants that are along the Mekong River. The sunsets are spectacular and the beer is cheap!

Sam: The Sunset Bar and Restaurant that is positioned on the Mekong River in Luang Prabang. Watching the sunset from here is truly special.

8.) Favourite memory from the week?

KP: There’s too many! Luang Prabang is one of my favorite places on earth now. We jumped off waterfalls, climbed up to temples, did sunrise and sunset yoga, took pencil boats down the Mekong

Sam: Spending the day venturing the Tad Sae Waterfalls and splashing about in the water for the day.

9.) If you could tell your partner one thing you wish he/she did differently, what would it be?

KP: I wish he didn’t need to sleep so much! I’ll have already gone to yoga, wrote 5 blog posts and watched a webinar and he’s just snoozing away!

Sam: Embraced the adventure and make the most of every opportunity we have. I never want to hear the word STOP ever again!

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Hanging out at the waterfalls

10.) From 0 to 10, 0 being “I could break up with him/her right now” to 10 being “I could marry him/her right now”, how in love do you feel after this week?

KP: Oh, it went from a 9 to a 0 to a 5 to a 2 in the space of 48 hours, but its hard to stay angry in a place like this. I’d say around 6 after this week.

Sam: Due to her tantrum at the waterfalls she has lost a few brownie points so Kelly is at about a 6.5/10.

Fun Fact About Sam/Kelly:

KP: Sam REALLY loves X Factor. I’m pretty sure he’s seen every X Factor audition ever on YouTube for Australia, USA and UK.

Sam: Kelly can hold a headstand for quite some time.


Stay tuned for next week’s post!

 

The Ultimate Guide To Thailand

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Khanom

By far one of the much nicer and more authentic places to travel in Thailand. This little beach town is situated on the coastline in the south of Thailand. It’s a truly peaceful location with so much to offer with a beach that extends for kilometers. There is a wide variety of hotels, restaurants and bars to choose from and an awesome weekend night market a destination that you should make the effort to get to. So if you are looking to take some time and put your feet up my recommendation is to check into Jam Bay and grab a bungalow for a few nights. This place has everything you need with great food options, located on the beach with awesome company and an owner who is the coolest cat in Thailand. Guarantee your stay will be stress free and relaxing!

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Khao Sok

Adventurous and love the outdoors? Then this is where you need to get to. Khao Sok holds the record as the oldest evergreen national park in the world! If you’re not sold on this alone then simply searching images of this stunning place is sure to change your mind. Khao Sok is accessible by bus (minivan) from Bangkok, Phuket and Surat Thani with great bungalow accommodation and offers all kinds of daily activities, which include trekking to caves, kayaking, swimming and boating around the large National Park. I highly recommend anyone travelling to Thailand to take the time to adventure to Khao Sok.

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Krabi

This famous beach town in the South of Thailand sees many tourists each year and has stunning beaches, which are only a small boat ride away. Personally I feel the local beaches are a little bit dirty to swim and spend the day. Once you climb aboard a rented boat, make your way to Railay Beach where you will be able to see why this place has such a great reputation with travellers. This beach is a photographer’s best friend with clear blue waters and long tail boats moored on its shores. You have the ability to snorkel here, rent a kayak, sunbake, lay in the water or grab a bite to eat. A day well spent! I would recommend anyone travelling to Krabi to stay at the ‘J Hotel’ which is roughly $12 USD a night and ask for a roof top room. These give you your own roof top deck and stunning views out across to the ocean. There are many great food options scattered across the main beach area.

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Koh Tao

If you’re into your diving or are interested in becoming a diver, this is the place to be. With that being said snorkeling here is also a great option for the non-divers. This tiny little island out in the middle of the ocean has a reputation for awesome diving and partying. I can vouch for this. A short ferry ride from Surat Thani, Koh Samui or Koh Phangan will land you on the shores of Koh Tao. This island has lots to offer from countless dive operators who are very competitive with their prices to beach bars who will guarantee you have a great night. If you’re going to make the most of your time on Koh Tao, make sure you dive or snorkel during the days, rent a motorbike and ride to the secluded beaches and head out on the pub crawl. If your looking to SCUBA dive or undertake a course in Koh Tao I would highly recommend La Bombona Dive Centre. Please read my attached review. If you’re looking for accommodation Asia Divers Resort may be what you’re looking for. Click here to read my review.

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Koh Phangan

The home of Thailand’s notorious Full Moon Party, which operates each month, is sure to be a destination for anyone feeling like having a bit of fun. The madness begins two nights prior to the Full Moon once people start arriving on its shores and is just one huge party on Haad Rin Beach. If you’re looking to party non-stop, the Haad Rin Beach area is the place for you. If you’re searching for somewhere you may get some sleep, look to the other ends of the island as there are great options. I would recommend staying in the Thong Sala area and renting a scooter to get around the island. Tuk Tuks are easily accessible and the prices are always negotiable. During the night of the Full Moon Party the beach is packed with people, alcohol vendors and fire twirlers and skipping ropes. Just make sure you watch your valuables as unfortunately there are people waiting to pounce at any opportunity.

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Koh Samui

This is my least favorite island in the south of Thailand. After travelling here in previous years, each time I arrive back it seems like the authenticity of Thailand is slowly disappearing, especially in the Chaweng area. This area is becoming overpriced and over-travelled by tourists and you can see this in the way people treat the streets and the beaches with the amount of rubbish left behind. There are many other areas to stay in Koh Samui and I suggest anyone looking to get away and relax on a nice beach in Koh Samui to look else where on the island. Many yoga retreats and meditation programs are on this island as well.

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Phi Phi Island

This little island has had its fair share of wear and tear from Mother Nature and sees many tourists each year round. With several accommodation options for all types of travellers, the beach bungalows are always a popular sell. Phi Phi Island is all about tucking into a beach bar or laying out relaxing. This island also offers great SCUBA Diving options out to the smaller islands and surrounding areas for around $70 USD for 2 dives. A big seller from Phi Phi Island is their day tour to ‘The Beach’, which includes Monkey Island, snorkeling, cliff jumping and a mandatory bucket of local whiskey. travel-asia-thailand-adventure-guide-phi-phi-island

Chiang Mai

Hands down one of the highlights of Thailand. If you’re looking to escape the coastline and head inland to the jungles of Thailand then this is your destination. Chiang Mai is smack bang in the middle of the jungle with such a rich and thriving culture. Now known as a digital nomad’s hub, this location really has a lot to offer. You can spend your days roaming the streets and entering the countless temples within the city and spend your evenings strolling the night market picking out the local favorites of Khao Soy and Penang Curry to eat.

Chiang Mai offers many day tours to several Elephant Camps scattered around the region however I would highly recommend ‘Bobby’s Elephant Rescue Center’. All of Bobby’s elephants are rescued from Thailand and across the borders and roam free around his property. Once you meet the owner you will see the love he has for the elephants and they have for him. It’s a magical experience not to be missed!

Another great tour operating from Chiang Mai includes the day trip to the Golden Triangle and Wat Rong Khun (White Temple). If you unaware of the Golden Triangle this is where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet and you have the opportunity to jump aboard a board and travel over to step into Laos.

For those who are adventurous, rent a scooter from ‘Pop Riders’ and ride up into the mountains for the day to see Chiang Mai from up in the clouds. The ride up the mountain has some of the best views across Thailand’s jungles and into the city.

Last but not least if your into having a lazy day floating down the river get in contact with the team at ‘Chiang Mai Tubing & Beach Club’ they will be sure to look after your every need. That is right there is tubing in Chiang Mai, Thailand and for the price you will be silly not to jump at the opportunity! Click the link here to check them out! 

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Phuket

For those looking to party and pay the same price as you would for a beer in Australia, then Patong is the place for you. This region of Phuket is known for its over priced bars, ping pong shows, drug use, extortion, prostitution and robbery of tourists. However Phuket also has a much nicer side once you make your way to the areas outside of Patong. These areas are known as Kata and Karon Beach where you can find some of the nicest beaches in Thailand. There are hotels to meet your standard from basic stays to luxury and restaurants and bars to complement this. If you’re looking to get away and put your feet up for a few days I highly recommend booking yourself into Mom Tri’s Villa Royale Hotel. You will not be disappointed.

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Bangkok

This booming city is starting to remind me of Sydney, Singapore and Melbourne. With so much infrastructure and development going on, it’s slowly becoming extremely “high-rise.” Bangkok has so much to offer from stunning roof top bars to restaurants that will have your taste buds in a craze. Many travellers are also looking for that big night out and make their way to the backpacker’s area of Khao San Road which has an array of bars and clubs which party until the wee hours of the morning. I will vouch for Khao San Road. It is a good night out with a group of people and is something I feel you have to do at least once in your life. No need to worry if you get hungry on Khao San Road. You will be able to buy the local delicacy of bugs, insects and spiders. Bangkok also has many great shopping centers, which have very cheap food courts with many options for all types of fussy eaters.

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Top 5 Things To Do In Penang, Malaysia

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  1. The Penang National Park

If you are looking to have an awesome day out and about exploring nature then this is defiantly up your alley. Easily accessible by bus, the Penang National Park has so much to offer for all types of travellers. It’s also free. With several options from hiking along trails (2km-5km one way) to boat rides around the National Park this is a destination not be missed. Take note the trails are on uneven surfaces and can be quite a challenge for some. The route we took included an hour and a half trek to Turtle Beach to the turtle sanctuary. From here we boarded a boat for $13 and discovered the coastline and were dropped at Monkey Beach. This beach indeed has just that monkeys, water sport options and small restaurants and bars. I would suggest if you are not up for a great hike back to the gates of the National Park then elect to jump back onto a boat. The hike is very challenging with many areas under construction.

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  1. Georgetown Street Art

Georgetown is best known for its spectacular pieces of street art, which decorate its walls and side walks. Easily accessible by foot or bicycle you could spend an entire day roaming the alleys and streets discovering each and every piece of street art Georgetown has to offer. The street art ranges from unusual wire frame art to large-scale paintings. Defiantly a day well spent.

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  1. Khloo Kongsi Clan House

Recognised as one of the oldest clan houses in Penang, The Khloo Kongst Clan House can be found in the midst of Georgetown and is a beautiful piece of architecture. For a small cost of $3 you can wander about the property inside and out and learn more about the Chinese influence in Malaysia.

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  1. Dine at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel

This is a serious gastronomical experience in Penang, and I can promise you will leave extremely satisfied. The Eastern & Oriental Hotel offers buffet meals throughout the day that have an array of local and international dishes. We made a reservation for the buffet dinner arriving at 7pm and did not leave until close at 10:30pm. An unbelievably delicious meal!

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  1. Night Markets (Street Food)

Be sure to jump online and check out where each night’s market is located as there are several scattered across the city, which offer all types of authentic Penang dishes. It just comes down to what you’re in the mood for. My recommendation is to attend the ‘Farlim Night Market’ on Wednesday nights, where they serve up dishes like char koay kak, Japanese pancakes, lok-lok and many more. Although I will say this market gets quite busy as it’s a local’s favourite!

New Orleans Mardi Gras 2014

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After living in the states for around six weeks, it was that time in the calendar year to attend the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Kelly had made it a point that we would venture over and spend a weekend immersing ourselves in the festivities to show me the true American way and the blues of New Orleans. Now to be honest, I was expecting something completely different to the American style of Mardi Gras, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Now for those of you who haven’t caught on, I am from Sydney, Australia and the Mardi Gras here each year is a little bit different. It’s more of a gay and lesbian pride march. Don’t get me wrong I don’t have anything against people who choose to live their lives this way, it just wasn’t what I was expecting to see when we got to New Orleans. More on this later!

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So we packed the car in Tallahassee and braced ourselves for a long and straight drive. As we arrived into New Orleans it was interesting to observe through the window of the car the character of this place. To me I felt like it had such a rustic and cool hip vibe that expressed a history with its fair share of ups and downs.

We pulled up to Kelly’s friend’s quaint and modern apartment in the suburbs, freshened up and went straight out to see what New Orleans had to offer. After a short taxi ride and a history lesson, we had arrived on the infamous Bourbon Street. My god, I was ready for a big night. We hit up all the famous spots and sipped away our thirst with ‘big ass beers’, grenades from some bar called Tropical Isle. Dinner was served at an exquisite restaurant where we ate Cajun food and ordered Jumbo and fried gator. It was delicious!

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After filling our bellies we were off again down Bourbon Street, partaking in the bead throwing, competing with one and other for who could collect the most beads. At one point I think I was picking them out of the gutter and acting like someone on the balcony had thrown these to me. The highlight of my night would have ben stripping down to my undies for some beads from a women who was pushing 70.

After receiving the beads, we thought it would be time to head on up and throw beads to those down in the street. There is something satisfying about having people beg you to throw them these plastic beads. Absolute madness. The night didn’t end so well with some sneaky bugger stealing Kelly’s wallet and car keys. The next morning we spent getting a tow truck, new key cut and then made it out on the town trying to figure out how Kelly would get into the bars with no ID.

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We dedicated the next day to the actual parades of Mardi Gras and on the walk in I was surprised by the amount of people. In my head I was thinking, “Wow everyone is getting behind this gay and lesbian pride march. That’s so awesome.” To my surprise the parade started off quite tame with children playing music, singing, dancing and throwing beads to the crowds. Hours passed and I found myself thinking, “When were the lady boys going to make an appearance?”

Late in the night I confessed my innocence to Kelly and told her this was so different to our Mardi Gras. It all started to make sense to me. It’s a big blues festival where marching bands play music whilst parading about the streets of New Orleans. I learnt my lesson and will not be making that mistake again.

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All in all the Mardi Gras in New Orleans was outstanding as we had such an awesome time roaming the streets with a beverage in hand making the most of our time there. We became cautious of our surroundings after that, and Bourbon Street definitely left its mark on us. It will be something I will always remember.

Until next time… Bourbon Street and Mr. Naked Cowboy.

Review: Qantas First Class Lounge LAX Airport

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After an early morning flight from Miami International Airport with my elderly grandma, we landed in LAX Airport to disembark and find our way to the Qantas First Class Lounge for an extended layover. As we were on the backend of a family wedding in Cartagena, we had to make sure my granny had adequate time in between legs. (Cartagena to Miami, Miami to LAX and LAX to Sydney)

Once arriving at reception, the staff were quick to check each of us into the lounge and insist if we had any questions to please don’t hesitate to ask. On first impression, I was not too sure what to expect although once we found the comfort of the lazy chairs, this was a complete game charger. The 12-hour lay over was going to be nothing but class and comfort.

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After collecting the New York Times and Sydney Daily Telegraph from the newsstand I recall looking over at my grandmother who was lying down with her legs out gazing out the window. She was half snoozing half alert and before I knew it one of the staff had taken the initiative to gather together a pot of tea with milk as if they had read her mind and placed this next to her. To say I was impressed is an understatement, true class!

After catching up on the world news, we wandered over to the dining area of the Lounge to indulge in the exquisite menu. No word of a lie, the food is exceptional and the service really makes for a great experience. We greatly enjoyed three meals in the lounge, which were matched with French Champaign, wine, beer and spirits from around the globe. The plates I would highly recommend include:

  1. Salt, Pepper & Chili Calamari
  2. Chicken breast, Nut & Greens
  3. All of the desert options!

These were by far my favourite plates although if we had had longer I would have been sure to make my way through the entire menu.

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In between dining and having a beverage with my grandmother, I made use of the high speed WIFI and relaxed in the comfort of the lounge chairs. The staff regularly did the rounds and asked if we needed anything at any time. Several of the Qantas ground staff became very friendly with my grandma, bringing her blankets and pillows to make sure she was comfortable for the full duration of this adventure.

After 10 hours in the Qantas First Class Lounge we ventured out to stretch our legs within LAX airport and make our way to board our flight from LAX back to Sydney. First Class with Qantas is exactly this ‘nothing but class’! Thank you Qantas.

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Now a little bit about The Qantas First Class Lounge:

All Qantas First Class Flyers are welcome into the lounge and are welcome to bring one guest as long as they are flying on the same flight. I would say the dress code is somewhat smart casual however once you leave the lounge as like every other flyer you take the time to freshen up in the showering facilities within the lounge and change into comfier clothing options.

When you check in, the staff will be sure to ask if you would like assistance to board your flight and will make sure there is a ground staff member to escort you.

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The Lounge has everything you would ever need on a layover. There is a vast amount of seating options scattered throughout the lounge aimed at relaxation, dining or business. The lounge offers customers the ability to self-serve their own beverages (tea, coffee, water, wine and beer), and also has the option to place an order with a staff member.

The bar is extravagant with many options from around the globe with friendly bar staff that will make sure to meet all your needs. Even the fussiest of eaters and drinking will find what they’re looking for.

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The Qantas First Class Lounge also offers meeting rooms that can be booked at reception for those who are busy on business trips. The bathroom and showering facilities are excellent and really add to the overall experience of long layovers where all you want to do is freshen up before boarding onto your second flight.

Both my elderly grandma and myself were extremely impressed with the Qantas First Class Lounge in LAX Airport. The experience was exceptional with great food, service and facilities that met all of our needs and more.

To check out the Qantas Lounges click here.

Travel. “How Do You Afford It”?

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For anyone who travels for an extended period of time this has to be hands down the most annoying question. “Hey mate, how do you afford to travel”? I honestly feel like replying with a “How do you afford to go out every weekend and buy those designer brand clothes”? I feel like at that point we may get the same mutual answer ‘WORK’.

Travel to me is honestly like something you have to work hard for. The harder you work the more comfortable you can travel or for that extended period of time. The same applies for anything really.  It’s up to you to set your own goals and work as hard as you can, then you can buy anything you may desire. I mean your stock standard employee does their 9-5 job each day and that is fine with them to receive a pay check fortnightly for the same total and almost have this become like a routine. I’ve always had this desire to achieve far beyond this point. It is limiting when you take that 9-5 and sign your life away with small benefits and limited holidays.

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I have been able to fund travel through nothing but hard work and juggling a handful of jobs at once. No hand outs from mummy and daddy like others who manage to fund such extravagant trips abroad where you wonder how did a 18 year old afford that $20,000 trip? Look I am not trying to toot my own horn, but anyone is capable of working hard although it just comes down to those motivating factors, desire and determination to make it all happen. Working the 9-5 just doesn’t cut it for what I want to do. I have never signed a contract, and I have never wanted to feel like I am locked down. I prefer to work for several companies on a causal basis where the money is great and its ever changing. Hence I am not sitting in an office looking at a computer screen all day.

What excuses do I honestly have not to work my butt off? All the odds are against me. I am young and have this determination to really make something of the time I have. And many other people feel the same way. That’s why people like me can not sit back, relax and settle for a normal job – we need more.

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I enjoyed working 7am – 4pm teaching at school or on the construction site, then off to manage an exclusive event. Finally tuck into bed around 2am, just to get back up and do it again the next day. Then there are weekends… which don’t exist for people like me. For your stock standard employee, weekends are for letting off steam and spending some money. I tend to work 6-7 days a week. You may disagree with those hours, but when you can afford travel through hard work, every day feels like a weekend. Why have two days a week to relax, when you can have weeks at a time after putting in the hard yards. My belief is through hard work from a young age you can always fund your dreams, reach your short and long-term goals and tick off your bucket list.

When people ask the question “How do you afford it?”, I want to reply in the nicest way possible – “Are you thinking about the words that are coming out of you mouth?” Think about the bigger picture. I’ll break it down for you. When I am home working, there are some things I need to buy, but once I am travelling, these become irrelevant and the money stays in my pocket.

Here are the hard facts: 

I don’t have to pay …

  1. Rent, bond or mortgage
  2. Water, electricity, gas and internet bills
  3. Phone contract for that Iphone 6 ($100+ a month)
  4. Private health insurance ($110+ a month)
  5. A car, the services, accessories, petrol
  6. Car insurance ($500+ a year)
  7. I don’t buy designer brand clothes. I prefer picking up the bargains at store like Cotton on. Who honestly knows these days the clothes all look the same.
  8. Groceries

For a quick example, my “rent” for the month in Vietnam, staying in nice hotels with breakfast included was $250 AUD total. As opposed to the average minimum rent in Sydney for $1200 AUD a month.

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Once you start considering the amount of money you are spending living in your country day-by-day, it’s quite easy to see where the savings could be made if you cut out some unnecessary items and worked a little bit harder to get overseas. A cheap living cost allows for your money to go much further and for some this allows them to place more money into their big business ideas or travels.

What I do pay for when travelling:

  1. Travel insurance
  2. Flights, trains, boats, buses, motorbike ride
  3. Hotels, resorts, hostels and guest houses
  4. Global cuisines
  5. Life experiences
  6. Tours

Do you see the difference here? Once you leave to venture out on that extended travel all you’re paying for are new experiences that offers so much more than handing over your hard earned money to phone companies or wanky real estate agents.

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Most people dream of travel and adventure, but never find the “time,” and to you I say, poor excuse. Most people say to me, “You’re so lucky”, but I don’t find any luck in working hard and prioritising my dreams. Find that motivation to not settle for that 9-5, and search for more opportunities. I guarantee if you work hard and limit spending on daily Starbucks, online shopping or new cars, the savings will quickly grow. Working 7 days a week doesn’t give you much time to spend money shopping or going to the pub. You are literally working or sleeping, and weirdly for me, there is something extremely satisfying about this.

I am not saying it’s easy. It’s definitely a challenge at times, but once you find your groove you just want more and more. You could ask some of my employers about the hours I have put into be able to fund my travels. Sometimes I reflect and think how the hell did I manage that lifestyle, but I just did! Motivation, determination and enthusiasm will always get you a long way. And a combination of the three and a desire to travel will get you out into the world that much sooner.

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