Places To Eat: Toronto Edition!

Toronto, Ontario

Hey y’all!

This past week I’ve been back in my hometown — Toronto, Ontario! Being the largest city in Canada, Toronto is somewhat of a cultural hub and has a HUGE foodie culture. So I figured I’d share some of the places I hit up this week that have been my favourites to visit whenever I go home!

For When You’re Craving Chinese

If you’re looking for a bit of an upscale meal, Kwan is a great place to check out. Not only is it’s Chinese food to DIE for, but it has a lovely, cozy atmosphere and a great vibe overall. If you go, don’t miss out on the truffle fried rice, sesame chicken or chilli garlic shrimp — I literally order these every time I go and they’re outstanding every time.

For When You’re In The Mood For Sweets
Booyah Ice Cream

Booyah Ice cream is straight up one of my favourite places to go for cool treats in the summer. Not only do they have their own store-made ice cream, they also offer Kawartha Dairy and soft serve! Their homemade flavours are to DIE for, just the other day I got these two scoops of Earl Gray and Honey Lavander and I was in love. On top of all that, you have the option to get it in an ice cream sandwich (featuring homemade cookies) or even ice cream tacos! This place really is one of my favourites to visit in the hot Toronto summers.

For When You’re Feeling Fancy

Buca Yorkville

If you’re feeling up for something bougie and love Italian food as much as I do, Buca is a must-try. It’s a little on the pricier side, but oh man is it ever worth it. Everything here is amazing, from the appetizers to the desserts (their pine panna cotta is unreal). On top of that, the environment is amazing and the service was next level. 100% recommend for a classy night out.

For When You’re Craving Mexican
La Playa Hacienda

This place seriously has some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. For years, it’s been a go-to every time I go home–I’ve been sure to introduce everyone I know and they all fell in love. The tacos are outstanding, the drinks are incredible, and if you go be sure to try the Elote–it’s a personal favourite of mine. On top of all that, the vibe here is so cool, there really isn’t anything not to love.

For When You Need Your Bubble Tea Fix
Labothéry

There’s so many amazing places to get bubble tea in Toronto, but this one is just SO fun. You get to choose for yourself from so many flavours (complete with the ability to mix and match) plus so many tapioca and jelly add-ins that are so different from other places I’ve been to. This stuff was so amazing, seriously, even if it’s not nearby it’s worth the trek.

And that’s it for this time! Stay tuned for more Toronto hot spots when I go visit again this fall. I hope you enjoyed this blog, and if you have any suggestions for where to hit up on my next trip home I’d love to hear it!

Love you all,

Meredith

Things To Do: Siem Reap Edition!

Phnom Kulen Falls, Siem Reap

Hey friends!!

So for today’s travel diary I’m gonna be covering the remainder of my time in Siem Reap. I only spent a couple of days in Cambodia, but honestly I wish I could have stayed for more. Not only was it a beautiful and unique country, but the weather was amazing and the food was to DIE for (seriously, Amok is officially my favourite South East Asian food now).

Apart from the temples, which I already covered more in depth in my post Spend A Day With Me In Angkor Wat, there was plenty of other things to see and do which lead to a pretty jam-packed two days–not that I’m complaining as it was all amazing. Keep reading to hear all about my favourite things to do and see in Siem Reap!

Visit Some Temples!
Angkor Wat

Alright, so I know I pretty much covered this all in my Angkor Wat entry, but this really was a must see so I figured no harm in mentioning it twice! If you’re planning on seeing multiple temples (which I would highly recommend) be prepared for a long day. Don’t let that deter you, however, these temples are amazing and so unlike many of the other temples in South East Asia. While Angkor Wat is certainly the largest and best known, we also visited Banteay Kdei, Ka Prohm, Ka Teo, and Angkor Thom’s Bayon and Bapheon Temples. Each of these temples were all unique and beautiful in their own way and really added to our temple tour.

See The Falls!
Phnom Kulen Falls

If you’ve been following my travel blogs long enough you’ll know I love a good waterfall! Phnom Kulen Falls was so different from any other waterfall we’ve visited on this trip. Not only was there both a small and large waterfall, the large one was HUGE and beautiful and you could swim in both. You could even bring a picnic, climb the rocks and explore the nearby area as well. Ultimately, 10/10, stunning, and would highly recommend.

Go To A Dinner Show!
Dance Performance At Dinner Show

This was not something we planned on at all, but our lovely Tuk Tuk driver suggested we go and I’m so glad he did. This dinner featured an extensive and delicious buffet, with all sorts of South East Asian cuisine as well as some Western options. Seriously — it was huge and had everything you could have ever wanted. After you’d had some time to get settled and grab some food, the show began — a musical and dance introduction to Cambodian culture. Each dance told its own stories and the costumes were so elaborate and stunning. The music, the dancing, all of was incredible. I’d definitely consider checking this one out if you ever have to opportunity to visit Siem Reap.

Hit Up The Night Market!
Items For Sale At The Night Market, Siem Reap

Alright, I know, another thing you’ve probably felt you’ve heard alllllll about in my other entries. But hear me out. I’ve discussed before how you can receive a surprising amount of culture just from Night Markets alone, and Siem Reap is certainly no exception. The Night Markets here are HUGE, and set up in a huge maze of permanent stalls. They offer SO many things, especially carvings, artwork, jewelry, and clothes such as pashmina scarves and !!!!!. Not only was the Night Market in Siem Reap massive and the variety of items seemingly unlimited, but the options were so distinct from Thailand, Laos or Vietnam. Cambodia really is a distinctly different culture from its neighbouring countries, which is apparent all over the place — even in their Night Markets.

So that’s all for Siem Reap, Cambodia! I have to say, I had no idea what to expect from this stop of our trip but I was so pleasantly surprised. Not only was a beautiful country, it was so different from other places I’ve visited — and all the local people were beyond friendly. This place is an absolute must-see if you ever get the chance to explore South East Asia.

But that’s all for Cambodia for now! Be sure to check out the next stop on my South East Asian adventure — Koh Phi Phi and Phuket!

Much Love for you all,

Meredith

Spend A Day With Me At Angkor Wat!

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Hey friends!

Welcome to the next instalment of my travel series: Angkor Wat, Cambodia! I’m so excited to share this next part of my journey with you guys, I honestly wasn’t too sure what to expect from Cambodia before I arrived, but it was honestly one of my favourite places and incredibly distinct from all the other countries we’ve visited along our journey.

The most interesting part of Cambodia was all the temples, and how they different from Laotian and Thai temples. The temples in Cambodia, rather than intricate paintings and mosaics, had carvings into the rocks that had meanings and stories carved into them.

Ta Keo

Cambodia has huge amounts of temples, both big and small, and in relative stages of so while some are nearly perfectly preserved some are quite interestingly growing back into the surrounding nature. Unlike many of the temples you’ll find in and nearby towns in other South East Asian countries, and the temples that visitors travel to most in Cambodia are out in the jungle. You can choose to go to as many or as few as you’d like, with the most well-known and largest one being of course, Angkor Wat.

I figured this entry would be a good place to share some tips I have for temples (both in Cambodia and elsewhere in South East Asia), as well as what to expect before I go on to cover the day we had exploring these temples!

What You’ll Need

Angkor Wat

All you absolutely need for a day exploring temples is the right supplies, appropriate attire and a good guide.

In terms of the guide, if you ever visit Siem Reap, message me and I’ll have you covered. My friend recommended us the most amazing Tuk Tuk driver named Sorn, who was friendly, knowledgeable, spoke great English and just generally made our whole stay in Siem Reap so much better. He had great recommendations and all kinds of knowledge that made our lives so much easier. So, if you ever get the chance to visit Cambodia, shoot me an email or comment on this post and I can put you in contact with him! 10/10 really made our stay sooooo much better.

Next up: appropriate attire. So, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, when you’re visiting temples you have to show respect with appropriate attire. It’s not optional, but all you have to do is be sure to cover your shoulders and knees and not wear a hat or shoes inside marked areas and you’ll be okay. Some countries have more strict rules about what you can and can’t wear, so this wasn’t bad at all to follow. If you’re planning on walking a lot, running or hiking shoes are also a good idea.

Baphuon

For clothes, while simply wearing leggings and a short sleeve top will be enough to have you covered (literally), there is a reason that every nearby stall sells the classic touristy elephant pants and related temple clothes. These clothes are so beyond comfortable and lightweight, and will help keep you from overheating in the hot weather. I personally opted for a t-shirt and a skirt I bought locally, they both kept me covered and cool, even in the peak heat of the day. Something else to note though is to be careful and look into what’s allowed before you purchase it, however, as Nylah bought a sarong and didn’t realize until we had reached the sacred temple in Angkor Wat that while it covered her knees, it was not appropriate attire.

A Tree Growing Out Of Banteay Kdei

The last thing you’ll need are the right supplies! Based on my own experiences, the absolute necessities are water, snacks, sunscreen, cash, sunglasses, and hair ties. However, hydration salts, cameras, hats, and a change of clothes certainly never hurt. If you have space to bring more stuff, it never hurts to be over prepared!

What To Expect

Well, first and foremost I’d say expect a very long day. Angkor Wat alone takes at least an hour and a half to explore completely at the bare minimum. Not only that, but you have to budget time for any other temples you wish to see, as well as travel time. Realistically, you should dedicate a whole day to temples.

Bapheon

Another thing to prepare for is a lot of walking, but nothing insane. So many people I know who have visited Angkor Wat before have made it seem as is it’s a gruelling and nearly impossible hike, which is far from the truth. Yes, there is a lot of walking — and occasional climbing involved if you want to go up to higher levels of the temples. However, it’s nothing that I feel like isn’t suitable for beginners. It is of course, incredibly hot, and likely pretty crowded during peak tourism seasons, so it’ll be a tiring day no matter what your level of fitness. But no matter what, I promise it is 100% worth it!

My Experience!

Banteay Kdei, First Temple

The best part about going to Angkor Wat and the nearby temples in the summer months is that it is not a popular time for tourists, meaning many of these sites were near-empty. In total, we toured 5 different temples along a route Sorn, our Tuk Tuk driver prepared for us. Before I get into it, I’m going to put a little disclaimer on this: While I tried to keep track of which temples we visited, I’m not 100% sure I have the right list. I’ve been researching to make sure I have it all correct, but if I’ve mixed one up please message me and let me know!

We started with two smaller temples, Banteay Kdei and Ta Prohm, with a quick stop in at the Ta Keo Temple, before carrying on to two larger temples in Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple and the Baphuon Temple. Finally, after all of this, we headed to Angkor Wat.

Example of Deterioration, Ta Prohm

The first two temples were small and practically empty, which made them incredible to explore. Both of them appeared to not have had any restoration completed such as the others were undergoing, and were slowly deteriorating and becoming part of the jungle surrounding them. At the first temple, Banteay Kdei, Nylah and I were guided in prayer by a local at the temple, who gifted us with good luck bracelets while we explored.

Ta Prohm, Second Temple

The second temple we visited, Ta Prohm, was small and well-known for its unique look that inspired the temples in the Tomb Raider franchise. It was a little larger and more crowded than the first temple, but still relatively small and empty compared to the others and incredibly beautiful. Seeing how this temple had literally grown into the forest was breath-taking and having it be as empty as it was made for a less touristy-feeling experience.

Ta Keo, Third Temple

After that, we stopped in quickly at Ta Keo, which was also quite empty and quite tall, which made for a crazy cool view. I opted to not go all the way to the top as I was under the impression that Angkor Wat was going to be more challenging than it was, but Nylah said the view was spectacular and even from the lower levels it was a nice, quiet overlook over the nearby jungle.

Buddha Head Carving At Bayon, Fourth Temple

From there, we headed over to Angkor Thom. The Bayon Temple was certainly the most busy of the temples we visited, as well as the most tiring. However, it was also one of the most large and interesting, sporting three levels, courtyards, maze-like hallways and of course, the Buddha heads carved into the pillars on the top level of the temple. I’d certainly suggest to pay attention to the signs telling you which direction to head in to make sure you see the whole temple in a timely matter and without getting lost.

After that, we headed to Baphuon. This temple was larger AND empty, allowing us to walk up to the empty higher levels and enjoy the views in peace, with absolutely no one else around.

Bapheon, Fifth Temple

After that, as I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for, we headed off to Angkor Wat. Before we even got to the entrance, you could see how absolutely vast it was. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world, and it certainly was massive. It took a while to cross the grounds over the sacred temple, but apart from that and the set of stairs leading up to the temple it wasn’t physically challenging at all. The temple itself was beautiful, and almost empty compared to the massive crowds Angkor Wat draws in peak tourist season. It was so beautiful and just serene.

Carvings At Angkor Wat

After we toured the main temple, we took some time to walk down the hallways, covered in intricate carvings, as well as smaller temples that lined the sides of the walkways. After that, we wandered the grounds and took in the views around us.

Overall, it was an amazing experience and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who has the chance. The temples of Cambodia are so distinct from other South East Asian temples, and getting to go when it wasn’t peak tourist season made for a much more relaxing, spiritual and enjoyable experience than if it were packed with tourists.

Angkor Wat

And that’s all for Angkor Wat! Stay tuned to hear all about my favourite things to do in Siem Reap later this week! Hope you all are having a fantastic Thursday!

Xo,

Meredith

PS: BONUS CONTENT! Check out these other photos I snapped on my trip! Hope you enjoy them (and the other photos as well!)

More Examples Of Deterioration At Ta Prohm

Bayon

Spend A Weekend With Me In Hoi An!

Friends Made In Hoi An!

Hey y’all!

Okay, so this entry is going to be a little different from the others. I honestly wasn’t all too sure how to go about writing this one, as this stop on our trip was VERY different from the others. While many of our other stops have either been predominantly focused on culture, food, exploring and hiking, this one was much more about socializing and making friends.

During our stay in Hoi An (which was really only about three days), we stayed in the Vietnam Backpackers hostel. It was almost like an all-inclusive style hostel, complete with bracelets to load money on, a pool, and a restaurant/bar. There was honestly little need to ever leave, which made it the perfect place to make friends. In our short time here, Nylah and I met and befriended people from England, Italy, France, Australia and even a whole bunch of people from Canada.

The hostel threw daily events meant to facilitate meeting other travellers, such as barbecues, beach parties and full-moon style glow parties. The Vietnam Backpacker hostel chain is known as being a bit more “party-focused” than most hostels, which certainly has its upsides and downsides. I’ve heard from other people on our trip some of the other locations can be a whole lot — they’re often pretty loud and busy, and can get a bit overwhelming with trying to balance sightseeing with the hostel culture in other cities. However, others said they were super fun and exactly what they were looking for.

I can certainly vouch for a lot of other hostels not really creating much of a social environment — many of the other places we’ve stayed at guests have stuck to themselves and we hadn’t met many other travellers. However, Hoi An is the perfect location to stay in a hostel with this kind of environment. It’s pretty small, so it’s easy to see the town as well as get to meet other young travellers from all over the world!

Plus, if you’re thinking of visiting Hoi An, there’s still plenty to do and see. Here’s a couple of the best places I saw during my stay!

Check Out The Local Restaurants!

Hoi An Serene Garden Restaurant

The town of Hoi An has plenty to offer in terms of food. Depending on where you stay, it might be a trek, but we’ve recently been introduced to Grab, the Uber of South East Asia, which made getting around super easy. In particular, our two personal favourites were Burger Craft and The Serene Garden. At Burger Craft, we all got the O Canada burgers as a joke about half our group being Canadian, but thank god we did because they were beyond fantastic. All of us collectively agreed it beat out any burger joint we had been to in our lives. This includes the Burgers Priest (if you’re from Toronto), Five Guys and even In-N-Out. Seriously.

The other restaurant, The Serene Garden, was a little more upscale but absolutely worth every penny. The lemongrass BBQ beef I had was to die for, and the cocktails were amazing. 10/10, all 6 of us who ate there said it was spectacular.

Head Into The Old Town!

Hoi An Old Town

The town of Hoi An is a mix between a smaller town vibe, like Ninh Binh, but also the hectic nature of Hanoi. It’s a perfect mix of culture and getting outside of the cities. I’d certainly recommend going at night since it was both so beautiful as well as a much more manageable temperature out, however. While you’re in town, there’s many outstanding shops to check out, as well as the rivers and lanterns, which were beautiful. Pro Tip: if you go at night you can even take a boat along the river to see the lanterns!

Hit Up The Beach (Or Kahunas!)

View From Kahunas Bar

Hoi An was the first real beachside stop we’ve had on our trip, but it was well worth the wait. The beach was so beautiful and vast, and the water was perfect for swimming in. (I wish I had photos for you guys but I got a little caught up in swimming while I was there and didn’t even consider it). Furthermore, if you want to stop in for drinks, our hostel had a pool and bar on the beach called Kahuna’s, which was a great place to go for chill vibes and drinks beachside.

That’s all for Hoi An! Next week we head off to Ho Chi Minh city (formerly known as Saigon). It’s our last stop it Vietnam before we head to Cambodia, so stay tuned!

Lots of love,

Meredith

Spend A Day With Me In Luang Prabang!

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang, Laos

Hey guys!

I’m back with my first travel blog post from Luang Prabang, Laos! From the moment I first arrived here I fell so in love that I honestly feel like I could move here. The scenery is sooooo beautiful and the food is to die for. Keep reading to hear all about my first day adventure in Laos!

Exploring Kuang Si Falls!

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang

After a quick breakfast at our hostel me and Nylah headed off to Kuang Si Falls. The National Park has all kinds of attractions, including the falls, which you can swim in, as well as a hike and a bear sanctuary. Not only were the falls one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life, they were the perfect swimming temperature to beat the Laos heat. You can splash around in the pools, or sit in the falls, both of which were super beautiful and relaxing. The hike is pretty challenging, so if you’re planning on it it’s probably a good idea to wear waterproof shoes and bring lots of water. I completed about half the hike before I felt it was getting too challenging for what I had prepared for, but Nylah completed it and said the view from the top was amazing, as well there are more swimming pools and a swing to enjoy when you reach the top! Even without completing the hike, these falls were so stunning and laying around in them was one of the most relaxing things I’ve done this whole trip.

Lunch at Chang Kham!

Sizzling Cashew Chicken Plate, Chang Kham

After our excursion to the falls, we stopped in at Chang Kham for a quick lunch! We’d stopped in here the first night after we arrived, but were more than happy to go again as the food was SO GOOD. The first time the chicken satay I had was to die for, and the sizzling fried chicken plate I had after visiting Kuang Si really hit the spot and got us ready to gear up for the rest of our day.

Drinks At A Local Bar!

Mojitos at a Local Bar

After a quick trip back to our hostel and a break, we headed out to grab drinks at a local bar. They had a buy two get one special on mojitos, which we very much took advantage of. They had all kinds of unique flavours, like raspberry, watermelon, and passion fruit (which you can see me drinking above). It was a great refresher after a long day.

Dinner At Coconut Garden!

Coconut Garden Outdoor Restaurant

After drinks we headed off to a little outdoor restaurant called Coconut Gardens. The food was simple but amazing, and it was a nice small meal after the crazy day we had. The soups in South East Asia are so delicious — and worth it even with the crazy heat, so we’ve been taking full advantage lately.

Visiting the Night Market!

Art Sale at the Local Night Market

After dinner, we walked back to our hostel through the night market. It super cool to be able to see and compare night markets between different cities and countries. While the Chiang Mai night market was only on weekends and was more food based, Luang Prabang has night markets daily that focus a lot more on clothing and art. These little markets really are a great way to take in the culture on each stop of our journey.

And that’s it for today! Stay tuned for an upcoming post on things to do in Luang Prabang! Hopefully you’re all enjoying my travel blogs so far, I’d love to hear if any of you get inspired or find places to visit on your next trip from these. If you have anything specific you want to hear about in the next segment, drop a comment below! I’d love to hear any suggestions you have.

Love y’all,

Meredith