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

South East Asia: The Top Ten!

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang, Laos

Hey everybody!

So, as many of you know by now I’ve just returned from a trip across South East Asia that included Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. While it was all pretty amazing, I certainly had my favourite places that I’d consider to be must sees if you ever get the opportunity to travel to any of these beautiful countries! Between the ten of them, I really couldn’t pick favourites, plus everything is completely depended on what people are interested in pursuing while they travel, and which country or areas they choose to visit.

So, without further ado, here’s my top ten! They’re put in order of when we visited them, with absolutely no ranking in terms of favouritism between them. I hope if you’re reading this, it gives you ideas for where to visit on your travels or even inspires you to plan a trip! If anyone else has been/is going to any of the following places, drop a comment! I’d love to hear all about it.

Thailand
Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai
Doi Inthanon, Thailand

During our time in South East Asia, Nylah and I saw more temples than I could even keep track of. Doi Inthanon, however, was something special. It was by far one of the most peaceful and magical places I have ever laid eyes on. Between the beautiful architecture of these temples and the stunning mountain top view, if you’re ever in Thailand Doi Inthanon is a temple stop you definitely can’t miss. Read my original post here!

Elephant Sanctuary, Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai, Thailand

When people think of Thailand, I’m sure for many elephant riding comes to mind. However, while elephant riding tours certainly still exist all over Thailand, many people have started to realize how inhumane they are to the animals. If you want to see elephants during your stay in Thailand, instead, you should check out a sanctuary like Elephant Jungle Sanctuary! Not only were many of the elephants rescued from elephant riding camps, but you could see how happy and well-cared for these animals were — something you’d definitely miss out on if you choose to ride the animals instead. Read my original post here!

Viewpoint Hike, Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Koh Phi Phi straight up has to be the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited in my life. If you ever get the opportunity to visit, the best way to take it all in is to hike up to the viewpoint! The hike is a little challenging, but incredibly rewarding as you get a view of the whole island from the top. If you do go, be sure to check out the second viewpoint, the scenery was absolutely insane. If you’re really looking for something special, be sure to hike up for sunset/sunrise for a truly spectacular view. Read my original post here!

BONUS: Get A Thai Massage

Okay, okay, I know I said top ten, but I figured I’d add this one in as a quick bonus. While I went to get a massage in Bangkok, you really could get one anywhere in Thailand, hence why I added it as a bonus — it really isn’t location-specific. Not only can you get an amazing massage for exceptional prices, if you’ve never experienced a Thai massage it’ll be unlike any you’ve had before. Be sure to ask at your hotel/hostel for recommendations for best places in the area!

Laos
Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang
Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang, Laos

Oh man was this place ever magical. Kuang Si Falls is made up of a series of waterfalls, that cascade down into a set of pools you can swim in. The water is literally bright baby blue, and you can sit in the falls as well. They’re even full of those little fish they have at those pedicure places, so you can get a quick and all-natural pedi while you’re at it! Overall, this was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, 10/10 would recommend. Read my original post here!

Phousi Mountain Hike, Luang Prabang
Phousi Mountain, Luang Prabang, Laos

Out of all the hikes we did, this one was certainly one of my favourites. For the relatively small level of difficulty, the views were spectacular. The viewpoint at the top gave you a lookout over all of Luang Prabang and the surrounding mountains. For an extra special view, be sure to go at sunrise or sundown. Read my original post here!

Vietnam
Ha Long Bay, Hanoi
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay straight up looks like a scene out of a movie — it seriously doesn’t even look real. The bay is filled with tiny mountain-like islands, in fact, there’s nearly 2000 in the area. There’s all sorts of things to do in the area, such as hikes, caves, and beaches, so if you go be sure to check out the local boat cruises — I’d recommend an overnight one at least. This place is absolutely magical, and its certainly worthwhile to spend an extra night there, see the sunset, and take in the almost-ethereal locale. Read my original post here!

Hang Múa Hike, Ninh Binh
Hang Múa, Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Out of all the hikes we completed across all of South East Asia, this one was certainly the hardest–but also the most spectacular. If you’re going to give it a try, be sure to go well prepared; it’s certainly not the easiest of hikes, especially it the Vietnam heat. But the view from the top was beyond amazing, words can’t even describe how beautiful and rewarding it was. Read my original post here!

Night Food Market, Ho Chi Minh City
Night Food Market, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

South East Asia, across the board, had many of the absolute best meals I’ve had in my life — but this place was by far my favourite. Not only did it have a great atmosphere, but there was endless options to choose from. There was all kinds of food stands from a large array of Asian cuisines, without a doubt there was something there for anything you happened to be craving. If I lived in Ho Chi Minh City, I guarantee you could find me here every night. Read my original post here!

Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Along with Doi Inthanon, Angkor Wat was my favourite temple we saw along our trip (and as I said, we saw a whole lot of temples). Not only was it crazy to see how Cambodian Temples differed from those in Thailand and Laos, but the sheer size and grandeur of Angkor Wat makes it a must-see. You could easily spend hours here and feel like there’s still more to see — and the views from the top are unreal. As the largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat is something you absolutely can’t miss if you’re travelling to Cambodia. Read my original post here!

Phnom Kulen Falls, Siem Reap
Phnom Kulen Falls, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Like Kuang Si Falls, Phnom Kulen Falls are a great place to stop in for a swim–but also distinctly different from the falls in Laos. This waterfall had two swimming areas; one a smaller fall that was more like a shower, and a giant pool at the bottom of the second, massive waterfall. It was so beautiful and relaxing, and I’d highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in the area. Read my original post here!

So there you have it! I really hope that some of y’all can find somewhere on this list that inspires you for your next trip. If any of you have been to any of these places and would like to share your thoughts, let me know! As well, I’d love to hear it if you have any suggestions of your own. It’ll probably be a little while before I’m going to be able to travel again, but for next time I’m thinking Japan, Singapore, or Europe!

But that’s all for now! Until next time.

Lots of Love,

Meredith

Things To Do: Koh Phi Phi Edition!

Me, At The Beach In Koh Phi Phi

Hey everyone!

Welcome to the next instalment of my travel series: Koh Phi Phi, Thailand! Sadly, this is the last location we’ll visit before heading back to Bangkok, and therefore means that this will be one of the last of my South East Asia travel series. Going home is certainly bittersweet, I’ve honestly had some of the best experiences of my life on this trip and would love to stay and explore more, but am also excited to go home. Besides, going home just means I get to work on planning my next trip!

Anyways, Koh Phi Phi!

To preface, I’ve actually been to Phuket before, and spent a day on a boat trip around Koh Phi Phi and the surrounding islands. However, this time I got the opportunity to actually stay on the island of Koh Phi Phi itself, which was a dream. Phuket and the surrounding islands are hands down my favourite place on earth, and while this location certainly offers a lot less in terms of religious culture and exploring than the others, it still is my personal fave. Not only is Phi Phi the most beautiful place on earth, or very well may be one of the most relaxing. Stay tuned to hear all about my favourite things to do in the area (besides just lying on the beach)!

Do A Boat Cruise!
Phi Phi Island Boat Tours

One of the best ways to get some exploring done around the islands is to book a boat cruise! They’re offered everywhere you look in Koh Phi Phi, so take some time and do the research about which one is best for you, but you really can’t go wrong! On our personal half day boat trip, we did a mix of snorkelling, kayaking and beach exploring. We stopped in first at Bamboo Island to snorkel, kayak or head into shore and check out the beach. After that, we stopped in at another reef and were given time to snorkel some more. And finally — my personal favourite — for our final stop, we kayaked into some beaches that were inhabited by monkeys! We actually got to go on shore, feed them and take photos of them, which was incredible. They were so cute and so fascinating to see up close in their natural habitat, and not some kind of exhibit or zoo. 10/10, would highly recommend checking out if you take a boat cruise, but there’s all kinds of option to choose from! If you’re interested, there’s other islands and activity options, and you can read more about it in my next post!

Hike To The View Point!
Sunset View, Viewpoint #2, Koh Phi Phi

To be fair, Koh Phi Phi is full of beautiful views no matter where you look. However, hiking up to the top of the viewpoints was one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen. To be fair, you should be prepared for a fair amount of stairs and a good work out if you decide to check this one out, but it’s 100% worth it (especially viewpoint #2)! I’d definitely recommend planning to head up to catch the sunset, which was both just amazing to see as well as a little cooler than hiking up midday.

Check Out The Local Restaurants!
Eggs Benny at Acqua

Koh Phi Phi is a pretty small island that’s very much geared towards tourists, so everywhere you look there’s either shops, bars, restaurants, and tour guides. So many of the restaurants at Koh Phi Phi were fantastic, but we certainly had a few favourites: Acqua, Anna’s, Unni’s, and Charlie’s. As Phi Phi is a lot more tourist-friendly than almost any other place we’ve visited on this trip, most restaurants do not stick to a singular cuisine and offer a variety of options. Most places will have, at the very least, both Western and Thai options — as all the places I loved most did (especially as I did get a fairly serious case of food poisoning from the food stands at the docks and had to take it easy for the first half of our visit). They’re all still unique in their own way, however; Anna’s was predominantly Swiss/German and Thai, while Unni’s and Acqua were both more standard North American and Thai. Charlie’s, in comparison, focused mainly on Italian cuisine but had Thai options as well. Not only would I highly recommend any of these four restaurants if you ever get the chance to visit Koh Phi Phi, but I can almost guarantee that even though it is a small island, it’ll have something for everyone. Seriously.

Go to Phuket!
Sunset View, Phuket

Okay, so I feel like the usual trip is “Go to Phuket, visit the Islands” and not the other way around, but I feel like I’d personally suggest focusing your trip around the islands. However, Phuket is still amazing in a completely different way and shouldn’t be overlooked! While you’re in Phuket, the beaches are a must-see. They’re so different from other South East Asian beaches, and have evergreen trees lining their shores instead of palms. Not only is it a cool change from a regular beach experience, but these beaches are just spectacular in their own right. So whether your trip is based around the islands or Phuket, be sure to check out both during your stay!

And that’s Koh Phi Phi! Stay tuned to hear more in depth about my boat cruise experience! For anyone looking to travel to Thailand, I really personally believe Koh Phi Phi is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen and I already am hoping to get the chance to go back in the future. For such a tiny island, it really has it all — a HUGE party scene, plenty of adventures and wildlife, snorkeling and scuba, and all sorts of places to kick back and relax. It really is a must see and perfect for almost any Thailand trip, no matter what you’re looking for.

Much Love,

Meredith

Me, At The Beach In Koh Phi Phi

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