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

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

Places To Eat: Hanoi Edition!

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hey Everyone!

So, anyone who knows me knows I LOVE Vietnamese food. Naturally, my time in Vietnam has like 90% revolved around food. Honestly, I’m pretty in love with everything about Hanoi (except for the humidity but so what else is new) but the food here is really amazing. So without further ado, here’s all my favourite places to eat!

When You’re Looking For Something Bougie

The Diamond Skybar

The Diamond Skybar is a great place for dinner with a view. The rooftop bar features a view over the city of Hanoi, and many excellent drink and food options. I felt so classy eating dinner here, and the view was beyond spectacular.

When You’re Looking For A Quick Bite

Bún Bò Nam Bộ Bách Phương

Next up: Bún Bò Nam Bộ Bách Phương! This Beef and Noodle place was honestly the most convenient meal of my life. It wasn’t my favourite but it was pretty damn good, plus it was so fast. The restaurant essentially only has one thing on the menu, so after you’ve ordered you get your food literally within a minute. Not even McDonalds has comparable speed. It was insane.

When You’re Looking For Breakfast, Lunch, And Dinner

My Pho

My Pho really has it all. From Pho (duh), to spring rolls, to sticky rice and more, the menu has something for every meal of the day. This was the first place me and Nylah stopped in Hanoi, entirely by chance, but it was amazing. All of the food here is outstanding, you really can’t go wrong with this one.

When You’re Looking For Pho (And Only Pho)

Pho Ten

The Pho at Pho Ten is phenomenal. It’s essentially the only thing on the menu, but they have plenty of options to pick from, some more adventurous than others. This place was fantastic to stop in for breakfast, and the Pho was next level. 10/10 would recommend.When You’re Looking For Banh Mi (And Only Banh Mi)

Banh Mi 25

If you’re looking for fantastic Banh Mi, be sure to check out Banh Mi 25. They have both seating and take-out, and their food and fruit juice were BEYOND delicious. They have a range of options of pork, chicken, beef and vegetarian — some kind of adventurous, some not. Overall, there’s really something for everyone and the food is 10/10 so why not!

So that’s Hanoi! I gotta say, I really love this city. It’s crazy hectic and super loud, but also full of amazing architecture and shopping. You can visibly see all the cultures that make up Vietnamese culture coming together in one place and it’s just so cool. The French Quarter is a total must see if you’re ever travelling to South East Asia.

I hope you enjoyed reading! Stay tuned for my next Vietnam instalment: Spend A Day With Me On A Boat Cruise In Ha Long Bay!

Much Love,

Meredith

Things To Do: Luang Prabang Edition!

Me, At The Kuang Si Falls near Luang Prabang

Hey everyone!

I’m back with my second instalment of my Laos travel diary: things to do in Luang Prabang! Our stay here was super short but absolutely packed with some of the most amazing parts of our trip so far. (Yes, I know I say that a lot, but I swear this trip just keeps getting better and better!) Anyways, since our stay was so short I’m going to cover places to eat and things to do all in one post. If you’re thinking of traveling to South East Asia, be sure to add Laos to your itinerary. I honestly didn’t know much about it before arriving as it is a bit of an uncommon place to visit, but it’s honestly so beautiful here, even Thailand can’t compare. Keep reading to hear all my best finds in the beautiful city of Luang Prabang!

Take A Boat Tour!

The Mekong River

Luang Prabang has the massive Mekong river running through the whole country, making a boat tour one of the best ways to get around! Your options are pretty endless with these boat tours, as they offer both half and full day tours, with options to see the falls, elephants, and more.

Textile Display At The Textile Village

On our particular boat tour, our first stop was at a textile village that also brewed its own sticky rice whiskey and wine. They offered (many, many) samples of their whiskey, as you got to explore the village and it’s beautiful textile stalls. My personal favourite in terms of the drinks was the dark rice wine, which was sweet and delicious. However, they also had some INCREDIBLY strong whiskey, for those who were looking for something with a little extra kick.

Whiskey Display At The Textile Village

After that, we hopped on the boat and headed over to the local Pak Ou caves, which hold buddhist temples inside. The stop featured two caves, one which was deep and dark and the other which was quite light and open, for those who aren’t a fan of caves. Both of them were incredibly beautiful and super cool, and I would highly recommend checking them out if you have the chance.

Pak Ou Caves

Check Out Our Favourite Restaurant: Tangor!

Our Meal At Tangor

Oh my god was this place ever amazing. It offers both patios and indoors, but with an open front so that me and Nylah got to sit just off the patio and still see outside. The food here was INCREDIBLE, the pumpkin soup and fried spring rolls I ordered had to be some of the best I’ve ever had in my life. To top it all off, they offered cocktails categorized as “strong”, “refreshing”, “classic” etc. I got one of the “refreshing” cocktails and it certainly lived up to the name, as well as being one of the most delicious and well-crafted drinks I have ever had. If you’re ever in Luang Prabang, this restaurant is a must-try.

Hike Up Phousi Mountain!

Sunrise View From Phousi Moutain

This hike gives you a beautiful view over the city. Its easy enough that it wouldn’t be too tough for beginners, even in the heat. For an added bonus, you can take the trip up at sunrise or sunset for an even more spectacular view. We chose to do the hike at sunrise, but there’s certainly pros and cons to both. The benefits of doing a sunrise hike are the nice, cooler temperatures before the sun rises and a much less crowded viewpoint at the top. However, the sunset views are probably more spectacular and the viewpoint is set up much better for a sunset view. The only downside is how hot it would be that late in the night, as well as the fact that apparently the viewpoint is packed in the sunset hours. I’m sure either way it would be amazing, but the sunrise hike was a wonderful way to start out our last day in Luang Prabang!

Explore the Kuang Si Falls!

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang

I’ll keep this one short as I know I already covered it in my previous post, but this place is both spectacularly beautiful as well as easy to access and explore. The water is the perfect temperature to cool off in the Laos heat, and getting to swim through a waterfall is always a plus! For the more adventurous types, you can also hike up and see the sights from the top of the waterfall. Be sure to be prepared though, as the hike is pretty steep (as well as the heat being an added challenge!). As well, if you have water shoes, they might be a good idea as the algae on the rocks gets pretty slippery. However, still a 10/10 stop overall and I’d highly recommend it to other travelers!

Explore The City!

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is honestly one of the most beautiful towns I have ever visited. Seriously, from the moment we arrived I’ve been joking to Nylah that I’m ready to leave everything behind and just move here. There’s plenty to see in the town, from local shops and restaurants, to the beautiful river and more. As well, there are beautiful temples all over the city to visit, and lack the crowds that many of the temples in Thailand attract!

Haw Pha Bang, Luang Prabang
Visit The Night Market!

Coconut Pancakes At The Night Market

Okay, I know I’ve discussed my love for night markets before so I’ll keep this one short. Taking time to stroll through the night markets in any town is a great way to relax and take in the culture. Besides, you never know what gems you’re going to find — like these mini coconut pancakes!

So that’s Luang Prabang! I hope you’ve all been enjoying reading my travel blogs as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. If you have any recommendations or felt inspired by any of my posts, feel free to let me know! If you ever have the chance to visit Laos, it is 110% beautiful and amazing and I would highly recommend it. Next stop: Hanoi, Vietnam!

Much Love,

Meredith