Stay-At-Home Valentine’s Ideas For Singles and Significant Other’s!

Hey y’all!

So, it’s finally February, which can only mean one thing — it’s almost Valentine’s Day.

I’m definitely in the minority on this one, but personally — I’m actually pretty indifferent to Valentine’s Day. I feel like it’s a holiday that causes a lot of heightened emotions for a lot of people — there can be crazy high expectations for those in relationships, and feelings of absolute dread for those who are single. It’s kind of sad, however, to see a holiday that’s supposed to be love turn into something that causes so much stress in others, though. Which is why, since starting my blog, I’ve made it a mission each February to make posts to help alleviate some of the stress surrounding February 14th.

In all honesty, I really couldn’t tell you what I’ve done on Valentine’s Day the past few years — I’ve been single for a while now, and I guess my apathetic attitude towards the holiday makes me kind of lucky, since it doesn’t really cause me any trouble. However, I did used to be a bit of an Edge Lordtm about the whole thing a few years back, so I do know how much it can suck to feel as though everyone is rubbing their happiness in your faces.

Truth be told, however, the one time I actually was in a relationship on Valentine’s Day was actually kind of crappier than any year I’ve spent single. For a holiday that should simply be about celebrating your relationship, it sure as hell comes with a lot of extra baggage. This year, however, all of our expectations for just about anything have gone out the window — so I’m hoping that with stay-at-home restrictions, limited open public spaces, and all the other crazy stuff going on in the world, we can all take it back to the basics and remember why Valentine’s Day should be celebrated in the first place.

So, whether you’re in a relationship and looking for some COVID-safe activities for the 14th, or single and looking for a way to celebrate yourself this Valentine’s Day, here are ##### ideas that work for singles, couples, AND friend’s this Valentine’s that will help you celebrate love and happiness in a safe and stress-free way!

Make an Elaborate Meal

If you’ve been taking up cooking since COVID began or have really been missing going out to fancy restaurants lately, this is the perfect Valentine’s plan for you. Rather than just eating whatever you’ve meal prepped for the week, plan out a multiple-course dinner for yourself, your significant others or your household complete with a little menu, entrées, desserts, and maybe even some fancy drink pairings. If you really want to go all out, make a Spotify playlist for the night, decorate your dining area and dress up to the nines — why not, right? Even if you live alone and you’re celebrating by yourself this year, I’m a big believer that you don’t always need an excuse to dress up or treat yourself. Going all-out to recreate the fine dining night-out experience in your own home is definitely a night you’ll remember — and you’ll be able to cater your own little restaurant experience perfectly to your own tastes, too!

Have a Spa Night

I know I suggest this one a lot, but it’s a great way to treat yourself, and works well as a night in with your SO or friends, as well. If this is the vibe you’re feeling this 14th, go all out and plan an elaborate self-care night, tailored towards your personal plans! Feel free to decorate, prep some snacks, make some tea (or grab some wine), light some candles, and set up a Spotify playlist full of some chill vibes. To really relax fully and enjoy your night, plan out what you’ll be doing in advance so when the time comes, you don’t even have to think about it! Some great ideas are face masks, mani/pedis, warm baths, a little meditation — it’s all up to you!

Plan a Movie Marathon

For a chiller night in with a less planning, the best way to go is often a good old-fashioned movie marathon. Order a pizza, grab a bottle of wine and some snacks, and you’re basically set for the night. One of the best ways to make a movie marathon feel like an occasion is to choose a theme, or franchise, to stick to for the night. As for what that is — it’s up to you and whoever will be joining you this Valentine’s Day! Some good ideas may be classic Golden Age Hollywood movies, Rom-Com’s, cheesy horror movies, animated films such as Disney or Studio Ghibli, or fantasy franchises such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and the MCU.

Explore the Outdoors

Depending on where you’re located (and weather-depending), spending the day outside can be a great way to spend Valentine’s Day by yourself or with those who are special to you. If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with nice enough weather, you can plan a picnic or spend the evening watching the sunset — and for those of you in cooler climates, you can always try out heading out on a walk or hike, or taking some time to drive somewhere isolated and go stargazing. Outdoor activities really vary depending on where in the world your located, so if this sounds like something you’re feeling down for, give your local outdoor attractions a quick google and see if you can find something special!

Make a DIY Cocktail Bar

This is basically the same idea as making an elaborate home meal for those of us looking to have a boozier night on the 14th. Instead of planning out a meal, search up some recipes for some of your fave fancy cocktails and gather up all the ingredients you’ll need. Plan out a little menu with a couple options, and you’re good to go! Some ways you can really help create the atmosphere of being out at a classy bar establishment is setting up a little charcuterie or cheese board, decorating your space, getting all dressed up, and making a playlist for whatever vibe you’re going for.

Bake Some V-Day Treats

If you’re one for baking, skip the chocolates this year (or not — why not both?) and bake your own Valentine’s treats. There’s all kinds of ways to pull off this little Valentine’s Day plan — depending on what you and others in your life enjoy, you can either surprise the important people in your life with some homemade Valentine’s snacks, spend the day baking with your SO, friends or family — or just bake up a bunch of treats for yourself!

Have an At-Home Wine and Paint Night

This is a super fun and cute idea if you’re looking to spend your Valentine’s doing an activity that’s a little more elaborate and hands on, IMO. It’ll take a little bit of prep — you’ll need canvases/paper, paint, paintbrushes (and wine, obviously) to really pull this idea off. If you’re really looking to go all out, make sure you also pick up some snacks, maybe even a little decor, and prepare the perfect Spotify playlist to set the mood. The best part is, this activity actually works perfectly, no matter who you end up spending your night with (even if it’s yourself!). As a bonus, afterwards you also have a sweet little keepsake to help you remember the night forever (even if you may not remember it yourself! I won’t judge.).

No matter how you guys end up spending your Valentine’s this year, regardless of who you end up spending it with, I hope you all end up having an amazing day (even if this Valentine’s is just going to be another Sunday for you). No matter what, just remember that while Valentine’s is a lovely holiday meant to celebrate happiness and love, it isn’t the be all to end all — and just because it doesn’t end up going the way you pictured it being doesn’t always mean it was a total bust. My hope for all of you is that this year, no matter what your circumstances are — Valentine’s ends up being fantastic at best, or just another day at worst. Even if, for whatever reason, you really are dreading Valentine’s this year — at the end of the day, it’s just another day and you will get through it.

Happy Sunday, everyone! For those of you big on sports, I hope you all had fun this Super Bowl Sunday (I personally could not care less as a non-American, non-sports fan who used to work at a sports bar — but that’s just me!). If you did something really fun and COVID-friendly today, drop a comment below and let me know how you spent it! I’m always looking for new, fun, stay-at-home friendly ideas to use in my own life.

Much love,

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

Things To Do: Ninh Binh Edition!

View From The Top Of Hang Múa, Ninh Binh

Hey guys!

Welcome back to what will be one of the shortest instalment of my travel diary: Ninh Binh! I want to stress that just because I don’t have as many things to discuss about Ninh Binh that somehow it shouldn’t be on the list of people considering travelling to Vietnam. Ninh Binh is in the countryside, and on top of that Nylah and I stayed at a homestay even further outside of the town’s borders. It certainly was the most isolated location we’ve visited thus far — therefore did not have as much to offer in terms of restaurants and bars — but had MORE than enough to offer in terms of exploring. Plus, the lack of places to eat was pretty irrelevant as we could eat every meal at our homestay if we so pleased. On top of everything else, the homestay we stayed at — the Ninh Binh Family Homestay — was hands down our best accommodations yet. In South East Asia, cheap but wonderful hostels seem to be everywhere. For their surprisingly low prices, you can really find some amazing places. But this place really stepped it up; the staff were SO kind and helpful, and the rooms were huge, beautiful and had queen-sized beds!!! We really felt we were a part of the family when we were staying there. Just, overall, 11/10 would HIGHLY recommend.

Go On A Cave Tour!

Động Thiên Hà

Okay, I love a good excursion that feels isolated and untouched as much as the next backpacker — but I will say this tour is not for the faint of heart. We took a boat up to the Động Thiên Hà caves, where we hiked up to another river where our guide then paddled is up its length. The only lighting is sparse colourful bulbs meant to light the way as much as necessary — but not any more. Plus, unlike the other caves we visited, this place was relatively untouched and unaltered for tourists. Which was why it was, quite literally, FULL of bats. I really mean like thousands of bats, so be aware of what you’re getting into when you sign up for this because once you’re in there’s really no going back. I certainly pushed many of my limits in this cave, as the ceilings were short, the tunnels were dark and the bats were everywhere. To be fair, none of them ever touched us. As well, you’re probably thinking “oh, she’s just being dramatic. It was probably just 10 bats,” well, no. It was quite literally hundreds, possibly thousands of bats. It was VERY cool and fulfilling to do something that had absolutely no other tourists, but I will say: if you’re claustrophobic or just straight up hate bats, I’d avoid this one.

Go On A Boat Ride!

To do a complete 180 degree from the former activity, this was easily the most relaxed I’ve been this whole trip. All this excursion constituted of was being leisurely paddled down a beautiful — and relatively empty — river in the countryside. You do get to have a much more brief and less hands-on peak of a cave, so if you’re unsure about the cave tour, check this out for sure.

Go On A Hike!

Hang Múa

Okay, we’ve done a whole bunch of little hikes this trip, but so far Hang Múa takes the cake. This hike, while being one of the most challenging I’ve ever done, was certainly one of the most rewarding. It went pretty far up, around 700 steps — all while being over 40 degrees out. This was at like 8:30 in the morning too, so if you’re going to do this hike plan ahead and go early because I certainly would have gotten heat stroke if I did it in the midday heat. This hike is certainly more challenging — and may not be for everyone — but the two peaks at the top offered some of the most stunning views. If you think you’re ready to take the trek then I’d highly recommend it.

So that’s Ninh Binh! While our stay there was short it was jam-packed with a lot of the most amazing adventure-type activities I’ve ever gotten the chance to do. If you’re looking for a trip that kind of gets away from the touristy side of things, Ninh Binh is perfect for you.

Stay tuned! Next up we’re off to Hoi An!

Love y’all,

Meredith

Spend A Day With Me On A Boat Cruise In Ha Long Bay!

Me, At Ha Long Bay

Hey Loves!

Welcome back to my newest travel blog instalment! Today I’m going to be sharing with you my experience staying on an overnight boat cruise through Ha Long Bay, Vietnam!

Ha Long Bay was honestly beyond unreal. It was honestly one of the most magical places I have ever witnessed. The bay is full of nearly 2000 moutain-like islands that you can boat through and explore, and the scenery is beyond stunning. The boat cruises often come with a planned itinerary, making it easy to go and see many aspects of what Ha Long has to offer in a short period of time.

Before The Adventure

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

So I figured I’d preface our little excursion with what we did before exploring. Our tour company, Ha Long Phoenix Cruiser, picked us up directly from our hostel and took us on the 3-hour drive to the bay. Once we arrived, we were given a welcome speech (peach juice included!) and our room keys, then lunch after we’d settled in. We toured through the islands after when we had some free time, before coming to a stop where we’d be anchoring the boat overnight.

First Stop: Island Exploration!

View From The Top of Ti Top Island

For our first stop, we took a little boat out to Ti Top Island. The island offered a small beach, ocean swimming, and a hike. Nylah and I opted to start off with the “hike”, which, while certainly presenting some level of challenge, was pretty much okay for everyone. Not just like “young adults everyone” — as in toddlers, older adults, and the whole range in between. It was hot and a little tiring, but the view from the top was 100% worth it. Plus, if you work up a sweat on the way up, you can do what we did on the way down: immediately plunge into the ocean as soon as you’re down!

Second Stop: Cave Tour!

Cave Tour At Ha Long Bay

Next up, our little boat took us across the river to a cave tour. The cave tour had 3 caves to explore; small, medium, and large (read: HUGE). The walk up to the caves looked daunting from the bottom, considering we had already been hiking, but was no where near as bad as it looked since it pretty much evened out after the first cave. Now, I know the idea of caves aren’t for everyone, but this one has been rebuilt in a way that makes it safe, easy, and minimally scary for everyone — and on top of that really is cool to explore!

Third Stop: Drinks And Sunset!

Sunset View, Ha Long Bay

After all our excursions, we returned to our boat for dinner and drinks. The best part of the boat was honestly how quickly many of us became friends. This obviously varies depending who you end up on the tour with, but being out at sea with 10-20 strangers does tend to help bonding a bit. We had drinks through sunset all the way until near midnight — and possibly even longer if we didn’t have a curfew!

Fourth Stop: Cave Kayaking!

Ha Long Bay

Cave Kayaking was more a less what you’d expect — we took our boats and went through a quick paddle through one of the ocean caves. There were certainly some highlights (ie. we saw monkeys), and then we returned to the boat to pack and have lunch.

Fifth Stop: Vietnamese Cooking Class!

Hanoi Style Spring Rolls

Our very last activity was a pre-lunch Vietnamese Cooking class. Our class focused specifically on one of me and Nylah’s (literal) favourite foods in the world — Hanoi-style Vietnamese spring rolls. We were taught how to assemble them, then made all our lunch spring rolls before they were given to the kitchen staff for frying. Overall, it was both super fun and incredibly cool to see how one of our favourites foods were made. (Also, they were delicious).

Sixth Stop: Back To Hanoi!

Ha Long Bay

Post-lunch we sat up on the top deck as we prepared to dock. Overall, it was an amazing experience — not 100% perfect, but the food made up for the bad. I’m not usually one to criticize in my posts, however our specific boat did not quite live up to expectations. First of all, many of the advertised aspects (such as 24-hour bar and other perks) certainly did not exist. As well, I know it is a boat, but our room was exceedingly damp (read: somehow literally soaked with condensation) before we even arrived. It also smelt pretty potently of mould; which was fairly concerning for me as I’m pretty seriously allergic to some types. However, overall between the absolute MAGIC of Ha Long Bay, the excursions, and the friends we met on the boat, I’d personally say it was beyond worth it and I wouldn’t exchange the experience for anything.

So, that’s it for Hanoi! I was absolutely crazy about this city and I won’t lie, I’m more than a little sad to leave (but also excited to see what comes next!) Follow me on my next instalment in my travel diary — Things To Do: Ninh Binh Edition!

Love you all lots and thank you all for your support so far!

Xoxo,

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