Siem Reap Tuk Tuk Tour | Cambodia

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

So this summer I went on a big trip to Thailand to do some teaching English as a foreign language. We were based in a town called Krasang which is in the east of Thailand, relatively close to the Cambodian border so on one of the weekends whilst we were there, we went to Siem Reap, Cambodia. On our first day there, we did a Tuk Tuk Tour of Siem Reap and that's what this post is about!


Our first stop was The Killing Fields. Cambodia suffered a huge genocide under the Khmer Rouge regime, a tragedy that happened whilst my parents generation were alive, just 30 years ago and now there are thousands of sites across Cambodia that are the Killing Fields and Killing Caves were thousands of people died and were tortured. This is one of the ones in Siem Reap and if you are in Cambodia, I would definitely recommend taking the time to go and find a Killing Field. They are very sombre places but have been turned into places of beauty and remembrance. It definitely affected me quite a lot, especially as it isn't that long ago and Cambodia has changed so much since the so it is definitely worth doing.



We also stopped at Angkor Artisan Workshop where we had a tour through and they showed us different crafts that are common in Cambodia and how they are made. Cambodia doesn't have great art support in schools so they showed us how Angkor Artisan provide apprenticeships to teach skills like sculpting and metalwork to then make handicrafts that are sold throughout Cambodia.
We also stopped at a Lotus Farm. Unfortunately the Lotus Flowers weren't in season yet so only a few had budded but the symbolism of the lotus in Cambodia was explained to us and we got to eat a Lotus fruit which wasn't actually too bad!




Lastly on our Cambodia Tuk Tuk tour we did a hike up a big hill just outside Siem Reap which had a monastery which is older than Angkor Wat  at the top and a wonderful viewpoint to watch the sunset. It was a very sweaty climb but worth it from the top where we could see for miles out into Tonle Sap Lake which is huge.

We really loved Cambodia and the best posts are definitely to come as we experienced the Siem Reap night markets which I absolutely loved and Angkor Wat and the other temples!

Szechenyi Baths | Budapest, Hungary

Saturday, 16 September 2017


When my best friend and I went to Budapest, one of the things we were really excited about was going to the thermal bath spas! They have been visited by locals and tourists alike for years and we were so excited to try the thermal hot springs that run under the city of Budapest.

They have been known about since the Romans settled in the city and they had warm water public baths but they were really developed into what they are today during the Turkish occupation of Hungary when the large bath/spa complexes were built. There are now more than a dozen public bath complexes dotted around the city of Budapest, more than in any other city in the world. Each complex has it's own style and is very different which was one of the things that was really exciting about visiting them!

The waters are actually said to be beneficial to health as they are rich with minerals and apparently, bathing in the Budapest pools can help relieve a variety of conditions and diseases. In Budapest, you can actually get visits to the bath as a prescription!

We chose to visit Szechenyi baths as we only had time to visit one and Szechenyi is the largest bath complex in Europe and features Greek, Roman and Scandinavian features. The water is sourced from over 1km underneath the baths and once it reaches the pools, it doesn't really drop below 26 degrees Celsius. It is probably the most famous of the baths with its popular yellow architectural design and its image that is included in almost every tourist guide to Budapest. There are 18 different pools in the complex and each one has a different atmosphere and experience available, both indoor and outdoor. We loved relaxing in the warm outdoor pools as we visited in December where the warmth of the pool was a strong contrast to the outside weather as it actually snowed at one point whilst we were out there!

The baths are quite expensive in comparison to other things that there are to do in Budapest but they are definitely worth a day out there, it was one of our favourite things that we did on our trip, alongside the ruin bars!

The Ruin Bars of Budapest | Hungary

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Budapest is famous for them, alongside the thermal baths and beautiful architecture, Budapest is very well known for the amazing ruin bars that are dotted around the city, primarily in the Jewish quarter. When my best friend and I visited Budapest, we were very excited to experience them and see what it was all about.


The biggest one is called Szimpla Kert and, I believe, is where the ruin bars idea started. A ruin bar is essentially an old, abandoned building that young people would buy and install large art pieces and funky furniture in and make into a really cool bar or nightclub. These buildings were left in ruins after many parts of the Jewish quarter were destroyed in WW2 and therefore it was the perfect way to remodel the buildings and turn them into something amazing.


Szimpla Kert is the biggest one, it's very popular and has become a tourist attraction now but it is not difficult to see why. There are some incredible art installations inside including gardens and a courtyard that has a huge car in but ruin bars originally started as small buildings that weren't particularly noticeable from the outside as anything other than a ruined building, it was only when you got inside that you realised it was a bar and there are still some smaller, less famous ones lurking around the Jewish quarter that are like this.



We explored the ruin bars both during the day and during the night as we wanted to explore and appreciate it in all it's beauty both as a place that hosts really cool art and as an awesome bar. What I really liked was that, anyone who came to Szimpla could leave their mark, we actually wrote a quote on the gymnastics horse in one of the upstairs rooms of the bar from the play Desiderata, maybe if you go, see if you can find it!


None of the furniture matches in the ruin bars, sometimes it feels like you are in someones front room and you really shouldn't be nosing around but we definitely found that part of the fun! The environment is also really relaxed, we found lots of friends in the Ruin Bars!



We visited Szimpla Kert which is one of the main ones, it has a huge courtyard and a great cocktail bar and we had a really lovely night there. We also visited Instant which is a little bit more of a club than a bar we found as it doesn't liven up till later but it was still really fun to wander around. We also visited a couple of other ones when wandering around the Jewish district but I honestly have no idea of their names as they were smaller ones and we were just having a look around! They definitely are so cool and really worth a look if you are heading to Budapest!


2 Places you Must Eat at in Bucharest | Romania

Thursday, 13 July 2017

When we arrived in Bucharest, in all honesty, we had no idea what Romanian food would be like. I thought it would probably be relatively meat based and warming foods and, especially as we were there in December, we weren't wrong! There are two places that I definitely think you should eat at if you go to Bucharest and I will share those with you in this post!



The first place is where we ate on our first day after our tour of The Palace of the Parliament where we met two American guys whose father is Romanian. They asked us if we wanted to eat lunch with them at a very popular restaurant called Caru cu Bare which actually turned out to be just opposite our hostel although we didn't know this at the time! Caru cu Bere is the oldest restaurant in Bucharest and therefore does have a lot of tourists but also a lot of locals eat and drink there too. The guys we met said that it served really traditional Romanian food and it definitely didn't disappoint. It was also incredibly cheap as they have a student menu that gets you a full meal and drink for 14 lei which equates to around £2.50! My best friend Georgie and I shared two meals half and half so we could each experience two dishes, we had Romanian skinless sausages and Chicken Breast schnitzel which were both very tasty. As I thought though, it was highly meat based, well the student menu was but there were vegetarian options on the main menu. Definitely somewhere to go for a lot of food for very little money!


The other place I will recommend is called La Mama and actually, I am recommending the dish mainly which is a traditional Romanian desert called Papa Nash. We got recommended to try Papa Nash by the tour guide on our walking tour and she told us about La Mama which was near to Revolution Square where the tour ended. We decided that we definitely wanted to eat it before we left and we ate Papa Nash as our lunch before leaving to get our flight to Bucharest on New Years Day. Papa Nash is essentially like a large, fried donut that is filled with sour cream and jam and it really is an experience. I have never tried anything like it, it's so filling and delicious, but very different to deserts in the UK. I would definitely recommend it!


So they are the two dishes I would definitely recommend trying, I am sure there are many more Romanian dishes and restaurants in Bucharest that you should try, unfortunately as we were there over New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, a lot of the restaurants closed meaning we couldn't try as many as we wanted to, I guess that just means we will have to go back!

The Best Beach in Barcelona | Spain

Thursday, 6 July 2017

I went to Barcelona last year with my family and we had such a wonderful time. We did lots of sightseeing activities and on one of our last few days, we fancied a beach day. We went down to the main beach in the centre of Barcelona, Barceloneta beach, a few times but we found it far too busy, it was literally packed, you could barely move. So I researched a few places that we could go to for a beach day that weren't too far away from Barcelona and I found out about Castelldefels Beach which was only about a 20 minute train ride away.


We went out one morning on the train (unfortunately we got delayed a little as my mum got her purse stolen as we were getting on the train) and arrived in Castelldefels which is a small town just south of Barcelona. There was a little walk to the beach as we didn't realise that there was also a beach train station and we could have stayed on the train for one more stop but no matter, it's all good exercise. When we got there, we realised that we had made a good decision in going there. The beach was huge, really wide and long, and there weren't many people there at all, it was mainly locals which suited us really. There is a lifeguard which meant that we could swim and the water was really lovely there, very clean and you can go quite far out as the water gets deeper but then, when you are about 50m out, it gets very shallow again on a sand bank. We swam for ages, spent loads of time in the sea and did a little sunbathing too, it really was the perfect beach day. There is also a beach cafe there that serves beautiful food made out of local ingredients which is where we ate our lunch.

If you are going to Barcelona, I would really recommend going to Castelldefels for a day if you are looking for a beach day as it was a really lovely beach that wasn't anywhere near as busy as Barceloneta!

What to Eat in San Diego | USA

Thursday, 29 June 2017


During my first year at Edinburgh University, I made lots of new friends and many of them were American, including the guy who is now my best friend. So when he invited me to come and stay two weeks in San Diego with him, I was very excited! We planned it out a lot and had so many ideas of what we should do and eat! It was an amazing two weeks holiday for the first two weeks of June and now I have been back nearly two weeks and I have time to write some blog posts about it as I have been back and forth from London for the past week! I thought the first blog post I would do would be about the food that we ate as I had never been to America before and I found some of the food really cool! Brandon, my best friend, obviously lived in San Diego until very recently so he knew lots of places for us to eat, we worked our way through most of the places on the list to give me a both a taste of America and California specifically!

Mexican Food in California

Okay, so for this whole year, Brandon had been saying that Mexican food in the UK ‘isn’t real Mexican food’ and whilst I get that it’s not as fresh and authentic as what he is used to, (living literally on the border to Mexico) I was quite defensive of UK Mexican food but unfortunately, I can’t be anymore. We ate a hell of a lot of Mexican food and guys, UK Mexican food is just not Mexican food. It was the first food we ate when we got there, we went to a Mexican fast food place called Rubio’s and I had fish tacos which were amazing (although I was so confused as to how to eat them as the British person inside me wanted to use a knife and fork). We also ate at Chipotle which has the best guacamole ever, that was incredible. I tried a Chimichanga for the first time at a Mexican restaurant called Mi Guatalajara, we ate more Mexican in San Diego’s Old Town, ate at a place called Chronic Tacos in Irvine when visiting some friends and had even more Mexican at home. We had a lot of Mexican food but my god, was it amazing.

Souplantation

Brandon had been telling me about Soup Plantation for this whole academic year. Primarily about the Ranch dressing. It didn’t let me down. Souplantation is an all you can eat buffet serving salad, soups, pastas and pizzas mainly. It was such a filling meal and the ranch dressing is absolutely incredible. I am not really a salad person unless there is a really good dressing as otherwise I don’t think it tastes of much but my goodness, this ranch dressing was good and we just don’t have anything like it in the UK!

Island’s Burgers

More ranch dressing. This time alongside burgers. We went here after my first full day in San Diego and their burgers are incredible. I had the Maui burger which had guacamole and salad with a veggie burger and it was so tasty. This was the same day as Souplantation so I had a lot of ranch dressing on this day but I don’t regret a thing.



Baked Bear

Baked Bear was a revelation to me. I had seen pictures and I didn’t believe it could be as good as it sounded but oh my goodness it was. Essentially they have a variety of flavours of cookies, brownies and ice cream and you can create a custom ice cream sandwich! Mine was a snickerdoodle, as we don’t have those in the UK alongside a brownie and caramel fudge ice cream, it was heaven.

Frozen Yogurt


Now we do have frozen yogurt in the UK but compared to what you can get in California, it’s just a bit naff. We have about two flavours at the place in Edinburgh and it’s really expensive but when we got it in San Diego, they have so many flavours and you do it yourself, add toppings and then the price just comes completely from the weight which makes it a lot cheaper than when you buy frozen yogurt in the UK.


Acai Bowls

We went to a place by Cardiff on Sea that was a Acai Cafe and I have to be honest I didn't have a clue what Acai was and actually, I still don't but it tastes really good! I got a peanut butter, chocolate and banana bowl and essentially it's a little like yogurt with granola and fruit but not quite, it's more dessert like and we had it for a light snack after lunch and it was delicious. I really don't know quite how to describe it but it was so good and I felt really healthy after eating it which is always a plus!


Panera

Panera is amazing, I can't quite deal. Essentially it's just a cafe but their bread is absolutely incredible. I had a toasted bagel with egg white, avocado and spinach and it was such a good breakfast! Their cinnamon crunch bagel with cream cheese is also excellent and I am now going to focus on adhering the Panera HQ until they open up UK branches!


Cauldron Ice Cream

OK so this place isn't in San Diego but it's amazing so I felt like I needed to include it. Cauldron is near Irvine/Santa Ana and it's an ice cream place. Firstly their ice cream is really amazing, they freeze it on site with liquid nitrogen so it's super creamy and amazing. But above that, they can serve it in a puffle cone which comes in three flavours (I got red velvet) and then they do toppings for example, I had the Smores cone which consisted of chocolate ice cream (I also got it shaped as a flower) in a red velvet puffle cone with graham crackers on top and melted marshmallow. I died. 

They are pretty much the highlights of the places we ate in San Diego, we ate in a few more places e.g iHop and In N Out but they are a little more standard, I mean still really good, but they aren't particularly specific to San Diego. Let me know if you have any questions about San Diego!

Palace of the Parliament Tour | Bucharest, Romania

Friday, 23 June 2017

When I visited Bucharest last December, one of the things that I was really excited about doing was the tour of the Palace of the Parliament. Bucharest has the 2nd biggest governmental building in the world (2nd to The Pentagon) and it was built during its communist regime during the 1980s. I had seen lots of pictures of it during my research before the trip and I was excited to tour it which we did on our first day there.


We set off from our hostel and wandered around a little before the tour, grabbing breakfast on our way and admiring the architecture of the new country we were visiting. On the way to the parliament, we met some American guys who were also going to do the parliament tour so we joined them and set off to the parliament.

The tour isn’t too expensive with the full tour costing 45 Lei which equates to around £8.50 and it was definitely worth that as it took about 2 and a half hours and we didn’t even cover half of the palace, it is that huge. The palace itself covers 350,000 square metres with 12 floors, 8 being underground. It is a very extravagant and decadent building with many crystal chandeliers dotted about and one in the theatre particularly that is huge and apparently, it takes 4 men to change one of the lightbulbs in it!



Not all of the palace is open to the public, the tour is guided and there is quite a bit of security before you can embark on it as of course, it is an operating parliamentary building so there is the standard security that you go through at an airport and you must take your passport with you to hand in which you reclaim at the end of the tour. It is also quite busy, at least it was when we went so you sometimes have to queue for a little while.



It’s a really amazing tour, it covers the main parliamentary building, the underground area which has an exhibition about Romania’s communist period and the balcony on the roof which gives you a great view over Bucharest! I would really recommend this tour if you are going to Bucharest, it’s definitely a fun way to spend a morning and then you can go and get a lovely warming meal at Caru cu Bere, at least that’s what we did in December!
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