Venice was a romantic and charming city on water. Think cheese, wine, sunsets, buskers playing classical music on the flute, million dollar yachts parked everywhere, cute little alleyways that lead to magnificent buildings. It's not really like anything you've ever experienced before. Add this city to your bucket list, rumour has it, it won't be there much longer!
My memory of Rome was hot and busy! Although there are some spectacular historical sites that are breathtakingly beautiful, on a whole I found it too busy and fast paced. It didn't help that I encountered a few dodgy people in Rome. But, regardless of my experiences, it's one of those places you have to visit at least once in your lifetime!
Orvieto was a short stop over, a charming little city perched on a large rock with a large church at the top! We hiked uphill took some pictures and had some yummy pasta on the way down.
In reflection Florence was much too rushed. When I look back on pictures it was a beautiful city but all I remember was being really tired from walking everywhere (trying to fit as much sightseeing as possible) then eating a delicious 1kg "Florence" steak (back when I was eating meat).
Cinque Terre is one of my all time favourite destinations. Delicious food and wine + beautiful views of the ocean - what more could you want! It's a very charming and beautiful part of the Italian coast - you won't see any big chain stores or fast food places here. Beware, there are stairs everywhere in Cinque Terre and walking is the only way to get around.
United Arab Emirates
Dubai & Abu Dhabi 2014
Dubai was picture perfect! It was surreal to be on the outskirts and see the desert surrounding the city. The buildings are massive, the architecture is elaborate and the shopping was endless. My initial worries were that I would accidentally offend through exposure of too much skin but I soon came to realise that there are a plentiful supply of promiscuous expats living in Dubai that are happy to waltz around in strapless tops and short, shorts. So if you're worried about the dress code, just know a little bit of knee may go unnoticed...unless of course you're visiting a mosque in which case you'll need to wear an Abaya.
Abu Dhabi was a little more quiet and a bit more green! Exploring the desert, riding camels and smoking shisha was a breathtaking experience and is up there as one of my favourite travel memories!
Sheikh Zayed Mosque (The Grand Mosque) was spectacular, every inch was picture perfect. I also visited Emirates Palace, saw lots of expensive sports cars, ate gold on top of a coffee and truth be told of the latter, I'm just glad I didn't pay for it. FYI - it didn't taste like anything, and it didn't even make my poop shiny.
Paris & Nice 2015
I'll be honest, Paris wasn't my favourite. I had high expectations of the Effiel Tower and the city of romance but following an argument with a taxi driver and 100 euros later we hiked up 5 flights of stairs to a run down apartment with very low ceilings, it wasn't proving to be the romantic city I had envisioned. When we initially arrived at the Effiel Tower it struck me that it literally is just a pile of metal but as the sun set and the lights came on the beauty of the monument came to life (the 'beer, wine, champagne' offered by the many hawkers helped set the mood too).
Nice was short but sweet, I liked the more laid back atmosphere and the beach-side. People definitely seemed more chilled here!
Boracay 2012, 2013 & 2014
Beautiful white sand beaches, resorts and restaurants right on the beach. This place is stunning during the day and magical during the night! The water is always clear and warm - day and night, in rain or sunshine. I've been here three times now and wouldn't hesitate to return again.
Here are my tips: Station 2 is very busy as it's the hub of Boracay. D-Mall and the majority of restaurants are located here where accommodation sits side by side. Station 3 is a lot quieter and more spread out, the hotels also tend to be less expensive and you can always take the beach to walk down to Station 2 where it's all happening. Station 1 is where you will find all the expensive 5 star resorts, it's a quieter area and only a shortish walk to Station 2.
It is a much more developed island that really accommodates western tourists - you can go out for Mexican, Italian, Pancakes, Steak or even a midnight Maccas feed. I suggest going off the beaten track to a little filipino restaurant for 50peso ($1.30) Bihon Pancit (noodles) and a 60peso ($1.60) Mango Milkshake!
White beach can get REALLY busy. But, if you stay at a hotel/resort right on the beach you can expect to have a private area on the beach front reserved for it's guests. Sit back and relax, order a cocktail for around 100pesos ($2.60 - depending on your hotel) and an hour massage for around 350pesos ($9.30 - will be more if you go through your hotel) - you'll never want to leave.
Please always remember to tip! $1 or $2 AUD can go a long way over there and if you're feeling generous why not give a $5 tip for that amazing one hour massage you just paid under $10 for.
Boracay isn't just about cocktails, tanning and massages, if you're an Adrenalin junkie there are plenty of activities and water-sports that I've done in Boracay. For the tame thrill seeker, try the banana boat ride, helmet diving, snorkeling and sunset sailing. And, for those wanting more of a thrill try parasailing, zorbing, scuba diving or fly fishing. Personally, I haven't tried it but there are plenty more thrill seeking activities including, cliff diving, wind surfing, kite surfing, ziplining, mermaid swimming (yes, that's right) and more!
Boracay is an island I would put on your bucket list!
The Philippines is the reason I love to travel. The first time I visited as a young teen I was overwhelmed, it was a big culture shock and I was completely out of my comfort zone. But, I was with my family, visiting extended family and I soon realised how at home I felt in the Philippines. The strong family values, welcoming nature and contagious happiness that radiates from Filipinos made me see the world in a different light. It made me reevaluate everything I learnt about happiness up to that point in my life. It made me realise how little genuine and lasting happiness material items will bring you and it may have been the turning point where I realised money was never going to be a driving point for me in life.
All my best travel experiences have been in the Philippines from the time we ate off banana leaves with our hands in Mampurong, to the time I watched a tribe of native Filipinos literally appearing from the jungle or even the time I got to hang out with my cousins pet monkey. Every time I venture into the provinces I always see the most wonderful things and meet the most beautiful, kind hearted people who would give up their own bed just to accomodate you.
At times I'm out of my comfort zone - when there's no hot water or even any running water, no flushing toilets and limited or no electricity but at the end of the day I love the Philippines and the Filipino people and it has become my second home. As much as I complain or sook about the developing country issues. When I'm here in Australia, I miss being there.
Make sure you scroll down to see all the pictures!
Coron is a beautiful but not yet (very) developed island in Palawan. There are only a few little restaurants around the 'centre' of the township. The surrounding beaches and lakes are breathtaking and will make you pinch yourself.
We spent Christmas day on an island drinking coconuts and meeting a pet island pig and his dog brothers and it was magical!
Be VERY careful on the roads if you hire a bike. We had a fall and the only hospital on the island was pretty sketchy. If you want all your creature comforts make sure you check into one of the newly built resorts. Otherwise, if you're looking for an adventure you can surely get one here!
Athens & Santorini 2015
Athens was only a cheeky stop over on our way to Santorini and we spent the whole time recuperating at our resort so technically I can't say I've 'seen' Athens. I remember patting stray cats, swimming, tanning and eating one of the best buffet dinners ever!!
Santorini is beautiful in pictures but even more amazing in real life. I don't think you could ever get used to the view here. It's a very romantic place and when the sun sets it feels like a little slice of heaven.
When you're not having a champagne breakfast or a Jacuzzi while the sun sets, I recommend hiring an ATV and exploring the island including Black Sand Beach and Red Sand Beach (although wasn't too impressed with the latter and NOTE: don't walk on the sand at Black Sand Beach without slippers!) Do yourself a favour and buy a €1 Yiros and €1 Beer.
On another note, I had a stray cat and stray dog follow me all the way home from two different restaurant locations on two separate, consecutive nights and they both cried when I tried to leave them, so I played with them outside for a while, took some videos and pictures and then I cried when we had to shut them out. I've just realised as I write this that one was a ginger cat and the other an all brown Jack Russell Terrier... what a freaky coincidence that I've now ended up with two fur babies, a ginger Maine Coon kitty and an all brown Jack Russell Terrier. This blew my mind so much I went and found the videos and it gets freakier... I called the dog Junior (the name of my current dog). I'd just like to say, up until this point I had completely forgotten about that dog and cat that came to visit me in Santorini. The Santorini animals visited on 27 July 2015 and 28 July 2015. My pets were born 7 April 2016 and 30 November 2016. Therefore, I'm going to believe that those animals in Santorini have been reincarnated and delivered to me here in Australia. Ripley's believe it or not!
Anyway, Santorini is definitely one of those places you have to go at least once in your lifetime and it appears the universe has mysteriously delivered me pets from there.
United States of America
Los Angeles, Las Vegas & New York City 2012
As a little girl I dreamt of moving to Hollywood and becoming a superstar. I wanted to be an actress for the glamour and the lifestyle. Los Angeles was cool, it had trendy spots and it had glamorous areas but it also had some really rough areas. When my friend and I continued to walk down Hollywood Boulevard we started to notice a dramatic change in scenery and neighbourhood - so note to travellers, don't walk too far down Hollywood Boulevard unless you feel like getting stabbed by a group of gangsters. Also, a note, when looking for a cab, don't call any numbers listed on payphones. While my friend and I were safe being driven around by a Mexican in a big black Chrysler with the music blaring, probably wasn't the smartest idea for two, young girls.
We were also lucky enough to get a tour of Venice Beach and Santa Monica by my lovely American friend, Alyssa. They were both very cool and also very busy - I remember lots of 'Weed' Doctors everywhere.
I didn't have any expectations for Vegas as I'm not a gambler. So I was pleasantly surprised at how spectacular it is and to this day it remains one of my favourite places I've travelled! The large resorts are post card picture worthy with every inch immaculately cared for. Accommodation is fairly reasonable and the buffets are overwhelmingly delicious with a plentiful selection for around only $20USD. Travelling as two, young, Australian females definitely had it's perks. The first time we got pulled out of one of the club lines we pooped our pants, only to realise he was escorting us into the club with no charge (note, guys pay around $50 entry and girls $20 unless of course you get picked out by security).
Some things to remember while in Vegas,
-> Always tip with every drink you buy otherwise you won't get served again, actually just remember to tip all the time!!!
-> When you attend a pool party, there is minimum spend to sit on the sun chairs/lounges (lucky for us, when we discovered the policy, a man we never met paid our minimum spend as he was leaving)
-> It is worth the five hour drive to visit the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam even if you're hung over!
-> If you sit and play the pokies you'll get free food and alcohol.
-> If you go during summer it's REALLY hot (yes, I realise it is a desert), to avoid the heat, resorts are next to one another and you just walk through them instead of taking the road.
While we were in Vegas we made so many friends, everyone is there to have a good time and from our experience the men were real gentlemen!
New York City wasn't quite what I had expected. As comes with a big city, there were a lot of grumpy, stressed out people. The streets were always so packed and you couldn't just stop and enjoy the scenery because everyone is always in a hurry to get somewhere and they'll bump into or shove you on their way through. There were a lot of interesting characters hanging around Times Square and I love people watching. I'd probably like to go back in the winter and spend some more time exploring New York City.
P.s Sorry about the low qaulity pictures. I lost the originals when I lost one of my previous phones so had to steal these off facebook!
Netherlands & Belgium
Amsterdam & Brussels 2015
Amsterdam had such a cool and chilled vibe. Coincidentally, it was really cool in temperature and I had to purchase a cat jumper and french fry socks. Make sure you go to one of The Bulldog Cafes - why else do people go to Amsterdam...! As they say, "When in Rome...do as the Romans" right?
The 'red light district' was a really eye opening experience. Definitely a very progressive country! Best food memory from Amsterdam...bacon infused maple pancakes (again, back when I ate meat)! We also booked a cheese, bike tour to the countryside but maybe we had too many brownies because we booked for the day after we were leaving Amsterdam. Hmmm. Next time!
Brussels was a little cheeky stop over but it had a really cosy feel! We enjoyed some delicious hot chips with a few pints of Belgium beer. It's the kind of place I could snuggle up and eat lots of carbs and drink lots of beer.
Tokyo is a very cool, clean and futuristic city!
When in Japan you must,
1. Go to a cat cafe (or reptile, or bird, or whatever tickles your fancy)!
2. Take advantage of most restaurants 2 hour all you can drink special.
3. Eat at a restaurant on top of Tokyo Skytree!
4. Buy street food - it's delicious!
5. Explore Shibyu crossing.
6. Eat Ramen noodles!
7. Drink sake and sing karaoke!!
While in Japan, we got filmed going through a haunted house (I am the biggest scaredy cat in the world). No idea where the footage went as the release forms were all in Japanese but I hope one day I get to see it.
Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid 2015
Spain was my favourite country in Europe! If I could work and live there, I would. Maybe it's my Spanish heritage coming out but siestas are life and I'm still puzzled as to why we are yet to introduce it here in Australia. On top of all the great things about Spain, of all the European countries we visited it also had the cheapest price of living.
Barcelona (Barthelona) was the first stop and it didn't disappoint. The atmosphere was vibrant and chilled, people were friendly and dancing in the streets to live music. There's a market called "The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria" that you must check out! If you're a meat eater, you can get cups of cured meats for €1 or if you're a vego, there's plenty of yummy fresh juices and vegetarian pastries. We also took a tour out to another beach-side about an hour from Barcelona and went kayaking through caves before jumping off the cliffs into the clear, blue ocean followed by Sangrias and cocktails. Unfortunately, we couldn't take our camera or phones with us but it was one of the most beautiful experiences I've ever had. While in Barcelona you MUST visit Sagrada Família - it was so spectacular and like nothing I'd ever seen before. You have to strain your neck just to get a view of the whole of the building. The intricacies of the architecture inside are also equally as incredible!
Valencia (Valenthia) was another beautiful chilled city to explore. My first visit to Taco Bell was here and I was both blown away and filled with excitement when I realised you could purchase beer here too. The beach is about a ten to fifteen minute cab ride from the city and there are lovely little markets to stroll around before heading to the beach. When we arrived I was instantly in heaven, there was a bar on the beach so we sat in our sun beds sipping on €5 mojitos and watched all the topless ladies go past. Yes, this is a very normal occurrence and is not recognised as anything out of the ordinary. I felt a bit of a nun in my full brief bikinis and top on, so I gave myself a little wedgie to try and fit in with the European look.
Madrid was another amazing Spanish city. I enjoyed one of the most delicious meals I've ever had at a small local Spanish restaurant our AirBnB host recommended to us. It was all written in Spanish and the waiters had limited English so we did our best to try and look for words we recognised and ended up with two of the most delicious meals! One of which I'm still not sure what it contained. Following our meal we indulged in probably a little too much 'Apéritifs' but in my defense they bought out the whole bottles to pour into shot glasses - who has just one shot! If visiting Madrid you MUST visit the Royal Palace of Madrid. This place was insanely magnificent with every inch of every room intricately designed and breathtakingly beautiful!
I've been to Manila several times (not including as a baby). Manila is your typical, large, South East Asian city. Of all the places I've travelled it has the worst traffic I've ever experienced. But, on the plus side it has the best shopping with an abundance of markets and delicious foods and restaurants. I could spend weeks in Manila simply eating and shopping! Bring an empty suitcase if you go there to shop. Seriously, you will even regret taking too much underwear.
I always stay close by SM Mega Mall and St Francis Square in Ortigas so I know the area well. It's easy enough to hop in a cab over to Greenhills or if I'm with my Filipino family head out to the 'ghetto' market areas where they drink coke from a bag, blast gangster rap music and you have to remember to hold the bottom of your handbag so it doesn't get sliced open by pickpocketers.
Manila isn't for everyone but I've become very fond of the city. People are always warm and welcoming, everyone smiles and greets you, "Hiii Ma'am", "Hiii Sir", "Pumili ka Maa'm" and I always manage to discover an amazing new restaurant! PLUS, the Philippines have all the American fast food chains, Shakeys, Sbarro... and of course, there's JOLLIBEE on every corner!! What more could you want!
Bangkok 2010 & 2011
I lived in Bangkok with my Dad for a few months - it was a great experience. I would ride the BTS regularly to explore the city and shop at the markets. I loved that everything is open late and some places all through the night - if I want to get food at 2am or do a bit of market shopping there are a tonne of options! People were so friendly and welcoming.
If you're looking for a lively part of town that is always open, Nana on the BTS line is your place (although can be a little sketchy). I got a suit tailor made here for around $150AUD at 'George' and to this day (7 years later it's still in great condition and I wear it to work regularly).
If you want an eye opening experience, visit red light district, Soi Cowboy in Bangkok. Please keep in mind that this is not a true reflection of the Thai people and culture and only a very small percentage of Thai people actually participate in this sort of 'behaviour'. While I am all for women empowerment and support any career path a woman wants to pursue please consider the circumstances that these VERY young girls have been forced into against their own will. I've heard some first hand experiences that would break your heart. So while it's all fun and games to visit for a night, please don't be disrespectful or cruel to these young girls and women.
On a lighter note, one of my favourite memories were regular visits to Moo Guitar - 99BAHT ($3.80) all you can eat Korean BBQ, getting street food from the lady down the road, 30baht ($1) duck noodles and the best I've ever had in my life and lazing by the pool at my Dad's apartment ordering 30baht ($1) fried rice and noodles. Nomnomnom!
Sky Bar on top of Lebua at State Tower is a must!! I've been there a few times and each time it blows me away. Perched on the 64th floor, Sky Bar is the world’s highest open-air bar with 360 degree views of the city! Add it to your bucket list!!
Koh Tao, Koh Chang, Phuket 2010 & 2011
I'll start with the negative first. Koh Tao is not a place I'd ever return. I had my worst, to date, travel experience there and unless you want to get your Open Water PADI diving certification I've got nothing positive to say about the place.
Koh Chang is amazing!!! I've been here twice and if you're not into the hustle and bustle of touristy Phuket this is the place for you! The downside is that it's a little harder to get to and that's probably why it's not too developed. I stayed on a beach bungalow right on the beach for only $20 a night and the owners agreed to cook us up a BBQ feast free of charge one night, we just supplied the food for them and us. The hospitality of everyone on the island of Koh Chang was amazing!
Phuket was as expected, overrun with tourists, fast food and shopping chains. If you stay in the center of it all (Patong) expect to be harassed by hawkers everywhere you try and walk and if you're a 'young' female, also expect this behaviour from drunk tourists. The nightlife on Bang La road is always pumping for those that like to party! However, there are some quieter and in my opinion more beautiful parts of Phuket and I'm hoping on this next trip I'll get to experience these other parts of Phuket!
Singapore & Hong Kong
Singapore rained the whole time I was there... I guess that's why everything is so green! I was expecting 'Asian' prices but made the mistake of staying in a touristy area full of expats and therefore western prices. On a positive note, Gardens By The Bay is a must!!! It feels like you're on the set of Avatar, everything is so magnificent, you can spend almost a whole day just wandering around.
Opposite the gardens are Marina Bay Sands and if I were wealthier I suspect it would be worth staying there just for the novelty of the infinity pool, it's certainly beautiful to look at. Unfortunately, even when I bought a cocktail in the rooftop bar us 'commoners' still weren't allowed into the adjacent pool area.
Hong Kong 2012
We didn't realise at the time but we had gone to Hong Kong during a public holiday. That meant, massive lines and masses of people EVERYWHERE. So, my experience was that Hong Kong was a very fast paced and busy city. If you explore the markets you can discover some very high quality items for sale! Seeing a real life Panda was the highlight of my trip to Hong Kong. I almost cried he was so gorgeous! Like a big teddy bear I could cuddle up with and fall asleep in his warm, furry embrace.
Brunei 2005 & 2012
I've visited Brunei a few times now when Royal Brunei Airlines flew to the Philippines via Brunei. The first time I was just a wee teen and my family and I stayed with family friends for a week. It's a quiet, little place with a plentiful supply of breathtakingly beautiful mosques. There's also an amazing amusement park, Jerudong Park, that was virtually empty so you just walk straight on... strangely enough without a build up the rides just didn't seem to have the same thrill!
Ensure you respect the conservatism and cultural differences of the country; there's no smoking and drinking, avoid pointing with your index finger, don't show the soles of your feet and as a female have your shoulders and knees covered at all times.