The Journey Begins!

I have loved travelling all my life and enjoy nothing more than the anticipation of heading to a new destination and spending hours trawling travel blogs, TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet guide books getting the itinerary in order!

My love of travel blogs has inspired me to start my own and share reviews and advice on places I have been!

My travel is usually on a medium budget (flying economy / premium economy) and hotels / apartments which are as close to the centre of the action as possible. Typically 4 star hotels but will go up or down a star if it is a better location / deal.

I book all accommodation through Booking.com and flights are either with the airline directly or with STA Travel as they often have good prices on long haul flights!

I am also a massive food lover so finding interesting restaurants is a big focus for me. I have also been a Weight Watchers member most of my adult life so I do try and find some healthy stuff to photograph but I am known to go off the rails and eat as much as I want on holidays which isn’t always the best plan lol but hey ho!

Vietnam Part 4

Day 8: Hoi An
Hoi An was the end of our guided tour. We were dropped off at the hotel after a disastrous day seeing random sights along the way from Hue to Hoi An. Our hotel certainly made up for it. The Hoi An Almanity Wellness resort was one of the best hotels we’ve ever stayed in. The resort is beautiful and very well maintained. One of the perks of our booking was that we received a 60min full body massage each day! We spent the evening walking around the Hoi An old town which is pedestrianised – more to come on that!

Day 9: Hoi An
Our last guided tour experience started by taking a cycle out into the suburbs of the city to meet a local family. The family taught us how to make fishing nets by hand and let us have a try – a lot harder than it looks! Next we took a walk along to a river boat where we got to take turns casting the net into the river which was hilarious, we were totally hopeless. After the fishing experiencing, we were reunited with our bikes and cycled a bit further out into the countryside to the Bay Mau cocnut forest. We embarked onto little boats shaped like half a coconut shell, very precarious! We rowed around the bay and had the opportunity to fish for crabs – more successful in this attempt! Fortunately , no man-overboard moments! Next, we picked up the bikes again to cycle to the Tra Que Vegetable Village to take part in some farming and a cooking lesson. We donned some traditional farming clothes and headed to the farm where we helped plant some potatoes and other veg, preparing the soil first. This was really good fun, everyone was so friendly. Back at the farm house, we were treated to a relaxing foot soak with Vietnamese herbs and flowers and a rather brusque neck and shoulder massage. In the cookery class we got to have a shot at making traditional pancakes and practiced flipping them from a distance! A couple of casualties! Then, it was time to sit down and enjoy a varied home made lunch including our pancakes! Afterwards we relaxed for a while before being driven back to the hotel.

Hoi An Old Town:

The Hoi An old town is a really pretty, traditional part of Vietnam decorated with yellow buildings and lanterns hanging across every street. We spent a good bit of time wandering around the various streets and lovely shops. Heading over the bridge, we visited the night market, picking up some nice Vietnamese made bowls. The night market sells a lot of the touristy items you see all over the country but it was a nice atmosphere and not too pushy.


Morning Vietnam: lovely Italian restaurant in the Old Town serving delicious pizza’s and equally delicious wines!

Little Faifo: This was a great find on a very rainy night in Hoi An, nothing like a bowl of warm Vietnamese Pho in bad weather! The restaurant serves wonderful traditional Vietnamese food, a must see place!

Morning Glory: just over the river in the old quarter, the Morning Glory restaurant offers a wide variety of food options – another Pho for me! It is one of those places that seems to be three different restaurants in one but it is a really nice ambience and the food was amazing.

White Marble Wine Bar: lovely little spot for a crisp white wine (or any grape!). The décor s very traditional in style and the drink list very extensive!

Pasteur Street Brewing Co.: We visited this little pub for lunch – the pub brews it’s own beer and is part of a chain of taprooms across Vietnam. The beer and the fried chicken burger were great! The pub is on the water so great people watching opportunities.

Da Nang

Da Nang was our final stop on the holiday. As part of the guided tour, we had a transfer to Da Nang airport included but we actually booked 2 nights in the Novotel there so the tour company took us there instead of airport which was nice of them.

The Novotel in Da Nang is a great hotel, our room was massive and had a balcony (we were really high up so it was a bit anxiety-inducing going outside). The hotel could be in any and I much preferred the local hotels we had stayed in up until now. On our first day in Da Nang, the rain was absolutely mental. We walked about in ponchos for most of the afternoon and ended up visiting the Cham Museum we were meant to be going to as part of the guided tour. The Cham museum is worth a visit to understand some of the history of Vietnam

On our last day, it was also torrential rain, so we got a taxi up to the Ba Na Hills. I was really excited about this as the Ba Na Hills was one of the things I really wanted to do on the holiday. As we were off-season there weren’t many queues which was good. It costs about £35-40 for entry ticket. We got on the gondola pretty quickly. Up at the top of the hills, it is a mix of theme park and medieval town. We walked out onto the bridge for some photos but no views due to the fog. It is still really cool to see though – could make out the hands etc. Then we walked around the different sections of the purpose built town – there is a large buddhist statue and a beautiful manicured garden.

Theme park – we didn’t realise this was included in our ticket price at first but it was! There were a good few rides to go on even for adults – we had good fun on the 3D, 4D and 5D rides, the cherry planes and the arcades! It was just what we needed with the heavy rain outside! We had a blast at Ba Na Hills!


L’Italiano Restaurant – we took an Uber over to this restaurant and it was well worth the journey. One of the guys working there was from Italy and shared his very interesting life story. He recommended the food and wine we should order and it was all fantastic. Highly recommend this place!

On our final night in Da Nang we found a restaurant on the waterfront, conveniently called, Waterfront Da Nang restaurant. The restaurant had an industrial, modern interior, a live band playing music tables outside upstairs, which is where we sat with great views over the water and of the bridges. We had delicious mezze sharing platter and a seafood pasta dish which were lovely. Afterwards, we retired downstairs for a few cocktails and live music.

Final Day: The day we were due to fly home, we caught an early-ish flight to HCMC from Da Nang, which took about an hour. It also happened to be the day of the Rugby World Cup final England v South Africa. We found a pub which was showing the game and chilled out there for the afternoon (I say chilled, it was absolutely roasting and heaving but the atmosphere was brilliant and South Africa won! We had dinner at Hard Rock Café before heading to the airport for our journey home!

Vietnam was one of the best trips I have ever been on. We crammed so much in to the time we had there and managed to see and do everything we wanted to do. I would 100% say to anyone that they must go to Vietnam to experience the sights, the colours, the food and the wonderful people!

Munich City Breaks

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Munich 4 times: whilst backpacking, a girls trip with my mum, a city break with my other half and Oktoberfest with my friends for my 30th Birthday! Munich is by far one of the favourite places I have ever visited and a place which holds so many amazing memories for me. For a relatively small city, there is a lots to see and do!

Flights: each time I’ve flown with EasyJet from Edinburgh – flight prices at Oktoberfest time were about £160 return and significantly cheaper at other times

Hotels: The first time I went when backpacking we couldn’t get a hotel in Munich centre due to booking last minute over the closing weekend of Oktoberfest (my friend and I decided quite last minute to travel Europe after graduation) so we stayed in a beautiful little town in the suburbs, Erding, filled with pastel coloured buildings.
The second time, when I went with my mum, we stayed at the NH hotel in Unterhaching which is just a couple of stops on the metro.
When Neil and I went, we stayed at the Leonardo hotel in the city centre, it’s really close to the main station so perfect for getting around!
For Oktoberfest, we stayed at the Hotel Europa – it’s kind of in between city centre and the Oktoberfest location.

Things to Do

Munich city centre is really easy to get around – the main square Marienplatz is a great starting point for sight-seeing as it holds the large Town Hall building and is pretty central to other attractions.

1. Walking Tour: As always on a European city break, I like to do the Sandeman’s free walking tours (the tours are tips based): https://www.neweuropetours.eu/sandemans-tours/munich/free-tour-of-munich/ – The tour meets at the Marienplatz and lasts about 2hours taking in sights such as the Royal Residence, the Church of St. Peter, and the famous Glockenspiel as well as a stop over at the Hofbrauhaus!

2. Beer Halls!: Naturally one of the main attractions in Munich is the beer halls. The main ones I have been to are the Hofbrauhaus, Paulener and Augustiner which are all pretty central. Any time I have been they have always been really busy so can expect to buddy up with people on tables. The food and drink are table service so at least once you’re sat down, you won’t lose your spot going to the bar. The Hofbrauhaus is my favourite for the atmosphere! The food is really good as well – traditional German fare – pork knuckle was delicious!! There is usually a band playing traditional German music which adds to the experience!

3. BMW Welt: Even if you are not into cars, it is definitely worth a trip to the BMW Welt. I have been twice. Even though it is a bit out of the city centre, you can catch the metro straight there pretty easily. The museum part is in a very modern building next to the factory, there are a couple of cafe’s and a big gift shop as you go in. There is a Mini Cooper and a few motorbikes you can sit in/on which is really cool. BMW Welt section is free to access and the area also acts as a showroom for purchasing cars – I wish I could have purchased one there because when owners come to collect their car, they get to drive down a cool indoor ramp from the first to ground floor and exit the showroom through a side door – very James Bond!
To enter the museum, tickets are around 10EURO. The museum part follows the history of BMW through the ages with brilliant displays of the cars and other automotive engineering! There is the option for a guided tour of the museum but also on certain days, the actual factory itself. I would recommend planning ahead for that because each time I have been, it was not open and I think it would be a great experience (I do enjoy the Nat Geo factory documentaries!). You can easily spend a couple of hours here, more if able to do the factory tour.
The gift shop is pretty expensive and I only really purchased a note pad / pen / cup for my brother who is a structural engineer!

4. Olympiapark Munich: Conveniently the Olympia park is just next door to BMW Welt so you tick both off the list in one trip! The grounds around BMW Welt and the Olympiapark are lovely – lots of greenery and walking routes. There are quite a lot of activities to do within the Olympiapark – climbing over the roof, flying fox and abseiling as well as guided tours of the stadium. You can also visit the sea life centre, the tower and the site also hosts many live music events!

5. Day Trip to Salzburg! When I was there with my mum, we took a day trip to Salzburg which is only a short train journey from Munich (approx. 1.5hours) and can be booked fairly cheaply about £16-17 on the Trainline website. We spent the day mooching around the beautiful old town, wandered around the Sound of Music locations (obligatory photo op on the stairs, obvs) – there are plenty tours available. Mum and I are big shoppers so we spent some time on retail therapy (there is a good Zara!) and had a nice lunch in the Nordsea chain restaurant – so many amazing prawn combinations! Salzburg is a small city so pretty easy to get around and the scenery / architecture makes it well worth a visit!

6. OKTOBERFEST! No doubt one of the main reasons people visit Munich. I have been very fortunate enough to go twice – once very briefly whilst Inter-Railing and then last Oktober for my 30th birthday! Book as early as possible – this is not a last minute city break event. It is free to enter the Oktoberfest park. After a torrential rain downpour we were able to grab a big table outside in the beer garden of the Paulaner beer tent and we sat there all day! Luckily the sun came out!

Table Booking: I couldn’t figure out how to book a table despite joining a Facebook group about it. I think the best way is through the beer hall websites themselves but by time I figured that out it was too late and it was only people selling on resale at ridiculous prices! Reservations should have been about 35EUR per person and include a bit of chicken and stein, as you do! Table bookings are in 2 shifts in the main tents – approx. 10-4pm, then 4pm-11pm I believe. There is table service provided (and loitering next to a table service as well) – you cannot go to bar and queue for a drink – this is something I loved as I literally hate going to the bar.

Drinks: Steins were about 12EUR for standard beer – there were several beer options available.

Food: Most of the tents offer main meals of German local food and outside of the tents there are several food stalls like at a fun fair

Atmosphere: The atmosphere is electric, everyone is in high spirits, most people are dressed up in lederhosen and Drindls and there are bands playing great music. Even though we were outside, they have speakers playing the band outside so you don’t miss anything. Outside of the tents, there are amusement rides – ferris wheels etc. and stalls selling souvenirs.

We were there for several hours before retiring to an Irish bar with another live band! Definitely the best way to celebrate the big 3-0! Would 100000000% go back and recommend everyone goes at some point!

Vietnam Part 3!

Part 3 picks up on the morning after our overnight stay in Ninh Binh. We were collected by the tour company early in the morning for the drive to Lan Ha Bay where we would board our Ha Long Bay cruise ship.

Upon arrival at Lan Ha Bay we had to wait around an hour in the waiting room for the cruise company, Era Cruises, before being transported to the cruise ship via a tender boat. We were welcomed onto the cruise boat by a group of very enthusiastic and passionate staff members. The obligatory face towel and welcome drink were served whilst we were given the keys to our cabins.

Our cabin was huge – a massive bed in the middle of the room, large windows for uninterrupted views of the scenery, a separate dressing area, a big bathroom with separate shower and jacuzzi bath and – the best bit – a good sized balcony with sun loungers to lay on and watch the scenery go by.

A lovely 3 course a la carte lunch was served in the restaurant as we set sail. Afterwards we pottered about on the ship before a couple of afternoon activities: kayaking to a small island and then swimming / playing around at the beach on the island. Kayaking wasn’t mandatory -there was a wee boat which took you to the island and brought you back.

Once back aboard, I opted for a couple of spa treatments (additional cost) before happy hour – a back massage and a pedicure which were lovely. The spa is quite a small room on the top deck of the ship but it was a lovely experience still!

Happy hour is served at the outdoor bar with nice seating areas to again let you soak up the scenery. The only annoying thing with happy hour was that although it was 2 for 1, you had to get 2 of the same drink which wasn’t really explained until after we’d ordered a couple at full price…

Dinner was a buffet – which I normally hate for a dinner – but the king prawns were just incredible – cooked on a BBQ in the kitchen, absolutely massive, perfect with a crisp white wine (literally salivating typing this!) – we must have had a trays worth to ourselves! The rest of the food was lovely – fresh meats, salads etc.

Afterwards we retired to the bar again and chatted away with fellow shipmates long into the night! Shockingly did not make it for the 6:30am kayak session the next day…but still managed breakfast!

Then it was time to disembark. The cruise experience was a true highlight of the holiday – I’ll attach some photos of the ship and food – and the service from the staff was second to none! Would highly recommend Era Cruises!

After the cruise, we were taken back to Hanoi to the same hotel, La Siesta for one night before flying to Hue.


We were taken from the hotel to the airport by transfer and then flew to Hue with Vietnam Airlines. The transfer and flight were both part of the tour.

On arrival in Hue, we were met by our tour guide who took us straight to the Thien Mu Pagoda via a short boat ride. The Pagoda is a large, 7 story temple which is often regarded as the icon of Hue. Behind the pagoda was a large, beautifully maintained garden with bonsai trees and koi ponds. It was so peaceful and tranquil!

Afterwards, we were taken to the Imperial Citadel where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945. The citadel is a vast area comprising of war defences and royal buildings, with key attractions being Flag Tower, Noon Gate, Nine Dynastic Urns, Nine Holy Cannons, Thai Hoa Palace, and Purple Forbidden City. Our tour guide took us around each section and explained the history at length to give us a good idea of life for the royal family at that time and also the preservation work that goes into maintaining the site.

Once we finished in the citadel we were taken to a restaurant off the beaten track. The restaurant was set in what looked like a large villa/ guesthouse and was beautifully decorated with dark, ornate wood. We were served a variety of courses – again more delicious prawns and a cool phoenix meets hedgehog display for spring rolls complete with candles inside to make it look fire-y!

Next was a trip to the market. We were taken along on tuk-tuk bikes by local drivers ( we tipped generously!). The market was a mix of souvenirs, fresh meat/fish/fruit and every day grocery shop items which was really nice to see. Our tour guide for the day was fantastic, she was so friendly and easy to chat to and we learned a lot from our time with her!

Finally after a day of travel and sightseeing, we were taken to our hotel, Hue Pilgrimage Village Resort. We were greeted with a fresh scented towel and welcome drink (not sure how I function now without a daily scented towel, so refreshing!). Our room was massive and very well appointed. The pool was down a hill towards the back of the property – always make it in time for happy hour at the pool bar – and we chilled out there for a few hours to unwind from a busy day. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant which was lovely. I wouldn’t normally eat in hotels as much but because the resorts were kind of off the beaten track and we had been on the go for so long during the day and were also only in the resorts for time, it made sense to make the most of the facilities.

Hue – Hoi An

This day was the only day of the tour we did not enjoy. The plan was to travel from Hue to Hoi An via a number of tourist attractions on the way: view points to see the Lang Co beach, the Hai Van Pass, Cham museum in Da Nang and then Marble Mountain.

What actually happened is we were taken to a couple of rest stops to take photos kind of near the places we were supposed to go. We were taken down a couple of sketchy looking side streets and back alley ways and were accosted by people selling fake sterling notes (they had fake notes in every currency). The whole day just felt off. We weren’t taken to the Cham museum or the marble mountain, instead we were taken to a shop selling marble products – I never understand that type of scam because there is no way anyone could fit a marble statue in their suitcase especially with a 23KG limit for aeroplane. The food at the restaurant we were taken to was inedible and we felt pretty unwell and uncomfortable with the situation and asked to be taken to our hotel at Hoi An a bit earlier. Nothing bad really happened it just felt a bit off and it was a bit of a dampener on the amazing experiences we’d had so far.

Thankfully this was the only blip on the journey and some of the best experiences were still to come!

Stay tuned for part 4!

Ha Long Bay

Vietnam Part 2

Hanoi (Continued)

Day 2:
On our first proper morning in Hanoi we wandered round to the Friends Travel office which is just a 5 min walk from the La Siesta hotel. At the office we were greeted with fresh drinks and asked to complete some forms and were also given our itinerary, flight tickets and other information we would need for the trip. Then it was time for the bikes! Our trip was called “Real Hanoi Bicycle Experience” which you can book as a standalone trip but was included in our itinerary.

Cycling is a great way to see the city. There are a lot of small streets with old style buildings, coffee shops, bars, little restaurants mixed in with more modern complexes with global brands. And, as always, hundreds of mopeds! The tour took us to a temple where we learned about the offerings people leave (often random items like cigarettes, Coca Cola, biscuits etc.) in the hope of good luck and good health. We were taken to St Josephs Cathedral but there was a funeral going on so I didn’t want to interrupt (we were allowed to just wander in when the service was going on but that’s a bit weird!) We visited the political buildings as well – interesting to see the difference in architecture in different parts of the city!

One of the coolest parts was cycling over the Long Bien Bridge which connects Hanoi to more suburban districts. We cycled over the bridge to a small fishing area where we could wander around the fish farm and sample some locally made snacks.

We were also taken to a remote farmers village on an island underneath the main bridge in Hanoi. This was a really interesting segment and definitely helped the tour live up to its “off the beaten track” mantra. We spend time with a family learning about how they run their farm, look after the land and live a rural life in a modern world.

Cycling in Hanoi is an experience in itself, manoeuvring through the traffic – busses, trucks, mopeds with far too many people – whilst having no helmet on! I definitely became much more confident as time went on and it is a trust exercise – no one drives very fast and if you pull out into the traffic, people will avoid you.

The tour lasted 3.5hours, we had a great time and learned a lot!

In the evening, we joined the “Real Hanoi Bicycle Experience”. We met the guide again at the Friends Travel office and we were then taken around various food carts and small restaurants in the city – some on the main streets and some down incredibly narrow alley ways and back streets. We sampled egg pancakes, spring rolls, pork broths, coconut ice cream that was apparently served to Obama and then finally we ended with the traditional egg coffee – Café Giang – in the aptly named Giang Café! This café was first open in 1946 by Mr Nguyen Giang – the coffee recipe came about because there was a shortage of milk. The café is up a narrow flight of stairs, passing private residences. The décor is quite rustic but they have a couple of window seats which would have nice views of the water during the day!

Day 3
The next morning we were picked up promptly to taken to Ninh Binh, which is a part of the county mostly known for valleys and mountains.

First we stopped at the Hoa Lu temple which is a large complex of temples with a small museum showing historic artefacts from royalty over the centuries. Hoa Lu was the site of the historic capital city of Vietnam when they first gained independence from China. To add context to our visit, it was ridiculous torrential rain. We didn’t have any ponchos so had to hastily buy some! Fortunately for us, as soon as we got off our minivan, we were harassed and grabbed by people trying to get us to purchase ponchos and sampan hats! It was nice to walk around the different buildings and see the ornate architecture on the woodwork. We didn’t spend as long as we would have normally done because of the rain but we still enjoyed it!

Next, we were taken to a conservation site, Cuc Phuong, to embark on a rowing boat journey through the dramatic scenery on the Ngo Dong River. Again it was extreme torrential rain, just to set the scene. What we didn’t really anticipate was that the rowing boat would be tiny and that an even tinier little old lady would be rowing us around. To her credit, she kept a cheery demeanour despite being faced with a group of people, each one probably quadruple the size of her in every direction! Not unsurprisingly, she asked us to help out rowing part of the way round!! Lol. The journey was incredibly beautiful – so peaceful and calm, waving to other boats, rowing through caves, and through the forests / plants all around. We were pretty tired when we got off!

We were supposed to go for another bike trip but because of the rain we couldn’t do it. We were taken for a nice lunch at a local restaurant – lots of fresh veg dishes – before the onward journey to our hotel in Ninh Binh, “Emerelda Ninh Binh Resort”.

The Emerelda Ninh Binh Resort was absolutely beautiful. The rooms were in blocks of 4 ( 2 upstairs, 2 downstairs). We had a massive room! There was a lovely outdoor pool and an indoor one too which was ideal because it was still raining. We spent time in the pool and treated ourselves to massages at the spa. At night, we had a few drinks in the bar and then had a meal in the very busy hotel restaurant which was lovely! It was such a peaceful, relaxing experience at the hotel which is what we were needing after a day of knackering ourselves rowing boats!

The next day we left Ninh Binh to travel to our Ha Long Bay Cruise! … Stay tuned for part 3!

Vietnam Part 1

I turned the big 3-0 in 2019 and as part of the year long celebrations, we had a holiday in Vietnam!

As this was a bucket list country for me, we booked a guided tour for part of the trip to make sure we covered the best parts and learned about the country as we went. Having previously been to Thailand, I had heard that Vietnam was a less Westernised, more traditional South East Asian experience. I had bought the Vietnam Lonely Planet guide a couple of years ago but we ended up not going so I was even more keen to get there and experience the culture of this exciting country!

We went mid-October 2019 and because we covered most of the country we had a bit of sun, wind and rain! Character building!

Info Bit:

International Flights: booked through STA Travel website: Emirates, departing Glasgow: £623
Domestic Flights: HCMC – Hanoi, Da Nang-HCMC – booked through Vietnam Airlines directly.
Hotels: Ho Chi Minh – Central Palace £165 for 3nights; Da Nang – Novotel £204 for 2 nights both booked through Booking.com.
The rest of the accommodation was through the guided tour
Guided Tour: We booked the guided tour through a company called Tour Radar.
The operator of the tour was Friends Travel Vietnam. The total cost per person was £1362 but we booked it over Easter so got a 5% discount.

Our itinerary was then 3 nights in HCMC; 10nights on the tour; 2nights in Da Nang with one last day in HCMC before a late night departure back to the UK.

Part 1 of the blog will cover HCMC and getting to the tour!

Ho Chi Minh City

We arrived in HCMC quite late at night – one of the suitcases were missing which was unsurprising because our flight into Dubai was late landing due to fog so we had to sprint through Dubai airport (conveniently one of the longest airports I’ve ever been in!) to make our connection to HCMC. We grabbed a taxi to the hotel which was pretty cheap. The roads in Vietnam take a bit of getting used to!

The Central Palace hotel lives up to its name with being very central! We made our way to a food market which had lots of food stalls and bars still open quite late. We ordered a selection of food and a few beers (literally 20p bottles of local Saigon beers which were delicious!) and sat on the long tables. We got chatting to an English couple who gave us some pointers.

Sight Seeing
We dedicated our first full day in HCMC to Sight Seeing:

Ben Thanh Market: the market was pretty close to our hotel so we moseyed round for a look. The market is indoors with a variety of food, drink, clothing and household goods. We didn’t buy anything but it was nice to see all the different things on offer! It’s quite busy there so would advise keeping your wits about you. There is also a lot of fake designer goods being sold so tourists are targeted a bit.

War Remnants Museum – the museum has a myriad of war planes, tanks, prison cells, propaganda and other artefacts. The museum is fascinating – I learned a lot about the history of the war and how people were impacted by the fighting. It costs next to nothing to get in and you can spend a good couple of hours there.

Notre Dame – after the museum, we took a walk to the Notre Dame cathedral. We were not allowed in because a service was on but it was nice to see the building from the outside.

Saigon Central Post Office – The post office is in a very grand French style building just next to the Notre Dame cathedral. Inside, there is intricate detailing on the walls and ceiling, beautiful marble floors and old style phone booths. Walking inside is like stepping back in time (if you avert your eyes from the tourist tat on sale!)

Opera House – we moved on to the opera house where a live dance performance was going on outside which was cool to see. Similar to the Notre Dame and the Post Office, the Opera house is built in a French style.

We walked everywhere and found it really easy to get around!

Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta

Through the hotel, we booked a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta. We were picked up promptly in the morning by the tour guide and driver in an air conditioned minibus. There were 5 other people on the trip as well as ourselves.

The trip cost about £40 each an lasted from around 8:30am – 6:30pm.

Not gonna lie, I slept most of the journey so I’m not a reliable source on what the scenery was like!

The journey to the tunnels was allegedly a couple of hours. Our tour guide from the bus organised the tickets and then took us around the site. We spent just over an hour walking around the different torture methods – bamboo can cause a fair bit of damage! Our guide also explained how the tunnels were built at different depths to trick the enemy and how the troops survived in the cramped conditions. There are opportunities to go and walk underground in the tunnels – I got to the entrance of the shortest one and freaked out, it just looked too claustrophobic. Most other people on the tour did it.
We were taken for lunch at a riverside restaurant (food included in the tour, drinks were extra which was totally fine). We were served a mixture of dishes – spring rolls, rice, stir fries, soups – which were delicious!

Then it was time to move on to the Mekong Delta which was another drive away. We disembarked the mini bus to get on to a boat where we were given a fresh coconut to drink from. The boat took us over to a coconut farm where we saw people making coconut candy and other items out of coconut. I bought a cute bowl. There was a random bit at the back of the room where you could drink fermented snake oil – as you do. Never in a million years would I dream of even looking at the fermented snake oil!

We then journeyed on on golf buggies to a rural village where we then got the chance to go on the small river rowing boats. This part of the journey was hilarious – any slight movement made the boat feel like it was going to capsize. It was great to experience the boat trip and thankfully someone was there to do the rowing for us otherwise we’d still be floating about in the Mekong now!

Everyone on the bus was pretty sleepy so I didn’t feel bad sleeping all the way back to the hotel!

One of the main highlights for me on every trip is where to eat!

As mentioned already we had street food on our first night which was delicious

Propaganda Bistro (Han Thuyen):
This was a recommendation from one of my friends who had gone for brunch.
We went for dinner and chose one of the set Discovery Menus (http://www.propagandabistros.com/assets/files/menu/discovery.pdf – we chose Menu 1 for those interested!) The beef salad was a definite highlight! We also treated ourselves to a few drinks and cocktails.
The restaurant has a lovely ambience and the quirky décor makes it a really cool place to spend an evening!

B3 Steakhouse:
We love a steak dinner so this was a natural choice. The restaurant is near the town hall building and to access it, you have to go in through a travel agent / tour operator shop, go up the stairs of what looks like a residential building and into the restaurant. Don’t let the access process put you off – the restaurant was really cool – darkly lit, amazing wine selection and a real buzz to the place. We were lucky to get a table! We had starters, steaks and copious amounts of wine. Afterwards, we went over to the rooftop bar at the Rex Hotel for a few cocktails ( https://www.therooftopguide.com/rooftop-bars-in-ho-chi-minh/rooftop-garden-at-rex-hotel.html )

Hotel Review:
The Central Palace is in a great location – walking distance to most tourists sights in the city. The rooms are a good size, good TV channels (essential for those afternoon naps!) and nice bathroom. There was a small pool on the roof along with a rooftop bar which had stunning views across the city. Breakfast was included – the breakfast was a round the world buffet style with options for everyone. The staff were very polite and friendly!

Next Stop! Hanoi!
Although we only had a couple of days in HCMC, we managed to pack a lot in! Now it was time to go on to our next stop, Hanoi, where we would start the guided tour.

We booked flights with Vietnam Airlines from HCMC to Hanoi. Vietnam Airlines were great, even though the flight was quite short, we were given a proper meal which was nice!

Landing in Hanoi we were greeted with a driver who had our name on a card. He took us to our hotel, La Siesta. We were given instructions to be at the tourist centre office at 08:30am the next morning for the tour to start properly.

La Siesta has to be one of the best hotels I have ever been in. The hotel itself is a boutique style hotel kinda French colonial themed. It is beautiful. On arrival, we were given scented cold towels and a welcome drink which was just what the doctor ordered after a plane journey and jostling about in a hot city.
We were upgraded to executive room – we had a massive king sized bed, a nice bathroom and dressing area and the all important – TV channels!
In our welcome packs there were lovely hand written notes from the hotel manager welcoming us to the hotel and some happy hour vouchers.
What set the hotel apart though is the staff – they knew everyone by their name and recognised you as soon as they saw you even though we were only there for a few nights. It definitely added to the overall experience!

Restaurants & Bars:
We were in Hanoi for three nights

Le Garden Chinese: we went to this restaurant on our first night after walking around for ages trying to find somewhere. We ordered a few sharing plates and some beers. The mayo prawns are delicious!!

Essence Restaurant – we walked past this place a couple of times when wandering around. The restaurant always looked buzzing and after reviewing the menu we knew we had to go! The food was lovely and beautifully presented. The staff were so kind and friendly. The restaurant is part of a hotel which looked quite similar to La Siesta.

Ta Hien (Pub Street) – There is a whole street dedicated just to pubs. During the day the street is quite quiet, but at night, all the pubs spill out into the street with tiny tables and chairs, resulting in a street party atmosphere. Definitely recommend for a good night out!

One of our other nights were spent on a food tour as part of our guided tour so will cover that later in part 2!

Will leave it here for part 1 and pick up at the start of the tour !


For my Christmas present in 2018 my partner Neil got me a weekend away in Copenhagen with tickets to a show by one of my absolute all time favourite performers – Andrea Bocelli 😍 I had been to Copenhagen before so had a rough idea what to do

When: March 2019

Travel: Edinburgh to Copenhagen direct (out with RyanAir, back with EasyJet). SAS also fly direct from Edinburgh so shop around to avoid the torture of RyanAir!

Hotel: CitizenM £300 for 3 nights in double room. Love CitizenM for city breaks!

Airport Lounge: No.1 lounge at Edinburgh airport – our flight was later on in the day so started the holiday early 👌🏽 unlimited Red wine should be banned

Transport: got a taxi from airport to city centre – a very costly mistake but it was a bit later on at night 😬. I’m pretty sure it was like £60. We walked everywhere else and got the train back to the airport.

Things to do:

Walking tour: when travelling in Europe we always like to do the Sandemans walking tour (https://www.neweuropetours.eu) they are hosted by local people and you pay on a tips basis – it’s a great way to get pointers on things to do and helps you get your bearings. On all the tours I’ve done, I’ve noticed people always give good tips too so that’s nice and an indication of the quality across the board!

(Fun fact – the man on the Edinburgh tour told me that for every person he has on his tour, he has to give Sandemans £2.50 and he keeps the rest (I didn’t ask, this info was volunteered but I am a nosey cow so I was glad to have that question answered and that Sandemans don’t seem too scammy to their guides!))

The walking tour last about 2hours with a coffee stop in the middle. The guide took us around the main sights of Copenhagen and to the palace where the royal family live. He also gave an insight to the culture of living in Copenhagen especially for young people and students.

Note – The tour doesn’t take you to the little mermaid because she is quite a walk from town centre so you can wander up there after the tour or take a separate mermaid tour.

Food Market: Torvehallerne

This popular food market is split into two glass buildings with a seating area in between. There was a plethora of eating and drinking options inside both along with some flowers and crafty bits. The food was amazing. I love all the Scandinavian open sandwiches piled with prawns and salad. There were also a good few Spanish stalls and pastry / empanada stalls. We spent a few hours drinking, eating and soaking up the atmosphere before heading on.

Tivoli Gardens:

Probably one of the most famous parts of Copenhagen, Tivoli gardens is an outdoor theme park / concert area / food and drink zone in the city centre. There is a rollercoaster and a few other smaller rides, a stage area, lots of bars / restaurants and themed displays dotted around – it’s very magical!

Warning – Tivoli garden is not open all year round. When we went in March it was closed, you could access the food market bit round the side and view the park but not access the actual park 😬

However, I have been to Copenhagen before (a few years ago at the end of April) when I came to the city with my friends. We saw a performance by a Danish hip hop group, had a few glasses of Carlsberg and went to German/Oktoberfest themed bar. If you go during summer, you could easily spend most of a day there. From the sign posts outside they regularly have activities or performances on when it’s in full swing so definitely worth checking out.

Andrea Bocelli:

The concert was at the Royal Arena venue on our final night. Saving the best until last!

The venue is a good size – holds around 13,000 people and was a sell out the night I was there. Andrea was joined on stage with a female opera singer for most of the performances. The concert was absolutely fabulous – even if you’re not a massive opera fan (which I’m not really I just love Andrea) you would still enjoy it because he did mostly classic songs that everyone would know from films and his latest album has crossover songs with Dua Lipa and Ed Sheehan. But, I still get goosebumps from hearing his renditions of Nessun Dorma and Con are Partiro. Both very moving performances and I am so grateful I’ve had the chance to be at one of his shows.

Food / Drink / Nightlife

Copenhagen has a number of options for the evenings with a mix of local and international restaurants, and a good mix of pubs and bars


For breakfasts we mostly just went to the 7/11 near our hotel which had a really cool coffee shop / bakery bit. I would be in my element if we had a 7/11 in Edinburgh! Best shop ever. Daily oat milk lattes and pastries where the dream on this trip.

For lunches: we did the food market on one of the days and then we went to an Italian restaurant in centre of town for some wine and pasta.

For dinner: we went to a steak house on our 2nd nighthttps://herefordvillage.dk which was like 2-3 restaurants in one. We were taken through to the restaurant towards the back. We ordered steak and a few sides and of course red wine. The restaurant had a massive wine selection which was lovely to see! There was also a salad bar to choose from as well.

On the night we went to see Andrea , we went to a Sticks n Sushi https://sticksnsushi.com/da.

where we had a number of delightful dishes including scallops bite/dumplings and beef tetaki 😍 another highlight was some Cremant which is probably my favourite sparkling wine. We ended up quite merry and definitely over ordered on the food but was totally worth it for the experience. A definite highlight of the trip!


Sam’s Karaoke bar: a definite visit for karaoke lovers! We were here pretty much every night. There were good groups of people who were game for a laugh and all up singing a mix of classics and chart. The bar is quite small and smokey but a great way to mix with the locals!

The Old Irish Pub: this place is literally open 24hours – the later it goes on, the more it turns into a sort of bar-club with a DJ – was in my element the whole time, love a good dance!

Nyhavn: one of the most photographed iconic streets in the city. Nyhavn is probably more of a during the day type place but it was lovely sitting outside with a beer watching the world going by! The street features in the walking tour so you definitely won’t miss it!

Overall: Copenhagen is a great city to visit – it’s quite compact and easy to get around. It’s maybe a wee bit on the pricey side for some things but it’s not so bad! If I was to go back I would take a trip across the bridge and visit Malmo in Sweden!

One Week in Bali

To escape the freezing Edinburgh winter, my other half and I booked a last minute trip to Bali for the end of January 2020. We only really wanted to go away for a week to save on holiday entitlement from work for the year so it was a bit of a long way to go for a short time but we managed to squeeze a fair bit in!

Important Info:
Flights: QATAR Airways departing from Edinburgh: £750 each – booked directly from QATAR website which I would do again because you got to choose your seats straight away – got to have that aisle seat!
Hotel: Marriott Autograph The Stones Legian: £650 total including bed and breakfast – booked as always through booking.com https://www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/travel/dpsak-the-stones-hotel-legian-bali-autograph-collection/
Transport: We were advised by the hotel to only use the Bluebird taxis as they have the most legitimate meter process

Hotel Review: When we booked the hotel, we immediately received an email from them asking us to provide our flight information as our booking included a return shuttle from the airport which was brilliant. As soon as we came through customs, we were met by our driver who was very friendly and swiftly took us to the hotel.

On arrival at the hotel, we had to go through a security check of the car (including armed security officers and gun/drug dogs) and then a separate body scan check and luggage scanner. This happened each time we re-entered the hotel – it seems to be very common in Bali and to be honest, it was a reassuring security measure.

We were greeted at the check-in desk with a scented face towel and welcome drink whilst the check-in process was under way. The person on reception let us know that as we had booked an Autograph package, we were entitled to one complimentary lunch, one dinner, one 60min spa treatment each and also a bucket of beer each day which was a brilliant surprise – this sort of thing never happens to me – I’m more likely to have been overcharged for a lower package – so we were thrilled. They also offered us a discount to upgrade to an executive room which gave us a balcony with a bath on it (our previous room had no balcony) which we took and I think it worked out at about another £150 for the stay.

The hotel itself was stunning – it is definitely more of a resort than a hotel with a large restaurant, a pool bar, cabanas, sunbeds (including some in the water itself), hammocks and a kids entertainment room.

Our room was very spacious with a massive king sized bed, good TV (for the afternoon nap!), a big wardrobe, separate glass sections for shower and toilet and a sink/vanity unit.

The balcony had view of the pool and also of the sea (a bit obstructed, couldn’t see the beach but could see the sea and sunset)

Restaurant: we had breakfast in the hotel restaurant each morning (apart from one when we had a long lie). The breakfast was a round the world buffet with a mixture of local Indonesian dishes, other Asian dishes (pho, dim sum), pancakes, egg station, British/European sausage, bacon beans etc., selections of meats, pasties and fruits – so definitely something for everyone!

For our complimentary dinner we were given a separate menu which is fine – it excluded things like steak, certain fish dishes etc. which is fair enough. I had bao buns and fish tacos. I ordered a separate side dish of chips because I didnt think the tacos would be filling enough and the waiter made a big deal of me ordering outside the set menu and that I better be aware that I would have to pay extra – I was well aware of this when I ordered – it was a bit annoying having to re-confirm everything over again just because I wanted a £3 bowl of chips! It’s this kind of thing that has always put me off purchasing deals from places like GroupOn because I’ve heard stories of people being named and shamed for having vouchers. Anyway, the food was lovely though and the staff were very attentive – never short of a Bintang!)
We had the same menu for our lunch and it was again very lovely!

We chose to eat at the restaurant on our last day before departing for the airport – the hotel was doing a Thai night and we had a set Thai taster menu which was amazing – it was served on a beautiful platter with each dish being explained by the waiter. The massaman curry was delicious!

Pool bar: we made great use of our complimentary beer buckets and ordered additional beers on top of this – service at the pool bar was great, the staff couldn’t do enough to help you! They gave out plastic glasses so you could take your drink in the pool with you – ideal! Gave it a real Vegas vibe. There was a DJ each day playing music to keep the party feeling going. Great atmosphere for a holiday!

Spa: we had a late departure on our last day so managed to book our spa treatment in for the afternoon before we had to leave. We both had a full body massage. We arrived at the spa and were treated to a cucumber drink with a refreshing towel and a foot soak and rub before the massage commenced. We were in the same room which was fine – they gave us little papery pants to put on which we both promptly ripped to pieces just by picking them up so we just stuck to our own clothes 😂 . The massages were so relaxing, just what we needed after a holiday and before a long flight home!

Seminyak: we took a taxi from Kuta to Seminyak which took about 20-30mins but cost about £3. We got off at Seminyak Square which is a small shopping centre / market area in Seminyak. We took a nice walk down to the beach where we dipped our toes in the water and sat on some swings. Seminyak beach was much quieter than Kuta beach. We walked back into the town and stopped at a place called Neon Palms which was a cool clothing boutique with a bar/cafe upstairs. We sat outside and had a couple of cocktails. The cafe looked to offer great healthy food options as well – if we hadnt already had breakfast we would have definitely had something there – https://www.neonpalms.com/ – Afterwards, we took a walk around the shops and the surrounding area. We stopped of a Ku De TA beach club for a mooch about and ended up having some lunch (sushi and other tapas bits) before getting a taxi back to Kuta. https://www.kudeta.com/

Ubud: we really wanted to see the rice paddies and arranged a driver through the hotel to take us there. Our driver stopped us off at a few places on the way – a temple, a waterfall, the tree swings (I was expecting some natural rural tree swing but it is literally set up like an Instagram photo shoot where you can hire special dresses for that perfect Instagram shot and it costs £25 per person just to go down and get photo taken – ehhhh no.) We then went on to the rice paddies which were really lovely – cautionary tale, wear sensible shoes such as trainers or walking boots and not flimsy flip flops – a lot of stairs to climb but totally worth it to experience the rice paddies! Ubud is definitely somewhere we would want to go back to.

Sanur: after some research on Trip Advisor we decided to go visit the Sanur Night Market – Sindhu Market – https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g297700-d1994602-Reviews-Sindhu_Market-Sanur_Denpasar_Bali.html . Sanur is about a 30min taxi ride from Kuta, again only costing a few pounds. The market is a mixture of food and drink stalls and market stalls selling souvenirs and clothing. We opted for a chicken noodle soup dish and a few beers which were incredibly cheap and delicious, made right in front of you by a local family. The atmosphere in the market was really welcoming and warm – a mixture of tourists, locals and ex-pats. Afterwards we wandered along the main street of Sanur and stopped off at a few bars for drinks before heading back to the hotel.

Uluwatu temple: we grabbed a taxi to Uluwatu which is about an hour from Kuta. The taxi driver stayed with us whilst we visited the temple which is right on a ragged coastline with stunning scenery across the water and in the woodland areas surrounding it. There are warning signs all over about the monkeys and cats who would try and rob you but we were never bothered by them. It is definitely worth a visit but again worth noting that you should wear sensible shoes as you are up and down hills and stairs. The views a breathtaking!

Kuta: we stayed in Kuta and this is the area we spent the most time in. A lot of people describe Kuta as Benidorm for Australians and I can kind of see where they are coming from with that – there is a strip of nightlife, a lot of bright flashing lights and tons of tourists. Nothing wrong with that!

Food: On our first night we went to an outdoor eating area with lots of small local restaurants for some Indonesian cuisine which was lovely.
Another amazing restaurant we tried is Crumb and Coaster which was a very trendy, modern designed restaurant just along from the nightlife strip – https://www.crumbandcoaster.com/

Nightlife: The nightlife was a bit quiet even on the main street which I think is because of the time of year – peak season in Bali is a bit later on in the year – but there were still a few good bars. We ended up drinking in the Hard Rock Cafe bar most nights because it was busy and their live band were brilliant – perfect mix of pop, rock, hard rock – they are called Splitfire, check them out on Instagram!

Although the weather was really hot, we were in rainy season so some nights it was too cloudy to see the sunset. On one night though the skies were clear so we headed down to the beach and grabbed a few beers at one of the pop up bars to take in the sunset – beautiful end of a day and start of nightlife!

Shopping: Kuta also has a brilliant outdoor shopping centre called Beachwalk on the main strip. The centre hosts a lot of international brands: Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Topshop, Zara, Stradivarius, Sephora etc and a number of coffee shops and restaurants. We spent a rainy afternoon looking around the shops – I love looking at shops abroad, especially Zara as it is usually better laid out and more interesting items! The rest of the shopping scene in Kuta is a mix of small boutiques and tourist souvenir shops.

Overall, I would say that 1 week is definitely not enough time to fit everything in and would recommend at least 2 weeks to spend time in different areas. However, in saying that, I do think we made the most of our time there and had a thoroughly good holiday!

USA Part 3: Las Vegas

Our third and final stop on the American Adventure was Las Vegas. We stayed for 4 nights in the MGM Grand Hotel.

I had been to Vegas previously and before going , I did wonder if I would like it or would I find it too tacky / Brits abroad style. I absolutely loved it the first time and loved it again this time. Vegas is like Disneyland for adults – the spectacle of the Strip, the hotels, the shops, the bars, the shows, the people, the lights all come together to create a buzzing atmosphere in the middle of the Nevada desert.

Vegas isn’t really famed for its culture and historic sights so our trip focused on eating, drinking, shows and shopping!


Las Vegas is home to a diverse dining scene – from hotel buffets to high end fine dining. Buffets are a nightmare for me – I have no self control and so despite having 2 free passes to the MGM Buffet, we avoided them like the plague. We did however, let ourselves get ripped off on more than one occasion in the Starbucks in the MGM. I’m still smarting from dropping 35USD on 2 iced Americano’s, a pain au chocolat and a turkey white omelette breakfast muffin thing. One thing I love about America is the healthier breakfast treats – turkey and egg white omelettes are life, just don’t get that sort of thing in Starbucks here. Anyway, a rant for another day.

Lago: Lago is an Italian restaurant inside the Bellagio hotel. We had made a reservation online before going to America and requested a table by the window so we could see the fountains during our lunch. The restaurant is very bright and it doesn’t feel like you’ve just wandered in through a Casino (which you have, never further than 10ft from a gambling machine in Vegas!) It is decorated in a blue and white contemporary style inside and the staff were very friendly and welcoming. We ordered a glass of champagne, we shared a flatbread pizza for starter then for our mains we both had the special that day which was a lobster linguine which was melt in the mouth delicious and more wine. We also shared a lemon tart for desert. I’m not a big desert person so was happy to share. The meal was quite pricey for a lunch – I cant remember exactly but 250USD seems about right but if you didn’t have alcohol it would probably be a lot less. Overall, it was a wonderful lunch, when the fountains went off, Con te Partiro played in the background which is one of my favourite songs of all time so it was just the perfect atmosphere and environment.

Andiamo: Andiamo is located in the D Hotel on Fremont Street, the old town of Las Vegas. We got an Uber down before our reservation to have a look around Fremont Street. Fremont has a more old school vibe than the main strip and is a bit less polished. There are a lot more street performers and people dressed up in costumes taking money for photos. The main drag is under a canopy which lights up and hosts the zip line ride over the crowds. The bars which line the street are a lot cheaper than the bars on The Strip! The restaurant is sign posted inside the D Hotel however we got lost as coming off the escalator we went wandering around when we should have done a sharp right as the entrance is kind of behind you as you come off the escalator. Link https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g45963-d7952612-Reviews-Lago_at_Bellagio_Hotel-Las_Vegas_Nevada.html

The restaurant is a beautifully decorated classic restaurant with dark wood walls and flooring and ambient lighting throughout. The service from the staff is what set this restaurant apart from most I have ever been in. The waitor was in traditional white coat and could not have been more attentive, explaining the menu, making recommendations, wine knowledge and was very personable. The place was full and there was one massive table of 20+ people but the service didn’t falter. The food was really tasty as well – I had scallops followed by fillet steak and copius sides and red wine – in my element. We ended up going home in a meat coma after it the meal. Again this was around 250-300USD mark and worth every cent for the service received. Link: Andiamo: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g45963-d3869216-Reviews-Andiamo_Italian_Steakhouse-Las_Vegas_Nevada.html Andiamo is located in the D hotel on Fremont Street.

Sushi Samba: I had wanted to go to this chain of restaurants for ages as I LOVE sushi and the restaurants always look so fun and funky. The menu is a fusion of sushi and Brazilian fare which go together really well. We ordered a mix of dishes including the A5 wagyu beef gyoza, chicken teriyaki samba style – came with purple mash YUM! The restaurant is decorated to a high standard and fits the style of the restaurant perfectly. Link: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g45963-d1141590-Reviews-SUSHISAMBA-Las_Vegas_Nevada.html


We did a great deal of drinking / partying the night away in Vegas. We could have been a bit more savvy with the happy hours and also remembering to take ID out with us. You get asked for ID everywhere an on two occasions we had forgotten to take any with us!

One of the best bars we went to was the piano bar in New York New York hotel. The pianist starts about 8pm just as happy hour ends – sometimes there were 2 pianists playing. I love live music, especially piano bars so I was having the time of my life. Especially when they played Robbie Williams Angels!!

There are a few pubs / bars in New York New York – the Coyote Ugly and Irish Bar are both really good as well. We also bought frozen cocktails from the various bars on the strip and carried them around and did a bar crawl in random bars down the strip / hotels.


Prior to our holiday, I had booked tickets to see Jennifer Lopez show in Planet Hollywood. She was out of this world. Her set had all her hits and the set was very Vegas themed – I didn’t sit down for the whole show. Her residency has ended but hopefully she comes back.

We also managed to get tickets for Queen and Adam Lambert at the new Park MGM theatre. Adam Lambert is brilliant and paid tribute to the legend of Freddie Mercury whilst also putting his own stamp on their greatest hits.


Vegas has tons of shops – Planet Hollywood, Caesers Palace, Bellagio and the shopping centre down past the Venetian / Treasure Island hotels are all brilliant – a mix of high end designer and high street shops. I haven’t been to any of the outlet malls but I am sure they are brilliant as well.

MGM Grand

We loved the MGM Grand hotel. We had a decent sized room with a good TV (again for my afternoon naps I like a bit of TV!) and wardrobe. The best bit about the MGM is the swimming pool even though it is miles away from the main hotel rooms. There are a few pools dotted about and a big lazy river to bob about in to escape the desert heat. We nipped over to Wet Republic to see what it was like but you literally cannot sit down on any chair / bed without having prebooked and I would imagine it is extortionate to reserve a bed so probably only worth it if Calvin Harris is DJ-ing and you were with a group. Hiring a locker in Wet Republic is 40USD per locker whereas in the normal MGM pool it is 10USD. We didn’t last long in WR. The poolside bar at the MGM was decent value and we were able to get sunbeds in the shade no problems. Spent a good few hours relaxing poolside. They have music blasting all day so even though not at the official WR parties, it still has a party vibe.

Overall, we had a brilliant time in Vegas and we have booked to go back this summer to the Bellagio! We cannot wait!

USA Part 2: San Francisco

The second stop on our American Adventure was San Francisco. We had 3 nights here but would have preferred 4-5 as there is lots to see and do!

Our flight with American Airlines arrived around 9pm. We went straight to our hotel which was the Best Western Americania hotel which is about 5-10min walk from Union Square. The hotel bar/restaurant was great and would recommend a visit (K-OZ bar).

We only really had 2 full days in San Fran so we made sure we planned our time carefully to get everything in:

1. Golden Gate Bridge: We hired bikes from a place near the waterfront – I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the rental place but there are hundreds of them) and we cycled along the waterfront to the Golden Gate Bridge. Unsurprisingly, it is very windy on the bridge but it didn’t really bother us too much only at the points where you have to cycle around the pillars and kind of cycle into the wind – easier to just get off and push round! The views were stunning even though it was a bit misty and it definitely felt like a bucket list achievement moment. There are hop on hop off buses that go over the bridge if you don’t fancy cycling. If we had more time, we would have cycled on to Sausalito.

2. Lombard Street: Immortalised in the TLC video, this tight hairpin cobbled street was a must-see. The owners of the properties on this street must have triple glazing windows to block out the constant sound of TLC being blasted from the cars sneaking down this road. The queue of traffic at the top was crazy and there was a dedicated police officer controlling the area. Definitely worth seeing – it was a nice sunny day when we were there and the flowers / plants on the street looked lovely.

3. Alcatraz: Similar to the attractions in NYC, Alcatraz has to be pre-booked as it sells out quite a while in advance so there would be little chance of on-the-day tickets being available. We queued up for our time slot – it takes a while to get on the boat because in true tourist fashion, you get your photo taken in front of a green screen before you board so you can buy a photo on the way back.
The boat trip over doesn’t take long and you get great views of San Fran and the bridges as you go.
As soon as you disembark, you are huddled into a group where a tour guide gives you an overview of the island and the museum before you get going.
There is a sloping hill that goes up the side of the island to take you to the museum part – they do have transportation for those unable to complete the walk which is nice.
The ticket price includes the audio tour which is good and this gives you directions for moving around the island and makes sure you see and hear all the important parts. I personally loved the stories of people trying to escape – some of the methods were very clever!

4. Fishermans Wharf/Pier 39: We visited the wharf on both of our days in San Fran. The Wharf has a number of seafood restaurants and bars dotted around which were all very busy. We spent most of our time at the bar in the middle – Chowder Hut – where we had a lot of prosecco (me) and beer (Neil) and shared chowder in a bread bowl – YUM!
On pier 39 there were lots of restaurants (Bubba Gumps!), shops, and arcades / kids entertainers. The best shop was the left handed shop – as a leftie I was so excited to go in and was about to purchase a pair of left handed scissors but they were 40USD and then a stationary kit that was 25USD so I decided against both as I don’t do much cutting on a day to day basis and I’ve survived almost 30 years without a left handed ruler but it was great to be in the shop.
Even though this area is really touristy and mobbed with people, it still had a laid back vibe so we spent a great deal of time here

5. Trolleys/Trams: The old fashioned trams run across the city and can take the pain out of climbing the steep hills from the waterfront back to Union Square. You need to pre-purchase a ticket from the ticket booth before getting on the tram. We got the tram from Fishermans wharf back up to Union Square direction. It was a cool experience – the ticket / conductor / navigator guy on the tram had great banter.

Restaurants: We ate in our hotel restaurant K-OZ bar – they serve American / Hawaiian food – tacos with different coloured shells etc.

We also went to a sushi restaurant called Ryoko’s which is in a basement near Union Square – it is quite dark and edgy in the restaurant and there is a DJ playing dark and edgy tunes throughout – we had to queue for a table but was worth the wait 🙂 https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g60713-d360083-Reviews-Ryoko_s_Japanese_Restaurant_Bar-San_Francisco_California.html

Our time in San Fran felt like a whirlwind and it felt like only a few mins after arriving that we had to leave for our final stop – Las Vegas!

Thailand – Pattaya

In February we went to Pattaya for a week of winter sun – the same week that the beast from the east hit the UK so we missed all that drama! 

We chose Pattaya as we have been to Thailand before – will do a bigger post on that next – and wanted somewhere we knew we would have a nice time. We booked via Expedia – flew with Etihad from Edinburgh and we stayed in the Hard Rock Hotel which was epic. 

Pattaya is much more Westernised and ex-pat themed compared to the parts of Thailand we had been to before. There are a lot of British pubs, Irish pubs etc. but there are still some authentic Thai experiences and great restaurants. 


Floating Markets – the floating markets get some ropey reviews on Trip Advisor but I quite liked it – yes you have to pay to get in and there are some things that are a bit overpriced but it is still a nice place to visit. We wandered around the different stalls / small shops and had a coffee (iced Americano for the win!) and some meat on a stick (you could get crocodile but I just played it safe with chicken). There was lots to see – little shows being performed, people dressed up in costumes, shops offering little crafty items and clothes. Spent a couple of hours here before heading back to hotel. 

Sanctuary of Truth – again this gets quite ropey reviews on Trip Advisor I think mostly due to the entry free of 500baht but we went along anyway. The sanctuary looks 100s of years old but was built in the early 80s and is made totally of wood and no cement or anything. It is right on the waterfront so the views are beautiful. The sanctuary has 2 floors and the structure is really pretty to look at and see the level of detail that has gone into it. We stayed and ate lunch in the restaurant there – some tidy pad thai. 

Walking Street – the main nightlife strip in Pattaya is the walking street but to be honest it is disgusting. It stinks like raw sewage, it’s dirty and full of shady looking stripper places. We only went to a couple of bars right at the far away end just to say we had been! Not a chance were we going into any of the clubs. The bars between our hotel and the walking tour were much better. There was a row of open fronted bars that had really good happy hours and live music and also Soi 7 and 8 are less seedy and more fun to hang out in. 

Restaurants – Two restaurants that really stood out to us were Mai Thai and Jasmin’s Cafe . Mai Thai we went to on the day that there was an alcohol ban as it was a Buddhist day but this restaurant served wine in little mugs so if the police went past they wouldn’t see the alcohol. The food was really delicious and service was really attentive and good. Jasmin’s Café was a bit smaller but was similar in terms of quality of food and service which were both fantastic! Would recommend both for authentic Thai food. 

Rooftop bar – Horizon at the Hilton hotel had the coolest rooftop bar I have been to – the views were breath taking. The cocktails are pricey but we went for happy hour and it was 2 for 1 – I had the dirty martini – very very strong so it’s value for money as they certainly do the job. The hotel itself is beautiful as well – if I was ever to go back I would want to stay there. 

Hotel – saving the best ’til last – the star of the show for our holiday was our hotel. We stayed at the Hard Rock hotel and we just loved it. It was decorated in classic Hard Rock style, very rock and roll themed. Our room was big with good channels on the TV (I like a bit of National Geographic when taking my afternoon nap which becomes a ritual on holiday). One of the highlights was the pool – it was really big with a pool side bar, a rock pool with sand in it for kids and loads of nice comfy sun loungers and cabanas. We hired a cabana – was £15 for the day and included 2 soft drinks and 2 bottles of water plus the staff were more attentive at coming round for drinks orders. The cabana had a wee fridge into and (confession time) we snuck in a few of our own beers and rum into the fridge (oops!) 

Overall – I love Thailand – the people, the weather, the food so I really enjoyed my week here but if you want a more cultural experience then I would recommend the other places we went to – Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Koh Samui. 

%d bloggers like this: