Trafalgur-square-Christmas

Christmas in London, England, 2016: Six Fun Things to Do

I’ve been home for about four months now after living and travelling abroad for 20 months, and what a jam-packed four months it’s been. From catching up with loved ones to visiting some of my favourite cities in Europe and then easing back into working here in London again, it’s sure been a busy and eventful time in my life.

Although I do miss Australia and Southeast Asia and often catch myself reminiscing fondly over the hot beach days, there’s definitely one thing I’m excited about being back in the UK for. Christmas in London!

Christmas in Australia felt very strange and alien to me. Christmas doesn’t feel like a huge deal over there. I missed the festivities, the Christmas trees, the bright lights, and the cheer.

I’ll tell you a secret: I even missed the cold. Now that’s saying something.

Feeling extra festive this year (I’m not sure my friends and family can believe it) I’ve been making the most of the Christmas celebrations offered across London. There’s definitely plenty to do.

If you’re in London this festive season, why not get involved? Here are some of the best Christmas-related events and activities across England’s lovely capital this year. You’re welcome.

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Six of My Favourite Spots in Sydney, Australia

As my time in Sydney, Australia slowly draws to a close, I’ve already started reflecting on my life here. All in all, it’s been an incredible and memorable year, full of wonderful highs as well as some heart-breaking lows (which usually involved me having to say goodbye to some of the amazing people I’ve met out here.)

I moved to Sydney, Australia straight from travelling around Southeast Asia for eight months. I was knackered from the non-stop moving about, and I wasn’t entirely convinced that setting up in a city on the opposite side of the world from London, my home, was a great idea.

The friends I were travelling with in Southeast Asia were going back to England, and this also made me feel a bit funny about the move. Plus, I had some health issues towards the end of my trip. All these factors together meant I wasn’t in the mood to start afresh in a new country and make new friends.

Yet the opportunity was there, and I didn’t want to have any regrets. I swallowed my doubts and powered on.

It turns out it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve met some special people and my year here has been one of the best I’ve ever had. As I write this, I feel slightly sick to the stomach that soon I’ll be leaving this beautiful country.

Sydney has been my home in Australia for ten months now, and I’ve fallen in love with it. The city is full of lively suburbs, dreamy beaches, and memorable spots that I’ll always hold close to my heart. Here are some of the places that stood out for me.

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Mount Bromo, Indonesia

Java, Indonesia: My Top Five Places to Visit

Indonesia was one of my favourite countries to visit when I was travelling in Southeast Asia. That’s mainly because there was so much to do and with so much variety. From dreamy beaches to postcard-perfect scenery to thrilling activities, Indonesia seems to have it all. Fortunately for us, we spent a good chunk of time exploring the culture-rich country.

Java, Indonesia, home to the Country’s capital Jakarta, is a real treat to explore. We spent almost two weeks discovering as much of the land as possible.

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Boracay beach

Beach Time and Beers in Boracay, The Philippines

I was extremely excited to head over to the Philippines six months into our travels in Southeast Asia. The Philippines seemed to be off the Southeast Asia ‘banana pancake’ trail, and I’d heard that it was a unique country to visit. But I had been warned that our first stop, Boracay, is known as the party spot of the Philippines and is extremely busy and touristy. So, I mentally prepared myself for the ‘Brits abroad’ type of tourist or a similar crowd that frequent Thailand’s full moon parties regularly.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, Boracay is a tourist hotspot. But, it seemed to be a buzzy holiday destination for those living in the Philippines and other countries in Asia, which was new to me. After settling into our hostel (MNL beach hostel – which was pretty good), I was keen to grab a beer and get to know some of the locals.

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Singapore city

How to Save Money in Singapore

As soon as I arrived in the city-state of Singapore, gazing up at the teeming skyscrapers and marvelling at the fast-paced hustle and bustle of my surroundings, I was eager to explore. However, after months spent enjoying foot massages costing three pounds and huge cheap-as-chips exotic spreads of food in other countries in Southeast Asia, when we arrived in Singapore the prices seemed somewhat higher.

On a strict travel budget, my travel buddies and I made sure not to spend too much in Singapore. Here’s how to save money in Singapore.

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Perhentian kecil

Pristine paradise in the Perhentian islands, Malaysia

Our time spent in Malaysia consisted of visiting some really cool places, including the likes of the lush jungles of Taman Negara and the bustling atmospheric city of Kuala Lumpur. However, my favourite spot in Malaysia were the idyllic Perhentian Islands, hands down. Why was this, you may ask?

To put it quite simply, the small grouping of islands situated off the coast of Northeast Malaysia are absolute postcard perfect paradise.

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Sunset in Bagan

Two weeks in Myanmar: An itinerary

Whilst planning my Southeast Asia trip, I have to admit that the idea of visiting Myanmar hadn’t even crossed my mind. I didn’t really know much about the country and in all honesty, my initial perceptions of it was that it was quite dangerous for tourists to visit. Of course, I was completely wrong.

However as I became more familiar with travelling Southeast Asia and I met more and more travellers who could only sing Myanmar’s praises, I became increasingly keen to visit this country that sounded so fascinating, so intriguingly different to anywhere else I’d heard of. I had been told that now is prime time to visit, as it is one of the few countries in Southeast Asia that isn’t teeming with tourists, fast food outlets and commerciality. And being the curious little explorer that I am, I sure didn’t want to miss out!

I toyed with the idea for a while. It wasn’t originally part of my plan, so my time there would be limited, or I would have to sacrifice plans in other parts of Southeast Asia. As well as that, my friends weren’t willing to pay for the extra visa costs and flights to get there, and one downfall of the country being so uninterrupted by tourists meant that it would be harder to meet other backpackers.

But when did that stop me? With good timing, I made a plan to go with someone I had met back in Laos and we decided to go for 2 weeks. I usually spend about 3-4 weeks in each country in Southeast Asia, so I knew it would be a challenge to see everything I wanted in just 2 weeks. Here’s how we crammed it all in.

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Koh Phangan's full moon party

Thailand’s best party hotspots

First of all, let me say that contrary to a lot of chitter chatter between some travellers (but usually from people who haven’t actually been to Thailand), I really don’t think partying is all there is to Thailand or even the main aspect of it. In fact, each time I’ve visited I’ve become swept up and fascinated by the rich culture and the stunning natural beauty of the country.

But, there’s no denying that Thailand boasts a lot of fantastic spots to enjoy a tequila sunrise (or five) and to dance the night away, and that is exactly what I did during my visit this year. Quite a few times! And compared to some countries I’ve visited on my Southeast Asia trip where I barely drank at all, Thailand is definitely the country I’ve partied the most in. And with its paradise beach islands, affordable booze, bustling cities and friendly locals it’s not hard to see why. So, here are my top spots to let your hair down in Thailand, enjoy!

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Mui Ne fishing village

My Mui Ne, Vietnam itinerary

Mui Ne is a charming little spot in Southern Vietnam, mostly known for its unlikely sand dunes. We stayed for a couple of nights, although I feel that Mui Ne can be easily and thoroughly explored in just one day and night, depending on how jam-packed you like your days to be!

Where we were staying, Mui Ne Backpackers Village, you could join a tour for $7 to take you to the best attractions in the area. However, we very cheekily decided to copy their itinerary and do it ourselves on rental mopeds. This allowed us to explore at our own pace and was also more cost-efficient – bonus!

This itinerary for us was in fact spread throughout a couple of days, but here’s how I would fit it all into one day and night.

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Mui Ne White sand dunes

Photo post: Vietnam compared to other countries

I’m not sure exactly what I had expected before visiting Vietnam on a one-month tourist visa. Clichéd visions of beaming locals donning rice paddy hats and the stunning limestone islands of Halong bay sprung to mind perhaps. All I really knew was that I had heard many great things about the country and it had rapidly risen to the top of my list of countries to visit in South East Asia.

What I was not expecting was just how different parts of the country looked from one another, and how often I felt like I wasn’t even in Vietnam at all! So I thought it might be quite fun to do a little comparison photo blog post likening some of the different countries I felt Vietnam bore some similarity to.

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