Lake Geneva in Lausanne, Switzerland

A long weekend in Lausanne and Montreux, Switzerland

With a limited number of days off work in a year, I love to make the most of the bank holidays with prolonged weekends away. For the early May bank holiday last month, I decided to do exactly that!

My close friend Morgane, who I lived with in Australia, is actually studying in Lausanne, a city in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. This brought up the perfect opportunity to visit a country I had never been to and to reunite with her and another friend I had met in Australia, Charlotte. It was nice because Switzerland has never particularly been a country that I’ve been desperate to visit (there are many other countries in Europe that are further top of my hit list) so heading over I felt relaxed, with no pressure or high expectations.

However, I would soon become utterly impressed with the stunning scenery of the place!

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Sydney

My favourite spots in Sydney

As my time in Sydney and Australia slowly draws to a close, I’ve already started reflecting on my life here. All in all, it’s been an absolutely 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 came to Sydney straight from travelling South-East Asia for 8 months, knackered from non-stop moving about and not entirely convinced that setting up in a city on the opposite side of the world from London, my home, was really a great idea. My friends I was travelling with were going back to England, and due to some health issues I had towards the end of my trip I wasn’t really in the mood to start afresh and make new friends.

Yet the opportunity was there, and I didn’t want to have any regrets so I swallowed my doubts and powered on. Turns out it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, I’ve met some really incredible people and my year here has been one of the best ever. And 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 10 months and I’ve absolutely fallen in love with it. The city is full of lively suburbs, incredible beaches and memorable spots that I will always hold close to my heart. Here are some that really stood out for me.

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Boracay beach

Beach time and beers in Boracay

I was extremely excited to head over to the Philippines 6 months into our travels. It seemed to be off the typical Southeast Asia ‘banana pancake’ trail and I’d heard through the grapevine that it had a completely unique vibe. But I had been warned that Boracay, known as the party spot of the Philippines was extremely busy and touristy. So, I mentally prepared myself for the ‘Brits abroad’ type of tourist, or perhaps a similar crowd that frequent Thailand’s full moon parties on a regular basis.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, Boracay was definitely a tourist hotspot. But, it seemed to be a tourist hotspot for those living in the Philippines and other countries in Asia, which was definitely new to me! So after settling into our hostel, I was keen to grab a beer and get to know some of the locals.

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Perhentian kecil

Pristine paradise in the Perhentian islands

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 was the idyllic Perhentian Islands, hands down. Why was this, you may ask?

To put it quite simply, this 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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Mui Ne fishing village

My Mui Ne 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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Kampot's river

One day in Kampot

Kampot, a charming riverside town in Southern Cambodia is a spot I wished we had longer to explore. Realising back in Sihanoukville that we would be limited on time for Kampot due to our visa for Vietnam starting imminently, me and my travel buddies decided to make a quick beeline for the quaint little city. We had one full day to make the most of our visit – here’s what we got up to.

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Koh Rong sunset

Koh Rong: Beach island paradise

Oh Koh Rong, where do I even start? This small Cambodian island is about an hour’s ferry ride away from Sihanoukville on the mainland, and after hearing great things from many other backpackers, me and my travel buddies had been keen to check out the island for a long time. And boy were we impressed!

Back mid-February, as our boat pulled into the docks of Koh Rong, it immediately became blindingly obvious that I’d be enjoying myself there. The water was a dazzling hue of aqua-blue, the sand looked luxuriously soft and white and the teeny-tiny shops and restaurants along the beachfront were buzzing with backpackers. But that was just the beginning.

Koh Rong beachfront
Not a bad first impression…

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