2019 Travel Roundup

Tuesday 31 December 2019

This year has been an odd one. I wasn't sure I even wanted to write this post but I know how much I enjoy looking back at my travel round ups so I'm writing this for future me; but and also for present me, to remind myself that although I am finding things hard right now, this year hasn't been all bad.

I started 2019 in London with Jonny but it wasn't long before we were off to explore a little bit of Europe since he'd never been to this side of the world before.


Our first stop was Amsterdam and we decided to go by Eurostar - coming from New Zealand, he loved the idea of getting a train to another country so I went with it. With one day to ourselves, we managed to squeeze in a canal ride, the sex museum, a lot of pancakes and an evening wandering around the red light district.

The rest of our time was spent with his long lost family which was pretty cool - his granddad left the Netherlands for an adventure after the war and ended up in NZ. We spent loads of time with them over the next two days, going out to see the windmills, eating traditional dutch food and swapping stories of life of opposite sides of the world.


From Amsterdam we flew to Rome. I've actually been in the Capital a few times before but only on a cruise so I really enjoyed finally getting to explore the Colosseum and the Vatican. As well as that, it meant that we were actually there long enough to eat. Italy as a whole was a foodie highlight of the year for me!

Rome was a huge bargain because we were there in low season. Our 3 star hotel, a few minutes walk from the station, cost €160 for us both for 5 nights. On top of that, most resturants had amazing food deals on and we were going out for three course meals, plus a glass of prosecco for €12 each. It was awesome.


Having realised my love of land travel when I was in Southeast Asia, I decided to book us a train to our next stop - Venice. It's such a unique city but it was just too expensive and a little bit crowded for us. After we'd seen the church and wandered around the shops for a few hours, we didn't have too much left to spend. Luckily, one thing that was pretty cheap was the alcohol so we spent our evenings sat out on the Grande Canal eating pizza and drinking €2.50 cocktails.


We came back to London to regroup before our 5 weeks apart, since Jonny hadn't been home to see his parents for months. During our last week in London we did some more touristy bits, heading to south bank for the London eye and the aquarium, eating our way around Chinatown and wandering around Trafalgar square for what felt like hours looking for a statue that he wanted to see.

After Jonny went home, I stayed for another month or two and made the most of it by spending as much time as possible with my friends, family and Molly.


After four months on the Gold Coast in 2018, we had decided to try somewhere new for the rest of our year in Australia. Somehow, we agreed on Brisbane and if I'm honest, it was a complete disaster, I hated it there so that didn't last long. As soon as Jonny arrived; a week after me, we got on a bus and went straight back to Surfers Paradise.

Between walking along the huge motorways and the worst jet lag of my life, I did manage to see a few bits of the city - like the man made beach and a couple of markets.

Surfers Paradise 

Australia is one of the best countries to live in for older people and it was also my favourite place to live in! Life back in Surfers was awesome. Jonny and I moved into a huge house that backed out on to the canal, in the perfect location, just down the road from where we lived before.

We made a bit more of an effort to see everything this time around too so there were more adventures from seeing my first kangaroos and koalas to hiking around Springbrook national park. Plus I managed to get an amazing job and made some new friends too.


It seemed such a waste to have to fly home from Australia and not stop off somewhere faraway on the way. With my friend Luke having some free time, we decided to head to Bali and chill out at a fancy air bnb for a week. Between Ubud, Canggu and Seminyak, we spent most of our time eating - because the food in Bali is so incredible.

Mediterranean Cruise

I came home in the middle of summer and really enjoyed it at the start but it wasn't long before I was itching to go away again. Luckily my next trip was only a month later.

It was our first family holiday in years and along with my parents and both of my brothers, we cruised around the Mediterranean for 12 nights, stopping off for a different adventure each day.


After another few months back home, I was bored and ready for some more excitement so I booked a flight to Thailand and was off on my way the day after. It was a really hard time for me at home and if I'm honest, I was just running away.

I did however enjoy my two week escape and as per usual, I didn't want to come back at the end of it.


and of course the annual trip to the Birmingham Christmas market. Highlights from this years trips include visiting the worlds biggest Primark and dinner at the cutest christmassy restaurant by the canal for my dads birthday.

and now it's new years eve. How crazy. Sadly, this post hasn't been a happy one to write but whilst the last few months have been an actual living nightmare, it's getting better and I am slowly starting to feel hopeful again. I feel excited at the prospect of feeling better and I'm excited for whats to come in the next 12 months.

I have been very lucky to have had another year of travel and I hope that I am able to continue with this incredible lifestyle in 2020 but I also want it to be.. happier. Hopefully I'll be able to look back this time next year and say I've achieved that, and more. 

The most magical time to visit Chaing Mai

Thursday 19 December 2019

Within days of arriving, Chiang Mai fast became my favourite destination in Southeast Asia. It's less crazy than Bangkok, the food is cheap and delicious and there is so much to do, making it an awesome destination year round; but having done this a few times now I can tell you will full confidence that plan your visit at the right time and you will experience this cultural town in northern Thailand at it's most magical.

Thailand has lots of festivals throughout the year and at the beginning of November, the country celebrates Loy Krathong. This is an enchanting festival by its own standard but celebrate it in Chiang Mai and you'll get to experience the wonders of Yi Peng the following day.

This year, the Loy Krathong celebrations started on the 10th November and Yi Peng, on 11th and 12th.

The whole city gets involved but as a backpacker, my favourite place to be is at Stamps backpacker hostel. I've stayed in 4 or 5 different hostels during my time in Chiang Mai and it is by far the best in terms for almost everything! Great location, comfortable accommodation but most importantly for me, the people who work there are the people who stay.

Loy Krathong loosely translates to 'to float a basket' and the festivities involve building an offering and floating it along the river to pay respect to the water spirits - and that's just what we did. Stamps organised all the bits and pieces we'd need and taught us how to create a traditional krathongs using a slice of tree trunk, folded banana leaves with toothpicks to keep them in place and flowers for decoration.

We walked down to the river as a big group, added a candle and three incense sticks to our krathongs and set them off along the river to join the hundreds of others floating downstream; there was something very Disney-esqu about the whole experience.

The next evening was the first night of Yi Peng, the lantern festival. The big celebrations happen on this day at the Mae Jo university which is about 15km out of town but to go to the actual ceremony, it costs hundreds of dollars so many people, including us gather by the river just outside. Stamps booked up coaches to take us there from Chiang Mai center and upon arriving, we bought lanterns and noodles at the street market and headed to the river bank to set them off by the water.

After writing our hopes and dreams on them, we lit the ring inside and waited for them to fill up with hot air. They're quite tricky to get right and require a few hands but it's a lot of fun to do together and it was great for group bonding.

By 8pm, the official ceremony started and all of a sudden, the sky opposite from where we were standing was full with thousands of lanterns; all launched into the sky at once. We all just stood there in awe, it was an absolutely magical sight.

And once they were far enough away, the fireworks started too.

This year, I missed last night of the festivities because I had plans in Bangkok but from my experience the first time around, this night is best spent in the city. With a big parade and the usual street market madness, there are people literally everywhere. Excited children and tourists who don't really know what they're mean that most of the lanterns got caught up in trees and fell to the ground in a big ball of flames so be wary if you do go out.

It was utter chaos if I'm honest but I loved every second!
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