10 EXPERIENCES TO HAVE IN VIETNAM.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Vietnam has to be one of the most memorable trips I have ever been on, probably because it was also the last trip I took before Covid came about and ruined all our fun. Aside from that, it really is a country where you can experience everything. Paradise beaches, mountain treks, city life, and some of the best food on the planet. If like me you're already itching to make travel plans for 2021, here's my guide on 10 experiences to have in Vietnam. 

vietnam guide tea with gi

1. Halong Bay



Cruising through Halong Bay is probably one of the most popular activities to do in Vietnam. Depending on who you're travelling with, there are a couple of ways you can experience this. I was travelling with my friend Rebecca and we were recommended the Castaways Island tour that's run by Vietnam Backpacker Hostels. 

This was a 2 night trip to their private island which included a boat party, shared accommodation in the Bungalows on the island and 3 meals a day. They also include activities throughout the day like kayaking, rock climbing, tubing and of course, drinking games. They usually have around 30-40 people on this trip, but we coincided with an American school who all booked onto it, so we had around 100 people on our trip. Which was great if you're looking to meet a lot of people. Also it's probably worth mentioning, there is no wifi on the island! 

castaways halong bay

2. Eat local



I had to dedicate a post to all the great food I had in Vietnam. One of my favourite things about travelling SE Asia is the amount you can eat and drink for a 1/4 of the price of what it would cost back home. On our first day in Hanoi, we were recommended to stop by Banh My P, which only has one thing on the menu - Banh Mi's. Which in essence translates to a baguette, but boy was it a good one. It usually includes pate, pickles, carrots, coriander and whatever protein you fancy. They also make vegetarian varieties too. 

Don't leave Vietnam without trying:

Banh Mi - a tasty baguette
Pho - a simple yet filling bowl of broth, rice noodles, herbs and chicken or beef. 
Banh Xeo - little crispy crepes that are filled with pork or fish and garnished with herbs. 
Goi Cuon - lighter spring rolls as they're not fried and rolled in rice paper. 
Bun Cha - a variety of meat served with a bowl of rice, broth and a basket of herbs. 
Egg coffee - tastes better than it sounds! the egg is whisked in with a coffee making it quite a thick drink.

bun cha


Places to try:

The Note Cafe (Hanoi) - quirky little cafe where the walls are filled with post-its left by customers, great place to try egg coffee too, or a simple cappuccino. 

Madam Tran (Hanoi) - found in the Old Quarter, popular restaurant serving local dishes and the staff are friendly and even helped me mix my Bun Cha since he saw me struggling with the chopsticks. 

NYC Pizza (Hanoi) - pizza in Vietnam? acceptable if you've been out drinking in Beer Street and want some authentic NYC pizza after. Justin Bieber has also been!

Bo Nuong Xuan Xuan (Hanoi) - you can BBQ your own meat here. 

Pizza 4Ps (Hanoi/Da Nang) - this place was the BOMB, it's usually packed so make sure to book a table beforehand. 

Altitude Rooftop Bar (Nha Trang) - great cocktail bar overlooking all of Nha Trang. 

Sailing Club (Nha Trang) - serving a variety of asian and western food, I had seabass, wine and cheesecake all for £10. We also got some free cocktails as they had a special mixologist in and wanted some photos of customers trying them!

Chill Sky Bar (Saigon) - vibrant cocktail bar with live DJ's and overlooking the Saigon skyline. 

the note cafe hanoi

3. Sa Pa



We didn't have quite the experience we expected as the weather was horrible and misty, but when things don't go to plan as long as you're in good company it always makes for a fun and memorable experience right? We did the Sa Pa 2 day tour from Hanoi which was a 7 hour drive but the coaches had reclined 'bed like' seats so the journey was actually quite pleasant. You spend your time trekking the mountainous area and through the local villages, and spend your evening in a Home Stay where you'll also have your food prepared for you. Sa Pa is in the north of Vietnam so as expected, it's going to be a lot colder so make sure you pack adequately. 

Sa Pa


4. Ninhvana hostel



I wouldn't recommend more than 2 nights here as there isn't much to do in the area, but it's such a great place to sit back and relax, meet other travellers and sip cheap cocktails. We flew into Nha Trang and then had a 1 1/2 hour drive to Ninhvana. Even though it's a hostel there are also private rooms available which is what we opted for. They host activities everyday and have DJs and entertainment in the evening. 

ninhvana vbh


5. Hoi An 



Hoi An is probably one of the most beautiful cities I've ever been to, it definitely lives up to what you see in photos and on postcards. During the day there are a bunch of activities you can do in the area, such as hopping on a basket boat along the river or hiring a bicycle and exploring the Old Town. A lot of people also get tailor made dresses and suits made in Hoi An, so if you've got a wedding or special event coming up this is the place to get something unique for it. 

In the evening, head to the Hoi An Ancient Town to see the array of lanterns and lights that light up the place. Here you will find a ton of restaurants ranging in price, bars, shops and street vendors. You can also ride along the river on a boat full of lanterns that will make you feel like Rapunzel in Tangled. 

Hoi An

6. Hai Vahn Pass



For the more adventurous folk up there, this is a 20km road that crosses Da Nang to Hue and is one of the most scenic routes you can take. Most people decide to do this on a motorcycle, either at their own leisure or on a Motorbike Tour with a local company. If you've been to Vietnam you know how crazy the roads can be, so if like me you're too uncoordinated to do this then you can experience by sitting on the passenger seat of a Jeep instead.

Hai Vahn Pass


7. Train Street, Hanoi 



Ever experienced a train crossing 1m in front of you whilst you're sat drinking an egg coffee and cake? You will in Train Street in Hanoi. They can sometimes be a bit funny about letting you enter, but if you say you're heading to one of the cafes then you should be fine. The train passes every half hour so you likely won't miss it! It's also a great spot to get a pic for your Instagram, obviously. 

train street hanoi


8. Ba Na Hills 



We didn't have time to make it here, and I'm gutted because it looks like such a unique place. The area is an hour away from Hoi An or Da Nang and you have to take a cable car to get here. Here you find a mini 'European village' filled with castles and french bakeries. I saw this in Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father and couldn't believe we missed it. Here you'll also find the Golden Bridge which if you get there early without the mass of tourists, you're in for some epic photos. 


Ba Na Hills
Photo Credit


9. War Remnants Museum, Saigon 



I was not prepared for how moving this museum was going to be, I think all of us came out of it a bit teary eyed and had to go have a drink to cheer ourselves up. There is a range of themed exhibits, including weapons and machinery used in the Vietnam War, propaganda, and graphic photographs covering the effects of Agent Orange and Napalm bombs on the vietnamese people. It really was horrific and some of those images I will never forget. The aim of the US army was to disfigure the people of Vietnam for generations so they would never be able to form another army, and even to this day you still see the effects that their attacks have had on people. 

war museum saigon


10. Chi Chi Tunnels, Saigon



If you're claustrophobic then you're probably going to want to skip this, but here you have the chance to experience how the Viet Cong guerilla fighters lived during the Vietnam War. You'll get to visit the underground bunkers and learn about all the traps they set and hidden kitchens and spots they had. The original tunnels were quite small, but they have actually been widened in order to accommodate every type of traveller who wants to fit in the snug space. 

We spent a total of 16 days in Vietnam and could have easily spent another two weeks there, but I feel like we saw all the highlights and did everything we wanted to do. I didn't have any bad experiences in Vietnam and i'd definitely go back, once I have explored the rest of Asia! 

***

For this post I collaborated with the very talented Beatrice who created this illustration for me based on my favourite spot on my trip, Hoi An. Beatrice spent 6 months living in Vietnam, so I'm sure she could have filled this post with 50 more things to do there! 

You can find the The Hoi An Art print on her online store, and until the 30th November she is offering 10% off using the code 'TEAWITHGI' at checkout. 

You can check out her work and collections on her website Beatrice Garcia and find her on Instagram here.



 

HOW TO SPEND 48 HOURS IN KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA.

Friday, 1 May 2020

During my two month trip at the beginning of the year, Kuala Lumpur was the only place I actually ended up travelling to by myself. I knew I was going to have some time to do solo travelling, and KL seemed like a relatively safe place to do this (more on that later). When I arrived at the end of January, there wasn't really much talk on the coronavirus, and there was 1 case in Malaysia. I still run to 5 different stores before I was finally able to get my hands on a face mask.

tea with gi kuala lumpur


Where to stay in Kuala Lumpur 


Reggae Mansion Hostel (budget) 


If you're looking to get a peaceful night sleep then this probably won't be the hostel for you, as they have a rooftop bar that goes off every weekend. Their shard hostel rooms still give you a sense of privacy as you get a curtain in your bunk, although getting to the (very high) top bunk whilst also trying to carry my laptop, water and book up the ladder wasn't the easiest. The rooms come with lockers and you also get complimentary basic breakfast in the morning. Rooms were priced at £5 per night.

Upper View Regalia Hotel (best views)


At £25 a night it's slightly more pricey for Asia, but still pretty cheap in comparison to other places. I was going to spend a night here to get one of those iconic photos in their rooftop pool with the KL skyline but alas, it was going to be too much effort to change accommodation for 1 night and well, I didn't have anyone travelling with me to take photos for me. 

Where to eat in Kuala Lumpur 



One of my favourite things about travelling in Asia is the amount of good food I can get for less than £10. The first thing I googled when I got to my hotel room is what dishes I needed to try, and where to try them. I had wandered to the KLCC Mall and stopped by the food court for lunch. I went to the Malaysian stall and didn't know what anything on the menu was, so I googled Nasi Lemak and though that was a safe option. It's a dish cooked in coconut milk and it usually comes with a bunch of extras like fried anchovies, a boiled egg etc. There was something on the plate that was a bit spicy, so the cucumber was useful! 

Jalan Alor Night Market 


This night market was a 15 minute walk from the Reggae Mansion hostel so I actually ended up here twice. Here you can find stalls serving snacks and treats that range between £2 - £5 or a range of Chinese, Malaysian and Indian restaurants where plates are around £10. I saw a very aesthetically pleasing wheel of dumplings when I was walking through the market, and the lady working there said she'd pick a selection of 10 for me for £4. Half the time I didn't know what I was biting into but it was a range of chicken, pork and fish.

jalon alor night market

Dining in the Dark KL


If you're looking for a unique experience then definitely make time for this! Like the name suggests you're immersed in a dining experience in complete darkness. I went with some people I met at my hostel and it's interesting to see how people communicate when you can't see each other, and eating without seeing what's in front of you also heightens your senses. 

Tapak Urban Street Dining 


Another food market that has a more international focus and various food trucks. Just make sure you come here with an appetite because I was lying like a potato in bed for hours after I left because I was so full. I bought the mac & cheese burger from 8th Street Cafe and wow, for £2.50! I also saw stalls selling Mexican food, churros and some Malaysian dishes. 

Arch Cafe 


I was actually looking for a different restaurant that turned out to be closed, and I spotted a lot of people in this one next door so stopped here for lunch. It seemed to be popular with the locals and I decided to have another plate of nasi lemak. I also spotted a durian tart at the counter and decided to try that too, although I must say that wasn't really for me and you've probably heard about the potent taste and smell of the fruit.

arch cafe kl



What to do in Kuala Lumpur 



It's relatively to get around KL with their metro system, but because I was only there for a weekend I hopped from place to place using Gojek (Asia's version of Uber) as it was cheap and would get me there quicker, and less chance of me getting lost. 

Batu Caves


Probably the most popular thing to in KL. I'd seen many colourful pictures of what the Batu Caves looked like from the outside, but I was intrigued to see what it would look like inside. The caves are a 30 minute drive from the city centre, and a grab there cost me around £6.

 I wanted to get there by 9am to avoid the crowds but travelling alone also means it can be harder to get out of bed when you're running on your own schedule. I got there around 11am and it was packed. Make sure you don't skip breakfast as to get to the temple you'll have to climb up 272 colourful steps, and in hot humid weather. 

TIP: You'll have to have your legs and shoulders covered to enter the temple, there are sarongs to rent at the entrance for £1. 


batu caves

Petronas Towers


If you're into checking out impressive buildings then you'll love this one. The towers stand at 1,483 feet and they're pretty easy to spot, so you won't have to rely much on google maps when making your way there. Luckily when I was trying to figure out how to get a picture with them, a woman asked if I wanted my picture taken, as she understood the struggle! I recommend visiting at night too as it looks beautiful when it's lit up. 


KLCC Mall 


If you're not looking to shop on your trip, you might just want to pop in for the air con or a bite to eat. You'll find this mall at the foot of the Petronas Towers and it features a range of luxury and high street international brands,  a cinema, an art gallery and a concert hall. 

KL Forest Eco Park


This is also in walking distance from the towers so you can get a lot done in a day! It's free to do and you'll get some great photos as you walk along the suspension bridges between the trees, with the contrast of skyscrapers in the background. 

Bukit Bintang 


This is Kuala Lumpur's fashion and entertainment district and it's pretty easy to spend an afternoon here, especially if you're travelling with friends as there are quite a few popular bars and restaurants along Changkat so it's a great place to start your night. Some of the recommended ones are Havana, The Rabbit Hole and Pisco Bar

Some other places of interest to check out are Berjaya Times Square, where you will find Asia's largest indoor theme park. Central Market where you'll find a range of boutiques, handmade crafts and souvenir stalls. Sri Mahamariamman Temple and the Chan See Shu Yuen Temple can also be found here. 

Helipad Lounge Bar 


If you're after some great views of the city at night, whilst enjoying a few cocktails then head to Heli Lounge Bar. It costs £10 to get to the top of the 38 floor building, which also includes a drink with the ticket. Drinks there also cost £10 so will be slightly pricier than in other bars, but in the end you are paying for the view and the experience. 


helipad kuala lumpur



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HOW TO GET YOUR PLACE BOOKED UP ON AIRBNB.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

[this blog post is written in collaboration with GuestReady but all words and opinions are my own]

Nowadays there are so many choices when it comes to booking accommodation for your trip - booking.com, villas, apartments, Airbnb rentals and even bungalows in the middle of the jungle. As a traveller, this gives you a world of choice, but if you're trying to book out your private accommodation it can be a bit harder to stand out from the crowd. A lot of people who either have second homes or travel a lot, have been able to make another income through renting out their spaces, which is a great way to make money if you're continuously travelling. Airbnb makes it really easy to do this, but as with everything there are always a few ways to better market your property. 

tea with gi airbnb

1. Market for your target audience. 



Social media has made marketing cheaper than ever. One of the strategies many hotels and property owners use is influencer marketing, where a content creator is offered a discounted or complimentary stay in exchange for coverage and review. I even wrote a blog post on why hotels should be working with bloggers. This is a good way to get your property out there because you can reach a large amount of people in whatever niche you want to focus on. If you want to target young travellers, then seek out young content creators, or post your listing in backpacker groups or on Instagram. If you want to target business travellers, then publishing some articles on LinkedIn with reference to your Airbnb can help you reach the right people. 

2. Use a management service. 



Using an Airbnb management service like GuestReady takes out all the hassle of making sure your accommodation is ready for your guests and that everything is running smoothly, especially if you are out of the country! They operate all over Europe, from London to Bordeaux. They offer a range of services depending on how much you want them to be involved. This includes writing a listing for your apartment, professional photography, listing and price optimisation, house-keeping, guest approval and check-in and key exchange. 

3. Write an interesting listing description. 



When I'm searching for an Airbnb to stay in, if the listing only has a couple of lines and a long list of 'NO's' then I'm instantly drawn away. You're more likely to catch people's interest if you go beyond a description of the apartment and also include recommendations of things to do in the area, transport options etc. 

4. Add little touches. 



Adding little touches that you wouldn't normally find in a hotel is always great. I stayed at an Airbnb in Australia where the owner left us several packs of Tim Tams (aussie biscuits), another in London that had a whole shelf of books for us to borrow, and an apartment in Spain that came with a bottle of wine and a cheese selection for us. They all make for memorable stays and your guests are much more likely to write you a better and more detailed review. 

5. Use fair pricing.



You don't want to sell yourself short, but you don't want to put the price point so high that your only guests are business travellers in peak season. Do some research into what your competitors are charging per night, and maybe offer discounts for long-term stays or during low seasons. Normally prices will rise around holidays and special events, so that's also something to take into account. 


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10 EXPERIENCES TO HAVE IN BALI, INDONESIA.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

If like me you are daydreaming about the days you'll get to travel again, then why not start planning your trips for 2021? Although I would advise against actually booking anything yet because of the current situation, unless it's through booking.com and it comes with free cancellation. So in January I finally got round to visiting Bali, and it was just as I expected it to be - hot, vibrant and full of tourists. I had a great time and we had a perfect mix of relaxation, adventure and cheap cocktails. I spent 9 days in the area - staying in Ubud, Gili Trawangan and Seminyak. If you're a first time visiter to Bali, these are some experiences I recommend.

tea with gi bali guide


1. Mount Batur sunrise hike.  



If waking up at 2am is out of the question then skip to the next point, but it's definitely worth it! We got picked up and then had a 2 hour drive to the start of the hike. The climb is 1717m and takes around 2 hours to reach the top. In terms of difficulty I would say 6/10, I think I found the way down harder as there were so many small rocks and I fell on my bum within 5 minutes of our descend *face palm*. The view is 100% worth it though. 




2. Take part in a Balinese cooking class. 



One of my favourite parts about travelling is eating, of course. So I thought it would be fun to sign up for a cooking class with a Balinese family. Our hosts were lovely and there was only 5 of us in the group (two friends and me, and a couple from Singapore) which made it more of a personal experience. We made 8 traditional dishes, sampling them as we went along and then they were placed in a buffet style for us to eat later. The samples were so filling that I struggled to finish my plate afterwards, but I still ended up eating dessert after obvs.

Balinese cooking class - £14.79

bali cooking class

3. Bali swings and coffee tasting. 



You'll find there are a number of 'Bali Swing' activities around the area, differentiating in price. RealBaliSwing being the most expensive. Our driver took us to 'Intan Sari Luwak Coffee & Bali Swing Bukit' which cost us a fraction of the price, and there were also some extra nests for photo spots. We also got to sample 15 different coffees and herbal teas. There's a coffee in Bali called 'Luwak coffee' which essentially, is coffee made out of the droppings of the animal.

bali swings

4. Relax in a flower bath. 



My lovely best friend Daniella booked this for me as a Christmas gift and ahhhh it was heaven. You get to soak in a warm bath full of flowers for 45 minutes. The lady was also in there for 5 minutes trying to take the perfect Instagram photo for me, and she kept insisting on taking more lol. You can do this on your own with a book like I did, or with your partner.

Flower bath at the Udaya Resort & Spa - £35 (approx)

bali flower bath

5. Hop over to the Gili Islands. 



So the whole idea of us travelling to the Gili Islands was to see the underwater statues, but we were so hungover the day after that we only managed a bicycle ride around Gili Trawangan and some snorkling. Even that made me feel a bit queasy.

We stayed at Mad Monkey's on Gili T and we had our own private Tipi, and the communal showers were pretty modern. The atmosphere at the hostel was great and hosted pool parties too. Only difficulty was that the clubs and bars are on the other side of the island, which you either have to get to by foot (40 minutes), by bicycle or on a horse and carriage.

TIP: The Gili Islands consist of 3 main islands - Gili Trawangan is the most popular amongst backpackers and people looking for a bit more atmosphere, whereas Gili Air is better for a relaxing stay or a family holiday. Gili Meno is where you'll find the famous underwater statues but you can also hop from another island to get here. 

Transfers to and from Gili Islands - prices starting from £20 one way depending on speed of boat you choose. 

gili t

6. Visit the monkey forest.



If you're from Gibraltar then this probably won't impress you that much because we've got over a 100 macaques roaming around on the rock, but it was still a cute experience. You can find over 1000 monkeys here and the entry fee is around £4.

ubud monkey forest


7. Swim at Banyumala Twin Waterfalls. 



If you've got a driver in Bali then they'll probably suggest this 'lesser known' waterfall which is further up north. It wasn't too busy although you might be slightly out of breath when you're making your way back up to the carpark. Whilst you're here you can stop by the Handara Gate which is a 20 minute drive from here, and is where everyone takes the iconic photo below.

TIP: Don't let the photo fool you, the water effect is achieved by the camera man holding a mirror below the camera lens - it still looks awesome though! You can also expect to queue up for a photo here, luckily when we arrived at 9:30am there weren't many people there, but when we drove passed later in the afternoon there were at least 20 people waiting in line. 


handara gate

8. Go Temple hopping.



If you're not very religious, then I suggest picking a few you really want to see and stick to those, or else you'll be paying for entry fee every time you enter and you can end up wasting a lot of your day driving from place to place. I'd suggest visiting Pura Tirta Empul Temple and Ulun Danu Bratan. At Pura Tirta you can 'get purified' in the water, so if you plan on doing this make sure you pack a change of clothing!

TIP: I'd definitely recommend hiring a driver, it will save you a lot of money on taxis as you can usually hire a personal driver for 10 hours for around £40 a day for the whole car. We were recommended Dessy and the service was great. 



9. Watch the sunset at the Campuhan Ridge Walk.



The signage for this place isn't very clear, so when you follow google maps you might still have to ask a local nearby how to start the walk. We kind of left it too late and we were only arriving as the sun was already setting, so make sure to check when sunset is so you're not stuck in the jungle in the dark! We were also sweating buckets because the jumpsuits we bought from the market weren't exactly very breathable, so our photos didn't quite turn out as planned.

campuhan ridge walk

10. Eat in a warung. 


Warung translates to a family owned business or restaurant, and is where you will find authentic balinese food when you want a break from all the instagrammable acai bowls. Some of the best ones we visited were Warung Mendez, Warung Bintang and Warung Puspa. You'll find meals here range from £2 - £10.

warung ubud


Have you ever experienced any of these activities in Bali? Or do you have any others you enjoyed on your trip? 


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tea with gi bali travel guide





AN ONLINE BIRTHDAY GIFT GUIDE FOR THE YEAR.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Over the last few weeks, I've had 6 friends' birthdays take place. In between me travelling and everyone self-isolating due to the coronavirus, we haven't actually got to celebrate any of them *sad times*. Luckily thanks to the internet, it's still easy to FT and say happy birthday or create a IG story post for them - who doesn't love being tagged in embarrassing old photos? It also means you don't have to physically see your friends or family to send them a present. Here are some gift ideas for any birthdays you have coming up! 

Browns Rosa Mer Collection - gifted



Under £20



The Sims 4  - the fact we all have a lot more time on our hands now means that we can get away with wasting several hours playing this. The game is currently at 75% off (£8.74), and if your friend already plays The Sims, why not buy them an expansion pack? 

Personal Growth Book - everyone has different tastes when it comes to reading, but pretty much everyone can benefit from reading a self-help or personal growth book. Some popular ones include 'Get Sh*t Done by Jeffrey Gitomer' 'you are a badass by Jen Sincero' and 'The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle'. 

Under £50



Eyeshadow Palette - my sister is the easiest person to buy for because she's very into her make-up, so every year I just buy her a new palette. The Morphe palettes are good quality for money, as you get 50 high pigmented colours in it for £24. 

An 'out out' outfit - if you know this person (and their style) pretty well, why not order one or a few items for their next night out? and we all know it's going to be a big one after the world finally defeats this virus. 

Under £100 



Event tickets - sadly the likelihood of attending any events over the next few months is slim, but a lot of artists are announcing tours for 2021 (a.k.a Harry Styles), so that is a safer bet. Even better if you can find something that you're both a fan of, so you can treat yourself too! 

Over £100



Jewellery - if you're looking to splurge a bit more, you can never go wrong with a pair of earrings (just make sure they have their ears pierced first). I very kindly received a pair of aquamarine and diamond stud earrings (£150) from Browns jewellery and I can't wait for the day to come that I can get dressed up to wear them. They are crafted from 9ct white gold and I love how the aquamarine gemstone shines in the light, without looking too blue. 

Air-pods - so I didn't actually know these were that expensive, I thought they cost £70! Turns out they start at £159. I wasn't that bothered about these because I have wireless headphones for the gym, but I borrowed my boyfriend's and well,  I now want a pair of my own *hint hint*. 

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40 THINGS TO DO WHILST YOU ARE IN SELF-ISOLATION.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

As some of you know, or many of you because we all know how fast rumours  news spreads in Gibraltar, I have spent the last 14 days in quarantine in my bedroom to see if I developed any corona-esque symptoms. I think if you handed me a paper with 100 shades of blue I could probably tell you which one is the same colour as my walls because I've spent so many hours looking at them. I was in this position because last month I was travelling around Vietnam, and on my flight home my 2 hour layover in Bangkok, Thailand landed me a ticket to self-isolation for being on the 'high risk countries' list. Vietnam has had a total number of 20 cases of coronavirus and Thailand has had 43, but let's not talk about how those of us with no symptoms have had to be quarantined meanwhile passengers from UK (273 cases) and Spain (430 cases) have come in and out as they please. 

Anyway, it wasn't the end of the world. I felt like I was in a VIP prison - I had unlimited Wi-Fi, home cooked food brought to my door, unlimited phone calls and wine, which doesn't sound as lonely as I made my friends have a drink with me via FaceTime. I know there are others who are currently in quarantine (thanks to the frequent updates on social media), so if you're worried about going insane or finally sick of watching Netflix, I'm here with 40 things to do to keep yourself occupied.



NOTE: I wrote this blog post before Gibraltar went on semi-lockdown, so I have added a further 20 things to do in self-isolation/quarantine. I know being indoors sucks. A lot of my joy comes from having trips, festivals and social activities to look forward to, but this is not the time to be selfish. ⁣⁣You know what sucks more than cancelling holidays and not being able to go out partying? Losing people you love. Missing out on stuff for a few weeks or months is nothing in the grand scheme of things, especially if it will help slow down the spread of the virus. I also know a lot of people depend on routine and social activities to help with mental health, so that's why I've compiled this list. Just think about how great it will feel to celebrate once all of this is behind us.

40 things to do whilst you are in quarantine


1. Binge watch a TV series - I finally finished Power, and then my mum suggested I watch Toy Boy para 'practica tu espaƱol anda'. 

2. Go through your drawers and find letters, diaries and other stuff you wrote when you were younger, and cringe all over again. 

3. Download tik-tok, learn tik tok dances and then send them to your friends for their entertainment. 

4. Make a playlist of all the songs you're going to dance to when you're out of quarantine. 

5. Organise your wardrobe - find stuff you want to give away and stuff you want to bin. 

6.  Find out how long you can hold a plank for. 

7. Try not to think about how much fun everyone else is having in other countries where they're still allowed to go out, I suggest avoiding Instagram stories from the hours of 8pm-3am on a Friday night. 

8. Face Time people you haven't caught up with in a while, wine is optional. 

9. Come up with a new gym routine. 

10. Brush up on your Spanish, after living in Australia for a year I definitely needed to!

11. Think about what you want to get out of the rest of the year. 

12. Write a love letter, and then throw it in the bin when you realise how embarrassing and mushy you sound. 

13. Download The Sims. 

14. Go online shopping for all the significant events or nights out you're going to have once you are released from captivity to the outside world. 

15. Find a new recipe you can make once you have the luxury of going to the kitchen. 

16. Unsubscribe to the annoying emails you get. Unroll.me makes this pretty easy to do. 

17. Plan what you're going to go as for Halloween - it's never too early right?

18. Plan your future holidays. There's nothing I love more than creating a new google doc itinerary, ooft. 

19. Sleep in. You don't have anything important to wake up for anyway.

20. Think about how whilst you're lying in bed eating snacks and watching trash TV, some people still have to go to work.

21. Look at houses on RightMove in random places around the world that you know you'll never be able to afford.

22. Make a 'future' Pinterest board full of clothes, hairstyles, furniture or whatever you want to purchase once the world returns to normal.

23. Listen to albums you used to listen to in your teenage years, it's an instant mood booster.  Currently listening to All Time Low and I'm air guitaring around my room.

24. Wish everyone on your Facebook a happy birthday, now that you have the time to.

25. If like me you find quizzes and trivia amusing, head to Sporcle

26. Have a movie night with your friends via Netflix Party - whatever you're watching will be synced and there's a pop up chat on the side to discuss.

27. Learn a language - now you don't have the excuse that you don't have enough time (I must have redowloaded Duolingo 3 times).

28. Get your friends together on Skype, put some music on and play some drinking games as if you're heading out after, but instead you're going to collapse in bed.

29. Watch all 236 episodes of Friends, by the time you're done this will hopefully all be behind us.

30. Call your grandparents.

31. Fill up a 1.5 litre bottle of water every morning and make sure you've drank it by the end of the day.

32. Take 10 minutes a day to stretch or do yoga poses, or you'll be walking like Quasimodo once you can go outside again, trust me.

33. Find out if you could be the next Taylor Swift by attempting to write a song.

34. Try and learn a new skill online - Photoshop, coding, SEO etc.

35. Read some self-development books, here's 25 of the best.

36. Help where you can - if your country still isn't on total lockdown, help the elderly with their shopping or volunteer where you can.

37. Keep a gratitude journal. Since the beginning of the year I've been writing a highlight of everyday and it helps to focus on the positive or the little joys.

38. Have a family games night. If you don't have any board games download the Heads Up app.

39. Go through your camera roll and delete all your useless photos and screenshots.

40. Try and limit your talk about the virus, unless it's breaking news. Hearing all the negativity, panic and rumours surrounding the virus on social media will just make things and your mental health worse. Stay safe and informed, but don't let it control your life.


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5 MUST HAVE EXPERIENCES WHEN TRAVELLING THE NORTH ISLAND IN NZ.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

New Zealand had been high on my list for a long time, although being from Gibraltar means that it isn't the easiest or cheapest place to get to. But after doing a working holiday in Australia, planning a trip to the neighbouring country suddenly seemed a lot more doable. I spent 10 days travelling around the North Island of New Zealand with the help of skip bus. Stopping in Auckland, Rotorua, Taupo and finally the capital, Wellington. These were my favourite 'must do' experiences. 

teawithgi tongariro crossing

1. Hobbiton Movie Set (Rotorua)



Probably the most visited attraction in the whole of New Zealand, is the Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit movie set. The attraction is in Matamata but there are tours running from Auckland and Rotorua and tickets are priced at $84NZD (£40). This includes transfers to the site and a guided tour around The Shire. Between us, I've only ever seen the first LODR movie so me and my friends just watched the trailers to the rest of the franchise films the night before.

hobbiton movie set

2. White Water Rafting (Rotorua)



This was super fun aside from the 2 minutes I got stuck in a rapid and my life flashed before my eyes. I'd never gone rafting before so I wasn't quite sure what to expect, apart from there was a high chance of us falling into water, in January. The team at Kaitiaki Adventures were so much fun and full of energy and it definitely added to the whole experience. We got to slide down the world's highest commercially wafter 7m waterfall, and none of us fell out of the raft! (the same can't be said for everyone).

rafting

3. Tongariro Alpine Crossing (Taupo)



Doing this trek first made Mount Batur in Bali seem like a walk in the park. This trek isn't for everyone, it's challenging and cold but the views are amazing. We made the stupid mistake of only bringing a t-shirt and jumper and forgot to factor in that the top of the mountain was going to be significantly colder. We were walking so fast to warm ourselves up that the 0 degrees temperature didn't hit us as hard. The track is 19.4km long and takes around 6 hours to complete. The best time to visit is between November and April, otherwise you'll need alpine skills to combat the snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures (definitely not for me). 

Even if you're not the fittest, you are given plenty of time to complete the hike at your own pace, as you're picked up at 5am. Just make sure you bring at least 1.5 litres of water, layers, a ham sandwich (never has the reward of a ham sandwich tasted so good) and waterproofs. 

tongariro alpine crossing


4. Bungy Jumping (Taupo)



Some people go on holiday to relax by the pool or get a massage done, and others voluntarily throw themselves off a cliff. I don't know if I would have been able to do it if the jump was over ground, instead it was over Waikato River. It's a 47m jump which you can do by yourself or tandem, and although their website states that you can 'touch the water with your fingers' I was dunked like a doughnut. As you can imagine the video was quite entertaining for my friends and family to watch. I think the scariest part was actually jumping off the edge, I felt like Wendy when she's made to walk the plank in Peter Pan but then once that's over you kind of want to get up there and do it again. The Taupo Bungy costs $185NZD. 

taupo bungy

5. Eat ice cream (Auckland) 



I'm not talking about a regular scoop of ice-cream - this is a unique, overpriced and gluttonous experience. Giapo's serves a range of unique ice-cream flavours and there's a variety of ways to have it. Including on a weird octopus chocolate cone, a set of lips and on a 'selfie' cone. There's usually a queue for this place, as once you're in you're talked through the process and get to sample all 12 flavours before you choose which one you'd like to go for. I chose the 'hokey pokey' flavour which is unique to NZ (vanilla ice cream with honeycomb pieces) and had it 'a little bit melted'. 

giapo ice cream auckland



Which of these activities would be up your street? If you've been to New Zealand, what were some of your favourite things to do?

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what to do north island new zealand

DATE NIGHT IDEAS DURING LOCKDOWN (AND AFTER).

Thursday, 5 March 2020

[this is a collaborative post but all words and opinions are my own.]


The current state of the world has forced a lot of couples not living together into online or long-distance relationships, because of household lockdown rules. My partner is currently on the other side of the world so even as lockdown rules start to ease in individual countries, some of us still have to wait a bit longer until border restrictions are lifted *sad times*. Whether your country is still preventing meet ups, or you finally get to see your partner soon, here are a list of date ideas whether online or in person. 



1. Open a bottle of wine. 



If you're an extrovert, chances are you've had a few FT or zoom calls with friends or partners throughout the lockdown period including alcohol am I right?  In my case there is a 8 hour time difference with my boyfriend, so I have to make sure I have a pretty big lunch before starting the day drinks on a Saturday. If you want to make things more interesting, you could use the time to ask each some deep questions about them and your relationship (Thought Catalog has loads). 

2. Watch a film together on Netflix Party. 



It's not quite the same as going to the cinema, but at least you can chat about the movie without disturbing anyone right? The Netflix Party is a Google Chrome extension and allows you to share what you're watching with someone else. Your screens will sync so the movie will start/stop at the same time, and there is also a chat option on the side.  

3. Play games using the House Party app. 



Everyone went crazy for this app back in March and then the hype kind of died down, but if you enjoy playing games then you'll enjoy this if you can't be in the same room as your partner. You can video chat whilst also playing 'guess the drawing' or heads up or trivia questions. 

4. Send each other a surprise takeaway. 



Who doesn't love free food? If you know what your partner likes then either plan to send each other a surprise take away and then eat together on FT or maybe don't tell them and just send a pizza to their door without their knowledge, no one will ever be disappointed with that! 

5. Buy something nice for when you get to reunite. 



One of the biggest struggles for couples being apart during lockdown is the lack of intimacy and being able to touch your partner. But it's also nice to think about how great it will feel when you'll finally get to hug them, and another things. Have your partner pick out some sexy lingerie for you or leave the element of surprise and pick out a few things yourself. 

6. Have a picnic in the park. 



So in a lot of countries it is now fine for you to meet up in a park with members of another household, but if restaurants aren't open yet then why not go old school and put together a picnic in the park. Buy some rose, bring a blanket, and if you're not up for preparing food just bring along a meal deal. 


7. Be tourists in your hometown. 



Since it may be a few months until we can travel abroad again, why not plan a day out 'from a tourists point of view' in your own town or city? You'll be surprised what places close to home you haven't actually visited or restaurants that you pass by everyday that you've never eaten in. 


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