24 Hour Layover Guide To Hyderabad

Hyderabad is somewhere I knew very little about, and when I thought about travelling to India it was somewhere that never even crossed my mind. I was lucky enough to get a layover in Hyderabad with work, and was so surprised at how much I fell in love with this vibrant city.

This South Indian city which is the largest city and capital of Telangana state is very much under the tourism radar, which makes it the perfect place to explore as it isn’t spoilt by mass tourism. Locals are extremely friendly and love coming up to talk to you, finding out where you are from and getting a selfie with you.

The city has plenty to see and do with historical palaces, monuments, temples, and many markets and bazaars. It’s also where the Biriyani rice dish originates from so that is an absolute must try while in Hyderabad! It’s also well known across India for its bangles, and many Indian women travel to the city to purchase their bangles for special occasions, events and weddings etc.

Hyderabad is also a business hub in India and well known for its IT sector and pharmaceutical companies based there, so it doesn’t attract many leisure tourists, but more people travelling for business trips.

India is somewhere that has a piece of my heart, and when I’ve been to India before I’ve always had such a great time, and Hyderabad was no exception! We had such an amazing time roaming around the city and meeting the lovely locals. If your strapped for time and there for a layover or a work trip, here is what you could easily squeeze into 24 hours in the city.

Sights & Activities

Birla Mandir

Birla Mandir is a Hindu temple set upon a hilltop which overlooks the city, the temple was built back in the 1970s and took almost 10 years to finish. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is built with white marble. We visited towards the end of the day and got some amazing views over the city and the sunset. We didn’t enter the temple as it was getting quite late so just walked around it and admired the views. The temple is free to enter and you can spend between 1 to 2 hours exploring it.

Birla Mandir HyderabadBirla Mandir Hyderabad

Charminar & Laad Bazaar

Charminar is a monument and mosque in the centre of the city and is an iconic landmark of Hyderabad. The structure was completed back in 1591, the reason as to why it was built is still a bit of a mystery and has many theories as to why it created. One belief is that this structure was created by the sultan at the time to celebrate the end of a plague that gripped the city, another theory is that it was built in honour of the sultans wife as well as many other speculations.

The large four pillared monument can also be entered for a small fee, and you can climb the stairs to the top. We decided to just wander around the outside of it as it was a hot day and all of us were pretty tired from working the flight over and hadn’t had much sleep. I would like to go back and visit Charminar and next time walk up to the top.

Charminar is located in the heart of the old city in a large open square surrounded by the Laad Bazaar which is famous for selling traditional Indian bangles along with many other stalls and vendors selling a whole range of items. Wandering around you can see lots of craftsmen creating the traditional bangles and you can purchase them in a whole range of styles and colours. There is so much hustle and bustle in this area and so much going on, but this area of the city is a must if you really want to see an authentic side to Hyderabad.

Charminar HyderabadCharminar HyderabadCharminar HyderabadLaad Bazaar Hyderabad

Chowmahalla Palace

Entrance Fee: 200 INR

Chowmahalla Palace is one of Hyderabad’s top attractions, the construction of the palace began in 1750 and was completed in the mid 1800s. The grounds are comprised of 4 palaces which are Tahniyat Mahal, Mahtab Mahal, Afzal Mahal, and Aftab Mahal. There are also courtyards, gardens and fountains in the grounds, as well as lots of artefacts and antiques which can be viewed. The palace was built by the Nizams which were a monarchy in Hyderabad which ruled the Telangana state for almost 2 centuries from the 1700s to the 1900s. We spent just over an hour exploring the palaces and the grounds. No trip to Hyderabad would be complete without a visit to one of India’s most famous palaces.

Chowmahalla Palace HyderabadChowmahalla Palace HyderabadChowmahalla Palace HyderabadChowmahalla Palace HyderabadChowmahalla Palace Hyderabad

Chowmahalla Palace Hyderabad

Mir Alam Mandi

Mir Alam Mandi is a wholesale food market and sells lots of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as a whole range of traditional spices and cookware. This area is a great place to visit to view a traditional way of life, and if you want to purchase some spices to take home this is the place to come. The area is so colourful and vibrant and we really enjoyed exploring the streets around this district seeing the variety of stalls and what they had on offer.

Mir Alam Mandi HyderabadMir Alam Mandi HyderabadMir Alam Mandi HyderabadMir Alam Mandi Hyderabad

Food & Drink

Hotel Shadab

Hotel Shadab is well known across the city for its traditional Hyderabadi biryani, we went upstairs to the air coned restaurant which feels like stepping back in time to the 1970s. With its brown patterned tablecloths and old fashioned grandfather clock by the stairs, but don’t let the decor put you off, honestly I had one of the best Indian meals of my life in there!

The food was incredible and service was warm and friendly, we had to wait 15 minutes for a table as the place is popular with locals. We had to try the biryani so ordered a vegetable one to share as the portions are huge, and ordered a few sides to share. We chose the paneer 65, gobi manchurian and mixed raita and they were all out of this world delicious. I also had the Kashmiri coconut naan which was also incredible. We had so much food and in total it came to about £5 each when we split the bill. You must visit this restaurant as the food is amazing and such good value, and honestly I can’t stop thinking about how tasty the food was there!

Hotel Shadab Hyderabad

Transport & Getting Around

Hyderabad is a really easy and cheap city to get around although there is quite a lot of traffic it is nowhere near as bad as other cities in India. There a public buses and also an air conditioned metro rail, which runs on elevated tracks above the city. There is also plenty of taxis and tuk tuks which are readily available.

I was recommended a man called Sadam by some of my colleagues, he’s a tuk tuk driver and is really reliable and really well priced, and you can just WhatsApp (+91 863 9641629) him what you would like to see and do and he will put an itinerary together for you and make suggestions.

We paid roughly £10 each plus a small tip for the day and he came with 2 tuk tuks for all of us and took us everywhere around the city. We had such a good day with him and he walked us around the markets and sights to make sure we didn’t miss a thing.

Tuk Tuk HyderabadTuk Tuk Hyderabad

Top Tips

When visiting India try and go as prepared as possible, as some of the streets can be a hard to navigate and sometimes there can be a slight language barrier, so go armed with google translate, guide books, maps.me app etc. I always have maps.me downloaded as it’s a great app that works offline and when I’m walking around or in taxi I always check it to make sure I’m heading in the right direction.

Other tips for India would be to always carry a scarf or pashmina for ladies that would like to enter various temples, also dress modestly when exploring India, such as long maxi dresses, or loose fitting trousers and T-shirt etc.

Important Information

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful, if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula ♡ xx

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A Day Trip To Ayutthaya From Bangkok

Ayutthaya is the former capital of Thailand when it was the kingdom of Siam, from 1350 it was a prosperous city and international trading port, until it was destroyed in the 18th century by the Burmese. It is located approximately 50 miles north of Thailand’s capital – Bangkok.

This once important city of global diplomacy and commerce, is now an archaeological ruin and now forms a large UNESCO world heritage site. The area of Ayutthaya is vast and is a huge archaeological site full of ruins, temples and buildings.

You could easily spend a few days exploring this former capitals ruins and the surrounding area. However anyone who is limited on time then there are plenty of options of day tours or you can get to Ayutthaya easy enough from Bangkok. It is a long day on the tour probably about twelve hours in total but so worth it!

We honestly loved Ayutthaya and seeing such an interesting historical site was just amazing, and would really recommend venturing out of Bangkok for the day to visit the many sites and excavations.

Sights & Activities

Bang Pa-In Royal Palace

Entrance Fee: 100 THB / or included in price of tour

Bang Pa-In Royal Palace is also referred to as the summer palace, and is just 20 minutes from Ayutthaya and located along the Chao Phraya River. It was constructed in 1632, but fell into disuse during the late 18th century, until King Mongkut began to renovate the grounds back in the mid 19th century. Although the palace is full of Thai style acrhitecture there is also some European influence shown in several of the buildings around the palace as well as several statues and sculptures dotted around the area, these were added in during the restoration, which were inspired by palaces from England and France.

The palace is spread out over a huge area and features small canals that run through the grounds to the river. The gardens of the palace are full of grassy lawns, water features and beautiful ornate buildings. Today the palace isn’t really used by the royal family and they only really use the palace for special occassions and royal banquets. The palace is immaculately kept and is a tranquil and peaceful place to visit, even though its a tourist attraction many tourists seem to skip the palace and just visit the archaeological ruins in Ayutthaya, however a lot of tours from Bangkok include the palace as an add on. We paid a little bit more for our tour and we stopped off at the palace before returning back to Bangkok.

You can also reach the palace easy enough by train from Bangkok if you didn’t want to opt for a tour. Honestly though when visiting Ayutthaya I would recommend a visit to the palace preferably at the end of the day as its a great place to wind down after a day of sightseeing.

Bang Pa-In Royal Palace AyutthayaBang Pa-In Royal Palace AyutthayaBang Pa-In Royal Palace Ayutthaya

Chedi Phukhao Thong

Chedi Phukhao Thong is surrounded by rice paddies and just outside of Ayutthaya in a small village, the temple was established back in 1387 and over the centuries with various invasions the temple changed hands several times, and so parts of the buildings were added to and modified. Today as the structure stands it incorparates both Thai and Burmese styles, you can climb half way up the stupa which provides views over the surrounding areas.

This temple is much quieter in comparison to many of the ruins in and around Ayutthaya. Since we visited the Chedi Phukhao Thong it has under gone some restoration work, so looks drastically different to when we visted, as it has been freshly painted white and renovated to perfection to give you a glimpse of what it would have looked like hundreds of years ago. This was our first stop on our tour as it is slightly out the way,  thats what makes the place a good place to visit as its not overrun with tourists.

Chedi Phukhao Thong AyutthayaChedi Phukhao Thong Ayutthaya

Wat Lokaya Sutha

Wat Lokaya Sutha translates to Temple of the Earth, the temple and monastery are one of the main sites of Ayutthaya. One of the highlights of these temples ruins is the 42 meter long reclining Buddha which is still in fairly good condition. There isnt much known about the temple and monastery but as its in close proximity to the Royal Palace ruins it is thought the temple would have held some form of importance.

Its founding date is also unknown but is believed to date back to the very early days of Ayutthaya. As well as the large recling buddha the site has plenty of other archeological ruins to see such as ruins of assembly halls, chedis (Thai stupa) and prangs (Buddhist spires/towers). Wat Lokaya Sutha is a must when in Ayutthaya as its crazy to see how many ruins there are dotted around this one area, the site is free to enter and most tours will stop here too. The site is also close by to other major historical locations such as Wat Phra Sri Sanphet.

Wat Lokaya Sutha Ayutthaya

Wat Mahathat

Entrance Fee: 50 THB / or included in price of tour

Wat Mahathat is one of the most important temples of the Ayutthaya kingdom, the name translates to The Temple of the Great Relic. This large royal monastery and temple was once the centre of buddhism in Ayutthaya, and was located close to the palace. The site was created back in 1374 and the site has many features and intricate details. The temple stood in this site for about 500 years before the invasion of the Burmese which saw much of Ayutthaya destroyed and turned to rubble. Today the ruins are all that stands but some are more preserved than others. It has a similar ruins to that of Angkor in Cambodia, many of the ruins are out in the open and the grounds are absolutley beautiful with so much to see and explore.

The main image associated with this well known site is the Buddha face entwined in the roots of a banyan tree. You cannot visit Ayutthaya without visiting Wat Mahathat its an absolute must, and was by far our favourite area to explore, the temple were incredible. I would imagine most if not all tours stop here as its one of the most recognised sites of the ancient capital.

Wat Mahathat AyutthayaWat Mahathat AyutthayaWat Mahathat Ayutthaya

Wat Phra Sri Sanphet & The Royal Palace (Wang Luang)

Entrance Fee: 50 THB / or included in price of tour

Wat Phra Sri Sanphet is another major site in the ancient capital and is most famous for its distinct pagodas which appear on many of the photos of the old city, and are an iconic image for Ayutthaya. The temple was constructed back in 1448 by King Borommatrailokanat who ordered the construction of the temple for his own personal use. The temple was also used for royal ceremonies. The pagodas were constructed after the death of the king to hold his remains and various other kings of Ayutthaya. Over the years smaller chedis were added to the site to hold the ashes of other members of the royal family.

There was a large 16 meter high gold buddha which stood on the site, but when the Burmese invaded in 1767 all the gold and valuables were taken, when Bangkok was identified as the new capital city of Thailand in 1782, the king arranged what was left of the Buddha to be moved to the Wat Pho which is a famous temple and tourist attraction in Bangkok.

Ayutthaya was founded back in 1350 and Wat Phra Sri Sanphet sits on the original site of the wooden palace, a new palace was built a little later just north of the temple, and was adapted and expanded over the years by the various kings. Today nothing much is left from the Royal Palace (Wang Luang) just a grassy area which has some outlines of some of the old walls of the palace. If you go to Ayutthaya’s historical centre there is a display of what it would have looked like. Close by is also Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit which is an active temple that houses one of Thailand’s largest bronze Buddha images, when visiting Wat Phra Sri Sanphet make a stop there too, as both can easily be visited in the same morning or afternoon.

Wat Phra Sri Sanphet & The Royal Palace AyutthayaWat Phra Sri Sanphet & The Royal Palace Ayutthaya

Transport & Getting Around

Most people tend to visit Ayutthaya from Bangkok on a day trip, however some people spend a night or two there and explore, depending on how much time you have I would recommend booking onto a day tour from Bangkok as it’s really straight forward to do! We booked our tour through our hotel it cost us about £35 per person and included pick up and drop off in Bangkok, and all the entrance fees into the various sites and lunch. We had plenty of free time to explore on our own and as we got driven to each place we didn’t have the hassle of having to get from one place to another.

However if you are on a budget there are trains that run from Mo Chit Station in Bangkok and takes about 90 minutes by train to reach Ayutthaya, there are also buses available too, and once there you can explore many of the sites by foot or there are several places to hire a bicycle and bike around. If the hot weather is too much for you, you could also flag down a taxi or tuk tuk to take you between each of the sites once in the city.

You can also get a taxi to Ayutthaya from Bangkok however it isn’t much cheaper than taking a tour and you won’t get the entrance fees and lunch included so by the time you pay out for everything else it works out about the same cost as one of the tours.

Top Tips

Many of the sights in Ayutthaya are outside and exposed so make sure to wear light and comfortable clothing, but also clothing that covers your shoulders and knees as many of the sights are temples so dress modestly. Take plenty of sun cream, a hat and sunglasses to help with the midday heat and plenty of drinking water.

There are still elephants available for tourist rides in Ayutthaya, please avoid this at all costs! The elephants have to endure a process called Phajaan also known as the crush, where they take baby elephants and brutally torture them for days and weeks at time to break the elephants spirit, so that they can be controlled by humans. It’s a really traumatic practice and unfortunately until tourists realise what actually happens to make these elephants allow people to ride on them the practise will continue. I personally have ridden on elephants in the past before I knew what they went through, and now personally I would never ride on one again as it’s truly heartbreaking what they must under go.

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful, if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula ♡ xx

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What To Do In Baku

Azerbaijan is a country which is wedged in between Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, the Caucasus Mountains and sits on the Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan was once part of the Soviet Union and this can be clearly seen in some of its architecture that still stands today.

Baku is Azerbaijan’s capital city and situated on the Caspian Sea. Baku is famous for its oil refineries, hosting the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest and its medieval old town. This Eurasian City is a real melting pot as there has been many influences over the years, and you can really see where east meets west, it has modern architecture mixed with its beautiful old town. The culture has lots of Middle Eastern and Arabic influences mixed in with a Russian and Eastern European vibe.

I really fell in love with this quirky city and I can honestly say it’s like nowhere I have ever experienced before! There is so much to explore and if you fancy a city break with a difference it makes a great long weekend escape, or if you booked a twin centre trip to Azerbaijan and Georgia it would make an excellent cultured getaway.

Sights & Activities

Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum

Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum is a strange sight to behold the building is shaped like a rolled up carpet, and the museum celebrates the art and technique of carpet and rug weaving, which is Azerbaijan’s national art form, and a huge part of the countries heritage. The museum houses the largest collection of Azerbaijan carpets and rugs, as well as showcasing the tools and techniques used to create the carpets. Entrance into the musuem is only 7 manat which is equivalent to about £4 per adult.

Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum

Baku Boulevard & Bulvar Park

Baku Boulevard is a promenade which runs along Baku’s seafront which over looks the Caspian Sea. The promenade is a national park and was created back in the early 1900s. The Boulevard has the biggest Azerbaijani flag and it’s the biggest flag in the world.

Along the promenade there is plenty to see, eat and do with restaurants, cafes with outside seating, a puppet theatre, mall, ferris wheel and a Carpet Museum. Try and walk along the seafront in the morning to take advantage of it’s fresh sea air and peacefulness. If you more active it’s also the perfect place to go for a jog, run or hire a bicycle and cycle the length of it. There is also a little man made Venice on the promenade where you can take a boat ride.

Bulvar Park is a mall situated along Baku Boulevard with lots of shops, restaurants supermarket, cinema, bowling and a foot court. I have popped into this small several times on trips to Baku as their is a good choice of cheap places to eat in the foot court and also the supermarket is a great place to pick up some local Azerbaijani food and snacks to take home.

Baku Boulevard and Bulvar ParkBaku Boulevard and Bulvar Park

Flame Towers

Flame Towers are three skyscrapers in the shape of flames to symbolise Baku’s history of worshipping fire. They consist of residential apartments, serviced apartments, offices, shops, observation decks and a hotel. The trio of towers were completed back in 2012 and are some of the tallest buildings in the country, and are now a symbolic icon of the capital. At night they are lit up and perform a light show in a variety of colours and transition between moving images of the Azerbaijan flag, fire and water.

Fountain Square

Fountain Square is located just by Nizami Street and is a public square and is home to several fountains, sculptures and statues. Its a popular area as it’s a great meeting point in the city, and also surrounded by restaurants, cafes and shops. On a warm day it’s the perfect place to sit and people watch.

Maiden Tower

Maiden Tower is the oldest structure in Baku’s Old Town, and many experts believe the tower was finished in the 12th century, along with many other buildings in the walled city. However no one is entirely sure when it was built, or the purpose of it. There is a difference in appearance of the stones that form the foundation, and the first three stories suggests the original structure may date as far back as 600 BC.

There is museum inside the tower which houses lots of information all about Baku and it’s history, and you can also climb to the top of the tower for excellent views over the city and the bay of the Caspian Sea. There is small entrance fee of 10 manat which is about £5 per person. When in the Old Town you can’t miss Maiden Tower.

Maiden Tower

Nizami Street

Nizami Street is the most central part of Baku and and is home to a huge array of shops, entertainment facilities, pubs, restaurants and cafes. Even though the area is a commercial hub of the city it has elegant style and beautiful 19th century buildings which line the street, as well as pretty street lights and chandeliers that hang over the street above. Try and visit the street both during the day and at night to see it all lit up.

Old Town (Icherisheher)

Baku’s Old Town also known as Icherisheher is the cities historical core and is the oldest part of the city. It’s steeped in history and ancient architecture, and an absolute must visit when in Baku. Baku Old Town is a city within a city and surrounded by a curved wall which would have once been protection for the city, originally there were just two main gates to enter, but today there are several openings where pedestrians and cars can pass through.

It has grand palaces and mosques, sunken ruins of old hammams and caravanserais. There are lots of stalls and shops with silver merchants and carpet vendors who have been trading their wares there for centuries. The Old Town is part of UNESCO world heritage and some parts of this old city date back to the 12th century, although there is some evidence which shows some areas may even date back to as early as the 7th century.

The Old Town is my favourite area in the city, you can stroll around the old streets for several hours exploring, browsing traditional trinkets in the small shops, stopping at small authentic tea houses to have a glass of tea and some freshly made baklava. The Old Town is what most people come to Baku go visit, it really is a special place to see.

Baku Old TownBaku Old TownBaku Old Town

Food & Drink

Hilton Baku

The Hilton Baku is a large fancy hotel set overlooking the Caspian Sea and has a revolving bar which provides incredible views over the city especially at night when the city lights up and you can see the Flame Towers light show in the distance. Even if you don’t stay at the Hilton I would highly recommend visiting the revolving bar for a cocktail in the evening and to see the city lit up.

Old Garden Restaurant

Old Garden Restaurant is situated on the edge of the Old Town and is a stunning restaurant set in what looks like some old ruins, you step down some small steps into a garden area that is set out with a pathway of Persian rugs which lead up to the restaurant. You can choose to eat inside or outside in the garden area, or just stop by for a drink.

The menu is reasonably priced and the staff are friendly. I stopped there in the late afternoon and had a tea, it’s such a peaceful place to go and relax, I stumbled across this place before I headed back to get ready for my flight home and wish I would of had the time to stop and have something to eat as the place had a really lovely ambience.

Old Garden Restaurant BakuOld Garden Restaurant Baku

Transport & Getting Around

Baku is a really easy city to explore, I found the best way to get around the city centre was by foot, you can also hire bicycles too. There are plenty of public transport options too though, such as buses and metros which link the city together and connect the suburbs to the city. There’s also an option to purchase a preloaded city transport card similar to that of London’s Oyster card, Baku’s card is called Bakikart. There are also taxis available, the main ones being Baki Taksi which are dark purple London style cabs, and run on a meter and aren’t too expensive and a good option if your just flagging a taxi down and haven’t booked one in advance.

Top Tips

Baku is an amazing place to visit and I never once felt unsafe as female wandering around alone, however something to be aware of if you are a solo female traveller is that you will have men approach you wanting to chat. I was approached several times by various men every time I visited the city. I’m a pretty confident and outspoken person so I was polite back but made sure to end the conversation quite quickly by not giving much back or if they were trying to flirt would tell them I’m married, however if your shy and timid I can imagine this would be quite intimidating. My best bit of advice is just to be polite, and end the conversation or tell them you have a boyfriend or husband even if you don’t!

Azerbaijan is a real melting pot of cultures but as it has quite an Islamic influence and many Muslims I would recommend to cover yourself and not wear anything too revealing, out of a sign of respect but also to avoid any unwanted attention. Every time I visited Baku I was always pretty well covered and unfortunately still got unwanted attention. Don’t let this put you off though, as I have always really enjoyed visiting the city and met some lovely locals too, it’s just something to keep in mind so your prepared.

I have also heard about a lot of scams in Baku, and again something to be wary of, I didn’t experience this myself but have heard that some restaurants might add a bit extra on to the bill for tourists so just make sure to check you bill before paying, and if there is a discrepancy then let the waiter know so they can amend it, like all cities there are always going to be scammers so just go with your wits about you, like you would anywhere in the world.

Important Information

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful, if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula ♡ xxWhat To Do In Baku - Pinterest Pin

What To Do In Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second largest city after the capital Bangkok, although Chiang Mai is often referred to as the capital of the north. Chiang Mai is an ancient city set in Thailand’s mountainous northern region. It was founded back in 1296 when it was capital of the independent Lann Kingdom until 1558. Chiang Mai doesn’t have a typical urban city feel to it, as it is surrounded by misty mountains, rainforests and hill tribes.

Chiang Mai is a cultural hub in Thailand and offers travellers a whole range of things to see and do with ancient temples, cooking classes, yoga retreats, trekking trails as well as having plenty of nightlife and shopping, it really does have something to meet everyone’s tastes. Chiang Mai is a relatively small city and has a very calm and relaxed atmosphere, there is a modern city which has grown around many parts of the ancient city and today both new and old merge seamlessly together.

We took an internal flight from Bangkok up to Chiang Mai and couldn’t believe the difference between the two cities. We absolutely fell in love with Bangkok, but we also loved how peaceful Chiang Mai was, they are a complete contrast from one another. We spent 3 nights in Chiang Mai and had the best time, Chiang Mai is definitely somewhere we would love to go back and visit.

Sights & Activities

Bai Orchard Garden & Butterfly Farm

Bai Orchard Garden and Butterfly Farm are on the outskirts of the city, there are a variety of Thai orchids that are grown there. There is also a butterfly enclosure which you can walk through too, this is a good place to visit if you’re heading out to the mountains or outskirts of Chiang Mai to the Mae Rim district. The garden also has a small restaurant and gift shop so is quite a nice spot to grab a bite to eat.

We really enjoyed stopping here however I wouldn’t come massively out of your way unless you’re a keen orchid enthusiast, I would recommend that if your backpacking south east Asia and Singapore is on your to do list then visit Singapore’s National Orchard Garden which is out of this world and has the best orchids you will ever see!

Bai Orchard Garden & Butterfly Farm Chiang Mai Bai Orchard Garden & Butterfly Farm Chiang Mai

Bamboo Rafting

Entrance Fee: 500 THB

If you fancy being out in nature then what better way than to go Bamboo Rafting?! There are several areas to try bamboo rafting but Mae Wang district is a popular choice as it is just outside of Chiang Mai. The area has mountains and forests you can admire while gliding down the river, and there is a variety of tours and packages available. If you do go rafting make sure to wear light clothing and expect to get wet as the water gets through the gaps in the bamboo raft, also take a waterproof bag and cover for your phone and camera too.

Bamboo Rafting Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Night Markets

Chiang Mai is famous for its night markets and bazaars and there are several large ones all over the city and on weekends even more pop up! The markets are a great and unique shopping experience with a diverse range of handicrafts available to purchase as well as your usual tourist souvenirs, and lots of other items. You can also grab street food and drinks while you shop and sample some northern Thai delicacies. The most popular and well known market in the city is the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar which runs every single night and is huge and a bit like a maze. Other markets to also check out are;

Chiang Mai Temples

Chiang Mai is an ancient city and is steeped in history and culture, it is known as the city of temples and has over 300 Buddhist temples dotted all over the city. The temples are a huge part of Thai life and culture and no trip to Thailand would be complete without a trip to a temple or two. I would recommend pinning some on your map to go in search of, head to Chiang Mais Old Town, or there are plenty of temple and city tours you can book onto if you wanted a guide to explain all the information to you. I love temples in south east Asia and always love just stumbling across them and wandering into them, I love all the decor and the shrines and always find them really calming places to spend some time in.

Chiang Mai TemplesChiang Mai Temples

Doi Pui Tribal Village

Doi Pui is a Hmong tribal village and is situated in the Doi Suthep national park and close by to the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple. The traditional village offers a glimpse into their way of life. In the village, you can view the houses that they live in and witness their simple way of living and learn about their culture. The village is beautiful and has lots of beautiful plants and flowers, and of course fresh mountain air.

The village like most of Thailand’s hill tribes of the north used to cultivate opium poppies for a living until the royal sustainable projects arrived and transformed the entire village to agricultural farms.

The village today makes a living from farming and selling souvenirs to tourists, and there is a small museum in the village too, which showcases their way of life. If you have any questions the locals are friendly and happy to answer best they can. I really would suggest visiting this village after visiting Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple as it’s only a few minutes out of the way. We really loved meeting the locals and wandering through their beautiful village and landscape.

Doi Pui Tribal Village Chiang Mai

Muay Thai

Muay Thai also is known as Thai Boxing is a combat sport and is the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand. Muay Thai has been around for hundreds of years and was developed for close combat. It uses the entire body as a weapon. When visiting Thailand attending a Muay Thai fight is an absolute must, the atmosphere is incredible! We went to a Muay Thai fight in Chiang Mai as Bangkok seemed to have much larger stadiums and tickets were more expensive, and many of the competitors appeared to be from other parts of the world.

We wanted to attend somewhere with a more intimate and traditional feel and Chiang Mai offered that, we asked the hotel for Muay Thai suggestions and they recommended Thaphae Boxing Stadium. We went and tickets were approximately £12 per person however they can vary depending on the day of the week and the match. The stadium is small enough to feel intimate but also big enough with a selection of bars and restaurants and easy enough to get a front row seat. We also had the opportunity to meet with some of the fighters. It’s a great night out and there are plenty like this stadium around Chiang Mai, ask your accommodation where they would suggest, and if you want to have a go yourself then there also plenty of training academies to book into as well.

Three Kings Monument

The Three Kings Monument is an important statue in Chiang Mai and shows the three founders of Chiang Mai – King Mengrai, King Ramkamhaeng and King Ngam Muang. It was created back in 1984 and is situated outside the Chiang Mai Cultural Center and marks the centre point of the old administrative quarter of Chiang Mai in the ancient part of the city.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of Thailands most sacred temples and in an incredible location set up in the mountains overlooking Chiang Mai, and is part of the national park there. The temple is absolutely stunning and covered in lots of intricate details and gold. The architecture is typically northern Thai and can be reached by climbing the 306 steps. The temple dates back to the 14th century and is a major landmark in Chiang Mai and is popular with tourists, you can choose to visit the temple or for anyone wanting to learn more about Buddhist practices or meditation you can enrol on one of the meditation and mindfulness programs.

When visiting Chiang Mai this should be top of your agenda of places to visit, try and go as early as you can to avoid the crowds, and take something a little warmer to wear with you as the mountain air means its much cooler up at the temple, make sure to wear temple clothing attire too. There are several places to eat and drink nearby the temple so you can grab breakfast or lunch easy enough. We really loved visiting this temple and always recommend it to anyone I know visiting Chiang Mai.

Make sure to visit Doi Pui tribal village too as it is situated in the Doi Suthep national park and close by to the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Chiang MaiWat Phra That Doi Suthep Chiang Mai

Transport & Getting Around

Chiang Mai is a small city so most places can be reached by foot or bicycle. There isn’t a huge choice of public transport there are a few buses but most people tend to hop in tuk tuks, taxis or shared taxis which are in red trucks called rót daang. I would recommend exploring the city by foot as this is the best way to get around and you stumble across the cities hidden gems.

3 Day Itinerary

  1. Get up early and head to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Doi Suthep–Pui National Park, Doi Pui Tribal Village and bamboo rafting. If you have time when you get back to Chiang Mai wander the old town and explore some of the cities many temples. After a day sightseeing hit the Chiang Mai night market for dinner and shopping.
  2. Head to Chiang Rai for the day, it’s a few hours away and something I really would like to do on my next visit to Chiang Rai. If you don’t fancy it then explore more of Chiang Mais temples and jungles and waterfalls surrounding the city. In the evening check out Muay Thai and have some dinner and drinks.
  3. Research and find a reputable elephant sanctuary for rescued elephants, ensure to not ride on any elephants and check out the website and reviews beforehand to make sure you’re not supporting anywhere that is abusing these animals. I made this mistake in the past and still feel awful about it, and now always research before I visit any so-called animal sanctuaries.

Top Tips

Many of the sights in Chiang Mai are outside and exposed so make sure to wear light and comfortable clothing, but also clothing that covers your shoulders and knees as many of the sights are temples so dress modestly.

There are still elephants available for tourist rides in Chiang Mai, please avoid this at all costs! The elephants have to endure a process called Phajaan also known as the crush, where they take baby elephants and brutally torture them for days and weeks at a time to break the elephant’s spirit so that they can be controlled by humans.

It’s a really traumatic practice and unfortunately until tourists realise what actually happens to make these elephants allow people to ride on them the practice will continue. I personally have ridden on elephants in the past before I knew what they went through, and now personally I would never ride on one again as it’s truly heartbreaking what they must undergo.

Helpful Information

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula ♡ xx

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A Day Trip To Kamakura From Tokyo

Kamakura is a seaside town an hour south of Tokyo and is a popular coastal resort it is sometimes referred to as the Kyoto of eastern Japan, as it is very picturesque with numerous temples, historical monuments, Shinto shrines, hiking trails and several beaches. During the summer months, the beaches attract large crowds of domestic tourists. Kamakura makes a great day trip from Tokyo or Yokohama and is the perfect escape from the cities.

Sights & Activities

Daibutsu Hiking Trail

Daibutsu Hiking Trail is a wooded trail which is just short of 2 miles long, the trail begins just by Jōchi-Ji Temple and finishes just by The Great Buddha. We actually stumbled on this trail by accident when we got on the train we got off at Kita-Kamakura by accident rather than Kamakura, so we decided to go and visit the Engakuji Temple and Jōchi-Ji Temple.

Once we visited these temples we decided to walk to The Great Buddha, we didn’t plan on doing this trail and I didn’t have the best footwear on so make sure to wear some comfortable trainers or walking shoes if you plan on doing this trail, not some silly glittery peep toe dolly shoes like I had on! However the trail is quite an easy route and walking through the woods and bamboo forests were great and so nice to be out in nature, the trail was nice and quiet too.

The Daibutsu Hiking Trail took us just short of an hour half but we did stop a few times, make sure to also take plenty of water on this trail as there’s nowhere really to get a drink on route. There are several shrines along the way that are hidden away so if you are doing this route maybe pin them on your map so you know where to stop. I really recommend if your visiting Kamakura for the day to get off at the Kita-Kamakura stop as there are plenty of temples and shrines to see near to the station and then can take the Daibutsu Hiking Trail to the Great Buddha.

Daibutsu Hiking Trail KamakuraDaibutsu Hiking Trail Kamakura

Engakuji Temple

Entrance Fee: 300 JPY

Engakuji Temple is built into the slopes of Kita-Kamakuras forested hills and is one of Kamakura’s leading zen temples. The temple was founded back in 1282 and was built after a second invasion attempt by the Mongols to pay respect to both the Japanese and Mongolian soldiers that had died. Like many Japanese temples the entrance has a large wooden Sanmon gate at the entrance, and once inside the grounds of the temple there are several buildings to explore and there is also a traditional tea house on site too.

As we visited during the summer the trees were bright and green, however if you visit in the autumn be sure to visit this temple as there are plenty of maple trees surrounding the temple which turn to stunning autumn colours, Engakuji Temple is a must when visiting Kamakura.

Engakuji Temple KamakuraEngakuji Temple KamakuraEngakuji Temple Kamakura

Jōchi-Ji Temple

Entrance Fee: 200 JPY

Jōchi-Ji Temple is another one of Kamakura’s main zen temples, its close to Engakuji Temple which is its head temple. Jōchi-Ji Temple was once a huge temple complex, today it is a much smaller temple surrounded by forest. The temple was originally founded in 1283 by the ruling Hojo family in honour of their young son who died. Most of the buildings that stand there today have been there since the 1920s.

I would suggest visiting this temple after Engakuji Temple as they are only a few minutes walk apart from one another. The Daibutsu Hiking Trail also starts just by this temple too, the gardens in the temple grounds are calm and tranquil and the grounds have lush flowerbeds and bamboo groves which are great to stroll around before starting a hike.

Jōchi-ji Temple Kamakura

The Great Buddha (Kotoku-in Temple)

Entrance Fee: 300 JPY

The Great Buddha is a symbol of Kamakura and one of the pictures most associated with this coastal city. The Buddha draws plenty of visitors and is Japans second tallest bronze Buddha statues. The statue was cast back in 1252 and originally sat inside the temple, however the temple halls and buildings were destroyed on numerous occasions by typhoons and tsunamis back in the 14th and 15th centuries. Since the late 15th century the Buddha has been outside overlooking the city and coast. There is another small fee of 20 yen if you would like to enter the Buddha statues interior. As the Great Buddha is Kamakuras top attraction it would be a crime to miss it, so make sure this is top of your must see list in Kamakura.

The Great Buddha (Kotoku-in Temple) KamakuraThe Great Buddha (Kotoku-in Temple) Kamakura

Zaimokuza Beach

Zaimokuza Beach is one of five beaches set along Kamakuras 5 miles of coastline, the other beaches are Yuigahama Beach and Koshigoe Beach which are the other two main beaches along with Zaimokuza Beach, and Inamuragasaki and Shichirigahama are two smaller beaches and coves which are less touristy. Zaimokuza Beach is one of the main tourist beaches but is less crowded than Yuigahama and is set in a calm cove. The official beach season in Kamakura is short lived and only runs from July – August, when many beachfront bars, cafes, restaurants and beach huts open for business, and watersport equipment is available for rent.

Zaimokuza Beach is only a few minutes walk from the Great Buddha and on clear days you can also get a glimpse of Mt Fuji, however if you want the best view then head to Inamuragasaki which is also a popular spot for surfers.

We visited Zaimokuza Beach and had a stroll along with it after visiting the Great Buddha, and we enjoyed getting to see one of Japans beaches and viewing the coastline, which considering Japan is a cluster of islands I never think to associate beaches with Japan, so if you’re visiting Tokyo or one of the surrounding areas make sure to head down to one of Kamakura’s beaches for something a little different.

Zaimokuza Beach KamakuraZaimokuza Beach Kamakura

Transport & Getting Around

Kamakura is pretty straight forward to reach from both Tokyo and Yokohama, if you take the JR Yokosuka line from Tokyo it goes directly to Kita-Kamakura and Kamakura and stops via Yokohama where you can also get the train directly from on the same line. The trains are regular and also very cost efficient costing between £3-£7 per person depending on where you take the train from.

There are also buses from Tokyo to Kamakura however these take a long time and are more expensive. Taxis are also available but cost far more, personally I would always recommend taking the trains as much as possible in Japan as they are so clean and efficient  and cost effective when not taking very long journeys.

Due to Kamakuras small size the area can be explored by foot, scenic hiking or by bicycle, there are several rental places to rent bikes if you wanted to cycle around. There is also a good network of city buses, trains and taxis availble for slightly longer distances.

Top Tips

If your vegetarian or just prefer a plant based diet, then the biggest bit of advice would be to do some research before leaving your accommodation and decide where to eat beforehand.

Try downloading the Happy Cow app or googling vegetarian friendly restaurants as trying to seek out places that serve veggie food isn’t always obvious in Japan, so research before you go. If you can also take a small translation card or find it in a guide book and take the translation for vegetarian food, as there is a language barrier. So if you have this you can show waiters and waitresses so they can assist you.

I would really recommend when exploring the city to download the maps.me app this is a great app to have in any country but especially countries where there can be quite a big language barrier. I swear by having this map in an unfamiliar city. It’s like google maps but works offline, so is great if you don’t have WiFi.

I would recommend planning your day before heading out, and seeing what sights and attractions are near to one another. I normally search places on my maps.me app and save and pin it so I can see what is close by, and what is the best route to take so I’m not wasting time going out of the way and then having to go back on myself.

Important Information

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula ♡ xx

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Cultural Things To See & Do In Bali

Bali is a paradise island situated in Indonesia, Bali is known all around the world as a tourist hotspot, and there are so many reasons why people are drawn to this beautiful tropical island. Bali is known as the island of the gods, as its a really holy place full of temples and shrines. Many locals put out daily offerings to the gods with beautiful flower petals arrangements and burn candles and incense.

The island has a rich and diverse culture and most days of the week you will witness a procession of locals heading towards one of the many temple ceremonies. Bali is covered in forested volcanic mountains, green rice paddies, beaches and has coral reefs surrounding the island. The island itself is very spiritual and draws visitors from all around the world who are seeking peace, yoga and meditation practises.

We only spent 5 nights in Bali which definitely wasn’t enough! We stayed in Ubud and did a day trip around some major sites around the island, but would definitely love to go back and spend longer exploring some different regions of Bali. Many people that visit Bali split their stay between different areas and divide their time between the beaches and the green forested areas in the centre of the island. Bali has so much to see and do, you could spend weeks exploring its sites. In this quick guide are some of the main cultural sites and attractions to see if you’re limited on time.

Sights & Activities

Balinese Dance

Entrance Fee: 100,000 IDR

There are many places all around Bali that host ancient Balinese traditional dances and theatre shows. Many of these shows are artistic and express stories through the art form of dance and specific body movements with gestures being demonstrated using fingers, hands and eye expressions. These dances are truly unique to Balinese culture and are widely connected to the Hindu religion and Bali folklore. The dances all have different meanings and Balinese names such as Barong, Legong and Baris to name a few.

There are shows held all around the island but Ubud is a very popular place to view one of these performances due to it being the cultural and historical hub of Bali. There are shows every night in Ubud at several locations. I would suggest when travelling around Bali that you aim to see one of the shows in Ubud as they are frequent.

We went to one of the shows held every night at 19:30 at Ubud Palace, there is a different show every night which all perform various Balinese dance styles. The shows at Ubud Palace are only about £6 per person so really affordable. I really recommend spending one evening going to watch one of these shows as it’s great that these traditions are being kept going, they are truly unique and like nothing you have will have ever seen before.

Balinese Dance Ubud

Goa Gajah

Entrance Fee: 50,000 IDR

Goa Gajah is a Hindu temple and archaeological site located just outside of Ubud and is also known as the Elephant Cave due to its close proximity to the Elephant River. The site is said to date back to the 11th century, but with some fragment, relics found close by dating back even earlier! Entering through the face in the rock you step into a small cave which has some small statues and offerings, once you pass through the small narrow cave you come out to two bathing pools with statues. You only need approximately one hour or so to explore this historical site, it’s gardens and surrounding area. Go with knees covered or you can hire sarongs at the entrance. I really enjoyed visiting this site and if you can try and get there early to beat the crowds. We hired a scooter and drove to the temple as it isn’t too far from Ubud centre, however a lot of set day tours stop here too if you prefer booking onto tours.

Goa Gajah BaliGoa Gajah Bali

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces are located in the centre of Bali and span over 600 hectares of rice fields following the hillside of the Batukaru Mountain Range, they are part of UNESCO world heritage sites. You could easily spend a few days exploring this area of Bali as there are beautiful mountains, small villages and lots of great local restaurants.

We stopped here on a day tour we booked and stopped to admire the views and for some lunch. It started to rain heavily while we were there, so took the views in undercover. The terraces are stunning, and I honestly have never seen a more vivid shade of green in my life! This area is the very definition of rural Bali if you’re looking to escape the crowds then look into staying in the area at one of the many mountain retreats on offer.

If your staying in Ubud and don’t fancy venturing very far for rice fields, then not to worry as all around Ubud there are plenty of rice terraces with the most famous ones being Tegalalang Terraces. Many tourists don’t leave the resorts or beaches which makes the rice fields a great place to escape and explore in peace and quiet.

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces

Monkey Forest

Entrance Fee: 80,000 IDR

The famous Monkey Forest is located in Ubud and is seen as an important spiritual and economic centre for the village of Padangtegal which also own the forest. Hidden in the forest are several ancient temples to visit as well. The forest is stunning and like many areas in Bali provides the most beautiful shades of green. The forest has a mysterious feel to it when wandering around and it’s great to watch the monkeys play. There is a large variety of species of trees as well as hundreds of monkeys that call this forest home. You can also feed the monkeys with fruits that you can purchase at the entrance too, do not take any food or drink from outside into the forest to ensure the monkeys don’t become aggressive to steal the food and also to ensure they are getting the correct diet of food. This was one of my favourite areas in Bali it had a really magical feel to the area and I loved watching all the monkeys and being amongst nature. If you’re in Ubud I personally think the Monkey Forest is a must!

Monkey Forest Ubud BaliMonkey Forest Ubud BaliMonkey Forest Ubud Bali

Taman Ayun Temple

Entrance Fee: 10,000 IDR

Pura Taman Ayun is in the heartlands of Bali and situated approximately 30 minutes drive from Ubud. It is a huge royal water temple surrounded by a moat, it was the main temple of the Mengwi Kingdom which survived until 1891. The temple was built in 1634 and was renovated back in 1937. The temple is full of traditional Balinese architectural features which spread throughout the many shrines, buildings, courtyards and gardens. The name of the temple translates into a beautiful garden. The temple forms part of Bali’s UNESCO world heritage site. It’s well worth a visit, especially as it’s not too far away from Ubud if that’s where you are basing yourself for your trip.

Taman Ayun Temple BaliTaman Ayun Temple Bali

Tanah Lot & Batu Bolong Temple

Entrance Fee: 60,000 IDR

Tanah Lot is a rock formation with a Hindu shrine dedicated to the Balinese sea gods, the temple forms an important aspect of Balinese mythology and spirituality. Tanah Lot is situated just offshore on the south east coast of Bali. It was created back in the 16th century by a Hindu priest. Some of the temple and rock has been restored, as they suffered badly from erosion from the large waves and high tides over the years. When it is high tide the shrine cannot be reached when it is low tide people can walk across to the rock formation and the low sea level exposes small caves and crevices.

The complex also has nearby shrines such as Batu Bolong Temple which is on the beach of Canggu, the name translates into perforated rock, as the name suggests it sits out into the ocean and the rock has a hole in the middle. This temple is popular with many Hindus who go there to pray daily.

These shrines are a must visit on any trip to Bali, I would suggest going early to avoid the crowds or try to be there for sunset, however it is much busier around that time. Unfortunately when we visited the heavens opened up and we got soaked, I would love to go back and revisit.

Tanah Lot and Batu Bolong Temple BaliTanah Lot and Batu Bolong Temple Bali

Ubud

Ubud is the cultural hub of the island, full with beautiful Balinese buildings, temples and green spaces. The area surrounding Ubud is full of jungles and rice terraces. Ubud is a very on trend place with plenty of spas, yoga retreats, fashion and homeware boutiques not to mention there are lots of traditional arts and crafts available all around Ubud from local workshops and markets.

The village of Ubud is also a foodies dream with so many cute hipster cafes and restaurants to pick from. Ubud really has it all apart from the ocean, but it is the greenest place I have ever been to and has so much nature surrounding it. I would suggest staying in Ubud for a couple of nights on your trip to Bali at least, and if your not a beach lover you could easily spend your whole trip in Ubud and get out exploring all the temples and historic sites. You can base yourself in Ubud and do plenty of day tours around the rest of the island too.

Most days we would take our scooter out and go driving around the area stopping at temples and then in the afternoon grab some lunch and hit the local markets such as the Art Market (Pasar Seni), Street Market and the Traditional Market which are a few we visited! There are so many markets and also night markets to explore if your a shopaholic then leave plenty of room in your suitcase.

Ubud BaliUbud BaliUbud Bali

Ulun Danu Beratan Temple

Entrance Fee: 50,000 IDR

Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is one of Bali’s most famous temples and is placed on Lake Beratan which is Bali’s second largest lake. It is in the highlands of the mountainous region of Bedugul, and the temple is dedicated to several Hindu gods. There are signs that the temple dates back as early as 1556, but was rebuilt in 1633. The gardens of the temple are stunning with gorgeous views over the lake, temples and mountains in the distance. It’s a really calm place to visit and much cooler with its mountain air. This was our first stop on our day tour around the island if your planning on visiting Ulun Danu Beratan Temple I would suggest booking a private driver or book onto a tour that stops there, as it’s high in the mountains it might not be the easiest drive for someone not familiar with the roads.

Ulun Danu Beratan Temple Bali

Transport & Getting Around

Getting around Bali is pretty easy and most locals and tourists tend to opt for scooters, as they’re quick and easy to get from a to b and cheap to run and hiring them doesn’t cost much at all. When hiring a scooter make sure to wear a helmet as there have been so many horrendous stories of tourists having accidents not just in Bali but all around South East Asia.

You can also hire bicycles around the villages but Bali roads aren’t for the faint hearted especially on a bike! Some are in quite a poor condition too, so speak to you accommodation provider who will be able to recommend good places to hire bicycles and some hotels even have them to hire out as well as scooters. There is public transport in the form of a van crammed with seats like a bus called bemos, these aren’t a popular choice with either locals or tourists as they run on a set route, and are few and far between as most people tend to opt for scooters or private drivers.

Bali is easily accessible by many flights that land into Ngurah Rai International Airport with flights from all over the world and Asia. You can also get boats to Bali from both Lombok and the Gili Islands with plenty of different options available.

As we were limited on time we booked a full day island tour through Perama Tours who are reliable and great value and are an Indonesian based tour operator. The tour we booked took us to Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, Munduk Waterfall Valley, Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, Taman Ayun Temple, Tanah Lot and Batu Bolong Temple. They have a variety of tours available if you’re tight on time then booking day tours are a great way to get out and see everything you want to see and with the knowledge of a local.

Top Tips

Bali is an incredible place to visit and it is an extremely popular tourist destination so do go with an open mind and expect crowds. Don’t always go expecting you’re going to be the only one at a popular tourist spot, don’t let Instagram fool you! Many of these travel influencers that get these amazing photos will get up at the crack of dawn to beat the crowds and a do a lot of photoshopping, so don’t be shocked if you go somewhere and it is heaving with people.

Bali is full of many religious sites and temples so dress modestly with shoulders and knees covered. A lot of the religious sites will allow you to hire sarongs to cover yourself too. Also note that many high end bars and restaurants have a dress code too, and beachwear in some places may not be allowed, check prior to going to certain places to avoid any disappointment.

Helpful Information

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula ♡ xx

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Kyoto Travel Guide

If your an absolute culture vulture like myself then I’m sure Kyoto is already on your travel radar! Kyoto was once Japan’s capital city prior to Tokyo, today it is a bright and colourful city full to the brim with authentic Japanese experiences, architecture, temples and traditions not to mention its striking natural beauty!

Kyoto along with the rest of Japan has been somewhere I have dreamt of visiting for years and years, as we all know Japan can be amazing be pretty expensive to visit, so my husband and I have always put off going on holiday there until we have enough saved so we can fully do everything we would like to. Saying that we have visited Japan several times with my work, I have been extremely lucky to get layovers with the airline I work for in Japan and have taken my husband along on several trips.

When I got rostered an Osaka trip I knew I had to take my husband along, as Osaka and Kyoto were both places we were keen to explore. We were put up Osaka and spent 1 day exploring Osaka, then spent our second day getting up early and venturing over to Kyoto. On our last day we got up early again and went to visit Nara in the morning then got the train over to Kyoto from Nara to spend the rest of the day seeing more of Kyoto.

I would recommend if your going to Japan on holiday to allow at least 2 to 3 full days for Kyoto as there is just so much to see! Although we did a pretty good job of cramming as much into a day and a half as possible. Kyoto was a lot busier and a lot more touristy than I expected, however saying that I absolutely fell in love with this city. We visited just towards the end of cherry blossom season, and we also had perfect warm weather which just made everything look so pretty.

I honestly cannot recommend Japan’s former capital enough you can’t come to Japan and not visit Kyoto! It’s today seen as Japan’s cultural capital and when you visit you can clearly see why – it’s just got so much original charm.

Sights & Activities

Chion-in Temple

Chion-in Temple is not one of Kyoto’s most famous temples, however it is centrally located near Maruyama Park, Shoren-in Temple and Yasaka Shrine. So if your visiting them it’s worth popping along to have a look at. The temple is the head temple of Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism. Some parts of the temple and shrines date back to the 1600s, the large wooden gate at the main entrance is the largest in all of Japan. This temple does close quite early at about 4pm, so unfortunately we got there just after and it was closed so we just had a look at the outside of the temple. So if you are desperate to look inside make sure you get there before it closes.

Fushimi Inari-Taisha

Fushimi Inari-Taisha is probably one of Kyoto’s most famous Shinto shrines along with its 5000 bright orange torii gates that trail through the hills behind the shrine, these vibrant orange arches are one of the main icons associated with the city, and this is one of the most popular shrines.

This famous shrine was built back in the 8th century and dedicated to the god of rice and sake, as farming slowly diminished the shrine is now dedicated to business prosperity. There are lots of fox statues all around the shrine which signifies a messenger to the gods.

We visited in the afternoon and the place was heaving around the main entrance and the shrines, however we decided to walk up the hill through all the orange gates, and even though it’s a tiring hike which was more due to the heat, the paths are easy enough to walk and the further up you walk the quieter it becomes! We got some really nice areas to ourselves and also when you reach the top you get a lovely view. It’s completely free to enter the shrine and to do the hike, and as it’s one of the brightest and most popular shrines its a must when in Kyoto.

Ginkakuji Temple

Ginkakuji Temple sits alongside Kyoto’s Eastern mountains, it was originally built as a retirement villa for one of Kyoto’s shoguns. The villa was later converted after his death to a zen temple back on 1490. Ginkakuji also became a center of contemporary culture, known as the Higashiyama Culture. The arts evolved and refined during that time include the tea ceremony, flower arrangement, theater, poetry, garden design and architecture.

The temple consists of beautiful well kept gardens, a moss garden and a dry sand garden with perfectly raked lines, as well as the main silver pavilion there are several other buildings and temples. There are set pathways to walk around all of the buildings and gardens, this temple was quite popular with tourists and you can see why it’s a stunning temple. The entrance is only 500 yen per person which is about £4 so it should definitely be added to any Kyoto itinerary, the tickets they give you also make nice keepsakes and can be used as a bookmark.

Gion

Gion is Kyoto’s world famous geisha district, it’s most well known street is Hanami-koji Street, it has lots of charm and character with wooden narrow merchant houses filled with shops, restaurants and of course tea houses. Geishas also known as geiko which is Kyoto’s dialect for geisha, and maiko which are geiko apprentices perform and entertain in traditional Japanese arts in the tea houses.

You can sometimes spot the odd geisha going to work or walking along, but ensure you act respectful towards the geisha as there have been many complaints about how tourists act towards geishas. While we were there we saw a geisha walking along and all of a sudden a stampede of tourists ran towards her to get photos. The best thing to do if you want to experience geiko is to book a tea room, it was honestly one of the highlights of our trip. There is a cultural geisha show held daily at Gion Corner too! But if you can try and book into a small tea house for a more authentic and intimate show.

Gion is very busy so ensure to go early to beat the crowds or aim to visit late afternoon or early evening which is normally when you can spot a geisha walking to attend a work engagement or being dropped off.

Gion Taotei

Gion Taotei is one of the best experiences we had in Kyoto, it’s a Chinese restaurant located in a former tea house along the main Street in Gion. They do offer a Maiko (geisha apprentice) experience it was about £28 per person and its held in a small room upstairs. You do have to book as they only allow a maximum of 20 people, as we walked past during the afternoon we spotted the place as they had a board outside advertising it, so we booked our space for that evening.

If you are in Kyoto try and be organised and book on well in advance as we were just lucky as we could see all the other nights were fully booked, we seemed to go on a quieter night. The experience included a drink, some dumplings (normally they are meat dumplings – we asked for vegetarian which were sweet dumplings more like dessert) watching the Maiko perform serval dances, and we were also allowed to meet and greet the Maiko and she gave us a small gift (a sticker with her name on in Japanese) and there was a question and answer part where you could ask a the Maiko a question and there was a translator to translate. We were also allowed to have our photo taken with her too!

This is a much better experience rather than trying to spot them in the street, also your not allowed to bother them when they are walking about their day to day life’s. This was an amazing experience as I had always wanted to meet a geisha and it was on my bucketlist. There is so much mystery still surrounding geishas but it was really good to be able to ask questions and learn about this unique practise. This place was a great intimate setting but do try and book on in advance to avoid missing out, and maybe have dinner before hand as the dumplings are more of a snack than a full meal.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu-dera Temple means pure water temple which got his name when it was founded back in 780 on the site of Otowa Waterfall in the forested hills east of the city. The temple is one of the most celebrated temples in all of Kyoto and is now a UNESCO heritage site, and also one of the oldest schools teaching Japanese Buddhism.

This shrine was absolutely stunning it’s surrounded by woodlands and trees which make the surrounding area so colourful, we were there during spring so all the greenery was really vivid and just stunning next to the brightly coloured temples and buildings. To enter this temple it was 400 yen per person so not very much at all and the temple has a real genuine Japanese feel to it, and just how you imagine a temple in Kyoto to look like.

Maruyama Park

Maruyama Park is a public park and is next to some of Kyoto’s most popular shrines and temples such as Chion-in Temple, Shoren-in Temple and Yasaka Shrine all within close walking distance. The park is extremely popular with both locals and tourists during cherry blossom season, we came towards the end of cherry blossom season however it was really lovely warm weather so was a really pretty park to walk around.

Nanzen-Ji

Nanzen-Ji is a zen temple and holds high importance within the Japanese Zen Buddhism religion as it is a head school which teaches these practices. The large temple complex is spread out across the foot of the mountains, and the grounds history dates back to the 13th century but was destroyed in the civil war in the late 1500s, but reconstruction began again in the 1600s.

It has many temples within the complex and each charge between 300 to 500 yen to enter, however the grounds are free to roam. We did not go into all of them but we did pay 500 yen to go up to the viewing deck of the Sanmon Gate, which is at the main entrance into the grounds. There are steep stairs to go up but once at the top you get lush greenery views over the surrounding woods and mountains.

I would recommend visiting Nanzen-Ji and even if you don’t pay to enter every temple the grounds are really beautiful and well kept and the grounds are located only a short walk from the Philosphers Path too.

Ninenzaka & Sannenzaka

Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka are both well preserved streets situated in the historic Higashiyama District. Both of these streets are sloped lanes which are lined with traditional shops, restaurants and tea houses. There are no cars on either of these streets they are pedestrian streets only, and give a great insight into what Kyoto would have been like many years ago. It’s worth visiting both these streets as they are both really pretty and full of Japanese appeal and culture.

We wandered up and down these streets several times while walking around the city and came at different times of the day. Late afternoon and early evening the streets were much quieter! While walking along the streets you can also get a great views of Yasaka Pagoda which is the oldest pagoda in all of Kyoto and dates back to 592, try and head to Yasaka Street just before sunset to view the pagoda at its best, and its a great photo opportunity too.

Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market is also known as Kyoto’s Kitchen and is a huge undercover market across 5 blocks, its narrow and busy but jam packed full of restaurants, streetfood, groceries and cookware. At the market you can find plenty of Japanese delicacies and lots of fish. As vegetarians we struggled finding vegetarian street food and ordered what we thought was a potato cake and as we bit into soon discovered it was fish.

The market was originally a wholesale fish market and has operated for several centuries and many of the stalls and shops have been run by the same families for generations. The market is a great place to visit to break up the many temple and shrine visits, and is good place to come to see what’s on offer. Expect crowds it’s extremely busy but we just walked up and down the whole length just to see what it had on offer.

Nishiki-Tenmangu Shrine

Nishiki-Tenmangu Shrine is located inside Nishiki Market it’s a small Shinto shrine covered in lanterns from the outside so is easy to spot when inside the market. It does get quite busy with many shoppers from around the market visiting, but is worth popping your head in if your at the market anyways as it’s free to enter and it’s a really calm space to come and escape the chaos of the busy market outside the entrance.

Philosophers Path

The Philosophers Path is a popular pathed pedestrian walkway which stretches just over a mile long, the stone path runs along next to a cherry tree lined canal, and it is situated in the Higashiyama district. If your planning on visiting Ginkakuji Temple then the path starts nearby so plan on walking the path after your visit or head along the path towards the temple and end there.

The path got its name from one of Japan’s most famous philosophers – Nishida Kitaro who practiced meditation daily while walking this path on his commute to Kyoto University. There is also a number of small temples and shrines tucked away behind the canal along the path. There’s plenty of restaurants, cafes and cute boutiques along the way and plenty of places to stop for ice cream which is lovely on a warm day.

We really enjoyed the walk it’s so peaceful and we caught the end of cherry blossom too which was great to see. It’s easy to tie in the Philosphers Path into your Kyoto itinerary as it doesn’t take too long and is a scenic way to walk in between places.

Shoren-in Temple

Shoren-in Temple is a Japanese Buddhist temple set at the base of the cities Higashiyama mountains. The temples was built back in the 12th century and was linked to the imperial family, when the emperor built the temple for his son to live and learn in from the head priest in the city, over the years the residence transitioned into a temple.

This temple was pretty quiet which was lovely we visited in the morning and only saw several other people. The gardens and buildings are beautiful to walk through and behind the gardens is a small hill with a beautiful bamboo grove and shrine which was my favourite part of the temple, it had a really nice energy up there and we had it all to ourselves! Like most other temples around Kyoto it was 500 yen to enter, so is inexpensive.

Yasaka Shrine

Yasaka Shrine is maybe not Kyoto’s most largest and grandest of shrines however it is a shrine of great importance, as it was founded over 1350 years ago and today holds the most famous lantern summer festival. It’s also a popular spot during cherry blossom season as it’s close to Maruyama Park. It’s easy enough to stop off at Yasaka Shrine as it’s located between Gion District and Higashiyama District, so easy enough when your walking between the districts to stop here to admire the buildings.

Food & Beverage

Crafthouse Kyoto

Crafthouse Kyoto is located walking distance from Keihan Shichijo station. It’s a microbrewery and provides a huge range of craft beers from all over Japan, so it’s a great stop for any beer lovers. The bar is in a former 100 year old tea house but they have kept many original features and made it super chic and modern. They also serve food too, so we stopped for some lunch as they had several vegetarian options available which can be hard to come by in Japan.

Grapevine Cafe

Grapevine Cafe is located in the historic Higashiyama District in Kyoto. This cafe is a really cute place to visit its decor is very traditional with floor cushions and low tables, it’s the perfect spot to nip in for a refreshment. We came just before it’s closed to grab a drink before heading to the Geisha show.

Kyoto Sweet Treats

There are tons of stalls and shops all over Kyoto that serve a variety of sweet treats. Being vegetarian can be a struggle to try typical Japanese food as most of it contains meat and fish, however the sweets are mostly vegetarian so we opted to try some as we wandered the streets.

There are so many to choose from we tried some dangos which come in a variety of forms it’s like a spongey dumpling, we tried one which was covered in like a sticky soy sauce, another we tried was matcha flavoured. Dango isn’t really that flavoursome however it’s always good to try local food. We also tried some Japanese cream puffs which have a selection of flavours such as vanilla, strawberry and matcha which were all really nice.

There is so much choice most people when they think of Japan think of savoury and fish dishes, however the Japanese have a real sweet tooth there are tons of sweet treats on offer fromoo mochi, baked cheesecake, taiyaki, dorayaki, daifuku and manju to name a few more traditional Japanese sweet treats. All these snacks are cheap and great to grab on the go as a quick pick me up.

Sushi Otowa

Sushi Otowa is situated close by to Nishiki Market towards the end where Nishiki-Tenmangu Shrine is. This small sushi restaurant is a perfect spot for lunch, we were hoping to try and find some lunch in Nishiki Market but everything was meat or fish, we stumbled across Sushi Otowa when leaving the market and discovered they had some vegetarian sushi we opted for a mix of cucumber and radish maki sushi.

There is a large variety of sushi available but there is no English menu, so we just showed our little English translation card asking for vegetarian. However if you eat fish then there are displays of sushi which you could point to the ones you would like.

Transport & Getting Around

Kyoto is easily reached from Osaka and Nara by train and only takes 1 hour to reach from both. Once in Kyoto getting around is relatively easy by public transport and by foot. We walked to most places and did use several buses, my husband had picked up a leaflet which had all the bus times and locations on so go prepared and try and find one which should be available in tourist information or look online and screenshot before loosing your WiFi.

The easiest and quickest option is the subway however there are only two lines so it doesn’t go everywhere in the city. So try and plan an itinerary before venturing out as although a lot of the locals in Kyoto are really friendly and helpful many of them don’t speak English so asking for directions isn’t always easy.

As we were strapped for time we did also take one taxi to a temple as weren’t anywhere near a subway station and we didn’t want to wait for a bus, taxis are a quick option but not very cosy effective.

Top Tips

If your vegetarian or just prefer a plant based diet, then the biggest bit of advice would be to do some research before leaving your accommodation and decide where to eat beforehand. My husband and I really struggled finding vegetarian food and wasted lots of time traipsing around many restaurants asking if they had anything vegetarian.

Try downloading the Happy Cow app or googling vegetarian friendly restaurants as trying to seek out places that serve veggie food isn’t always obvious in Japan, so research before you go, as afterwards having a look there was quite a few options and Kyoto is famed for its tofu! This is one thing we should have done we researched everything apart from where to eat! If you can also take a small translation card or find it in a guide book and take the translation for vegetarian food, as there is a language barrier. So if you have this you can show waiters and waitresses so they can assist you with choosing vegetarian options.

I would really recommend when exploring the city to download the maps.me app this is a great app to have in any country but especially countries where there can be quite a big language barrier. I swear by having this map in an unfamiliar city. It’s like google maps but works offline so is great if you don’t have WiFi, and it helped us get around Kyoto so easily, and we found everything that we wanted to find with ease.

I would recommend planning your day before heading out, and seeing what sights and attractions are near to one another. I normally search places on my maps.me app and save and pin it so I can see what is close by, and what is the best route to take so I’m not wasting time going out of the way and then having to go back on myself etc.

Important Information

The Pyramids of Giza

A Day Trip To The Pyramids & Sphinx of Giza From Cairo

Cairo is Egypt’s bustling capital city and home to the famous Pyramids and Sphinx of Giza. Cairo sits on the River Nile and is popular with tourists from all over the world who come to explore an ancient past left behind in the desert.

I have always dreamed of visiting all of the 7 wonders of the world in my lifetime, and have been fortunate enough to visit most of them already. Recently I got rostered a work trip to Cairo quite last minute so straight away I knew I wanted to venture out on my quick layover and explore the Pyramids!

The Great Pyramids are located on the Giza Plateau on the outskirts of Cairo, there are 3 pyramids which are – the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure, along with their pyramid complexes and the Great Sphinx of Giza.The Pyramids of Giza

This collection of pyramids are the largest in all of ancient Egypt, there are pyramids scattered all over the country but the pyramids of Giza are the most famous ones. The pyramids are roughly 4,500 years old and were built for the pharaohs who expected to become gods in the afterlife. The largest pyramid is thought to have taken 2 decades to complete, and thousands upon thousands of workers and tradesmen were involved in the creation of this wonder.

When visiting the Pyramids I would really recommend booking a tour guide as it can be busy and a bit of hassle with people trying to sell you services and products, and if your female I would recommend going with a guide as you can get some unwanted male attention. I booked Nevin from Deluxe Tours Egypt, and booked a half day tour. Nevin and her driver picked me up at 10am and we ventured off to the Pyramids. Along the way we made a quick stop where Nevin grabbed me some breakfast.

We arrived at the Pyramids and Nevin handled everything and arranged getting my ticket and guided me all around the Pyramids and helped me take plenty of photos. Entrance into the Pyramids site is only a few quid but I just paid Nevin at the end of the tour, I paid approximately £55 for a half day private tour.The Pyramids of Giza

I really enjoyed my tour with Nevin she was knowledgeable and also did not leave my side and ensured no one hassled me. The driver met us a few times and drove us to different spots which was great as I got to see the pyramids from all the different angles and in some quieter locations, as it was heaving around the main entrance it was nice to have some quiet spots to really appreciate the pyramids. I also went down in one of the pyramids which was really interesting, and amazing to know how deep down the tombs went.

The only downside to the pyramids is the amount of rubbish floating around the pyramids. I really wish they would clean the site up by providing bins and paying workers to give it a big clean up and anyone caught littering to be fined! This is a wonder of the world and it is a shame to see the amount of rubbish the site is covered in, its definitely the most messiest wonder of the world. I just feel they should be a bit better looked after than what they are.

Honestly though rubbish a side the pyramids are an absolute must when visiting Egypt, and I can’t wait to come back and explore more of this exciting and lively city, and maybe bring someone with me and spend some more time exploring the pyramids.The Sphinx of Giza

Food & Drink

Felfela

Felfela serves authentic Egyptian food and is a well known chain across the capital that have restaurants and take aways, and has been loved by locals since the 1960s. We made a stop off at the take away in Giza close by to the pyramids, and Nevin ran in and grabbed me the most delicious falafel pita wrap and some baba ganoush with some breads for breakfast to eat on the go. Honestly it was the best baba ganoush I have ever had and the falafel wrap was also delicious! Felfela is a must try when in Cairo.Giza - Falafel Wrap

Transport & Getting Around

Cairo’s roads are congested and chaotic! If your short on time and only on a quick trip then I would suggest getting drivers as they’re vehicles should have air con and comfortable seats, and the drivers will know and understand how the roads work. If your in Cairo for longer then there is a whole range of various transport options available for getting around and to suit all budget types from metros, buses, micro buses and river buses. I personally however would just always book a guided tour with Nevin and get her to show me around the sites of the city.

Top Tips

I would really recommend booking a tour with Nevin I was recommended her by so many of my colleagues and she is honestly the best tour guide, you can WhatsApp (+20 128 2957737) her and ask her for prices and tour options etc. When visiting the pyramids I would also recommend dressing respectfully and cover your legs and shoulders as most of Egypt is predominately Muslim, and also if your female you don’t want to gain any unwanted attention! Also wear comfortable shoes as the area around the pyramids is quite rocky and sandy so comfortable shoes or sandals are a must. Walking down into the tombs of the pyramids can be quite steep too so have shoes with some good grip.

When staying in Cairo it is essential to go out and try all the amazing Egyptian cuisine and mezes, the food is delicious and the best way to end an evening is of course with a shisha and mint tea, my absolute favourite thing to do in the Arab nations!

Important Information

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful, if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula  xxThe Pyramids & Sphinx of Giza Mini Guide - Pinterest Pin

24 Hour Layover Guide To Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is Israel’s cosmopolitan city situated along the Mediterranean coast. Tel Aviv is a liberal city with lots going on with lots of restaurants, bars, shops and plenty of world class nightlife. Tel Aviv is a 24 hour city which is always buzzing with something going on. The city makes a great holiday as it has the weather, beaches and lots to see and do in terms of culture. It really does have something for everyone!

I have been fortunate enough to travel to Tel Aviv on many occasions with the airline I work for, on some trips I have been lucky enough to get a decent layover with enough time to get out and explore what this cool city has to offer, and on other occasions I’ve had a minimum rest layover with just enough time to go out for dinner before bed. Tel Aviv is somewhere I would love to go on holiday and really delve into it some more.

Sights & Activities

Herzliya

Herzliya is a suburb situated to the north of Tel Aviv and is an affluent area set along the coast. It’s only a 20 minute drive from Tel Aviv but has a much more relaxed atmosphere than the hustle and bustle of the city. It has a gorgeous marina area with a good choice of up market restaurants and hotels. The beach is also really nice and clean, and always offers up the most stunning sunsets. Herzliya makes a great place to visit from Tel Aviv if you want a chilled out day by the beach then head down to Herzliya, just note that weekends can become quite busy.

Jaffa

Jaffa is my favourite area in Tel Aviv and also happens to be the oldest part of the city and was originally an ancient port which is where the city of Tel Aviv grew from. Jaffa has so much character and is full of authentic charm with narrow streets and alleyways. There are lots of places to eat and sample many Israeli dishes and plenty of traditional sweet shops. Shopping in Jaffa is also great and it is known for its flea market, and from that lots of galleries, boutiques and craft shops have opened up in and around it. It’s a great place to pick up a whole variety of items from home wares, jewellery and all sorts of trinkets.

The area is also quite artsy and has plenty of street art, studios and galleries dotted around. There are lots of sights to go and visit around Jaffa with its famous Clock Tower which is a good meeting point in the old town. St Peters Church is also a must visit, it’s a stunning church and monastery which was built in the late 1800s by the spainish government and is set overlooking the ocean.

Just by St Peters Church is also the Wishing Bridge which has all the star signs on the hand rail, and ledgend says that if you stand by your star sign and look out to the sea your wish will come true. It’s easy to get lost in Jaffa for the day as there is so much to see and do, and exploring the small streets is the best part to really understand the local culture, you will also find the locals really friendly and I loved talking to many of the stall holders around the markets they were all so welcoming. I would recommend basing yourself in Jaffa when visiting Tel Aviv as it’s full of original charm.

Food & Drink

Benny The Fisherman

Benny The Fisherman is my favourite restaurants I have been to in Tel Aviv. Set along the marina in Herzliya this restaurant serves up plenty of fresh and traditional Mediterranean food. The fish is meant to be incredible and fresh, I have been a few times to the restaurant and always order the salad meze and fresh bread.

The first time I visited I couldn’t believe how many dishes came out, there was such a huge variety of salads, vegetables dishes and dips all for approx £10 and if there’s a certain dish you like you can ask for more and they will keep refilling it for you.

Sit outside if it’s a sunny day as the views over the marina are lovely and with the fresh dishes it’s the perfect spot for lunch or dinner at sunset. You can also order plenty of grilled meats and a variety of fish, but if your vegetarian like me then the salad meze is more than enough and so filling!

Dr Shakshuka

Dr Shakshuka is an authentic Israeli restaurant located in the old town of Jaffa, this ramshackled eatery is tucked down an alleyway undercover in between some older buildings is always full of locals. The outside seating area set in a quirky square is a lovely place to sit for breakfast, lunch or dinner. There is a good choice of traditional Israeli food as well as the famous Shakahuka which is a North African dish of poached eggs in a tomato sauce, a couple of us ordered the dish to share and it was delicious along with the fresh bread and meze. If your in the old town this restaurant must be added to your must do itinerary.

Yam 7

Yam 7 is a chic restaurant set along the beach in Herzliya, this stunning restaurant has beautiful panoramic views of the shore and beach. Yam 7 serves fresh seafood and has a varied selection of food to choose from. It’s also a great place to come for cocktails at sunset. We had quite a large lunch so opted for a few side dishes and appetisers to share and watched the sun go down with some drinks which was amazing!

Transport & Getting Around

Tel Aviv is really easy to get around and there are plenty of options available. As I’ve only ever visited on layovers with work I have always opted for taxis as I’ve always been time constraint. Taxis are pretty cheap and not very expensive, and the drivers are always happy to provide lots of tips of things to see and do and provide information about the city. Taxis by law must always use their meters, just note that taxi tariffs go up by about 25% between the hours of 9pm to 5.30am on the night tariff, Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

Bikes are also a great way to get around and Tel Aviv has many bike paths, if cycling isn’t your thing then there are plenty of electric scooters too. If your prefer public transport then buses are regular and reliable. Trains are also available and you can get trains from one end of the city to the other.

Top Tips

I would recommend if your planning a trip to Telaviv then to allow for atleast 1 week to really explore the city and try and do a few day trips to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. Tel Aviv also a has a great selection of beaches to choose from, and lots of places to eat and drink and its also know for its party scene, and also hosts one of the biggest gay prides in Asia. Tel Aviv is not at all how you picture Israel to be it has a very Mediterranean vibe to it. However when leaving the city ensure you dress respectfully especially if visiting any religious sites.

Important Information

Delhi Travel Guide

Delhi is India’s capital city and covers a huge area. Delhi is situated in north central India. Old Delhi to the north and New Delhi to the south together create this huge metropolis. Delhi is India’s second largest city and India’s second wealthiest city after Mumbai.

Delhi is a real melting pot of different cultures and religions, and just by walking down one street you can see a whole range of different faiths being displayed from Mosques, Hindu Temples, Sikh Gurdwaras, Catholic Churches and many more and everyone just seems to live peacefully, and has a certain level of respect for one another which is lovely to see.

I have always wanted to travel India fully and my husband and I have always said we want to save India as a holiday for when we both can get an extensive amount of time off work, as both of us have said ideally we would love to spend at least 4-6 weeks or more exploring India from north to the very south of this huge country.

With my work I am fortunate enough to get to travel to Delhi, we only get a 24 hour layover in the city, however it’s enough time to venture out for a few hours to seek out many of Delhi’s top landmarks and attractions. Every layover I have in Delhi I always try and venture out to explore this incredible city and I’m never disappointed. I love India’s culture and Indian cuisine is one of my absolute favourites! I have visited Delhi serval times now, and it has definitely wet my appetite to explore much more of India.

Sights & Activities

Akshardham Temple

Akshardham Temple was built back in the early 2000s but is built in a traditional old style. The work that went into creating this temple is immense and intricate and is made of sandstone and marble, which has all be hand carved. There is a boat tour and lots of information all about Hindu teachings and history. Unfortunately you aren’t allowed to take photos of the temple but it’s a must visit when in Delhi as it really is a work of art both outside and inside the temple! Most nights there is also a water and light show after sunset which is meant to be incredible.

Chandni Chowk

Chandni Chowk is a bustling chaotic shopping street and market area in the heart of Old Delhi, selling everything from traditional Indian sweets, jewellery, saris, spices and everything in between. There is so much going on it’s a real shock to the senses – the noises, the smells and the amount of people, but this to me felt like real India. Even though I was only in the area for a short while it was great to see the locals going about their day to day lives, and getting an insight into what it’s like day to day on the busy streets of Delhi.

The area is great to come and explore down the alleyways and streets and to sample some typical Indian street food. Chandni Chowk was once a grand promenade and was the route of royal processions during the Mughal era, it was created in the 17th century, and its hard to believe when you visit it today. Yes it’s busy, dirty and chaotic but somehow it’s also charming and I really enjoyed visiting this part of the city.

Chandni Chowk can easily be reached when visiting the Red Fort it’s directly across the road from the main entrance. Although Chandni Chowk’s maze of lanes and alleyways can come across intimidating, many of the markets and bazaars tend to group the vendors together in accordance to what they sell. This makes it a little easier to find what your looking for, however if you still think you may struggle there are plenty of personalised shopping tours you can book onto.

You could easily loose a day in this part of the city, we just walked around after visiting the Red Fort, but I would love to come back and book onto one of the many street food and historical tours there are available. When visiting my best bit of advice would be to wear comfortable shoes, dress conservatively and ladies try and carry around a scarf or pashmina incase you want to enter any of the many temples or places of worships dotted around the area. Also go with an open mind as I’m really not exaggerating it really will be a shock to all of your senses!

Connaught Place

Connaught Place is a busy business and shopping hub in the heart of Delhi and set in a ring of colonial Georgian style buildings. It’s full of big name shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and cinemas etc, there are also lots of markets near by too selling plenty of traditional Indian wares. I have to admit I wasn’t blown away by this area it was great to see but was a bit too commercial for my liking, however if you want abit more authenticity head up the road to Janpath Market.

Delhi Haat C.C.I

Delhi Haat C.C.I is a small shopping mall with a few floors selling various Indian crafts and souvenirs made from Craft Cottage Industries. It sells clothes, homewares and much more all at affordable prices and you can pay cash or card, it’s great if you know what your looking for and it’s easy to shop there hassle free. I bought the most beautiful brint pink pouffe cover with lots of sequins and patchwork for only about £15.

Humayuns Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb is the resting place of the Mughal Emperor Humayun, and was commissioned by his wife. Today it’s a UNESCO world heritage site and it’s thought this tomb inspired the Taj Mahal. The tombs are set in the most beautiful and pristine gardens, it is one of the best preserved Mughal monuments in India and the many buildings are still in really good condition with many of the small details still intact. The build took from 1565 and was completed in 1572.

The gardens from the 17th to 19th centuries were filled of Humayuns descendants and entourage, and there is approximately 150 graves throughout the tombs and gardens. There is a small entrance fee to enter the grounds and it was absolutely stunning to wander around the buildings. It also didn’t feel over crowded and full of visitors which makes a nice change from the busy streets of Delhi.

India Gate

India Gate is located in the heart of New Delhi and is a 42 meter high war memorial, it’s similar to the Arc De Triumph in Paris. The gate commemorates the 70,000 Indian soldiers that lost their lives fighting for the British army in World War 1. The construction started in 1921 and was complete in 1931. When in Delhi this is a must visit, it’s easily accessible and doesn’t take up much time at all to walk around it.

Lotus Temple

As the name may suggest Lotus Temple is built in the shape of a lotus flower set in lush green gardens and surrounded by pools of water. It was built back in the 1980s and is a Bahia temple, it’s a really beautiful and quirky temple and the inside is simplistic and welcomes all religions to come and worship. The temple is free to enter and while we visited there was some speakers and singers there.

Parliament House

Parliament House is the Houses of Parliament for all of India, it isn’t located too far away from India Gate so the two can easily be done at the same time. The main building is a circular shape and construction started in 1921 and was completed in 1927. There is also a parliament museum and library located next to the parliament building. When we visited Parliament House you couldn’t get up close to the main building as there were lots of security, so we only got to see the outer buildings.

Qutab Minar

Qutub Minar is the highest tower in India standing at 73 meters high and built in 1193. The tower was built to celebrate Muslim dominance in Delhi after the defeat of Delhi’s last Hindu ruler.

Apart from the tower, the Qutub Minar complex comprises the first mosque to be built in India – Quwwat-us-Islam Mosque. There are also lots of tombs and pillars and ruins on the site , and the detail carved out into the red sandstone is still really clear to this day.

Qutab Minar is one of the main sites to see in Delhi, arrive early to avoid crowds. Entrance costs about £5 per person and it was one of my favourite places we visited in Delhi, this should be at the top of your itinerary when going to the capital.

Red Fort

Red Fort is a historical monument in the heart of Delhi it gets its name from the red coloured sandstone it’s made from. The Fort was constructed by the Mughals back in 1639, the Fort was used for ceremonies for the royals, today it is used for national and political functions. There is more to the Red Fort than just the red fortified walls on the outside, once inside the Fort there are lots museums, halls and palaces within the grounds.

There is a small entrance fee to pay to enter the Fort and you can pay a few pence to get one of the many tuk tuks to drive you from the ticket booth up to the main entrance of the fort. Once inside there is lots to explore, while visiting the Red Fort allow time to explore Chandni Chowk which is within close walking distance. I would recommend between 2-3 hours to explore inside the Red Fort fully.

Food & Drink

Chaayos

Chaayos is a chain tea house which are located all around Delhi and also other parts of the country. They provide lots of chai tea options aswell as lots of snacks, meals and a variety of traditional Indian drinks. All Chaayos are clean inside and make delicious chai.

Delhi Street Food

The bustling streets of Delhi are filled with vendors selling a huge variety of snacks and food for on the go! I would suggest having a research of street food before venturing out so that you know what your eating and have an idea of what you want to try. While out and about I tried Bhelpuri which is a savoury snack made of puffed rice, vegetables and a tangy tamarind sauce.

Be open minded to trying new food in India as more than likely it will be vegetarian, and the only thing you might want to consider is if any tape water has been used in the ingredients as that is what can cause Delhi belly.

Haldirams

Haldirams started out as a traditional Indian sweets and snacks shop back in the early 80s and today it is now a huge chain with shops and restaurants all around the world. There are several in Delhi, I visited the shop and restaurant in Chandni Chowk. It’s fast food is quick and easy to order and the menu has lots of traditional Indian food to try, I ordered the Thali and the Ray Kochori.

As well as delicious food there is a good selection of Indian drinks I couldn’t resist a chai and mango lassi. If your a little worried of eating in Delhi or on the streets but want to try traditional Indian food then head to one of the Haldirams around the city to help build your confidence with Indian food m, as its loved by locals which is always a good sign.

Pindi

Pindi is a chic little restaurant serving a whole range of Indian cuisine and specialising in lots of chicken dishes. The little restaurant is tucked away in Pandara Road. It’s a nice and quiet with good service and ambience, and a great place to escape the crazy streets of Delhi. The Pineapple Raita was really tasty and a good way to cool down the spiciness of the curry.

Transport & Getting Around

The only way to describe India’s road and transport system is congested and chaotic! If your short on time and only on a quick trip then I would suggest getting drivers as they’re vehicles should have air con and comfortable seats, and the drivers will know and understand how the roads work. If your travelling India for longer then there is a whole range of various transport options available for getting around and to suit all budget types, although if you have the budget splurge out and pay a bit more for a nicer seat or cabin!

Top Tips

When visiting India try and go as prepared as possible, as some of the streets can be a hard to navigate and sometimes there can be a slight language barrier, so go armed with google translate, guide books, maps.me app etc. I always have maps.me downloaded as it’s a great app that works offline and when I’m walking around Delhi or in taxi I always check it to make sure I’m heading in the right direction.

Other tips for India would be to always carry a scarf or pashmina for ladies that would like to enter various temples, also dress modestly when exploring India. I always tend to wear either a long maxi dress, or loose fitting trousers and T-shirt.

There is a huge amount of tours available throughout Delhi, however whenever I go I always opt to use Taj Mahal Trip which is a tour group that provides drivers to take you around Delhi or to the Taj Mahal or they can tailor make tours to your preference. They can be contacted either on Facebook or by WhatsApp (+91 91402 08445). I have used them serval times and they are always reliable and quick at getting back to you with any questions you may have.

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