Vietnam & Cambodia: What I did

I’m back from my solo trip around Vietnam and Cambodia. Can’t believe it’s over already! After 3 years of thinking about going and then finally booking it months ago, it’s over far too quickly.

Halong bay

I didn’t do my usual wishlist, mainly because I didn’t have time! I thought I’d still do a list of the main things I did, and then write in more detail about everything I did and include pictures later!

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Vietnam

  • Halong Bay – Bucket list item!
  • Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi
  • Overnight sleeper train
  • Imperial citadel, Hue
  • Motorbike tour, Hue
  • See all the lanterns, Hoi An
  • Got made to measure clothes in Hoi An
  • Japanese bridge, Hoi An
  • Learnt to make noodles, Hoi An
  • Cooking class, Hoi An
  • Cyclo Tour, Ho Chi Minh City
  • Evening at the Sky Bar, Ho Chi Minh City
  • Cu Chi Tunnels
  • Mekong River

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Cambodia

  • Cyclo Tour, Phnom Penh
  • The Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda, Phnom Penh
  • The Killing Fields & S21 Prison
  • Traditional Khmer home meal
  • Angkor Wat – Bucket List
  • Night Market, Siem Reap

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I think these were the main highlights. It was such a fab trip. Everyone was really friendly and both Vietnam and Cambodia are absolutely stunning! I’m so pleased that I went and to have completed my first solo trip. Go me!

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Bangkok bucketlist

I have been to Bangkok twice but I do not feel as if I’ve seen the real city. My first visit was when I was 7. It was my first ever trip abroad and it was a MASSIVE culture shock! I did not expect the humidity, the noise, the sheer amount of people, the traffic, the pollution, the food… I could go on! Add jetlag into the mix and me and BKK did not get off to the best start. This was a 2 night stopover on the way to Australia and I spent most of the time moaning! In fact, I swore I would never visit Thailand again. Luckily, I grew up and got over it.

My second visit was in 2012. We spent a night here before catching a flight down to Krabi. Again, it was short and sweet. We literally got to the hostel, got changed, had food, slept, went to the airport so saw absolutely nothing of the city besides our hostel and an Irish pub!

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This summer, I have a few days tagged on the end of my trip to explore Bangkok at my leisure. I can’t wait. I’m going to be such a tourist! I will be all templed out by the time I get home! I will definitely have seen more than a hotel room and a pub!

Here’s my Bangkok bucketlist!

  • Wat Arun – when in Bangkok you’ve got to see temples right?
  • Wat Pho – particularly the reclining Buddha
  • Art in Paradise – looks like so much fun and something a bit different!
  • Chatuchak weekend market – I love me a bargain and could be a good place for souvenirs.

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  • Thai cooking class – would love to be able to cook authentic Thai food and actually know what I’m doing!
  • Khao San Road – I want to experience the craziness, but definitely do not want to stay on it!
  • Wat Saket
  • Thai massage
  • The Grand Palace – this is the only thing I remember doing aged 7 in Bangkok and I just remember marvelling at the ornateness of the palace.
  • Wat Suthat
  • Ayutthaya – this place looks amazing to visit as a day trip.
  • A boat trip on the Thornburi canals
  • Cocktails in The Sky Bar – who doesn’t love cocktails with a view?
  • Travel in a Tuk Tuk – again, when in Thailand…
  • Lumphini Park – would be nice to chill out if I get chance
  • Jim Thompson’s house
  • Wat Traimit
  • Floating markets – my dad did this when we were younger but me and my mum and brother were too jetlagged to get up early! 20 odd years later and I might manage it!

bangkok reclining buddha

Where would be on your Bangkok bucketlist? Is there anywhere I’ve missed?

My travel plans for the rest of 2017

I now have 2 confirmed trips and potentially another weekend or two away. I’m super happy because my 2 planned trips mean I will visit 3 new to me countries. This will take my total countries visited to 23 using the UN list. Yay! I’m still on track to reach 40 by 40!

Summer trip

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It was also a travel resolution of mine to visit 2 or 3 new countries, as well as travel solo and go outside Europe this year. Well, I’m covering all 3 by visiting Cambodia & Vietnam in the summer. Although I’m joining a tour, I still consider it solo travel as I am going by myself. I also have a few days in Bangkok by myself at the end. I have written about this trip already here, so I won’t bore you with all the details. I’m so excited for this trip but slightly nervous! I’m sure I will have a fab time. In fact, I have friends currently in Vietnam and I’m loving all their photos and Snapchats!

October

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In October, I am having a 5 day break in Lisbon. I can’t believe that I have never been to Portugal before. This is actually a hen do, but me and the hen are staying on for a couple of extra days. I plan on using this time to be a proper tourist and sightsee. Top of my list is Sintra! I’ve started a Pinterest board for Lisbon and oh my goodness, it looks so beautiful. I’m so excited for this trip!

As I said before, I’m also hoping to squeeze in a weekend or two either in the UK or Europe this year but nothing is set in stone yet.

Where are you visiting this year? Any tips for Lisbon or Bangkok?

My Budapest travel diary

As I enjoyed reading and sharing my Australia travel diary so much, I’ve found the diary I kept in Budapest and want to share. Don’t worry, it’s nowhere near as long! I was only there for 3 days so I’ll just share it all in one post!

PS: before I start, I have already written about what I did here, here & here, as well as Budapest in photos here and a list of things to do in Budapest here

This post is literally the diary I kept whilst I was there.

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19th February

I love Budapest! I’ve only been here half a day but it’s really cool. It’s a bit chilly though. The city’s really beautiful, wide streets, lovely buildings… I’m really glad we came.

It was an early start. I left at half 5. The traffic was fine til I hit Manchester. Anyways, I got on the flight fine. The benefit of travelling to Budapest by myself is I get sat with a group of guys. The guy next to me was Irish and he let me have the window seat. I liked him! He was really funny. We got chatting and we made friends. It was nice to talk to them and have a laugh. They were telling me about a bar that’s filled with shoes and a Michael Jackson statue!

We got a taxi to the hotel. Our hotel is beaut! Proper nice! Very posh for us! We had a wander. It’s about 5 minute walk to the Great Synagogue. We then walked to St Stephen’s basilica. It’s like a smaller Vatican. The area around there and near the river is really nice. Lots of nice looking restaurants and shops. We walked down the river and took a few photos. It looks really nice. Tomorrow we’re going to explore Buda.

We went back to the hotel and had a nap. Then we wandered back out. We found an Italian restaurant – Bella Pasta. It only cost about £12 for our whole bill. Turns out it’s voted number 49 out of over 1000 restaurants in Budapest.

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20th February

We walked miles today! Saw loads of Budapest. It’s been a good day.

Breakfast in the hotel was good – selection of food was good, cereal, fruit, yoghurt, fry up, pastries etc.

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We decided to see the old side of the city and Buda today, so we headed straight down to the Elisabeth Bridge and up to the Gellert Monument. It had awesome views of the river and bridges. We also had our first glimpse of the Parliament building. After, we wandered across to the royal palace. Some homeless guy tried to get us to buy a graffiti of our names on some paper! We politely declined.

We found the palace, wandered around the grounds, saw more amazing views, then headed across to Fishermans Bastion. This was the place that I’d wanted to visit since I first started researching Budapest. The views were epic!

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For our cake stop, we went to Ruszurm Cukraszda which a traditional Hungarian cake shop/ cafe. It’s Lonely Planet recommended so was busy. There was even a tour group outside of it as we went in, being told that it’s an excellent place to get cakes! I decided to try some traditional food so had dobos torta which is a cake layered with chocolate & cream, then caramelised sugar on top. It was beautiful!

Afterwards, we walked down to the Hospital in the Rock but the next tour wasn’t for another 45 minutes. Instead we headed back up to the top. To get down the hill towards to Szechyni Bridge we used the funicular. I loved it! So cute! We walked over the famous bridge and went to see The Shoes on the Danube. This is a memorial to the Hungarian Jews who were shot and thrown into the Danube river during WW2. There’s actually loads of war memorials and memorabilia around Budapest, but the shoes are probably the most famous. I didn’t realise how much the city had been affected.

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The Shoes on the Danube are more or less outside the parliament building (the biggest building in Hungary). It’s pretty impressive! I think the area around parliament has been massively cleaned up when you compare it to the Jewish area. It’s very nice, all wide, clean streets.

After our epic trek around some of the main sights of Buda Hill, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. We went to Lado Cafe. It was near our hotel and is a more traditional Hungarian restaurant. Our hotel gave us a voucher so we got a free drink each. I had steak and chips for about £7! Bargain!

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21st February

My legs are seriously achy today!

Today we wandered across to Andrassy Ut. This is one of the busiest and prettiest streets in Budapest. Our first stop was House of Terror. This was the headquarters of the secret police during WW2 and was where lots of torture and executions happened. It was pretty dark. It’s really informative and they have detailed handouts for every room and display there. I’ll read them later. For me, the most interesting part was in the cellar where all the cells were. People were taken there and killed, then their bodies disposed of and nobody knew this was happening. Absolutely shocking stuff and so important that people are educated about these horrors.

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After the harrowing hour spent in the museum, it was nice to be in daylight again. We walked up Andrassy Ut to Heroes Square and City Park. This id the Szechenyi Baths are the zoo. There’s also a theme park! Inside the park are some beautiful buildings and some really cool benches! There was also a market taking place which had some amazing food for sale. Lots of fish!

We were going to go to the zoo but it looked a bit depressing from the outside! We strolled back down Andrassy Ut and found a cafe to have cake! After that, we just had a walk around the city before heading back to our hotel to get ready for dinner.

heroes square

We went to a pizza place just a bit further down the street from last nights restaurant. It was so busy! We were sat on a kind of mezzanine bit with one other table. It was so hot there and the waitresses seemed to have completely forgotten about us until a rather popular guy sat at the other table with a group of very attractive women!

As it was our last night, we headed down to the river to take photos of it at night with all the lights. Then we went back to the hotel, had a couple of cocktails and then went to bed.

budapest at night

I appear not to have written a diary for the final day when we went home but this is what happened…

I woke up with an awful pain in my right leg. I could barely walk on it! I took some painkillers and it eased off. We went to the fancy patisserie Gerbeaud and I had dobosz torta again. It was immense! I also saw the guys who I was sat with on the plane as we were walking around. On the walk back to the hotel, my leg started to hurt again and I was literally dragging it behind me. I must’ve looked a sight!

We got to the airport, had food, saw the lads I met on the flight out, turns out I was also sat with them on the flight back! The flight back was a lot quieter and uneventful then I had my drive back home.

gerbeaud

 

3 nights in Copenhagen

Ahhh Copenhagen! Such a compact city, yet enough to keep you entertained for a long weekend and beyond.

This was my first experience of Scandinavia, so was expecting expensive prices mixed with Ikea chic. Luckily, it wasn’t really either. Don’t get me wrong, Copenhagen isn’t the cheapest city I’ve visited, but it’s definitely not extortionate. Especially if you’re not looking to eat in all the trendy restaurants.

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My word for Copenhagen is ‘cool’. It doesn’t try hard and is understated, yet manages to be effortlessly cool. Lots of white walls, minimalist yet rustic interiors… Not masses to do but enough to grab your attention… Lots of fashionable stores and restaurants but then a heap of independent shops and bakeries too.

The reason we visited the city was because I’d been inspired to go after reading several blog posts, and then finding return flights for £35! God bless Ryanair! Who cares if it’s an expensive city when the flights are dirt cheap!

We spent 3 nights in an Airbnb in Copenhagen. The apartment was amazing! It was so comfortable, clean and modern, and in the perfect location. Tivoli Gardens was a few minutes walk in one direction, and the city centre was a few minutes walk in the other! I plan on writing more about my Airbnb experiences at some point, but this was the nicest one yet!

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Day 1

After an early start, we arrived in Copenhagen and used public transport to reach our apartment. The woman who met us was so lovely. She chatted to us for ages and gave us loads of recommendations.

After we’d settled in and done a quick Google search of where to go, we wandered into the city centre. Our aim was to see a few sights and figure out where places are. We found the famous Nyhavn and marvelled at the colourful buildings. Between us, we had a list of places we wanted to see but the weather was pretty miserable. We ended up doing a canal tour of the city. These depart every hour from Nyhavn and last around 45 minutes. They’re undercover so a great way to see the city whilst staying warm and dry! We saw The Little Mermaid Statue, The Opera House, Christiansborg Palace and Amalienborg Palace amongst other sites.

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Afterwards, we wandered around a bit more and started to realise how small the city is. We picked up some food from a bakery and a seven-eleven and headed back to our apartment before going out for dinner later on.

Day 2

This was our first full day in Copenhagen but it started with a bit of a disaster! I always have issues with my feet and shoes hurting me. When I went to London last year, I took 2 pairs of shoes, both of which butchered my feet! I think it’s because I do so much more walking when I’m away that my shoes hurt my feet, plus I have super sensitive skin.

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Anyway, we were leaving the apartment and I realised I’d forgotten something so turned round to go back. As I stepped through the big, heavy, wooden door of the building, it shut on my foot, which resulted in a chunk being taken out my heel! It was so painful! I was lay on the sofa for a while with my foot in the air, trying to get the bleeding to stop. It took ages! Eventually it stopped (or so I thought) and I piled on the plasters, before heading back outside. We walked about 5 minutes to our favourite shop, the Seven Eleven, when I saw that it was bleeding profusely again! I ended up sat on the fountain in the middle of the square, trying to stop the bleeding whilst my friends went searching for more plasters. It was during this time that I realised the Danes were incredibly friendly and helpful people as a lovely woman saw I was in a pickle and gave me plasters from her handbag. I was so grateful!

Once I’d sorted out my feet, we soldiered on with our sightseeing. The Lego store impressed us! We also enjoyed watching a street entertainer on Stroget. The first attraction we frequented was Rundetaarn. I was super excited to visit as I’d heard it was the place to get views of the city (and you know I like a view!) Another bonus was there were no stairs! Instead it is a wide, spiral path and it wasn’t very busy! It was originally built as an observatory in the 17th century and I read somewhere that it has a spiral path as the king at the time it was built wanted to ride his horse to the top. I don’t know if that’s true or not. There’s also an art gallery part way up which made a nice break.

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After we’d taken in the views, we pottered about a bit and had some lunch. We walked around Nyhavn again and looked in a few shops. We then headed back to our apartment and picked up food from our favourite Seven Eleven before getting ready for food a drinks out. I can’t remember where we ended up but we definitely spent time in an Irish bar befriending some Danish men.

Day 3

This was the day we walked for miles and it was possibly my favourite day. We decided we wanted to visit Christiania. At the time of visiting there was a bridge from the end of Nyhavn over the water to the other side but it wasn’t open yet. Instead, we had to walk along to the water to the next bridge, then around Christianshavn before we reached Christiania. It was actually a really nice walk and we saw lots of the city. Christianshavn is a really pretty area of the city. Lots of colourful houses and canals. We stopped at The Church of our Saviour and considered going up it but then decided against it. If I visit again, I will definitely visit. The staircase is on the outside and has over 400 steps!

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We carried on walking until we found Christiania. This is a really interesting area of the city and very different to the rest of it. Christiania is a free town that was founded in 1971. It is inhabited by around 1000 people who have built their own houses and have set up a community. It is most famous for Pusher Street which is where you can buy weed from various stalls. There are signs up asking you not to take photos and the people in the stalls were all wearing scarves to cover their faces but the area had a very relaxed feel to it. It was quite busy when I visited and the stalls were popular. There’s a cafe and a few shops there and I would recommend a visit.

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After that, we carried on along the street until we reached the street food market on Paper Island. OMG!! This place is amazing! I’ve said it before but this place was my faviourite thing that I did in Copenhagen. I fully recommend a visit. It has stalls for every single cuisine around the world and is very reasonably priced. I know Copenhagen is one of the best cities to eat in and for me, this place wins! I had the best Thai curry I’ve ever had and it was freshly prepared in front of me. One of my friends had something from South America but there were stalls with food from China, India, UK, Middle East… literally everywhere!

Once we had devoured our body weight in food, we had to walk alllll the way back, following the route that we came on. This was slightly annoying as the bridge I mentioned earlier, that wasn’t open yet, was literally next to the food market. Because it was closed we had to walk back through Christianshavn to the bridge and then back up through the city centre.

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Our plan for that evening was to go out but we ended up sitting in drinking an entire bottle of gin between us! Good times!

Day 4

For our final day, we only really had the morning. We had saved Tivoli Gardens for last. It was very close to our apartment which was good. Tivoli is probably the most famous attraction in Copenhagen besides Nyhavn. This theme park is said to have inspired Walt Disney! It’s such a kitsch place with lots of old wooden rollercoasters and arcade style games. It’s split into areas with different themes. For us though, the highlight was a rabbit show that was taking place. The rabbits had to go round some sort of agility course, similar to what horses do when showjumping and were scored. There were also rabbits on display for you to pet and fuss in case you wanted to join whatever group or association it was!

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After a couple of hours, we picked up our luggage, stopped for lunch in probably the only proper restaurant of our trip, and then headed to the airport. We used the subway trains and the one to the airport was a driverless one! It initially freaked me out but I soon got used to it!

 

Photo essay: Landmarks

As it’s Friday, here is a collection of landmarks I’ve visited around the world.

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Big Ben – London

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Neuschwanstein Castle – Germany

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Marienplatz – Munich

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Nyhavn – Copenhagen

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Opera House & Bridge – Sydney

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Times Square – New York

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The 3 Sisters – Australia

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The Tower of London – London

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Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore – Florence

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Chain Bridge & Hungarian Parliament – Budapest

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Heroes Square – Budapest

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Fishermans Bastion – Budapest

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Colosseum – Rome

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Basilica de St Peter – Rome

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Inside the duomo – Florence

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Pompeii – Italy

Which have you visited? Where is your favourite?

London: What did I do?

After a fab 5 days in London, I’m now back at home, trying to find an excuse to visit again soon!

It was a mixed few days of being a tourist and a local. I spent time with 2 different friends in 2 different areas of London. I had such a good time.

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Here’s my original plan and what I got up to!

  • Have cocktails in the Shard – too pricy for me at the moment!
  • Fabric shop on Goldhawk Road
  • Go to Liberty (again)
  • See a show
  • Hampton Court Palace – we were planning on going here but were far too hungover!
  • Eat Vietnamese food – very pleased we did this.
  • Do a photo walk kinda did

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Other things I did:

  • Drank a lot of gin including a gin tasting!
  • Visited Sew Over It
  • Saw Morris dancers
  • Went to Harrods
  • Had a night out in Clapham
  • Tried kale and avocado for the first time
  • Visited Borough market
  • Saw HMS Belfast

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Although I didn’t cross much off my original list, I did do a lot of other things that I wasn’t expecting to do! It was such a good trip!

My London to-do list

In a few days, I shall be gracing London with my presence! I’m very excited! I’m visiting 2 different friends so will be spending a good few days there. I haven’t finalised my plans yet but I hope to squeeze a few activities in!

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So far, I hope to:

  • Have cocktails in the Shard
  • Fabric shop on Goldhawk Road
  • Go to Liberty (again)
  • See a show
  • Hampton Court Palace
  • Eat Vietnamese food
  • Do a photo walk

I think they’re the main things I’m hoping to do! As I’m seeing friends, I’m not going to overload my list!

Anything you suggest?

I’m going to Vietnam & Cambodia!

Eeek! I’ve been brave and booked my summer trip! I’m going to Vietnam and Cambodia! Yay! This is the trip I’ve been talking about for a few years and thinking about for the last couple of summers and I’ve finally booked it! Yay!

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Halong Bay

I’m super happy because:

  1. I’ve wanted to go for ages!
  2. It’s 2 new countries for me
  3. It fulfils 3 of my travel resolutions for this year! (2 or 3 new countries, go outside of Europe & travel solo)

I will be flying into Hanoi and spending a few days there, then heading to Halong Bay, then Hue, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City, then crossing into Cambodia and spending a few days in Phonm Penh and a few days in Siem Reap before finishing in Bangkok.

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My route (source)

I am going by myself but joining a group tour, which I’m excited about. I’ll hopefully make new friends from around the world! I am having a few days in Bangkok by myself at the end though. I can’t wait to tick Halong Bay and Angkor Wat off the bucket list as well as actually explore Bangkok. I’ve been to Bangkok twice but haven’t actually seen much of it. 2017 is the year to fix this!

If you have any suggestions for where to stay/ eat/ drink/ do in Bangkok, please let me know! Actually, suggestions for what to do and where to eat for all places, especially Hanoi would be welcomed too!

Where are you going this year?

 

 

My 10 most popular Instagram photos of 2016

My love for Instagram grows and grows. I lose hours of my life trawling through photos, getting inspiration for travel, food, home decor… It’s an excellent procrastination tool! My Instagram following has grown slightly towards the end of last year (thank you!) and I think part of this is because I’m taking a bit more care with my photos.

Last year, I posted this same post and I thought it would be fun to look at which photos were most popular in 2016.

10. Manchester Town Hall at Christmas

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I’m so pleased a UK photo made it into my top 10! I snuck this one in on something like the 29th December!! I have a lot of love for this city as it’s were I went to uni so have a lot of good memories. Manchester is definitely my favourite UK city.

9. Hofgarten – Munich

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I took this picture on my camera rather than my phone and am so pleased with how it turned out. I was trying to get a shot of the path when it was empty and then those two people just wandered in. I think it adds to the picture though! How beautiful are the colours in autumn?

8. Roofs of Munich from St Peters church

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This picture was taken from the tower of St Peters church in Munich. It overlooks Marienplatz from this side but you can get a 360 degree view of the city. I was so lucky it was a clear day!

7. Marienbrucke – Neuschwanstein Castle

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Every time I look at this picture I think it could almost pass for the mountains in China. Maybe! It’s actually Marienbrucke, which is the bridge where you get the picture perfect photos of Neuschwanstein Castle. The bridge is named after Ludwig II’s mother.

6. Old Town Hall – Munich

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I was surprised that this picture was so popular but Instagram seemed to like it! I’m not complaining though!

5. Belvedere Palace – Vienna

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This is possibly my favourite picture from 2016. I love how symmetrical Belvedere Palace and gardens are. I also think it looks beautiful in the snow. It helped that it wasn’t busy at all in December, especially in the gardens so I was able to get this perfect picture.

4. Fisherman’s Bastion – Budapest

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OK, so this is a bit of a cheat seeing as I visited Budapest in 2015. I loved it though and had a bit of a reminisce about the place. Plus this is a good picture!

3. Belvedere Palace – Vienna

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This place does well on Instagram! I can totally see why though! It’s just so perfect!

2. Hofgarten – Munich

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Another picture that I wasn’t expecting to be so popular and it turned out be the 2nd most popular pic last year! Who knew that autumnal trees at an angle would work so well?

  1. Neuschwanstein Castle

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I’m not at all surprised and I’m actually glad that Neuschwanstein Castle made the top of the list. It was one of (if not, THE) my travel highlights from 2016. It’s picturesque and photogenic. This was taken from Marienbrucke and zoomed in a bit!

Which is your favourite? What was your favourite photo of last year?