A Girl's Journey Living in Japan

9860398945_169d6ec0dd_k

Top Things To Do In Koh Samui, Thailand

Top places to visit in Turkey

1024px-Blue_Mosque_Courtyard_Dusk_Wikimedia_Commons

I was lucky enough recently to travel through Turkey, and absolutely loved it. It now has to be one of my favourite countries in Europe to visit.  If you want to book your dream holiday to Turkey then travel agents such as First Choice are a great way to go. Once there, then here is my guide of top places to visit.

Aspendos Theatre

This beutifully preserved ancient theatre dates back to 155AD, built during the rule of the Roman Emporer Marcus Aurelius. The theatre itself has kept many of its original qualities due to the extensive repair and maintenance that it’s gone through, throughout the years.

661018192

Pamukkale

Located in the west of Turkey, this unreal natural landscape is something you only dream of on postcards. These white terraces have formed over thousands and thousands of years from high mineral rock deposits, which have left terraced hot pools that you will see like nowhere else.

Hagia Sophia

This unique ancient masterwork of Roman engineering is located in Istanbul. Originally constructed in the sixth century, the massive dome (31 meter diameter) was for 1000 years the world’s largest enclosed space, still making it one of Turkey’s top tourist attractions.

1280px-The_Blue_Mosque_at_sunset

Sultan Ahmed Mosque (also known as Blue Mosque)

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Instanbul, it’s easy to see why when you see this stunning mosque and it’s six minarets. Whilst extremely impressive from the outside it is even more impressive on the inside with its 20,000 patterned blue tiles.

 Visit the amazing beaches

You can’t go to Turkey without heading down to the Mediterranean coast and soaking up the sun on some stunning beaches. Big beach resort town are Bodrum, Marmaris and Kas, offering turquoise water, white sand beaches and amazing Turkish cuisine. Another option is to take one of the many sailing trips on offer, to visit the outer islands. Just pick your boat wisely as some are designed for the party animals in us.

water ocean beach bridges maldives_wallpaperswa.com_35

 Grand Bazar of Istanbul

This has to be one of the most unique shopping experiences. Be prepared for the brightest colours you have ever seen with jewelry, spices, carpets, homeware, antiques, art and much much more. This is a definite must visit, but schedule a day here and be prepared to get lost in the labyrinth of streets and shops.

A Gamer’s Guide to the Land Down Under

cards-166440_1280

Australia is an ideal holiday destination for gamers of all kinds. Australians take their gaming seriously as they do their sport. No travel itinerary of Australia would be complete without an extended visit to the gaming capital of Melbourne, the home of the most famous horse race in the world, the Melbourne Cup, on which around 70% of all adult Australians place a bet. Melbourne is also known for its casino, the Crown Casino Hotel, which is the largest casino in the country. Not only that, the Crown Casino is also the largest casino in the whole of the southern hemisphere.

melbourne-cup-horses

The other top casino is The Star in Sydney. Although smaller than the Crown in Melbourne, it is no less glamorous and fun with amazing features and décor, many bars and restaurants, and other entertainments often featuring a selection of Australia’s home grown artists. For instance currently the headline act is Tina Arena who is said to be Australia’s top selling female singer. You will also find great casinos as Perth (the Crown Entertainment Complex), Adelaide (the Adelaide Casino), Brisbane (the Treasury Casino) and Darwin (Sky City Casino), and even if you are out visiting the Outback you can find casinos in such places as Alice Springs.

FP_StarCasino_444_905

In total there are just 13 casinos in the whole of Australia, which for a country so enamoured with gaming and gambling of all forms doesn’t seem very many. However it is only relatively recently that any casino licences have been issued in the country and it is likely that more will be granted licences in the future, in addition to being able to play at online casinos such as Gaming Club. If you want to play at an online casino in Australia however, then you are able to, but the situation is complicated. While it is illegal to run an online casino in Australia, Australians are permitted to gamble at online casinos based in other countries.

Top Tips for Keeping in Touch

2953597875_2e14a31bdb_o

Traveling is a lot of fun – and living overseas too- but it can be very hard being on a different timezone to your family all the time. Thankfully we live in a time of modern conveniences and it’s easy to keep in touch via many different ways. From traditional mail to smartphone apps, there’s so much on offer you have no excuse for not giving your mum, dad or siblings a call. I like to mix things up, to ensure that things don’t get too same-same and so that my friends and family know that I care about them. For some top tips for keeping in touch, read on:

Continue reading →

Top 5 Must-Try Dishes in Cambodia

7947748382_c4664da9ac_k

Cambodian cuisine is a tricky one. As an ex French colony, with influences from China, Thailand and Viet Nam, some foodies may find it hard to pinpoint an identity. But what really defines Khmer food is the emphasis on simplicity and freshness. Unlike Chinese food and Thai food, Cambodian dishes are shy with spices, creating a much more elegant taste.

For anyone who finds South East Asian cuisine too overpowering, Cambodia can offer beautifully cooked and very simple ingredients with very relaxed flavours that don’t overwhelm your taste buds.
If you’re new to Khmer cuisine, here are 5 must-try dishes that will get your mouth watering…

2f633f569ef001bed477feb50ee03da5

1. Khmer Bor Bor

This won’t be love at first sight. And it won’t be love at first taste. Bor Bor is an overcooked rice dish which is essentially a savoury porridge. It can be cooked with or without meat and is often served with some freshly chopped spring onion for added flavour and texture. Khmer Bor Bor is something you will grow to love. After a few bowls, you’ll be craving more. It’s such a basic dish and here’s a fantastic recipe so you can recreate your Cambodian food experience at home.

12867729314_26aae70b89_z

2. Bai Sach Chrouk (Pork and Rice)

This is South East Asian cooking at a very basic level, but the emphasis is on freshness and the simple flavours and textures. Thinly sliced pork is grilled slowly and then served on a bed of rice and finished off with ginger, spring onion, pickled cucumber and radish. Such a light and refreshing dish, perfect for hot weather.

fishamok

3. Fish Amok
This is a popular dish with tourists and travellers and is served in a lot of restaurants and hotels. (For hotels deals, visit The Holiday Place online). This fish dish is actually a popular meal in a number of neighbouring countries. But the Cambodian version uses a local herb (called Slok Ngor) which gives is a bitter edge to differentiate it from the rest.

redcurry

4. Rouge Khmer Curry
If you’re expecting the heat and tickle of Thai red curry, you might be disappointed. The Khmer red curry does not use chilli powder but takes its main flavours from coconut mash liquor, eggplant, coconut milk, blady grass, and a spice paste called Kroeung.

9587771982_c132b77882_z

5. Beef with Red Ants

Insects and grubs are popular street food snacks in Cambodia. It can be quite daunting for some insect-eating rookies, but this dish is extremely popular with locals. Served with lemongrass, shallots, garlic, ginger and kaffir lime leaf, the finished dish is beautifully flavoured. Unsure about the ants? Take a look at how it’s made on this blog post.

Guest author:
This is a guest post by @magstheblogger, a travel writer at The Smart Girl’s Travel Guide.

An Alternative Guide to Thailand

14416096914_fc15a914a9_b

The popularity of Thailand as a travel destination only seems to be increasing, amongst young and more mature travellers alike. It boasts diverse and breathtaking scenery which is unlike anything you are likely to see anywhere else in the world, and is steeped in rich history and fascinating culture which attracts visitors from all over the world.

Many people associate a visit to the Kingdom of Thailand with an oversized rucksack and endless nights spent in cheap hostels or camping on the beach, and it is these factors that deter certain people from visiting. If a shower-a-week and living out of a rucksack almost as tall as you for the duration of your holiday doesn’t appeal to you, then fear not, as there are plenty of alternative and much more appealing options to entice you to visit Thailand.
Although a great deal of Thailand has become more touristy in recent years, there are still unspoilt parts which don’t involve endless nights of boozing and days spent in search of that beach. We’ve all heard of places such as, Ko Phi Phi, Samui, and Phuket, but if you want to experience the less tourist ridden side, then here is a short guide to a more luxurious trip to Thailand.

12214506556_eff61640de_z

Where to Stay:

Unless you’re an aging hippy, still stuck in the 70s and trying to stay forever young, or a twenty-something year old attempting to find yourself on your gap year, then chances are you’re probably going to want a little more from your holiday accommodation than the top bunk in a hostel dorm. If you do a little research then, actually, you can discover some hidden gems in the form of luxury hotels. Companies such as Chic Retreats have a whole host of stunning boutique hotels, in equally as stunning locations, meaning you can explore the surrounding area and after a long day adventuring, retreat to your cosy hotel bed in your private room, without the worry of being disturbed by one of the twenty other strangers in your dorm coming in from an all-night beach party.

4823152841_91b9f1cdd3_z

Where to Visit:

If you don’t fancy mingling with swarms of English tourists, then avoiding the popular destinations such as Phuket and Samui are the best way to do so. Of course, you will still want to experience as much of Thailand as you can, and so instead, head for the Northeast of Thailand, known locally as the Issan. The Issan is Thailand’s poorest area, full of paddy fields and non-English speaking locals, and here you will be able to experience Thai life, unspoiled by tourists, and incredibly cheap too. Do a little research and you’ll be surprised at just how much of Thailand is actually unspoilt and you can discover your own, truly incredible side to Thailand.

7447377506_731ef6affa_z

What to Do:

Thailand is home to some of the most breathtaking landscape in the world, and of course, travelling half way across the world, you will most definitely want to see some for yourself. Unfortunately, so much of the coastline has become a tourist magnet, especially since certain parts of it have appeared in Hollywood blockbusters. To avoid the all night beach parties and the tacky beachside bars, head for the more unspoiled coastline such as Prachuap Khiri Khan in southern Thailand and its neighbouring beaches. Here you are able to snorkel, or walk the endless sands, take in the stunning coastal scenery, sample delicious local cuisine, but enjoy the pleasure of not bumping into huge crowds of tourists.

3468355452_10fed0d9e9_z

What to Eat:

Thai food is exotic, delectable and uses only the freshest ingredients, and contrary to popular belief, doesn’t all consist of toasted beetles and skewered rats. Whether you’re a vegetarian, or a meat lover, there is something to accommodate all tastes and requirements, and you won’t be disappointed. When you eat in Thailand you’ll have such a high standard of service that you’ll barely be able to believe it, with high quality for a small amount of your money and the friendly nature of the locals. You may think you have experienced amazing Thai food at home, but you could not be further from the truth, especially when it comes Pad Thai, a mix of noodles, tofu, fresh vegetables and plenty of delicious sauce. Other dishes to sample are Geng Kheaw Wan – a spicy green Green Curry and for dessert, the unusual but moreish mango sticky rice.

There is so much more to Thailand than just a traveller’s paradise, and if you venture a little further out of the overrun tourist favourites, you’re bound to find some hidden gems and have the holiday of a lifetime.

Best Places to Visit in the Mediterranean

6053586722_ab7f5031d5_b

What could be better than a cruise in the Mediterranean, where the sun always seems to shine and where the sea is always bluer and cleaner than the summer skies? The Mediterranean can be a magnificent spot for a vacation alone, with the loved one or with the family and it can be perfect for everyone out there as well: from those who like to party all night long to those who like to explore places that have a rich culture and history. Because of the location of the Mediterranean and the fact that everywhere is easily accessible by boat, it is one of the best cruise locations in the world. If you’re looking for a company that offers great cruises around the Mediterranean, check out Cruiseabout and for more tips of what to do and see, read on!

Greece

You can’t get more culture and history than this. With architecture that goes as far back in time as the ancient years and with many islands from which to choose from, Greece can really be one of the most amazing places to visit. Go to its towns and cities to discover the Ancient Greek ruins or go to one of the amazing dream-like islands to lie on the beach and sunbathe. Santorini and Rhodes are some of the most beautiful (and famous) islands, but you can find places that are less crowded and purer as well. Traveling on a cruise is a great way to hop around the beautiful Greek islands, you can see a lot in a really short time.

10451501746_81c3ec3cfb_z

Italy

If you are in for a culinary experience that will leave your taste buds craving for you to go back there, then do try Italy. Even if the entire country may seem small on the map, the truth is that it is as diverse and as gorgeous as a country can get. Every area has its particular attractions and its special kind of food. You can explore Rome, the Vatican, Venice, Florence or Milano and you can lie on one of the amazing beaches the Italians have – and you will be always breathing the fresh and energising Mediterranean air.

The French Riviera

For an exclusivist and luxurious holiday, choose the French Riviera. It can hardly be compared to anything out there. If pizza and pasta are the “hot spots” in Italy and if the stunning scenery and culture are the greatest things in Greece, the French somehow manage to bring both culinary art and amazing culture together in a place that seems to be absolutely magical. Beautiful people, amazing and breathtaking scenery and the best wines in the world all meet together on the French Riviera. Although generally perceived as very expensive, the truth is that there are spots on the French exit to the Mediterranean Sea that are very much affordable as well.

6230823501_80dfd3a908_z

Spain

Not many people associate Spain with the Mediterranean Sea, but it has a very good portion with a wonderful beach exiting right into this beautiful water. Andalucia, Murcia and Levante, and the Mediterranean part of Catalunya are some of the most beautiful places here and they will range from party-oriented spots to spots offering the utmost relaxation. Don’t forget to have a good portion of paella before you go because there is really nothing out there like this dish when it is prepared at home!

4 Things You Must Do in Vietnam

sunrise-219778_1280

Vietnam is a country steeped in history and culture, and it makes an incredible holiday destination. Popular with people traveling all corners of the world, Vietnam is a country which boasts everything from bustling markets, to stunning coastlines, and from museums to incredible mountain ranges. If it’s an adventure filled holiday, with something to suit everyone, then Vietnam is the ideal location for you. With so much on offer, here’s a list of some of the things in Vietnam, you just must visit.

Cu Chi Tunnels Tour
1. Chu Chi Tunnels

Vietnam is well known for playing host to the notoriously violent and devastating war in the 1960’s, and so it goes without saying that if you visit the country, then you must see some of the history and devastation left behind, and The Chu Chi Tunnels are the obvious choice. This astonishing network of underground tunnels were well used throughout the war by the Viet Cong, and played a huge role in the success of their surprise attacks and undeniably clever war-tactics. In the Chu Chi district alone there are 250km of tunnels which at the time, even stretched under the US Military base, and feature a huge number of trap doors which allowed those who frequented them, to appear and disappear as they pleased. Consider booking a guided holiday tour so you don’t miss out on any of the fascinating history.

2. War Remnants Museum

Having visited the physical reminder of the Vietnam War, you may want to see some of the photographs, military vehicles and examples of weapons that were left behind. These can be found on show in the War Remnants Museum, which is home to some of the most shocking and disturbing evidence into the true effects of war, you will ever see. Previously known as the Museum of Chinese and American War crimes, the building plays host to many artefacts, such as photographs evidencing the devastation of the bombs and some of the once military classified bombs. Although there are parts of this exhibit you may find distressing, it is a definite must see and is a fitting reminder of the devastating effects war can have.

14255077409_87f31ff504_z
3. Ben Thanh Markets

Of course, as is the case with any holiday, you’ll want to take reminders and souvenirs home for both yourself, and your loved ones. There are plenty of markets, all offering an array of different goods, one in particular, the Ben Thanh Markets, should not be missed. Offering just about everything, ranging from scorpions, to jewellery, and from spices, to tobacco, there really is something to satisfy everyone’s taste buds. Signs may read, fixed prices, but do remember to haggle! Other notable markets worth a visit are the An Dong indoor market and the Old Market, which sells every kind of imported good you could ever imagine.

4. Dai Lanh Beach and Surrounding Areas

With all the walking around you’re bound to have done whilst traveling around Vietnam, you’re bound to want some time to sit back and relax, and there is no better place to do so than the beautiful beaches of Dai Lanh. The quaint fishing village of Dai Lanh can be easily recognised by the red-tile roofs atop its houses and is situated not far from the 1920’s constructed seaport of Nha Trang, a city almost as beautiful as its surroundings. If it is particularly warm, you may want to consider a boat trip, which will allow you to not only sit back and relax, but to visit some of the many islands which surround it.

Vietnam is an incredible destination to visit, and whether you are passing through on a round the world trip, or are there for just a few days you can be certain you will never be bored and there really is something for everyone, making it somewhere the whole family can enjoy.

Getting Academic Overseas — Studying Abroad for the Future

5404766001_f6c4b44db4_b

Studying abroad is highly rewarding, academically, culturally and personally. Students are taken out of their comfort zone, at least to some degree, and learn to be independent and to communicate effectively with people from other cultures. Adaptability, flexibility and strong interpersonal skills are much sought after by potential employers, so studying abroad can significantly improve their career prospects.

Take the UAE, for instance, and some of the leading universities in the UAE, such as the United Arab Emirates University and the American University of Sharjah, which is licensed in the UAE and US. Other highly ranked overseas universities that have branch campuses in the UAE include Heriot-Watt University and the University of Wollongong, among many others, so there’s plenty of choice for international students. In the case of the UAE, the sub-tropical climate, with hot, humid summers and warm winters and, of course, the prospect of tax-free earnings after graduation, are other attractions.

4683563224_1844cda641_z

Students who dislike examinations (but then again, who likes them!) might prefer to study in the United States instead, where continuous assessment is the norm, but they also need to be aware that tuition fees in the US can often run into thousands of pounds, as they do in Australia. By contrast, European courses are more heavily dependent on examinations, but some European countries, such as Norway and the Netherlands, charge little or nothing by way of tuition fees. The European Commission’s subsidy scheme, known as Erasmus, and other similar programmes allow students to study abroad as part of their degree relatively cheaply.

Travelling abroad is an experience in its own right, but studying abroad allows students to experience day-to-day life in the country in question, much of which remains out of sight of traditional holidaymakers. This is particularly true of language students, who are wholly, or almost wholly, immersed in the foreign language and learn from native speakers how it’s used to complete everyday tasks and activities. Fluency in a foreign language isn’t necessarily a requirement for studying at a university that teaches in that language, but it is worth checking what language level is required.

30902399_5bfc7bdc96_o

Of course, homesickness can still be a problem, but with roughly two-thirds or more of the population of Europe, Australia and North America and roughly two-fifths of the population of the Middle East connected to the Internet, keeping in touch via Skype is straightforward enough (and often eases the longing for home). For other problems, such as finding suitable accommodation or simply dealing with the culture shock of studying abroad, help is usually available locally from a variety of sources, including an accommodation office and a welfare office.

Studying abroad is highly beneficial. Once you get into the swing of things, you hardly notice that you’re away from home. In fact, you can have so much fun while you’re out there that you may even have to remind yourself that you’re there to study!

 

Best Things to do in Shanghai

flickr-6145777462-hd

Living in Japan, it’s so tempting to just book a trip over to China to check it out. I’ve visited Hong Kong, but not mainland China so I am really curious about exploring more of this giant country. There’s so much to see and do here, and while many visitors find themselves heading to Beijing, I am actually a lot more curious about Shanghai. Many of my friends have visited this cosmopolitan city and it seems absolutely incredible; The Bund (Wai Tan), Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Circuis and Happy Valley of Shanghai. There’s so much to do in this city that chances are one visit wont be enough. There are a number of great Shanghai tours and China holidays available, so if you have been planning a trip to Shanghai, don’t wait any longer! 

flickr-5480866364-hd
The Bund:

There are two ways to explore the Bund, the first is by foot and the second is cruising down the river. Both are equally amazing and you’ll get to enjoy the amazing skyline. It is a great place to visit in the evening as it’s well lit up. You’ll find a lot of great shopping options here as well, so it is definitely worth a visit. 

Shanghai Circus World:

It is no secret that some of the best gymnasts in the world are from China. At Shanghai Circus World you will be both entertained and delighted by the sheer level of talent here. The music is live and the acrobats are extremely talented. Although the production level might not be quite at that of international circus shows, the Shanghai Circus World is definitely worth a visit if you’re in Shanghai. 

3796902479_e10a0169c6_o
Shanghai Museum:

One of the best things about this museum is that it’s free! Always good for those of us traveling on a budget. Beyond that, there are over 4 floors of Chinese history, art and calligraphy. Shanghai itself has some 5000 years of history so expect a lot to be crammed in this museum. I think when you’re traveling it’s important to get a sense of the country and culture and this museum is a great place to explore both Shanghai’s culture and history as well as China as a whole. 

Happy Valley of Shanghai:

This is Shanghai’s answer to a theme park and is a lot of fun. There’s a wooden roller coaster, as well as a number of larger roller coasters and rides. Bare in mind it can get quite busy in the Happy Valley of Shanghai so it is a good idea to arrive early and be prepared for some queues. This is a theme park where you can easily spend the better part of a day, so plan accordingly. 

There’s so much to do in Shanghai, I can’t wait to plan a visit. These are just some of the things that are on my Shanghai bucket list. Have you been before?