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Explore Rome in 12 hours

Rome makes for one of the most alluring cities in Europe boasting an enriched mix of charming side streets, hauntingly beautiful ruins and inspired alfresco dining. Read all about how to spend a day in Rome!

Dip your finger into the Dolce Vita honey pot by idling around Trastevere’s picture-perfect streets, discover priceless artistic treasures and explore Rome’s ancient heritage rivalling astonishing contenders from all over the world. 

My friend and I started our day by leaving the hotel room at around 9 am in hope of finding the Trevi Fountain to be as peaceful as it looks on famous social media photos. Nope. Instead we arrived to floods of tour bus folk sitting upon the fountain’s edge and police blowing their whistles like lifeguards at a swimming pool. The Trevi Fountain is truly a masterpiece in itself and should be, rightly so, admired for a while before moving on. 

Next on the agenda was to climb the Spanish Steps. Guarded by the likes of Prada and Valentino, the steps run steep with ever-lasting views of the narrow streets and rooftops below.

With little time comes little patience. With only having the one day for exploring, we decided not to tour the insides of the coliseum as (1) it was raining and (2) the tour would take a huge chunk out of our day. Instead, we were more than happy with the most beautiful views of the exterior bones of the Coliseum showing us that we could admire its beauty from afar [pending outfit change]. 

Girl needs to eat! Who would dare to visit Italy and not try the pizza? Surrounded by fairy lights and cobbled roads, dine alfresco at Ella’s Pizzeria for a delicious pit stop. 

Soak up the Italian culture and wander aimlessly around the most charismatic neighbourhood in Rome, Trastevere. Here you’ll come across charming storefronts, hanging ivy, fairy lights, rustic plant pots, distressed bookshops and authentic outdoor dining offering a variety of Italian dishes. We spent a good amount of time just wandering around, getting lost and talking about how pretty everything was!

As we refused public transport, time seemed to slip away from us. And that’s how I spent my day in Rome. Leaving Rome unfinished motivates a swift return, perhaps next summer…

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  • C A L P E

    August 2, 2019 by

    Calpe Day Trip Guide from Benidorm If you’re in Benidorm and looking for a day trip then Calpe is the perfect choice! Calpe is a quaint town north of Benidorm sitting on the coast of Spain where you’ll find those beautiful Spanish steps and white-washed buildings to roam around before heading to the beach so… Read more

  • B E R L I N

    July 14, 2019 by

    A recent goal of mine has been to explore more of Europe; starting with Germany, Berlin was high on my list. Here’s a post packed with those instgram-worthy spots I enjoyed over a two day visit… A German City Guide What to do with your weekend in Berlin East Side Gallery Artists from all over… Read more

  • Explore Rome in 12 hours

    December 8, 2019 by

    Rome makes for one of the most alluring cities in Europe boasting an enriched mix of charming side streets, hauntingly beautiful ruins and inspired alfresco dining. Read all about how to spend a day in Rome! Dip your finger into the Dolce Vita honey pot by idling around Trastevere’s picture-perfect streets, discover priceless artistic treasures… Read more

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C A L P E

Calpe Day Trip Guide from Benidorm

If you’re in Benidorm and looking for a day trip then Calpe is the perfect choice! Calpe is a quaint town north of Benidorm sitting on the coast of Spain where you’ll find those beautiful Spanish steps and white-washed buildings to roam around before heading to the beach so you can experience crystal clear water and soft pale sand – a great place to catch that Spanish glow.

We caught an ALSA bus in the morning and arrived in Calpe within a couple of hours. The drive was beautiful. Passing coastal towns with houses painted white and tanned rooftops, catching views of the sea and country hills made the journey fly by!

We arrived at the main bus station about a 15 minute walk away from the beach. But first, we explored a quiet part of town where we found those rustic Spanish steps painted yellow and red surrounded by houses, plant pots and flowers.

After exploring the beautifully peaceful old town we decided to follow our hearts to the beach. From memory, we hired a sun lounger for around 5 euros each per day.

The best thing about this day trip (aside from gaining an amazing tan and ‘mermaiding’ in the ocean) was our sunset hike overlooking beautiful Calpe and the surrounding beaches. Don’t be put off when you see the barriers, they aren’t charging you but instead accounting for how many people are participating in the hike.

Our bus was leaving so we didn’t have time to walk all of the way to the top but I am determined to make my way back and complete it!

Enjoy this post? Try these ones…

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B E R L I N

A recent goal of mine has been to explore more of Europe; starting with Germany, Berlin was high on my list. Here’s a post packed with those instgram-worthy spots I enjoyed over a two day visit…

A German City Guide

What to do with your weekend in Berlin

East Side Gallery

Artists from all over the world have stamped their mark on the last standing remains of the Berlin Wall, a beautiful way to make something so ugly into a place for people to visit and never to be forgotten.

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The Berlin Cathedral Church

One of my favourite spots to explore. Situated over on the east side of Berlin, the Berlin Cathedral stands proud next to a beautiful river where you can sit, admire the gorgeous view and people watch.

Berliner Fernsehturm

We played “spot the tall pointy thing” all over the city.

House of Small Wonder

If you’re needing an escape from the tourists and to rest those tired feet of yours then this cute and planty cafe in the north of Berlin is the perfect place to refuel… AND the prices are very reasonable!

Brandenburg Gate

This huge historical landmark once signified a divide but has now become a symbol of peace and unity. Being one of the busiest tourist sites in Berlin it’s probably best to make sure you get there for sunrise in order to get the view to yourself.

Viktoriapark & Golgatha Bar

This hidden gem is a moderate 35 – 40 minute walk away from the city centre. The main reason why I wanted to find this place was because I thought it would be a chilled escape away from tourists, and the fact that there’s a nearby beer garden (Golgatha) to sunbathe in made up for the long trek!

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When in Germany…

Konzerthaus Berlin

My favourite building in Berlin is home to grand halls with beautiful ceilings towering over orchestral concerts, and of course, a red carpet fit for a QUEEEEEEEEN.

Neue Kirche

Old buildings galore! This whole area is surrounded by interesting architecture; we loved taking a slow walk around the block looking upwards. You can take beautiful photos from any angle but I liked the view from the steps of the building mentioned above – Konzerthaus Berlin!

Checkpoint Charlie

What was once a crossing point for western allies by 1962 is now a historic landmark positioned in the middle of the city between two roads. If you’re here during the summer months then keep your eyes peeled for a man-made beach nearby!

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

A place for remembrance and peace, visit during the end of the day to skip the tourists and immature people running around as if it were a maze! As you walk around, you can almost feel the significance of this horrific event.

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PHILIPPINES

Heaven on Earth? YES.

With over seven thousand islands the Philippines are layered with countless white beaches and hundreds of deliciously fresh coconuts – so what are you waiting for? Book your flights and discover Asia’s best-kept secrets…

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FAQ:

  • UK residents have a free 28-day tourist visa
  • Best time to visit: the dry season is between October and May
  • The cheapest months to fly are in March/ April from Manchester Airport
  • 1 British Pound = roughly 72 Philippine Pisos
  • Locals speak really good English
  • Good WiFi is very hard to come by
  • If you want to island-hop (I strongly recommend) then book your flights between islands as far in advance as you possibly can, it can get really expensive if not
  • Filipino cuisines are delicious

I spent 28 days island hopping and adventuring so here’s a list of 10 favourites to do in the Philippines:

1. Swim with whale sharks in Donsol

So, I have been obsessed with whale sharks for what seems like forever so I wanted to go to a place where I knew that whale sharks would swim naturally on their own terms. I did my research. Donsol is south of Manila where we first landed in the Philippines. Ready for a journey? Yes? Me too.

To get to Donsol you have to take a bus to Barlaran from the airport for 20 pesos (27p) which took around 20 minutes. Next, you have to catch a bus to Cubao (Araneta Centre) costing 35 pesos (48p) which took around 2 hours with bad traffic. The bus terminal was very efficient, a ticket to Legazpi City costs 1,100 pesos (£15.30) leaving at 9pm to then arrive 11 hours later. The last stretch of the journey would require you taking a minibus to the Donsoltourist information centre, this costs 98 pesos (£1.36) and takes around an hour.

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Accommodation:

Dancalan Beach next door to the tourist information centre – 500 pesos for a double room, 250 each (£3.47) with a shared bathroom. This place was a beautiful start to our trip because it was so quiet, the beach was right at our doorstep. Make sure you order their vegetable fried rice and mango pancakes!

Come 12 o’clock we hopped on a private boat with four men on a mission to find whale sharks. I cannot applaud these men enough as they were nothing less than professionals. The water wasn’t clear and the sun was hiding yet these guys spotted our first whale shark within 20 minutes! We had hired the boat for 3 hours so for us to be entering the water this soon was really exciting.

*Due to cloudy conditions please excuse these poor quality GoPro photographs!

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2. Cebu – Kawasan Falls

Most famous for those icy blue waters and yes, the water really is this blue!

Tip: Visit in time for sunrise in order to beat the crowds!

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3. Cebu – White Beach

We stayed in Moalboal which is about 30-minutes on a scooter from Kawasan Falls and a 5-minute scooter ride to White Beach. 

Tip: We loved hiring a scooter and going for long rides to explore the surrounding area –  it was beautiful!

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4. Cebu – Badian – Inambakan Falls

There are so many destinations in the Philippines for waterfalls. If I were you I’d research the ones you like the look of the most, rent a scooter and go from there. 

Tip: We arrived at around 11am and this place was still quite empty whereas I’ve heard Kawasan Falls can get very busy after a certain time!

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5. Siargao Island – Soul Tribe Beach Retreat

A surfers paradise. It was hard to leave this island; we enjoyed the people, food, scooter rides and water so much that we ended up staying longer than expected.

Accommodation: Soul Tribe Beach Retreat is a beautiful getaway for anyone wanting to take a breather from the hustle and bustle of travelling. 

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6. Siargao – Island Boat Tour

The boat tours from this island are beautiful and easy to book through your accommodation: we were taken to a few sand islands, snorkel spots and ended with a Filipino BBQ (where you buy all of the ingredients at the market beforehand) on the beach. This may possibly have been one of the best meals in my entire life…

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7. Bohol Island

Here, we completed our first night and deep dive with Bohol Divers Club. Diving is probably one of my favourite activities to do in Southeast Asia because it’s cheap and lets you discover what a fascinating underwater world we have!

Bohol is also home to the Chocolate Hills. Unfortunately, there is no chocolate to be found but there is, however, perfectly shaped hills dotted across the horizon… sorcery.

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8. Siquijor Island – Cambugahay Falls 

Known for its mystical witchcraft, scuba diving and adventure packed waterfalls. We stayed in a small town called San Juan at JJ packers, I recommend heading down to Monkey Business for their delicious food!

Tips: have 50 Pisos ready for entry and don’t forget to explore the surrounding waterfalls instead of staying by the main one. 

Swing through the jungle like Tarzan and I’ll be your Jane. Too cheesy? Moving on…

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9. Siquijor Island – Salagdoong Beach

Tip: From San Juan, it took around 1hr – 1hr30 to drive here on a scooter but there are lots of gorgeous views along the way to keep you occupied!

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10. Palawan – El Nido > Coron

Finally, home to crystal clear water, palmy beaches and mermaid life is Palawan.

Island hopping tours were easy to set up through front desks or travel shops along the main strips. As a big fan of the Filipino BBQ, I highly recommend taking an El Nido > Coron boat tour for the day where you can bag yourself a gorgeous beach BBQ cooked while you’re working up an appetite free diving towards abandoned shipwrecks and getting that insta-worthy shot jumping into Kayangan Lake!

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That concludes my 10 favourite things to do in the Philippines, thanks for reading!

Drop me a comment if you have any more questions.

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B E I J I N G

“I haven’t got the time or money to apply for a full tourist visa during this trip so I’ll just visit The Great Wall”

The 72 hour transit visa is a perfect solution if you want to swing by China for a short visit, and it’s absolutely free! Here’s some information to help you do the same if you’re thinking of flying into Beijing:

  • Before entering Beijing you will be asked to present your flight details regarding your flight in and out of Beijing, if you cannot provide this then you will not be able to enter China
  • The 72 hours starts from the moment your flight lands in Beijing. So if your flight lands at 14:30 on Monday 4th March then you will have to be taking a flight out of the country by 14:30 on Thursday 7th March. Simple!
  • Other states start the 72 hours from 00:00 following your landing so check online for accuracy
  • You will be asked to fill out a form confirming where you will be staying in Beijing and how long for
  • You are not allowed to leave the state of Beijing during your stay

I had an absolute nightmare. Just picture me, landing in Beijing by myself and breezing straight through passport control. Collecting my bags and walking straight towards the exit feeling like I’ve just passed through the highest level of security clearance. I was on the subway and soon to be at Beijing train station. This happiness lasted for around 30 minutes.

***Scroll down for pictures of what I got up to, or start here and read through my honest experience of travelling in Beijing…***

I had researched prior to my visit, the perfect route was all set out on my phone. I had my battery pack fully charged, 50 pounds worth of Chinese currency and my hostel was booked right next to the wall. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, I arrived at the train station to discover it was closed, and had been closed for a few months already. It was now 3 o’clock and getting dark on this freezing cold winter’s day. Within seconds of discovering that the station was closed, a very persistent man followed me, pestering me to take his taxi all the way to my hostel which I hadn’t enough money for. No matter how many times I yelled ‘NO’ this man would not leave me alone. I tried to walk away from him but he pulled at my arm.

I walked back to the subway where I came from but he followed from a different entrance. I could feel the tears in the my eyes welling up. There wasn’t many people around so you can only imagine how nervous I was getting. Suddenly, I saw a young man walking towards me looking at his phone. I ran to him asking for help. I think he could see my eyes watering. He was the first person I found that spoke good English.

Thank you to my first guardian angel.

He let me take pictures of some Chinese phrases from his phone to show people where I needed to be. In this moment I was so thankful to him.

I arrived at a bus station. Even though I had the Chinese translations on my phone, no one could seem to point me towards the right bus. There were four to pick from, every driver pointed me towards the next bus. I was starting to tire. I asked a woman for help and she pulled me onto a bus with her. She got off only a few stops later.

It was now fully dark outside and I was sat on an overcrowded bus with my huge backpack and winter coat, surrounded by Chinese living their normal day. Checking my maps.me app regularly to see where exactly we were going probably kept me from panicking for the whole journey. I had no idea where this bus would take me but it seemed to be heading in the right direction. An hour passed. I remember the thoughts that ran through my head: “I’m going to have to sleep on the streets”, “It’s fine, you can do this, just put on extra socks”, “No, you’ll get there”, “Everything is written in Chinese and I have no way of translating it”, “Why am I doing this to myself?”, “I’m a rubbish traveller”, “You’ve travelled to many countries alone, easy”, “I can’t do this”, “Don’t be stupid, man up!”. I remember looking at myself in the window next to me, “Stop working yourself up, you baby, just ask someone”.

I cleared my eyes and looked around the now half empty bus for someone, anyone. I made eye contact with a young girl, I smiled and she then sat down next to me. This wonderful girl. We spoke through her translator app on her phone. “Don’t worry, I will help you”. She typed and I would respond. After a few minutes she rang my hostel and told them to meet me at the bus stop where I would get off at. Bless her heart. Another woman who was getting off at the same time also gave me a warm smile and a thumbs up, “you get off with me!” she demanded. Just before the young girl hopped off the bus she wrote to me, “You are very cool”, and suddenly all of the self doubt was swept away with that single comment.

Thank you to my second guardian angel.

Everyone who was still sat on the bus when I was leaving offered to help me with my backpack, they all gave me their thumbs up as I left with the older woman, she was meeting her husband. They both waited with me in the darkness through biting cold winds until a man appeared and passed his phone to me. I put it to my ear, “Hello?” I asked. A woman responded and told me that this is the man who will walk me to Beijing Badaling Leo Great Wall Hostel. The kind woman and her husband waved goodbye and after a 20 minute walk against the icy wind I was finally walking into my room. Much to my surprise they had put me into a big double room all to myself. This is exactly what I needed. I took a really long, hot shower and before I knew it I was tucked up in a comfy bed eating Pringles. I felt safe.

I woke up slowly, I showered and took the time to dry my hair. I made myself feel good. Throwing on my winter coat I stepped outside and into the reception next door. The men guided me the way towards the wall, one even drove me all the way up to the entrance which would have taken me at least 25 minutes walking. I felt like this was going to be a good day. A much better day. I started climbing the stairs of the first tower.

As I breached the top, I peered my head over the last step to see the first stretch of wall that I would walk upon. Peaceful. I don’t think I have ever felt such peace in my whole life. No one to be seen or heard. Everywhere I looked I saw no one, not even someone in the far distance. I was alone.

After the fourth tower I reached a point where the stairs became increasingly steep. I looked up to what looked like the top, only for a few seconds, then I began to climb. I was standing on top of The Great Wall of China. Just me. Winds picked up my hair and blew it over my face. I sat down next to a piece of wall to shield myself from the cold. I remember sitting there thinking about my travels, thinking  of how far I had come from standing in front of a classroom full of students just months ago. I used to daydream about being in the places that I’ve now stood. I’m living my own dream.

Obviously I took a few pictures to honour this moment. You may look at them and feel nothing, they’re just pictures of me standing on The Great Wall of China to you. I see these and I remember how I felt, and will for the rest of my life.

That afternoon I packed my bag and checked out of my room. I knew I had a flight booked for the early hours of the next day so with plenty of time to get there, nothing could go wrong, could it?

The first European people I saw were a group of tourists, they were sat eating in the reception of my hostel. They were heading back to Beijing City as part of their tour and luckily, their driver offered to take me with them so I didn’t have to catch the public bus again. I was so relieved. After chatting and getting to know some of the people on the bus, I went back to their hostel. I left my backpack in storage and we wandered the streets nearby. A girl offered to take me to the Forbidden City and to try my first serving of Beijing Peking duck. This trip took a good few hours.

It was now 9pm and I was about to head off to the airport, I had researched what trains to catch and was feeling confident. I even checked with the receptionist just to make sure that the trains were still running.

I hopped onto my first train, everything was going well. I needed to get off to then switch to a train that would drop me off at the International Terminal where I would swiftly check in and grab a hot chocolate as I waited for my flight. This thought was burst by the fact that I had just missed the last train to the airport. Great. I left the station to find myself surrounded by not one but five men shouting at me, asking where I was going. “Airport?”, “Airport?”, “Where you go?”, “I take you to Airport”, I was telling them no. I thought I’d just find a bus but it was past 10pm and there were no buses in sight. I tried walking away from them but it seemed that everywhere I walked, they followed. Personal space was not considered in this moment.

Meet guardian angel number three…

I started to feel myself turn red, my skin started to sweat even though it was freezing cold outside, I had men with raised voices in my face, here we go again. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t have enough money for a taxi and couldn’t find an ATM nearby.

All of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye I saw a girl. A vision of white. She was dressed head to toe in pure white. She wore white knee high boots, white cotton leggings, a white woolly dress, a white belt around her waist, white leather gloves with a white fluffy cuff and to top it off she wore a bright white hat. She didn’t look real. In that moment I truly felt like she was an angel who had been sent to me.

I ran towards her and asked her for help. She was Chinese and she had me call her Ranchy. Fresh off the plane from London where she is currently studying, she was disgusted with the men. She immediately took me under her wing and demanded that I come with her. We walked around 200m away from the men as she yelled back at them, dragging her white suitcase behind. Using an Uber-like service she ordered a taxi. I remember thinking “Do I trust this stranger?”.

I reminded her that I needed to go to the airport. She reassured me, looked into my eyes and told me “It’s ok, I will help you. I’ll take you to my friend and you will get a taxi from there”. She told me about the first time she arrived in London, how she was completely lost and that she couldn’t find her way to her new apartment. She couldn’t speak good English at the time and must’ve felt just like I did in China. Helpless. She told me that a young man saw her confusion and took her all the way to her apartment, and even carried her luggage. As he left she thanked him profusely. He simply answered her with, “You’re welcome, but the next time you see someone who needs help, help them.” I felt like I could trust her with my life.

We arrived at Ranchy’s friend’s apartment to only realise that I’d left my purse, holding all the money that I had, inside the taxi. A rush of tears welled up in my eyes. Panic. Instant panic. “How on earth did I leave my purse in the taxi? It must’ve fell out somehow!”. Ranchy immediately rang the taxi driver and he returned five minutes later. Those five minutes felt like a lifetime. I thanked the driver and then Ranchy. She really was an angel. I met her friend and she guided me towards an ATM where I drew some money out and they put me into a taxi. I squeezed her goodbye.

The journey from here to the airport was a calm and relaxed one, I felt myself sink into the seat gripping onto my belongings. I arrived at the airport to find that my check-in counter didn’t open for a few hours, but that was fine because I was sat down watching Gilmore Girls on my iPad. Half way through my episode, a boy sits on the bench next to me. I thought he was going to the same place as me so I asked him. Hours later we had been talking, getting to know each other. I learnt about his life in China and how much he wanted to leave. He was travelling to Kuala Lumpur to take a test to enable him to study there. At just 17 years old he was prepared to leave his family behind and live abroad, I remember thinking of how brave he must be.

This trip taught me so many lessons for my future travels. I think you need to go through some bumpy trips to prepare yourself for the even tougher. If I hadn’t of learnt from this experience then I wouldn’t have been as prepared for future non English speaking countries. I walked upon The Great Wall of China. I made it.

xoxo

Love Thy Traveller

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South Korea

A juicy bubble of delicious food, tradition and k-pop.

Following a smooth flight from Osaka we arrived in Seoul, the capital city of South Korea.

Good to know:

  • Try a Korean barbecue, they’re delicious
  • 1 British pound = approx 1,476 Korean Won
  • You might struggle to find ATMs that work well
  • Koreans are super friendly
  • Public transport is really easy to navigate

We stayed in two different hostels within Seoul, for the first few nights we stayed at a place called Kim’s Family Guesthouse which was around 700m from the Hongik University metro station. This is one of the most popular areas in Seoul. The accommodation has a very homely feel to it with having been built in an apartment, the showers are warm and the kitchen has everything you could ask for. The owner was very helpful in trying to answer all of our many questions. When I say ‘our’, I mean Hannah’s.

Mr Comma Guesthouse was by far my favourite place to stay because of their homely atmosphere and comfortable beds. The WIFI is fast, the kitchen is easy to use, the showers are powerful and the house is perfectly warm; this was amazing to us because it was so cold outside. The guesthouse is situated around 800m away from the Hongik Univeristy metro station which is opposite the streets holding many vibrant shops and street food.

Barbecue – Korean style! I had been waiting for so long to have an actual Korean barbecue and it did not disappoint. We ventured out into the cold air to hunt for our first meal in South Korea, we stopped at the first restaurant we saw just because it was bustling with locals inside. I think I can speak for both of us when I say it was a mouth watering meal worth waiting for! You order two portions of meat to grill yourself to which these are complimented by around 8 other random side dishes. We were pleasantly surprised by the women who worked here, they were very kind and helpful.

Myeongdong street food – you must try the street food in this area, I tried to make my way through everything that was cooking but I failed miserably as I fill up quite quickly!

Gyeongbokgung Palace – also known as Gyeongbok Palace and used to be the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty, built in 1395. Make sure you get off at Angus Station and you’ll find the palace heading east.

Bukchon Hanoi village is perfect for a taste of Korean tradition. I love the feel you get from walking around the beautiful houses, you’ll also see women dressed in their traditional clothing along with their friends and loved ones. You can also find a stunning viewpoint if you keep following the signs up towards the hill; we visited during sunset.

Wander into sheltered markets to taste new foods cooked right in front of you while sitting on small plastic stools.

DMZ – the Korean Demilitarised Zone is definitely worth a visit. We took a tour from our Guesthouse early in the morning, much to my dislike (not an early morning person) and set out for the DMZ. On arrival, we were introduced into a cinema room where we watched a short video explaining some of the history between South and North Korea. The tour includes seeing the sights: The Demilitarised Zone, The Third Infiltration Tunnel, The Dora Observatory, Exhibition Hall, Freedom Bridge and Dorasan Train Station.