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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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J A P A N

Japan.

Where the freshest sushi is created, where Mount Fuji stands tall, where snowboarders cut the finest powder and where you’ll find quirky fashion statements around every corner.

Japan has always been a dream of mine, an obsession with this intriguing country has developed quickly over the years. So when a friend got in touch and asked if I wanted to join her in Japan, how could I say no?

Good to know:

  • Japan is very expensive!
  • You will find it hard to come by good English or somebody that understands you but the Japanese are very generous and will try to help you in every way that they can
  • 1 British pound = 147.38 Japanese Yen
  • Access to WiFi is really good
  • Eat the traditional food, that’s an order!

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I stayed in ‘IRORI Hostel’ which was around an 8 minute walk from the metro station. As I breached the surface of the underground I felt a rush of ice cold air greet my face as I found myself surrounded by a wall of towering buildings. Even though Tokyo is a capital city, at 1:30am it was deadly silent that it was almost deafening. I used my maps.me app to guide myself. As I was walking a kind man saw me in my backpacking attire and immediately asked if I needed help finding my hostel. He kindly looked it up on his phone and escorted me to the door, told me to enjoy my experience in Tokyo and carried on walking home. This is just one example of how kind the Japanese people are.

With 2 hours sleep I woke up at 7am to explore the world’s biggest fish market, Tsukiji Fish Market. I bought a travel card (similar to London’s Oyster card) where I loaded around 2,000 Yen so I didn’t have to buy single tickets for every trip.

I meandered through the never ending rows of fresh fish being cut, beheaded, skinned and packed before my very eyes. Men work hard from the early hours of the morning to sell fish coming in many shapes and sizes.

Something smells a little bit fishy, doesn’t it? Or maybe that’s the smell of my clothes. After exploring, me and my friend Hannah sat down in a tiny sushi restaurant where we waited for around 40 minutes to taste the freshest sushi I’ve ever eaten. I’m more of a macci girl but I still enjoyed the experience of trying the different kinds of sushi – for breakfast!

We then ventured out into Shibuya but only for a few hours until we crashed; returning back to our hostel for a well deserved nap before heading out to explore Tokyo at night.

We spent the next afternoon browsing through racks of the coolest vintage clothes until that sharp feeling in the pit of our stomachs yelled out. We tried our first Japanese ramen in a cute restaurant to which we don’t even know the name of because everything in this area was written in Japanese!

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More from the area of Shibuya and the famous Shibuya crossing…

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Girl, just call me Beyoncé.

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Do not miss the chance to sing your heart out whether you chose to go alone or with some friends. The Japanese love to sing karaoke as a social or solo activity; you can rent a room, order drinks and dress up in crazy outfits. Me and Hannah loved this experience, that’s after we figured out how to work the karaoke machine…

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Puppy love! We were obsessed with the fact that you could go to a place where you paid to sit and pay with little dogs just for fun. We went to Dog Heart in Shibuya to play with beagles and a lovely golden retriever, you could also chose an option where you took a dog for a walk but we decided to stay in the warmth for a while.

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Our next stop was to go and see the famous Mount Fuji. As we were exploring Japan at a time when it was unlikely that beginner hikers would attempt the climb, we only admired the mountain from a far. We stayed at K’s House Fuji View which I highly recommend as the interior design was a traditional Japanese style with a hot shower, fast WiFi, close to the train/bus station and the beds were that comfy that I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning… much to Hannah’s dismay.

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So we took a train to Shimoyoshida Station and followed the map to the Churreito Pagoda where we were able to see a view of Mount Fuji from a distance.

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Kyoto. We stayed at Grateful Hostel in the area of Kamigyo-ku. From here we ventured into Arashiyama where we strolled through a bamboo forest and took a long walk admiring the beautiful surroundings that brought us to delicious street food and shrines embedded within autumn leaves and flowers.

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Gion, a traditional corner home to the Kyoto Traditional Musical Art Foundation ‘Ookini Zaidan‘. Here you can watch a display of traditional Japanese performances such as the Kado (Flower Arrangement), Chado (Tea Ceremony), Kyogen (Ancient Comic Play) and the Kyomai (Kyoto Style Dance).

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Feeding time at Chojiro. Eating here was sugoil (awesome)! I had never been to a train sushi restaurant before, even back in England, so experiencing it for the first time in Kyoto was a special treat. I am not the best raw fish eater so I opted for tuna rolls which were absolutely delicious. Dining with touchscreen service also added to the experience.

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Oh deer lord! Welcome to Nara, home to hundreds of deer ruling over grass and streets. Myself and Hannah really enjoyed feeding the deer, that’s until a really crazy looking one with hungry eyes chased us around. He/she just ran at people who were holding crackers looking to head-butt them, finding this hilarious we were entertained for a good hour or so in the deer parks.

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The Itsukushima Shrine is definitely worth a visit on the island of Itsukushima. I loved wandering around this charming island, it felt like I was walking through time.

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Travelling around Japan would not be complete without a visit to Hiroshima. Hiroshima is a city which was impacted hugely by an atomic bomb during World War 2 and left many ruins including the famous Genbaku Dome which shows a spine curling shell still standing. I won’t go into the facts as it’s an unbelievable experience to discover for yourself the many artefacts, true accounts and information panels you’ll find within the museum.

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Must try: Okonomiyaki – a delicious Japanese dish consisting of pork, egg, cabbage and soba cooked to perfection on a steaming hot surface in front of you. I love unique dining experiences and this was by far unique for me.

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Osaka. Starting in Fukushima we ate in a Japanese restaurant serving handmade green onion and soy sauce Takoyaki which kind of looked like a Yorkshire pudding.

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So we fancied a bit of fun, Hannah suggested Universal Studios and so the next thing we knew is that we were leaving our accommodation, Evergreen Hostel, to catch the train to Sakurajima where we waited in line to enter Universal Studios. One of the best days of my travels. Why? Harry Potter World of course!

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Thank you for reading, I hope you found this post somewhat interesting and useful.

Happy travelling

xoxo

Love Thy Traveller

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SRI LANKA

‘A flavoursome teardrop of India’

Good to know:

1 GBP (British pound) = approximately 202 LKR (Sri Lankan Rupee)

For the girls – if you’re a girl solo traveller then I recommend you wear a ring on your wedding finger to fend off the sometimes forward Sri Lankan men. I was approached and followed when I walked alone a few times so I told them I was going to meet my boyfriend.

It was a last minute decision to travel to Sri Lanka. I was researching where to go next while sitting on my hostel bed in Langkawi when I got talking to a girl about Sri Lanka. I’d heard good things from other travellers too so I spontaneously booked a flight for the next day.

I flew into Colombo and took a bus straight from the airport to the Colombo bus station taking around half an hour.

Hectic. That’s what my first impression of Colombo was – hectic. I stepped off the bus and straight into a tuk tuk’s way who refused to acknowledge my presence! They come out of no where, appearing from behind cars and buses sounding their high pitched horns with every turn. The tuk tuks’ are like snakes, slithering their way through traffic hunting for naive tourists to lure into their care.

I advise that you only spend the one night here as it can be just like any other city: busy and dirty. I stayed at the ‘Colombo City Hostel’ which I booked through HostelWorld costing £3.65 per night for a 6 bed female dorm. They do not have aircon but a small fan above your bed with a huge locker to store your luggage. If you walk up to the roof you can see a great view of the city and the nearby beach.

Take a train to Kandy for a cheap 190 Rupees (94p) and enjoy the scenic route taking approximately 3 hours. I stayed at a hostel within a 10 minute walk from the station called, ‘Bunk Planet’, a comfortable capsule hostel with a lot of privacy. If you are travelling alone I recommend that you stay at a hostel in the city centre as mine was a 20 minute walk away.

Take a walk around Kandy lake where you’ll find a stunning view of the houses built on the mountains and the famous Buddha Tooth Temple. I didn’t go inside the temple as it came with a price of 1,500 Rupee.

Eat at a local restaurant for some authentic Sri Lankan dishes. My favourite was the rotti as I can’t handle spice (yes I know, great idea going to a country oozing with spice). Rotti is a traditional bread-like meal, sort of like a naan bread but lighter and more stretchy so you can tear pieces off and dip them into curry sauces. You usually get two or three sauces to eat with it.

Juice me up! You must try the fresh fruit from the markets, the mangos and bananas are to die for. I was wandering through Kandy market when a man offered me some of his mango for free and it was possibly one of the juiciest pieces of mango I’ve ever tasted.

Take a tuk tuk to a waterfall within the mountains. If you tell the driver you want to do a waterfall hike then they will know which to take you to depending on the weather. Me and a girl I met hired a tuk tuk and was driven up the mountains where we got to witness the beauty of Sri Lanka’s countryside.

The weather was overcast but that did not take away the shine of blossoming tea plantations around every corner.

“How much you pay?”. Kandy market is a great playground for your bartering skills. Always half whatever price they make first and go from there because they will try to rip you off massively. So stay savvy. I tried on a gorgeous orange sari which is a part of their traditional women’s clothing in Sri Lanka. I immediately wanted to go to a Sri Lankan wedding so I had an excuse to buy one!

Don’t fall! Now for the famous train ride from Kandy to Ella…

Which class to go for? I advise to buy a second class ticket but bare in mind that you might not get seated straight away. Third class is full of locals making their way on their probably daily/weekly train ride to work/home. First class is an observation carriage and much more expensive than second.

Your best chances of getting seated straight away is if you stand in the middle of the platform, do not stand at the beginning, keep walking down towards the end. Once the train pulls up everyone will rush onto the train like ants disappearing back into their holes underground so be careful with your belongings.

The 7 hour train ride from Kandy to Ella is considered one of the most scenic train rides in the entire world and it did not disappoint. Feel the wind race beneath your feet as you hang off the side of the train. Be careful to watch where you’re going though, tourists have been seriously injured because they didn’t see a lamppost ahead.

Wave to field workers, admire the 50 shades of green and rolling hills as you pass by…

Ella reminds me of a small town in Thailand called Pai. It breathes out fresh air and sits high in the mountains housing a small population of people. Ella has one main road with mainly local restaurants. I recommend eating local food a lot as it is really cheap and very tasty!

Take a hike up to Ella’s Rock for a nice walk and a fantastic view. You can easily do this hike by yourself even though you will get locals trying to make you go the wrong way and then hire them to lead you there for a hefty price. So trust yourself and just say no!

The hike starts from Ella station where you can walk along the train tracks to the left until you reach the next train station, then there will be a grassy pathway to enter and you basically follow the tracks all the way. However, it does help if you have google maps handy just to make sure you’re still going in the correct direction. It took us around 2 hours from start to finish.

As you can see, we were robbed of a great view by the spooky fog so if I were to do it again I would start my hike earlier from 6:30-7am.

More tea darling? If you want to see a tea plantation while you’re here then I strongly recommend that you pay ‘Amba Tea Estate’ a visit. What’s so special about them? Tucked away in the mountains only a 40 minute tuk tuk ride from Ella, Amba Tea Estate is a fresh, organic company who treat their workers, community and environment with respect.

Picking by hand, they select only the best tea leaves for their tea. I hate drinking it (poor English person) but I was happy to accompany a friend and I’m glad I did. The grounds were beautiful, I loved learning about the different types of tea and how they are unique to other tea farms in Sri Lanka. The tour was absolutely free of charge and you can tell that the workers are so passionate about tea from the way they explained the process and history of tea in Sri Lanka.

There is also a guest house for people who want to stay and relax for a few days.

“Hey mister, can I please take a spin in your car?”

Wild things…

My favourite memory from Sri Lanka will be the day I went on safari where I saw beautiful elephants, lazy water buffalos, multicoloured peacocks, cheeky monkeys, creeping crocodiles, prowling jungle cats and many species of bird.

Pay Galle Fort a visit for a Dutch infused town full of spas, healthy restaurants and jewellery stores. Listen up girls! Galle Fort Spa saved my life, I had been looking for a place to sugar (wax) my legs and was having no luck until I found this heavenly place! I paid 1000 rupee for my full legs which is equivalent to just under £5!

Beach hair and salty skin please…

If you’re looking for a beach to chill out on then I can recommend Mirissa Beach. The waves are high and the sand is soft, lounge around on free sunbeds while sipping on fresh fruit juices.

Unawatuna Beach is also a great place to chill out. Lay under a funky cabana while sipping fresh coconut water.

What a way to end my Sri Lankan trip!

Thank you for reading, I hope you have found my post somewhat useful.

Happy travelling!

xoxo

Love Thy Traveller

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M A L A Y S I A

So this post is going to be short and sweet as I didn’t spend much time here.

With not knowing what to expect from Malaysia I was pleasantly surprised…

Good to know:

1 GBP (British Pound) = 5.5 MYR (Malaysian Ringgit) so just divide by 5 and you get a rough price.

Eat the local food!

Getting there: I took a 6 hour luxury bus from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. I say luxury because it really was; my seat fully reclined, a movie playing at the front of the bus, it also had a phone charger and seat massager. Why fly when taking the bus is so much more fun? The company I booked with is called StarMart Express’ which sounds like a corner shop but I promise you won’t be disappointed.

The bus drops you off at the KL bus station where you can order a Grab or Uber to your accommodation. I stayed at the ‘Reggae Mansion which surprisingly didn’t play any reggae music in its’ roof bar. This hostel is great, I would definitely stay here again if I were to travel to Kuala Lumpur in the future.

Luckily for me, Diwali was the day after I arrived so I went to Little India and explored the main street which was full of locals playing music and dancing. I ate at a place called ‘Seetha Ram’where I demolished the best garlic roti naan. This is a thinner version of a naan bread; they serve it with dipping curries which are absolutely delicious and not too spicy. Favourite meal of the trip…