VLOG: surprise birthday trip

So today is my friend Zoe’s 21st birthday. We have literally been friends since the first day of first year of University. We have lived together for the past 3 years and honestly, she is one of my closest friends.

Birthday’s are such a strange concept as it is essentially just a day just to celebrate you. So it can get a bit stressful trying to organise things for yourself. Therefore, I wanted to do something to make the day as special as possible without all the stress of having to plan it for herself.

She had no idea where we were going or what we had planned so this vlog was a lot of fun to film.

We had an amazing day in London on a boat cruise, eating LOTS of food and the Imax cinema watching Beauty and the Beast in 3D.

It’s just me, Dammy, making memories

xxx

Ode to 2016

Dear 2017 – you have come around so quickly, it feels like only yesterday it was 2016! And whilst I am so excited for the new year and all it will bring, as I move forward I think it is also important to take a look back…

2016 has been branded my many as the “worst year ever”. There’s political unrest – the UK is leaving the EU. Racial tension is at a high – Trump is the US President Elect. People are dying in Syria and terrorism is at a high. Our favourite celebrities are dying, Samsung galaxy phones were exploding, Harambe got shot dead! What more could go wrong?

All of this got me thinking, was 2016 actually all bad? For me, 2016 has been the best year of my life so far. So I thought I would be a little self-indulgent and highlight all the reasons why I am so thankful for 2016…

Ode to 2016

2016 was the year that I caught flights and not feelings #WasteHisTime2016. I saved up all through 2015 (Check out my post on some of the jobs I did) and travelled to eight countries.

My travelling escapades began with a brief visit to Paris over the Easter holidays.

13321735_10206410794055453_1427904308606223603_n

If you look closely, you can see the Eiffel Tower in the background…

I then had a dry spell to focus on my degree (yawn!) before I had an incredible summer travelling. It began with backpacking around South-East Asia with my sister. I went to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos (click the links to see the individual blog posts on the countries).

IMAG1085.jpg

Me and my sister before our flights to Thailand…

Backpacking around South-East Asia was honestly the best experience of my life so far. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and I squeezed in so much into those 5 weeks which you can watch in the vlog I made here. Documenting the experience led to a wave of new followers, so if you found itsmedammy.com through my travel vlogs, HELLO and thank you for reading! ❤

I then went on a family holiday to Dubai and Abu Dhabi…

14114922_10206988607900438_4479559445283563327_o

Frolicking in the deserts in Dubai…

This trip was the best time I have ever had with my family. We are all so busy so it was amazing to have everyone in one place and I made memories that will last a life time, like the time a camel literally bit my dad’s foot and he nearly fell off the camel! Check it out on my Dubai vlog!

My last trip of 2016 was to Portugal. I went for one of my close friend’s 21st birthday and we stayed in this adorable resort and it was just so great to take a break from studying.  I even organised these super cute matching t-shirts with her name on it for us to wear.

15493639_10211467631504098_2056217223045572397_o.jpg

You can just feel the black girl magic radiating…

2016 was also the year I began to feel closer to achieving all my post-university dreams. 2015 was filled with making endless applications, attending talks and suchlike (yawn!) and it was so nice to begin to reap some of the rewards from all that hard work.

Facing rejections was a humbling experience and made me realise that with hard work and by just being a nice person I can forge my own “luck”. Eventually no’s become yes’s and that made me appreciate them a lot more and not take opportunities for granted.

I do did two vacation schemes over Easter in London…

13323456_10206410790415362_8801607518741575128_o.jpg

Vac Scheme friends…

Over the schemes, I learnt so many new things, developed skills and got a better idea of which areas of Law I would potentially want to go into in the future.

I also made lots of really great friends…

13315315_10206410788615317_477157525131589684_n

On the way to one of the evening socials…

These experiences led to a summer internship, multiple training contract offers and a scholarship. SO much to be thankful for in 2016!

2016 was where I learnt to say NO to the things I did not want to do and learned to value my time more. I wrote all about that here. I also learnt not to underestimate the power of a good nights sleep!

14991353_10207609833910700_4378772504844952_o.jpg

Big smiles after sleeping…

In 2016, I finished my term as President of the Law & Business society at my university and handed over to a new team. I took a picture on my first day as President and a year later on my last day as President and thankfully I did not age as much as Barack Obama did in his term (I think I may actually look younger? #blackdontcrack). Clearly running a society is not as stressful as running the USA. Even thought it was one of the most challenging experiences.

With a lot less on my plate, I decided to try a few new things…

I auditioned to be in a play called Fallen Petals and was cast in it. It was so much fun to get back on stage after spending so much time working on the Production side of things. It was also a very different character to anything I’ve ever played before. I was playing an abusive mother, as a naturally cheerful person who is always smiling, this was really tough role. I had to work on characterisation and also learnt how to do a southern american accent for it!

12628581_10205564283733224_2816506601378584163_o.jpg

Promo for the show…

2016 was the year that I developed my love for radio. I started a show called Beyond Broadway on the university radio station RaW1251AM at the end of 2015 and I had so much fun doing it. For an hour a week I get to share my passion – Musical Theatre.

relaunch promo.jpg

2016, was the year I won an award for “Best Female Presenter” at the radio station awards. Honestly, starting a radio show was just something to do for fun and to get recognised for that felt so amazing. I also got into contact with Elaine Paige, one of my musical theatre idols, and she agreed to be interviewed on my show.

10291239_10205794986940660_7897993388711915253_n.jpg

Radio station awards evening…

2016 was also the year I rekindled my love for writing and began to actively look for opportunities to write more. I started writing for my university newspaper and it’s been such a great experience. I’ve been able to write about some really interesting topics some of which have been quite controversial. For example, I did a behind the scenes piece on the type of initiations sports clubs and societies do.

I mainly write for the News section so I’m writing about facts or reporting what other people think about a particular thing on both sides. So it’s really interesting when people get rude or aggressive towards me personally. This has allowed me to learn what it might be like to be a proper journalist. These experiences also led to two internship opportunities at major News publications.

40bbcf46-a147-46ef-9106-60ff7a2bb3a8.jpg

I still get excited every time an article I write gets published…

2016, was the year I learnt you can actually be allergic to SITUATIONS. I randomly developed a condition that is triggered my certain environments. Like a delicate little snowflake, anything from stress to hot weather to rain can set me off. Whilst this may not sound like a good thing, the experience taught me to look on the bright side of things and made me put things in perspective. Nothing makes you appreciate being healthy like momentarily being ill.

2016, was the year I tried to be more spontaneous, less set in my ways and say YES to random opportunities. From random trips to London to see a show on West End to hopping on a train to surprise a friend at university to club nights.
I got back involved with Scouting (Don’t judge me, Scouts are cool, okay?) and I went to an event called YouShape and helped with the presenting.

12823328_10205794985060613_2713422790133771404_o.jpg

YouShape…

I also was a panellist for the Sabbatical officer elections at my uni on the live stream. It’s actually crazy how seriously people take student politics so it was so exciting to be right in the centre of it. It was mad, I had people tweeting me about things I was saying throughout the night!

12828347_10205753189735756_252821776739316779_o.jpg

Me and the 2 other panellists..

2016, was the year I turned twenty and officially stopped being a teenager. In true Dammy fashion, I made a big deal over hitting the big 20 as I felt really old. I made a spotify playlist called “mourning my childhood” with all the nostalgic songs that reminded me of growing up. Yep, very dramatic.

IMAG0961.jpg

Big TWENTY…

In reality, it really wasn’t that big of a deal. It was actually pretty anticlimactic.My friends are family did make a massive effort to make the day special though. My friends took me on a really cute trip to the Spa and then they organised a surprise dinner with all my close friends in the evening. You can watch the whole day in my birthing vlog.

IMAG0945.jpg

Birthday cake

2016, was also the year I solidified old friendships, made some new ones and learned to turn away from people who  were detrimental to me. 2016, taught me some really important lessons in this regard. Lessons that will set the standard for future friendships in 2017.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Whilst 2016, has definitely had it’s downfalls especially when I look at the socio-economic climate. However, I can’t help but be thankful for all the good things that have happened in my life. Hope it’s been an interesting read!

How have all your 2016 been? Would love for you guys to comment what you have to be thankful for…

It’s just me, Dammy, looking forward to the next 365 days

xxx

VLOG: South East Asia

As many of you will know, this summer I went backpacking around South East Asia with my sister. We went to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.

It was one of the best experiences of my entire life. Here is the vlog I made of the trip:

 

After backpacking I went to Dubai and Abu Dhabi with my family which was also incredible. Click here to watch the vlog I made from that holiday.

It’s just me, Dammy, missing summer already

xxx

VLOG: Dubai & Abu Dhabi

A couple of weeks ago I went on the holiday of a lifetime in Dubai and Abu Dhabi with my family. I vlogged the entire trip and tried to condense it down to the highlights (which was super hard because it was all amazing!). Have a watch here…

I hope you are all having a lovely summer and enjoyed watching my vlog, I certainly had a lot of fun filming it! I am still learning with all the editing stuff so hopefully these videos will get better and better. Currently working on my South East Asia backing vlog which will be coming out soon.

It’s just me, Dammy, having the best summer…

xxx

 

Backpacking 2016: THAILAND

So the wheel has come full circle and I’m back in Thailand where all my backpacking adventures began! I’ve been travelling for over a month with my sister and so far we’ve been to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and of course – Thailand!

From Laos I crossed the Border into Chiang Khong. It had been three days since we last had access to a shower so it was so nice to finally get clean and have a proper bed.

Snapchat-4106255074770748466

We had an early start the following day as we traveled by bus to Chiang Mai. On the way we stopped off in Chiang Rai to visit the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun). Over the past few weeks I’ve seen soo many temples but this one absolutely blew me away. As the the name suggests the temple is completely white which in itself is unique. Walking up to the entrance in the midday heat as the sun was reflecting off the building, the walls appeared to shimmer and it was incredible.

The White Temple…

And inside was even better! The artist who decorated the inside had payed homage to all the traditional Buddhist designs however, he had also mixed it up a bit with images of animated characters such as Spiderman, Thor, etc. Everything about the premise didn’t seem like it should work but the juxtaposition between the traditional art and popular culture was actually amazing.

About to enter the temple…

Throughout the temple we could see more and more of how popular art had inspired the design. It was really random – one minute you would be looking at a shrine to Buddha or a wishing well. The type of thing you would expect to see in a temple….

Posing with the wishing tree…

But then you would stumble upon a robot or something! For anyone visiting Thailand – The White Temple is definitely a must see attraction. It looked like it had fallen straight from Heaven.

Casual robot in a temple…

Once in Chiang Mai, there were soo many activities we could do and so much to see that it was almost impossible to decide how best to utilise our time there!

On the first evening we went out for dinner in a really fancy restaurant to celebrate one of our new backpacking buddies’ 21st birthday. After that we got a tuk-tuk to visit the “Night Bazaar” which is a combination of night markets, food places, live music, bars, spa’s and more. It had an amazing atmosphere and we had a lot of fun! We ended what had already been an great night with the most incredible Thai massage – I left feeling so relaxed and happy.

IMAG2188

The Night Bazaar

After seeing the White Temple the previous day, I wanted to see some more of the lesser known temples which I was told would be less touristy but equally beautiful. Frequent readers of my travelblog will know that I have a general aversion to other tourists so this sounded perfect for me!

So I grabbed a map, pulled on my hiking boots and went on an impromptu Temple tour. There were over 50 temples within about a 40 minute walking distance from our hotel so my sister and I set off bright and early with the ambitious mission of seeing them all!

IMAG2208

Temple number 1…

We saw soo  many different types of temples and they were all so beautiful. It was especially nice as a lot of these were “active” temples so they weren’t just for show and people actually regularly prayed in them. Unfortunately, they had really strict rules so as women we weren’t allowed to go everywhere.

IMAG2282.jpg

Trying to find my center…

But by about midday the blazing sun had got the better of us and we had to cut our temple tour short and take shelter inside- we still managed to see about 11 temples though! Not quite the full 50, but I’m still really pleased with that considering we did it all by foot.

IMAG2297.jpg

Happy Buddha…

After the past few hours of walking, I convinced my sister that we both needed a massage to relax, despite the fact we had only just had one the previous night! Whilst hunting for a nice looking place, we stumbled across one of Thailand’s “happy ending” massage parlours. It was really strange to just see the sign post unhidden in broad day light!

IMAG2194.jpg

Somehow don’t think this was the kind of massage we were looking for…

We eventually found a legit looking place to get a massage – this one wasn’t quite as good as the one from the previous day though. The woman kept on trying to get into a conversation with me which was really sweet of her but it made it difficult for me to relax and actually enjoy myself. She eventually gave up trying to talk to me and starting talking on her mobile phone!  We did get given these really cool spa outfits to change into though which was nice.

IMAG2310

Another day, another Thai massage…

Chiang Mai is famous for its elephants – in every single place we saw the Zoo advertised as a “must see” attraction. We briefly considered going but I really don’t like Zoo’s so we decided against it. I hate the way in which the keepers break the elephants’ spirit to passify them so that people can ride them – it’s simply just awful.

A week before we visited Cambodia, an elephant actually died in the streets of Angkor Wat from exhaustion after carrying tourists. I know that there are some elephant sanctuaries which actually do a lot of good work but it’s so difficult to know which ones! Instead we found a suitable alternative which we knew for certain had NO risk to animals at all…

IMAG2238.jpg

No elephants were hurt in the making of this photo…

From here we got an overnight train to Bangkok where we tried to pack in all the things we hadn’t got round to the last time we were here. We went to China Town, saw the reclining Buddha and went to MBK center which was a massive shopping center which had literally everything you could ever want!

One night we went to have dinner at a Sky Bar which was really nice. The food was so good and the scenery was amazing. We were right at the top of the building so had the perfect view to see the whole of Bangkok. At this point we were saying good bye to a few friends we’d been travelling with for a while so this was all really bittersweet.

IMAG2376.jpg

Sky Bar…

We thought we’d say good bye in style and decided to go and visit the infamous Khoasan Road! And it was honestly even more mad than I thought it would be. There were people literally selling live scorpions on the street for people to eat and stuff! Music was playing so loudly, people drinking, even vendors offering laughing gas (and other less than legal substances) for sale.

IMAG2392.jpg

Such mad vibes…

The night did not end here though! From here we got a taxi with some of our friends to explore Silom Night Market. It was so busy that when we stopped for my sister to say hello to one of her friends from back home who we bumped into on the streets (small world, eh?), we lost the rest of the people we were with! This was the beginning of the craziest night of my life…

IMAG2398.jpg

One of the street reps told us there was a free “Cabaret” show on a few doors down. Me being the musical theatre geek I am, was completely sold by this. Turns out this was not the stage show I had thought it was but actually a lady boy show! After realising that this was going to be strip show we ran out into the streets. Whilst trying to get our bearings and find the night market we had come here for, we stumbled upon what can only be Bangkok’s version of a red light district.

IMAG2400

Bangkok by night…

We kept on getting stared down by the “ladies of the night” who clearly were not impressed by us being on their territory – I think they thought we were trying to steal their business or something. This thought was confirmed when a man actually tried to BUY me! I heard him start to negotiate a price with what must have been the Pimp of that street before I informed him and his friends that I was most definitely not for sale

It was actually really sad seeing some of the girls on the streets though, some did not look any older than about 13! I hated it even more because there was nothing I could do in that moment to help them without endangering myself. After all the wonderful Thai culture we’d experienced over the past week, it was really eye-opening to see the dark side to it all.

IMAG2402.jpg

The streets of Bangkok..

After this we actually found the market we were looking for which was really fun. My sister bought a nice ring which she had been looking for and I bought my favourite thing – street food!

After this we went to see a live Muay Thai boxing match which was soo cool. We were sitting so close to the fighting, I could almost smell the fear from the “underdog” who was taking a serious beating from the other guy who seemed to be enjoying kicking his opponent in the face a little too much. I have always wanted to see a live match and this was such a good one to watch – the aforementioned underdog actually brought it back in the end and won! 

IMAG2412.jpg

Muay Thai boxing…


We had initially wanted to stay in Thailand for another week or so to explore some of the smaller Islands but we had to come back as I have a really important interview for a Training Contract in London!

After living the nomad lifestyle for the past 5 weeks with just me and my backpack, I don’t think I am quite ready to trade in my flip flops for a suit but alas, the corporate law world is calling and I have responsibilities.

Luckily, I have some last minute stuff to sort out for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for The Improv Musical which I am the Marketing Manager and Co-Producer of which is super exciting. And then I am off to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 7 days time so I still have so much more to look forward to!

IMAG2319

Travel buddies!

I’ll hopefully be posting vlogs of all my back packing escapades really soon so keep your eyes out for that! To get notifications of all my blog updates directly to your inbox, don’t forget to click “follow” at the bottom of the screen.

It’s just me, Dammy, drifting back to reality…

xxx

Backpacking 2016: LAOS

So this is the THIRD part of my travelblog as I backpack around South East Asia with my sister. So far I’ve written about Cambodia and Vietnam. This one will be all about my adventures around Laos…

From Vietnam we flew into Vientiane. That night me and my sister went to go explore and stumbled upon a market where they were cooking all sorts of food on the street. We were welcomed by the most enticingly delicious smells that I was compelled to stop and taste everything.

In this area, there were mainly just locals so no-one spoke English. This provided the opportunity to find other ways to communicate with them and utilise the bits of the language I had picked up so far. Luckily, on my flight from Doha to Bangkok (nearly a month ago!) I was sat next to this really nice boy from Laos who taught me a few words and phrases.

Trying to learn Lao…

The following day we went to visit a temple and looked around the Laos opera house. My sister and I were the only ones in the theatre so I used to it as an opportunity to fulfil my lifelong dream of being the star of a show!

Outside the opera house…

There were also some lovely gardens which we went to explore. My sister was wearing a Dashiki (African print top) which drew a lot of attention. We are halfway across the world but are still representing our culture, giving the Laos locals a taste of Africa!

My sister with some flowers….

From here we travelled to Viang Veng. This was a very long bus ride but totally worth it as there was so much to do in this town! Firstly, we went to visit the Blue Lagoon. We were warned that the water would be brown rather than the infamous blue at this time of year due to the high water levels. But we were really lucky and it was actually quite blue.

The Blue Lagoon

We then climbed up the side of a mountain to go and explore a cave and it was honestly the most scared I have been in a very long time. About half way up the mountain, we realised what a big mistake we had made. The pathway was so uneven, we had no safety equipment and no tour guide with us – the recipe for disaster!

ABORT MISSION…

But we had already climbed so far that we decided to just fully commit to it. In addition, the journey back down looked even more dangerous. So we both braved it all the way inside the caves. Once inside we realised that we probably should have just spent the 10,000 kip (equivalent of $1.25) it cost to hire the head torches they had been offering at the bottom of the mountain. It was so dark inside that we could barely see, the floor was wet and the flash light on my phone seemed so impractical whilst trying to climb inside.

Inside the cave…

Then on the way back down it started raining which just made it so much worse. I was just slipping and sliding everywhere whilst frantically praying under my breath that I wouldn’t die. At one point I wasn’t even sure if I was just sweating profusely or if it was tears!

In the afternoon we had booked to go tubing in some more caves. This had been sold to us as a relaxing and fun experience where you sit in these rubber rings and are gently taken on a river by the current whilst you hold on to a rope to guide yourself. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? It was like this for about five minutes before it all went horribly wrong.

We got into the enclosure of the cave and were told to get off the rubber rings by our tour guide. The next part we had to do by foot. I’m no stranger outdoorsy type activities, I’ve done my Gold Duke of Edinburgh award and I was a Scout for over 11 years but this was a whole different story. At one point the muddy floor started sinking so people started getting stuck. Then the ceiling started getting lower and lower so I had to get on my hands and knees and crawl. And the girl behind me just kept crying the whole time.

I kept on just waiting to wake up from the nightmare I was living, half expecting Ant and Dec to jump out of the corner because it felt like one of those Bush Tucker trials on the TV program, “I’m a celebrity get me out of here”. But worse. So much worse.

My muddy feet after the caves…

The next day we had a another really long journey to Luang Prabang. The roads were so narrow with really bendy sharp curves. The bus didn’t have enough seats for everyone so they installed make-shift pop up chairs. This situation was made worse by the bus driver who looked like he was going to fall asleep. Every so often he would randomly just shake himself to try and stay awake and the bus would sway off path slightly! If you didn’t think about the fact that we were on a steep cliff like edge and any wrong move would result in us hurtling towards our inevitable demise – then this would probably have been quite funny!

Amazing views…

The views on the journey were incredible though. It was exactly how I have always imagined heaven would look like with bright skies with lots of white clouds.

My sister floating on some clouds…

In Luang Prabang we stayed in these adorable little bungalows on stilts which my sister and I had to ourselves. The beds were massive and we had this cute little balcony with beautiful flowers. When we arrived the man at the reception looked really excited to see me and my sister. He said he had seen us on Facebook! Turns out that our bus driver, who had asked to take pictures with us when we stopped off to look at the aforementioned view, was related to the owners of our hotel! Such a small world.

Outside our bungalow…

That night we went to go explore and found a market with my favorite thing – street food! I actually bought (and ate) a whole cooked chicken that evening. My sister, being a Vegan, couldn’t really find anything suitable for her so bought two whole pineapples.

Night market…

The next morning I went to go and watch the giving of Alms to the Monks. This meant a very early 5am start so my sister decided not to go and I went by myself but it was definitely worth it. I didn’t actually partake in the proceedings but it was really interesting to just watch.

Places to buy Alms for the Monks…

Monks are only allowed to eat what people donate to them before midday so this procession is very important for them. Laos has a very interesting combination of Theravada Buddhism and Animism which focuses at ancestors and spirits etc. I’ve always been fascinated by this religion so I’ve really enjoyed learning more about it over the past few days.

Buddha shrine…

After the main procession, everyone left but I stayed a lot longer which allowed me to just watch the Monks in the monastery just living their lives. I had this really profound moment when I caught eyes with a young Monk and we must have stood there for about 10 minutes perfectly still just staring at each other and smiling. There was no-one else around and the world seemed to stand still in that moment. It’s hard to explain but it felt incredible – you can’t pay for experiences like that! The memory will forever be etched in my mind.

Outside the monastery…

After this I went to visit some of the local attractions. I considered climbing the Phousii mountain but I was alone and after that past few days’ activities, I felt all adventured out so decided against it.

Instead I went to visit the very beautiful National museum. It was still really early so it was gated off but I smiled nicely at the security guard and he let me in! This was so awesome as it allowed me to peacefully experience the place without it being tarnished by other tourists.

Outside the National museum…

I also saw a few other attractions such as the Xieng Thong temple and the Lau Lau gardens. I did all this before 8am – talk about productive morning! It was such a treat to get to see it by myself as well. For someone who probably looks like the stereotypical tourist with my rucksack, fanny pack and camera always at the ready constantly vlogging – it’s actually quite ironic how much I actively avoid other tourists!

The following day we then embarked upon a two day boat journey on the Mekong River to cross the Laos/Thai border…

We were on this boat for TWO days…

On the first day we travelled for over 10 hours before stopping off in Pak Beng where we stayed with a family from the Kamu tribe. The last time I stayed at a homestay in Vietnam, I had severe allergic reactions so I was really worried it would happen again. However, luckily this time I was absolutely fine!

Our house for the night….

The actual homestay was like nothing I have ever experienced before. What was immediately noticeable was the dichotomy between their seemingly stripped down living and my experience of the comparatively commercialised towns of South East Asia we had been to so far.

Our sleeping area…

Everything was so basic – we slept on the floor, the toilet was a dug out hole in the ground and there was no electricity. They had just what was necessary to fulfil their fundamental needs – nothing more and nothing less. Coming from the West where most of your wants are so easily accessible, it really drummed home the inequality around the world.

The toilet…

Despite all of this, they had the most inclusive and welcoming culture. They were so kind and shared the best they had with us. My sister and I even stayed in the house of the Chief of the whole village. They also cooked for us what was definitely the most delicious food I had in my entire stay in Laos. With each mouthful I could almost taste all the time, effort and love they had poured into the preparation of the meal. A feeling not dissimilar to when I go home from University to my Mum’s cooking.

Cooking on a fire…

This whole experience just reinforced something I had already known for a long time – you really do not need material things to be happy. All these extra trappings of life are a so transient but it’s who you are when you strip all of that away that really matters. It’s so easy to be a “good person” in the right conditions – when you are comfortable, have enough food, etc. But what kind of person are you when the going gets tough? I think the Kamu people showed me how it should be done.
I always used to playfully tease friends who went on gap years to “find themselves” but honestly, I’ve learnt so much about myself and others in the past month I have been traveling.

Later that evening we watched the sun go down which was so beautiful (it’s so crazy that I had never actually seen a sunrise or sunset before I came travelling!)

Sunset…

We then stayed up and collected firewood and had a bonfire on the beach. This was such a lovely way to end the night.

Bonfire…

The following day we had a really early start as the boat people wanted to be back on the river for 5am. We were going against the current and wanted to avoid as much of the forecasted rain as possible. Not going to lie, this wasn’t the most interesting journey but me and my sister tried to make the time pass faster by playing games. We play a variation of charades where one person has earphones in and listens to a song to act out to to the other. Hours of fun!

After two days on a boat and still smiling!

Fast forward 8 hours and we finally arrived in Chiang Khong where we completed the crossing border formalities. I have so many cool stamps in my passport now!

We are spending the night here and are then going to travel to Chiang Mai and then to Bangkok but I will write all about that in my next blog post which will be all about my Thai adventures…

It’s just me, Dammy, off to explore Thailand!

xoxo

Backpacking 2016: VIETNAM

This is PART 2 of my travel blog as I backpack around South East Asia with my sister. Click here to read my first one all about my stay in Cambodia…

After crossing the Cambodian border we stopped off in Chau Doc as we had already been traveling for over 10 hours on a bus and we were so tired. This is probably the only bad moment of the trip where I had had enough of traveling wanted to come home. We stayed with a family in this home stay community literally in the depths of the forests…

Casual chicken in the corner of my room…

And then I had the worst allergic reaction. My face flew up like a balloon and I woke up with my skin covered in hives. The reaction was so severe that my throat also started swelling up so it felt like I was suffocating.

At the start of the allergic reaction. It went downhill from here…

I still do not know what exactly caused the reaction. But I suspect it might have been the sheets on the bed which weren’t clean. There was also a lot of dust in the air. It was such a frightening experience as it happened in the middle of the night and everyone was asleep. Luckily I managed to stay breathing until morning despite my swollen throat. Then I took lots and lots of allergy tablets. Thank God for Piriton! I must have taken about 20 over the course of the day which probably wasn’t the wisest idea.

Before and After shots…

It was actually a real shame as the family we stayed with were so lovely and made a massive effort cooking us all their special local dishes.

The next day we went to Mekong Delta town to visit the floating market. I had been so excited for it! You’re basically in a boat being taken down a river and all the sellers are on smaller boats and they paddle over and attach themselves to your boat to sell you stuff. It’s really hard to explain but it was very cool.

After this we travelled to Ho Chi Minh city/ Saigon. By this point I was feeling a lot better. In the evening we went out for dinner in this really nice restaurant to say goodbye to one of the guys we had met in Thailand and travelled with with who was leaving.

I love all the snapchat geo-filters…

There were so many activities we could have done in Saigon but we chose to visit the War Remnants museum. After learning about the Killing Fields in Cambodia, I really wanted to learn more about about the Vietnam War.

Looking at all the American fighter planes and tanks…

As we explored more of the museum it became increasingly emotional. Looking at the outcome of the USA’s “search and destroy” missions and the effects of Agent Orange/ Napalm chemicals was very traumatic.

The effects of the Agent Orange chemical can still be seen around the world today…

Most of the photos I took are too grotesque to put in here. However, despite the shocking nature of all the information it was a great learning experience.

War stats…

We then got the overnight train from Saigon to Nha Trang. This took about 10 hours. Before travelling I had been warned about the trains in Vietnam and about how dirty they would be but so far, we’ve had a great experience of them. I found the toilets hilarious! They are basically just a hole in the ground that goes directly onto the train tracks so you’re essentially having a wee on the streets!

Playing cards on the sleeper train…

When we arrived here me and my sister and some other friends decided to go visit this mud spa spring thing and have a treatment. First of all you have a mud bath then shower off, then walk through this jet wall, then soak in a warm bubble bath and then go into another hot tub infused with minerals.

Mud bath…

We then spent the rest of the day swimming in the most incredible pools and cooling off in the sun. After a couple of weeks traveling, it is exactly what we needed to revitalize!

Such a chilled out day…

We then explored what the town had to offer by night with some other people which was so much fun! We started off in a place called “Why Not Bar” which literally just looked like the breeding ground for poor life choices! As it was getting busier we left and went to this other place called “Skylight” which was a roof top bar looking over the whole town. It looked so cool but as it was nearing closing time we didn’t get to see much.

Outside the roof top bar…

Someone suggested we went to a club called “Zimmer”. It looked great from the outside but was really weird on the inside. First of all, girls got in for free so my sister and I were fine. But the guys we were with had to pay. This should have been a sign – because the place was full of men! Some were wearing leotards and stuff. The people we were with wanted to stay on the beach and chill but we were absolutely shattered so we went back to our hotel. Which was a blessing in disguise because it took us forever to find it! We just kept on going round and round. Turns out the hotel had been gated off so we couldn’t see it. I started internally panicking considering sleeping on the beach but luckily the security guard woke up and let us in!

The rest of our stay in Nha Trang was spent doing what we do best – eating and chilling by the beach!

Having WAY too much fun on the beach…

From here we got the overnight train to Hoi An and we checked into what was probably the nicest hotel we’ve been in so far!

We didn’t really have much planned for Hoi An so we just grabbed a map and were proper tourists exploring by foot! We went to the central market, the Japanese bridge and visited a few temples.

Me and my sister on the Japanese bridge…

After this we got horrendously lost and were walking around for hours! This allowed us to see more of the town though. People still keep stopping us and asking for pictures. I still find it a bit weird. I’m sure there are loads of random pictures of me posing awkwardly with strangers floating around the internet somewhere! We also keep getting stopped by sellers. This one lady kept begging me to buy fruit, I really didn’t want any bananas but we offered to help her out with the selling! She found it really funny and I think I definitely have a future vocation selling fruit on the streets of Vietnam…

Selling fruit…

The following morning we did a cooking class and learnt how to make all the traditional noodles. It was at this really cool local project which helps the poorest kids in orphanages and puts them on an 18 month course where they learn culinary and hospitality skills and English. After this they gain professional certificates and are found jobs 5* star hotels and resorts.

We also did a bike tour around Hoi An. For someone who has always been too scared to ride my bike on anything other than the pavement of my small town at home, I’m really proud of myself for surviving the hectic and bumpy roads of the Vietnam. I had to take the rest of the day off though as I had a really sore bum from all the cycling!

Bike tour…

On the bike tour we went off the main roads and visited some of the village people and saw the Buffalo’s. We met this lovely old couple who showed us around their farm and they were so much fun to be around. They kept laughing, smiling and after all these years you could see they were clearly still so in love. They were definitely #relationshipgoals

Still holding hands after all these years!

They also allowed me to help them water their fields. I was definitely a natural and seriously think I’m wasted at University doing my Law degree! I feel like I should just stay in Vietnam and sell fruit or harvest the land.

We also went on two different types of boat tours. The first looked like a woven basket and you had to use paddles…

Basket bamboo boats…

And the second was a proper boat with an engine so we could just sit back and relax. We had such beautiful views and the weather was amazing.

Loving life on the boat ride…

From Hoi An we travelled 4 hours by bus to another town called Hue. On the way to Hue we stopped of at the Hai Van pass near Da Nang and saw the most beautiful view over the town. This is the same exact location where Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear described this landscape as “a metaphor for Vietnam”.

Shot of my sister looking over the scenery…

In Hue we did a motor bike tour. We were on the back of it with a local guide so luckily I didn’t have to do any driving! This allowed us to go slightly off the beaten track and see some non-touristy stuff. I really enjoyed just seeing the everyday life of Vietnamese people in the area. No-one was putting on a “show” for us, they were just doing their own thing which was nice to see.

Definitely think motor bikes should become my new mode of transportation…

I also had the nicest tour guide! His name was Nhee and he drove really fast which I loved and talked to me all about his life and family. He also kept telling me I was the happiest person he had ever met!

Me and my new best bud…

On the motor bike tour we also stopped off at various locations. We visited the Pagoda, the Coliseum, the rice museum, the royal tombs and watched how they make their Vietnamese conical hats and incense sticks.

Making faces at various monuments…

From Hue we got a 12 hour train through the night to Hanoi followed by a 4 hour bus to Halong Bay. Despite the long length this was actually a really fun journey, I stayed up all night with some new friends teaching them card games and playing charades. It felt like a standard Christmas day at my house!

We boarded on a private “junk” and did another boat cruise as we wanted to explore as much of the area in as little time as possible because we only had plans to stay in Halong Bay for one night only.

Boat tour…

We were surrounded by so much beauty that I found it kind of hard to take in! Everything looks straight out of a magazine that it is almost impossible to believe we’re here. Every so often I burst out laughing because I’m just soo happy and have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming!

Loving life in Halong Bay…

We stopped off on the boat tour and some of our friends went kayaking but we decided just to explore on foot and then we went Caving which was such an incredible experience. There were such intricate designs on the walls and all these lights illuminating every crevice.

The only dampener to the whole day were the other tourists! There were lots of groups of Chinese people who all kept pointing at me and my sister, laughing at us and touching our hair and taking pictures. They didn’t even ask which I found really disrespectful and rude! I felt like a monkey in a Zoo.

Inside the caves…

That evening we had an impromptu hotel room party which was so much fun. About 20 of us piled into one room and a balcony with music playing and we ordered in food and drinks.

The following day we returned back to Hanoi and took a sightseeing walk around the old quarters. My allergies have started playing up again which is really frustrating. Everywhere has been pretty clean and I haven’t eaten anything out of the ordinary so I have no idea what’s causing them. So my sister and I just sat in our hotel room watching National Geographic on TV and eating pringles! Some days it’s nice to just have chilled vibes.

Back in a geo-filter zone…

The next few days were spent exploring some more. My sister has a Vietnamese friend from sixth form back in England who now works in Hanoi. She took us to this fancy vegetarian restaurant and treated us to lunch which was so lovely of her. The food wasn’t really my thing but my sister is a Vegan so she was absolutely in her element and she had an amazing time! It hasn’t always been easy to find food she can eat whilst travelling as she is also lactose intolerant so today was absolute treat for her.

My sister and her friend- reunited after 5 years!

After that we went to visit the central market and the Hoa Lo prison. This is the same prison John McCain (Barack Obama’s right hand man) was imprisoned for 7 years. It was interesting to learn more about communism, the revolution and the western impact on the rest of the world.

Wax sculptures representing the hardship prisoners faced…

In the evening we went out to see Hanoi by night. A few of the people we’d met in Thailand who have been doing a similar journey to us were going back home the following day so we used this as an opportunity to say good bye to them. This was really fun but also emotional – it’s weird how close you can get to people in just 3 weeks and I’ll be sad to see them go!

From here we are going to fly from Vietnam to Laos for the third leg of our travels.

It’s just me, Dammy, off to Laos!

xoxo