THE QUARRY TREK WITH GECKOS | AN INCA TRAIL ALTERNATIVE


The famous and challenging 4 day trek, which leads you through valleys and mountains stretching across the Andes, guiding you through the Sun Gate and into Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail makes it to every bucket list out there - so why in the world would you want an alternative?


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WHY RIO'S SANTA TERESA STOLE MY HEART


What does Rio have to offer beyond the beautiful beaches and big booties? There's too much to fit into one post, so let's start with the charming and wonderful area of Santa Teresa. The famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema may distract you away but if you want a different experience away (even if for a few days) from the beach scene, you have to give Santa Teresa a try. 


We stayed in a gorgeous hotel called Sant Martre - the gated accommodation looked somber as we hopped out of the cab but as soon as those gates slid open, the green treetops covered the cityscape transforming us to a mountainous yet tropical paradise. Generally, anywhere you go in Santa Teresa will have mind blowing views of Rio, since it's up in the hills but imagine waking up, eating breakfast, swimming and lounging with this view. It was a short 5 minute walk to the main part of the neighbourhood where you'll find bars, restaurants and 10 minutes down the road you'll find the famous Escadaria Selaron. 


Where to stay: 

When in Santa Teresa, look no further than Sant Martre Hotel, as mentioned above, it's just fab. The staff are friendly and helpful, especially with recommendations for things to do around Rio. They guided us to some amazing blocos, as well as tourist hotspots. As you see from the photos, it's located in a perfect place with amazing views - the pool overlooks the city and luscious jungle topped landscapes. The standard double room is fairly small but clean and there are several room types to choose from plus they have recently added in an outdoor hot tub next to the pool! The breakfast selection consists of breads, jams and eggs, plus, their avocado tree drops down fresh avo's that you are welcome to pick and spread on your toast! 


Where to eat: 
Cafecito is just downright delicious. I had the beef kebab, which was so juicy and flavoursome, I'll be dreaming of it for years to come. It was served with farofa, which added texture and I tried it with a platter of vegetables and a green salad - which was the perfect refreshing accompaniment with a heap of flavour too! Climb the steps to the top floor to enjoy your lunch in a garden-esque terrace. And of course, try the caiprinhas!

Espirito Santa is another great place. Tucked away on the streets of Santa Teresa, the quirky decor makes you feel like you're in a proper local joint. I went here during my first trip to Rio and was eager to come back since I knew the food was delicious. We tried the banana moqueca accompanied by rice and beans. Yum!

Aprazivel is a little bit more pricey and comes up as one of the top places to eat in Santa Teresa. Their moqueca is amazing and the atmosphere and views are beautiful! I also tried the palm hearts and escondido, which is a wonderful dish of cassava puree, topped by a shredded meat (either beef or chicken) and topped with cheese. It's all of my favourite things in one little pot. 

Plus for refreshing and must have acai bowls, head to the small place opposite cafecito, they have massive bowls of the stuff, perfect for the scorching weather. It's a hard place to spot since it has no shop sign and pretty much tucked away so keep your eyes peeled!


What to see: 
Parque das Ruinas is a lovely little building perched on a hill that provides a panoramic view of Rio. It was once an old mansion, with added contemporary features to it during renovation; it is now an art gallery with the occasional outdoor concert.
Escadaria Selaron aka the famous steps used in Snoop Dogg's music video 'Beautiful.' These are gorgeous and it's a nice walk up/down them and a must see.
Metropolitan Cathedral and Arcos da Lapa are both right next to each other and in my opinion , whilst they're not the prettiest sights (the cathedral, I swear, is identical to the Dr Who darleks), they're so close to the steps, you might as well take a peek. 


It's such a great neighbourhood for even simply exploring and you'll definitely notice how it comes to life in the evening. You're sure to find a street party close by on the weekends and Lapa is really famous for its nightlife, which is very closeby too. The beautiful cobblestone streets are picturesque and the views will continue to wow you. Just be prepared to walk up a lot of hills!



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5 THINGS TO DO IN HONG KONG


After discovering some super cheap tickets to Hong Kong, my mum and I found ourselves heading there last minute. Just us two. Something we'd never done before. Without being sure what to expect from Hong Kong I was excited to explore beyond the towering high rise building and discover an intriguing city laden with history, fun and amazing food! 


Visit Tai-O on Lantau Island

I fell in love with Tai-O; this humble fishing town gives you a glimpse into the tight community who places themselves on stilted housing over the calm waters of Lantau Island. Also home to a natural infinity pool nestled between the rocks over looking luscious foliage - what better place to enjoy a refreshing swim than in this wonderful lake? 

How to get here by MTR: Tung Chung Station

 See the Giant Buddha & Take the Glass Floor Cable Car

Climb the 268 steps to visit the mesmerising Tian Tan Buddha, also known as Giant Buddha - the wonderfully peaceful structure placed between green hills and mystical mountains reiterates the symbolic meaning of the harmonious connection between humans and nature. Opt to make your day even more special by taking the glass floor cable car to witness the mountains move beneath your feet. Also located on Lantau Island so squeeze in before/after Tai-O.

How to get here by MTR: Tung Chung Station


Shop your heart out in Mong Kok

An incredible hub for shopping, whether you're looking for clothing, bags, flowers and fish, this vibrant marketplace will have it. Marvel at the quirky energy of Kowloon, whether it's ladies dressed as maids or random men with their belly hanging out (and making creepily strong eye contact with you), grab a bubble tea and enjoy! There are also loads of authentic options for dining, with restaurants filled with locals on every corner, you won't be let down by the delicious options - just be warned there might be a chicken foot or two lurking in your soups...

How to get here by MTR: Kowloon Station


Visit the Vegas of the East in Macau

So technically not in Hong Kong, but this neighbouring city of Macau is just an hour (approx) ferry ride away. This colonial city oozes Portugese influence, almost making you feel like you're in Europe! It's known for the mix of temples and shrines, ruins brimming with history and most famously, the gambling with more revenue being produced here than Las Vegas!

How to get to Macau from Hong Kong: Head to the Shueng Wan MTR station, where you'll find the Hong Kong - Macau Ferry Terminal on Hong Kong Island. Price: 132 to 172 HKD (single trip, economy class).

Take the Tram to Victoria Peak

Use your Octopus card (your MTR pass) to take the tram up or get yourself a return ticket roughly 90 HKD so you can experience the panoramic views of this buzzing city. Not only is it an incredible viewpoint but look no further for the best rooftop bar/restaurant/shopping plaza combination. Grab yourself some dim sum or a cocktail and soak up the views. 

How to get there: Central Station 


Where to Stay in Hong Kong?
It's going to be a toss up on whether to stay on Kowloon or Hong Kong Island. Whilst I stayed in the vibrant area of Wan Chai on HK Island, close to the harbour and buzzing with restaurants, department stores and bars, if you're a backpacker and searching for hostel vibes, I recommend Kowloon. However, with the MTR (underground train) system being so efficient, it'll be easy to navigate around wherever you stay. Try hostels such as:

Hong Kong turned out to be so unexpectedly amazing, from the sights and whir of the city to the food - wow the food! Say goodbye to your sweet & sour chicken because the dishes here are beyond your local takeout.
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FALLING IN LOVE WITH HOI AN


Vietnam is a place bursting with culture, beauty and wonderful food and it won't take you long to fall in love, especially with Hoi An. After hopping on the overnight train the day before, we had an early arrival, so naturally, head out in search of breakfast. I knew I was going to enjoy it here as soon as I saw the menu. A banana fritter-like dish served with honey - for breakfast?! The crunchy fritter was warm, with gooey banana running through and the drizzle of honey sweetened it up. Delicious!


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HOSTEL HIGHLIGHT | MILHOUSE, CUSCO


There are so many times when staying in a hostel is so much better than staying in a hotel. The cheaper room options make it an extremely affordable way to travel whilst giving you the opportunity to make friends who are in the exact same boat as you. Young, adventurous and often solo, you'll be chatting away with your new roomies and making life long friends in no time! 
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