Japan: The Canada of Asia

 

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We will just pretend the clouds are a spectacular view of Mount Fuji

 

Oh, Japan… I am just going to go ahead and say this out loud – Japan is like Korea, but better – sooo much better. Within hours of being in Japan, Jay and I agreed that we 100% could live in Japan. It was beautiful, and clean, and everyone was ridiculously nice. I was so overwhelmed with the kindness of the people of Japan. I am not sure how Canadians earned the rep of being the “nicest” country, but Japan has us beat by a landslide. If we looked lost or confused for even a second, you could guarantee a Japanese person would approach us to offer help. They taught us how to use the machines at the subway, directed us to our destinations, and one woman even rode the subway with us to take us where we needed to go.

Japan was also an ideal vacation for me because our trip centered around two things – a big hike, and lots and lots of food – the dream.

Osaka

The first stop on our trip was Osaka. Unfortunately, our flight was delayed a day due to Typhoon Noru hitting Japan – the day we were set to arrive – of course. We finally arrived in Japan a day late and decided to skip Kyoto and head straight to Osaka. We spent two nights in Osaka, one at the start of our trip, and one at the end of our trip. Osaka is known for being a foodie city, so I was eager to explore. With our limited time in Osaka, we spent most of our time strolling around the Dotonbori area along the river. We indulged in sushi (of course), and also okonomiyaki, and takoyaki – which are both specialties of the Osaka area – all of which did not disappoint. I also had a horrifying encounter with a screeching bug in Japan who landed on my foot – long story short, I gave a good laugh to a few locals as I screamed and leaped around the sidewalk. I think this was one of the highlights of the trip for Jay…

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Dotonbori, Osaka

Mount Fuji

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The start of our trek!

 

For me, this was why I went to Japan. I was more excited to climb Fuji than anything else on our trip. Fuji is a manageable climb for beginners with a rather impressive elevation, standing at over 3700 meters. Due to this, it is recommended you sleep on the mountain to avoid altitude sickness. We started our day by taking an early bus up to the Subashiri 5th station at 2000 meters elevation, and then we started our climb. Within an hour, I started to get light headed and nauseous – I now had an irrational fear of getting altitude sickness. We decided to take the climb slow and take many breaks, so I could acclimatize properly.

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Break time

 

We took a longer trail that is less frequented and goes through the forest. There was an eerie mist throughout the forest for most of our climb, and we saw very few other climbers – it was perfectly peaceful. Inevitably, the higher we climbed, the more barren it got, and out of nowhere – the mist cleared up and we realized we were far above the clouds.

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Bliiinded by the light

After about 8-9 hours of climbing, we reached our hut at the 8.5 station where we would sleep for the night. We had expected to see a mix of Japanese locals and tourists, but we were surprised to see that most of the climbers were locals from Japan. We slept in a room with 100 other sweaty hikers, nestled into rows of bunk beds.

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Cozy accomodations

Around 1 am, we were woken up by everyone preparing the trek to the summit. I woke up a very sleepy (and slightly grumpy) Jay, and we started to prepare to head to the summit. When we stepped outside our hut, I could not believe my eyes. There were thousands of people trekking up to the summit, and all you could see was the trail of lights.

It took us about two hours to reach the summit as we were going at a snail’s pace (my kinda pace) in line with everyone else. When we reached the summit, it was freezing cold, so windy, and snowing (sort of). I had to dig through my backpack to add on several layers of clothing, to the point where I was even wearing a pair of socks on my hands – yeah, I can be pretty resourceful. To our disappointment, we did not see a proper sunrise due to poor weather. We got a few glimpses of it through the clouds, but that was it. **Insert some cheesy quote about how it’s about the journey and not the destination**. Thanks for the pivotal life lesson Fuji.

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Every hiker frantically trying to catch the .35 second glimpse of the sunrise.

However, once we started to descend about 50-100 meters, the views above the clouds were incredible. We started our trek to the bottom, which involved sliding down loose volcanic gravel for several hours – this proved to be quite challenging for my grandmother-like joints, but I survived. I was pleased when we reached the bottom to discover that I had lost my hippie clutch – aka my wallet – aka my Visa and my Korean ID card…. It will likely puzzle me forever how and where I lost that stupid thing, but that’s life.

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When it’s so cold you wear socks on your hands…
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It’s pretty amazing being above the clouds – sunrise, or no sunrise.
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Who’s this stud muffin?

Fuji was a beautiful accomplishment, and I was reminded of this  in the following three days as I navigated the metro and streets of Tokyo. Every stair was taken painfully, one at a time, while my non-dilapidated boyfriend was able to walk around like normal. I will forever be grateful for escalators, elevators, and moving walkways.

Fujiyoshida

We spent the night in a small town with views of Mount Fuji the day we came down from our climb. I expected Fujiyoshida to be a small, but busy and touristy town, but to my surprise it was a sleepy mountain town perfect for recovery from Fuji. Our guesthouse was perfectly situated beside a vegetarian Japanese restaurant called Little Robot. I came to the conclusion at this restaurant that they do everything right in Japan – even vegetarian food.

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Incredible vegetarian meals at Little Robot

We also climbed 398 stairs to see the iconic view of Fuji from Arakurayama Sengen Park, but all we saw was clouds shaped perfectly to entirely block Mount Fuji. It was a beautiful quiet park, and Jay was pretty stoked about taking over a Pokemon gym – or something like that.

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“Mom” fashion

Tokyo

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Tokyo by night

First impression of Tokyo when I stepped out of Tokyo station – “Wow, this feels just like Toronto”. The general areas in Tokyo aren’t as crazy as I would’ve expected – it’s not insanely crowded, it’s clean, and it’s pretty quiet. However, there are several popular areas and neighbourhoods in Tokyo that are insanely busy with a buzzing high energy.

To be honest – our main focus in Tokyo was eating (well, for me at least). However, we spent most of our time wandering various neighbourhoods, exploring various shops and markets, and trying to navigate the monster metro system. Shinjuku was by far my favourite area of Tokyo. It was high energy, had lots of food, shops, bars, and small pockets of areas, each with a different feel. We visited an old school video game cafe where I observed Jay spend over an hour setting a high score on some game… to which he succeed. Good for him… We also visited a bar in the Golden Gai area, where the stairs were lined with red shag carpet and the interior had money all over the walls. We met an older couple from Thorne Hill and spent our night chatting about Canada and critiquing the sport of “Speed Walking” that was being displayed on the TV. We even spotted some Canadian Tire money on the walls of this place!

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Appropriate

We visited Shibuyua (the world’s “busiest” intersection), Harajuku, Raponggi Hills, and Asakusa, but the highlight of all of this was by far the food. We ate some incredible sushi, ramen, and tempura – all of which, will never be the same again outside of Japan. At most restaurants we visited, we were sat so we could watch the chef prepare our food, which was a pretty special experience on its own. I am pretty sure I gained at least 5 lbs  in Japan, but was pleased when someone asked me upon my return – “Have you lost weight? You look so skinny” – the happiest moment after you have indulged in multiple dinners and even pizza for dessert over the past several weeks.

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I told myself I’d be a “good” vegetarian after this meal
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The world’s “busiest” intersection

Japan has been my favourite country in Asia so far – any country that offers good food, kind people, and beautiful scenery will win me over. I am interested to see how China contrasts when I visit in six weeks.

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Thanks for the memories, Japan!
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Seoulicious

While this post is pretty delayed, I am still dreaming of the delicious food tour I had in Seoul at the start of May. In Seoul, there is an area heavily populated by foreigners called Itaewon – lucky for me, this area is a foodie paradise. As I have complained about often throughout my time in Korea, I have been quite deprived of my foodie and wino needs.

Thankfully, I left my weekend in Seoul with a happy tummy – you could say Seoul was good for my soul. This post is mostly for other foodies living in Korea, who are struggling to find delicious international food, so here we go. (Warning – I’d stop here if you’re already hungry for lunch).

The Flying Pan Blue

Brunch – the most important meal of the day (well, on the weekend at least). Luckily, there are ample opportunities to get your brunch on in Itaewon. We found this adorable hidden gem that served delicious Norwegian Benedict and mediocre coffee. I approve.

Burger Mine

This place is a bit outside Itaewon in Yongsan, but well worth the trek. The veggie burger was good (by Korean standards), but the real highlight was the “Animal Fries”. Apparently these are a take on a dish served at In-N-Out – french fries with thousand island dressing – yummmm.

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Soft Queen

Who doesn’t love soft serve? What’s better, is soft serve with crumbles of oreos sprinkled on top and a churro!

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Pizza Peel

I have a love-hate relationship with pizza in Korea. While it fulfills my cravings, it just isn’t Pepi’s (Holla Kitchener friends). What I do love, is that they serve their pizza here with – wait for it- honey and pickles. I’m not kidding, dip your cheese pizza in honey, and put some pickles on the side. Flipping delicious. Anyways, pizza peel does a pretty great job at a traditional pizza, and at an affordable price.

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Pizza Perfection

Champ Coffee

If I haven’t already mentioned it, my life here consists of drinking endless packets of instant coffee. It’s a sad life. Champ Coffee is a step in the right direction with regards to good coffee. However, the fact that it’s tucked out of the way down a quite alley, and has awesome hipster vibes gives it bonus points.

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#DoItForTheInsta

Gusto Taco

Another spot outside of Itaewon, but yes – so much yes. Gusto taco is amazing. Their tacos and their quesadillas are sooo good. They make their own tortillas in house, and it’s all delicious. Their nachos are a-okay, but I have come to expect nothing more than that from Korean nachos.

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That cheese crunch though…

Canucks

Nothing to make you feel like you’re at home more than a Canadian bar. 401 Highway signs, a Canada Post mailbox, delayed playoff hockey games, poutine, and whiskey – what more could a girl ask for? The poutine was incredible, and there were even real cheese curds – I’m not even sure where they find those suckers in Korea. Two thumbs up for Canucks poutine.

The weeks before getting sick and my trips to Vietnam and Seoul, I was hitting the gym hard. Probably a good thing as I spent my entire weekend in Seoul eating, and then resting up just so I could eat again. What can I say, I live to eat. Nom noms.

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#Namcation

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Towards the beginning of my contract, I found out that I would have the chance to take off a week in May due to National Holidays. I was so excited as I was thinking I wouldn’t have a getaway until August when Jay visits. Anyways, luckily I was able to snag some moderately pricey flights to Vietnam with my friend Caitlin, so off we went.

While Vietnam doesn’t seem like a large country, we only attempted to see Northern Vietnam, and I still feel like we hardly scratched the surface. That being said, in five days, we managed to visit Hanoi, Sapa and Ha Long Bay. Our vacation spanned a total of five nights – two on a sleeper train, two on a boat, and one on a short, 4 hour, red-eye flight. Needless to say, we did not come home from this vacation even remotely refreshed. However, it was worth it.

I think I say this about most places I have traveled at this point, but Vietnam has to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever been (okay, there is no way it trumps Iceland). Beyond the beauty, I was so surprised by the outpouring kindness of the people, and also of the English proficiency everywhere we went. I can’t express enough gratitude towards the universe for being born into an English speaking society – us English speakers are truly privileged.

As I mentioned, we visited three main spots in Northern Vietnam. Each spot was completely unique in comparison to the next, so I have to reflect on them individually.

Hanoi

Bah, what a bat-shit crazy city. We didn’t spend much time in Hanoi – I tend to gravitate to more rural areas, and don’t need much time to appreciate a city. There were very few quiet spots in Hanoi – the motorbikes and the people made it impossible to get a moment of silence unless you were inside. That being said, the energy was contagious, and helped me stay alert while running on no sleep – I was reminded to be more aware as motorbikes nearly clipped me while driving by. Hanoi – a city you could easily get run over by a vehicle or motorbike – crossing the street was absolutely insane. I thought it was difficult crossing the street in Korea at times, well thanks to Hanoi, that’s a breeze now!

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Motorbike madness

Now it wouldn’t be a vacation if we didn’t indulge in some awesome Vietnamese food, so of course, our first stop when we landed was to the highest rated Italian joint in the city – whoops. Props to Vietnam, because it was a pretty bomb pizza. Okay okay, onto the Vietnamese food… While in Hanoi, we didn’t get to try much because we were short on time, but I wasn’t leaving without trying three things: Bahn Mi, Pho & Vietnamese coffee. All were delicious, but oh em gee the coffee – probably the best I have ever had. If you are a coffee lover, go to Vietnam, go right now.

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VEGAN PHO
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Bahn Mi

Sapa

Oh Sapa… Sapa is one of those places that leaves an imprint on your heart. It’s one of those places that you daydream about when you get a bad wave of wanderlust when you’re having a rough day at work, or when you’re sitting in a Canadian snowstorm wishing for better weather.

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Taking it all in.

There are no words to describe how lovely Sapa is. We spent a day trekking in Sapa – I would normally say that wasn’t enough, but it was 30 degrees Celsius PLUS the humidity, so it was definitely enough. Our day trek in Sapa was led by a guide through a company called Sapa Sisters. They employ all local women to run the treks, and they are all private tours. While trekking through the Sapa Valley and taking in the sights of the beautiful rice fields, and water buffalo bathing in mud, I also got to talk with our guide, Zo. She shared so much about her life in Vietnam – her son, her work, things about her community. We discussed the differences between our cultures and shared many laughs. She was truly wonderful.

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Our amazing guide – Zo!

One wonderful thing about Vietnam is the abundance of babies! I’m not kidding – babies, babies everywhere! For those of you who know me, you know that this is essentially my paradise. Our guide Zo even hooked me up with a four month old baby to hang with when we stopped in the village for lunch – what a magical moment. Another memorable moment was a baby, not more than two years old, who yelled bye to us at least 17 times as we were leaving. It turned into a game, and I kept turning around to say bye to her, and she would say it again, and again, and again. What a smart cookie learning English already.

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Happiness is stealing babies.
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And puppies…
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Smart kids already knew English (and they weren’t wearing pants) – so wise.

Our day in Sapa ended with a motorbike ride back into the village. While I thought I would be scared for my life as we were headed directly into oncoming vehicles, it was a surprisingly calm experience for me. Kinda makes me wanna get a motorbike…

Ha Long Bay – Bai Tu Long Bay

Alright, I admit it – I hate organized tours. I hate being told what to do, I hate being told where to go, I hate being given a schedule to follow, and I hate rules. WOW, I sound super bitter. However, Ha Long Bay is a beautiful place that is far too challenging to visit without going on an organized boat tour.

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Our boat at sunset.
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Our guide telling me how to take photos – I’m clearly having none of it…

Luckily, our boat tour was really great – our guides were awesome, the people on our boat were lovely, the weather was good, and the Ha Long Bay area is stunning. I expected a few of those rock formations here and there – no, no, no, they just keep going and going forever. No matter where you go in that area, there are these miraculous rock formations, and so many of them. If I knew anything about them, I would tell you, but I don’t, so Google it – or you can visit my friend Caitlin’s blog – cause she knows shit about science, and I don’t.

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Starting our cruise through the mystery rock formations.

We spent a lot of time relaxing on the boat – the food was good and they had wine, so my tummy and my heart were super happy (Korea has been depriving me of my usual wine intake, and it is very distressing). Caitlin and I discovered that we vibe well with lovely couples from other cultures. We met a wonderful couple from Israel, and another from France.

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Sunsets are my favourite.

We also had the chance to visit a rural fishing village in the bay, where people actually live in floating houses. I admire those people – I was so sea sick after two days on the boat that I thought I might die. Followed by nearly a week of, what is called, “land sickness”, who even knew that was a thing? I felt like I was on a boat for almost a week after I was actually on a boat. Essentially, I felt like one of those bobble head things, and I would get awesome waves of nausea. It was pretty rough. However, the beautiful views made it all worthwhile.

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People LIVE here…

Anyways, I’ve blabbed enough about my awesome Namcation, and I will certainly be going back. Stay tuned for my next post about how I gained 10 lbs in Seoul. Nom noms.

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The closest I got to swimming, as there was a swimming ban in Ha Long Bay.

Life in Korea: Initial Impressions

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I have officially been in Korea over a month; I have been living in my apartment for more than three weeks, and I have started teaching. Since I have landed, everything has gone abnormally smooth (especially for my usual track record for near-death experiences while travelling – ie. the Iceland incident of 2016).  Because of this, a few questions have popped into my head since I have arrived in my apartment and settled in:

  • Am I supposed to be this comfortable?
  • Should a transition this big transition feel this easy?
  • Soooo, when is this whole “culture shock” thing going to hit me?

I still have no answers to these questions but I am waiting for the inevitable culture shock to smack me in the face – so I am sure I will have an entire blog post to write when that happens.

One of my initial impressions of Korea are the amount of small things that have made me think -“Wow, that’s smart – why don’t we do that in North America?”…

Examples:

  • Chairs that tuck themselves in, so you don’t have to
  • Heated floors in all homes and apartments – who doesn’t love warm toasty floors to walk on?
  • There are buttons at restaurants that you can push if you need service….or just waving at the server is completely acceptable. None of that awkward – “Oh, how is your first bite?” nonsense when you have a mouth full of food.
  • 360 degree photo stands for your phone in touristy areas – who needs a selfie stick?

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Aside from this, I have thoroughly enjoyed pointing out the hilarity in many signs throughout Korea…See below…

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Aside from these funny quirks that I have observed in Korea, I have really started to enjoy this beautiful country. While I have struggled with navigation since everything is in Hangul (the Korean alphabet), I am very fortunate that I speak English; there is just enough English around to get me by.

Over the past month, I have done my best to immerse myself into the Korean culture, and explore as much as I can. Throughout this process, I have developed a love for Jimjilbangs, Korean bathhouses where you strip down naked and hang out hopping from bath, to bath, to sauna; Korean food, especially Kimchi, I just can’t seem to get enough Kimchi; teaching, which is something I never thought I’d enjoy this much; and lastly, the Korean people, who have been incredibly welcoming and warm since I have arrived in Korea. I had a conversation with a friend recently about the idea that we are considered “foreigners”, but most times we are treated so unbelievably well that it would never feel like you would expect; Korea has naturally become my home away from home.

I have frequently thought to myself that it really doesn’t “feel” like I am living in Korea. I am waiting for that inevitable moment where I feel like I have entirely left my comfort zone, but it has yet to come. Perhaps this is related to distraction – I have been insanely busy lesson planning, teaching, working towards completing my Masters, going to social events, and exploring my city and neighboring cities. Perhaps when things calm down, it will all settle in. I hope to have a post soon about my apartment, my school and  my local neighborhood. Until then…

Morocco: Beautiful landscapes, delicious food and a side of culture shock

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In November 2016 I traveled to Morocco on my own. My first time visiting Africa, and my first time visiting a primarily Muslim country. I had read a number of blogs about the challenges of travelling through Morocco and dismissed them, thinking I would have a different experience… I did not. Morocco was beautiful and safe, but also a frustrating and challenging country to navigate as a young, solo, Caucasian woman.

My 11 Day Morocco Experience

**Full disclosure: I tend to get a little intense with my itineraries and they are often more ambitious than the average person. I came home exhausted and not at all refreshed. If this is not your style of travel, I would scale this back…. a lot**

Day 1 – Arrival & Marrekech

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Marrakech’s Main Square

I arrived in Marrakech late afternoon – I had pre-arranged pick up from my hostel (200dh), I now know that I was significantly overcharged for this as I took a taxi back to the airport for 70dh. (Dh = dirhams – Morocco’s local currency. Many places also take Euros). The first night I stayed at Marrakech Rouge Hostel – where I did not have the most positive experience. I dined at a small local restaurant and enjoyed some vegetable tagine (Tagine is a traditional Moroccan dish and the most common meal you’ll find on your travels).

Day 2 – Departure for the Sahara & Aït Benhaddou

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Ait Benhaddou

Early AM departure with my tour to the Sahara Desert (Merzouga) – There are two deserts in Morocco. The one I chose to visit is between an 8 and 12 hour bus ride away (to be honest, I stopped counting the hours on the bus).

On route to the desert we visited Aït Benhaddou,  a Berber village built in the 11th Century that has been used for filming movies such as the Gladiator and the show Game of Thrones.  Be mindful that these “side tours” cost extra money – so be prepared and have cash on hand because it will happen often during your desert tour.

We arrived in the Dodra Gorge area where we stayed overnight – our hotel was freezing. I was fortunate enough to have packed a sleeping bag liner (I would have froze without it).

Day 3 – Todra Gorge and Arrival in the Sahara Desert

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Todra Gorge (I clearly ran out of travel poses)

Continuing our trek towards the desert we went on another village tour where we basically received a carpet sales pitch…I’m a sucker and bought one. Bargain as much as you can, I made the mistake of not doing this and definitely overpaid.

Next stop was to visit the Todra Gorge – a beautiful spot.

Arrived in Merzouga (the city that neighbours the Sahara Desert) before sunset – where we got on our camels and started the trek into the desert.

PSA – If you have an interest in animal welfare/animal rights I would NOT recommend doing a camel tour. I seriously regret doing this, as the camels were clearly not well treated and were very unhappy standing up and sitting down with riders on their backs.

Unfortunately, I had a negative experience in the desert due to rain (what are the odds?), and the staff sexually harassing the women on the tour. Check the reviews before you use a tour company  – most people had a significantly better experience than I did.

Arrived in the desert via camel where we had dinner and slept.  

TIP – pack light and bring TP (you will basically be peeing outside on a sand dune). You need to bring next to nothing to the desert and can leave everything in your tour bus. No sense bringing it on the camel like I did.

Day 4 – Departure from the Sahara

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Sunrise in the Sahara

Expect to be woken up while it is still dark out to the sound of screaming camels (not particularly pleasant). Then you will head back to Merzouga for breakfast and start your bus ride home. The highlight of the desert tour was definitely the sunrise – worth waking up for.

The bus ride home was long with only stops to use the bathroom and for food. Expect to arrive in Marrakech in the late evening.

Day 5 – Ozoud Waterfall Tour

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Ozoud Waterfall (North Africa’s highest waterfall)

Ozoud is beautiful and is a nice opportunity to get in a small hike. I did a tour through my hostel and once again, the “tour guide” wasn’t included in the price. A few of us decided to opt out and explore on our own. We were told there are “many paths” and we wouldn’t be able to find our way on our own. This is not true. The paths are easy to navigate – you basically follow the river to the waterfall. Overall, a nice day trip from Marrakech!

Day 6 – Bus to Essaouira

The bus from Marrakech to Essaouira was roughly three hours and leaves frequently through the day.

Note – there are two bus companies in Morocco that service different routes – which I didn’t realize until halfway through my trip.

  1. CTM – Runs buses only
  2. SupraTours/ONCF – This company runs some bus routes AND the train system.

Their websites are easy to navigate for looking up schedules. These bus companies have separate bus stations in each city – be careful not to mix them up. Also, be mindful that the buses are often late so scheduling transfers with some time in between is a good idea. I missed a transfer once and had to wait 3-4 hours in the bus station.

Essaouira is a magical place and was a breath of fresh air after the chaos of my desert tour and Marrakech. Take a walk along the port, beach and outside the city walls, eat some delicious fresh seafood, and wander the medina where you will not get harassed like you do in the larger cities.

I didn’t get the chance to – but there are opportunities for outdoor activities such as surfing and windsurfing.

I also visited a private authentic Hammam and would highly recommend if you are looking for an authentic, cultural and relaxing experience. Keep an open mind and don’t expect a Western spa experience!

Day 7 – Exploring Essaouira

I spent the day exploring Essaouira and then took a bus back to Marrakech at dinner time. From Marrakech, I took an overnight bus to Fes and then continued to Chefchaouen.

Day 8 – Arrival in Chefchaouen

I spent a lot of the day bussing and arrived in Chefchaouen later in the afternoon. This was a long trek, but well worth it.

Day 9 – Exploring Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen was my favourite city I visited in Morocco. It was beautiful, calm and the people were friendly. A sleepy mountain town where the medina was painted shades of blue by Jewish refugees centuries ago is the perfect place to get lost and explore in and out of the medina. Surrounded by mountains, there are plentiful opportunities for hiking. I spent some time hiking up to the outside of the city walls and up to the Spanish Mosque (beautiful views of the city and a great spot to watch the sunset). There is additional hiking in the area, but unfortunately, I didn’t have time for this. I spent most of my time wandering around the medina photographing cats and doors.

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Cats….Cats everywhere
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Daytime view from the Spanish Mosque
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Chefchaouen Medina
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Sunset views from the Spanish Mosque

Day 10 – Travel Day & Returning to Marrakech

NOTE – BOOK YOUR BUS BACK TO MARRAKECH/FES/WHEREVER YOU ARE GOING WHEN YOU ARRIVE IN CHEFCHAOUEN. BUSES BOOK UP FAST.

Day 11 – Last Chance to Explore Marrakech

Spent the morning wandering around the Marrakech medina and enjoyed lunch at a delightful restaurant called Zwin Zwin Cafe – on the expensive side, but the food was delicious, they take credit card and even serve WINE! I was able to get a little buzz on before heading to the Marrakech airport to fly home.

General Things to be aware of:

  • Dress modestly – I made a rule to keep my shoulders and knees covered at all times. This draws significantly less attention to yourself.
  • Men will approach you – As a solo woman traveller, this is something you have to decide how you want to handle. I found I got very fed up by advances made by men and catcalls in the medina. My approach was to be extremely firm and I found this got the best response. While walking around the medinas, I would put my headphones in and listen to my music – this helped if I was feeling irritable and didn’t want to deal with the catcalls.
  • NOWHERE TAKES CREDIT CARD – seriously, nowhere… I found two places my entire trip that accepted Visa. Bring cash.
  • Wine/other alcohol is extremely hard to come by – There are some restaurants and a few stores that sell alcohol but they are far and few.
  • The culture is very different. Expect to be hustled for money everywhere you go. Also expect to pay someone if they help you with anything. Especially in the larger cities. If you don’t want to pay money, don’t accept directions from someone, follow people places, etc. I underestimated how much this would get to me. You will feel taken advantage of – it’s just part of the culture.

Was Morocco a beautiful country and did I enjoy my trip? Yes.

Would I go back? Probably not.

I’ve seen it, and it was wonderful, challenging, and frustrating all at the same time and I would recommend anyone visit so long as they have a good backbone and are prepared to delve into a very different culture than they are used to.

Iceland’s Top 10 Sights

Since travelling to Iceland in June 2016, I have had an infinite amount of friends asking me for tips, tricks and “must sees”. In response to this, I decided to do a post about my favourite places in Iceland.

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Myself and two friends rented a campervan and traveled the entire Ring Road in 6 days (not recommended by most). We had the time of our lives – here are my favourite spots along the way (in no specific order)

1. Þingvellir National Park

Snorkeling (or diving) between the tectonic plates

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This was one of my most memorable experiences in Iceland. After getting bundled up in a two layer dry suit, we had the chance to snorkel in some of the purest and clearest water in the world. While pricey, it was definitely a worthwhile experience. **Note if you have your diving certification – the dive also looked incredible**

2. Godafoss

Favourite waterfall of the north (Tip: Foss = Waterfall)

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This waterfall in the North is beautiful and powerful. You could spend hours just walking around.

3. Vindbelgjarfall

A beautiful day hike

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A good hike in the Myvatn Lake area with some challenging terrain and breathtaking views at the top. Bring up some beers and snacks and enjoy the view. Stay on the path both ways – we had quite the adventure going down the wrong side of the mountain.

4. Myvatn Nature Baths

A good alternative to the Blue Lagoon

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We didn’t venture to the blue lagoon as we had heard it was too busy, too expensive and too touristy. The Myvatn Nature Baths were heavenly after a long day of hiking and driving. The baths are open late, so if you are there in the summer you can hang out while the sun lingers at sunset. They also serve drinks in the pool.

5. Driving through the East Fjords

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The drive from Northern Iceland, through the Easy Fjords and down to Hofn was absolutely breathtaking. The landscapes changed drastically within kilometres – it was surreal.

6. Jökulsárlón

The Glacier Lagoon

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I had never been anywhere near the Arctic, or even seen an iceberg – so the glacier lagoon was fascinating. We went when the sun was “setting” and it was beautiful. We spent our time skipping rocks and trying to capture mini icebergs.

7. Fjaðrárgljúfur

“The most beautiful canyon in the world”

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If I had to pick a favourite place in Iceland, I think this would be it. Wander up and down the sides of the canyon, risk your life walking out onto small paths, or take a dip in the glacier fed river below.

8. Skogafoss

A waterfall for the adventurous

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A popular spot in Iceland where you can walk right up to the waterfall and climb up the steps to the top. Ignore the rope fence at the top and wander beyond the crowds, to the river and down into the caves below.

9. Seljavallalaug

The opposite of the Blue Lagoon

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If you are into “off the map”, “roughing it” kind of places, than this hot pot is for you. Seljavallalaug is a 25 metre stone swimming pool in the middle of a gorgeous valley. You have to trek a little bit to get there from the parking lot and the change rooms are basically a scene from horror movie, but that’s all part of the experience, right? Bring some Icelandic beer and relax in the middle of nowhere in this naturally heated pool.

10. Reykjavik

Good food, good nightlife and beautiful scenery

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It wouldn’t be a trip to Iceland if you didn’t spend some time in Reykjavik. Reykjavik is a charming city and Iceland’s capital. If you are into nightlife, spend your night hopping from bar to bar and finish the night hopping from food truck to food truck. The bars range from Irish pubs with live music to nightclubs with DJs. Reykjavik is home to some of the best fish and chips I have ever had. Warning – spending more than a day or two in Reykjavik is a good way to burn a hole in your wallet…you’ve been warned.
Now, these are only 10 of my favourite places in Iceland and there are so many places I didn’t get to visit while I was there – the West Fjords, the Highlands… Iceland is so vast and there is so much to explore, so don’t let this list restrict you!

My Move to Korea – FAQ

As you can imagine, I have been inundated with questions since I have announced my move to Korea… I hope this FAQ answers most of your questions (**cough cough** Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, etc – this post is for you).

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You’re moving to KOREA? North or South?!

Obviously South…come on guys.

When do you leave?

I will be flying out on February 17th, 2017.

How long will you be gone for?

My contract is for one year and then I plan to travel Southeast Asia for a few months starting in March 2018.

Where will you be working/what will you be doing?

I will be working as a Guest English Teacher with the public school system in Korea. The company I am working for is called EPIK. I won’t know any other details until I arrive in Korea – ie. location of my school(s), what grade I’ll be teaching, etc.

Where will you be living?

I have been placed in a Ulsan. Korea’s 7th largest city with a population of 1.1 million in south east Korea on the coast. I won’t know my specific location in Ulsan until I arrive.

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How will you keep in touch?

I will be able to message friends and family back home through Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts. I will also be updating my blog frequently so you can follow along on here!

Can I come visit?

Duh! I’m super excited to have visitors when I am in Korea. Reach out if you are interested in visiting or joining along on some SE Asia travels in 2018.

With this new adventure comes a lot of unknowns. I look forward to seeing what this new chapter has in store for me as I move to Korea next month! My goal is to post on my blog weekly so check often for updates!