Quick Guide to Kraków: What to See + Do + Eat

Last December I travelled to Kraków, Poland for the first time, and though my trip was initially to visit the city’s Christmas market, I was pleasantly surprised by everything else Kraków had to offer... good food, rich history, and awesome street art to name a few.

If you’re into any of that, here are some attractions, eats, and neighborhoods that you won’t want to miss.


What To Do

explore the Old Town

A trip to Kraków isn’t a trip to Kraków without visiting the Old Town. It was on the first UNESCO World Heritage list in 1978... and for good reason. The Old Town is home to many of the city’s icons like St. Mary’s Basilica, the historic Town Hall Tower, Wawel Castle, and the largest market square in Europe.

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Wander the grounds of Wawel Castle

Though it’s definitely one of Old Town’s most touristy landmarks, Wawel Castle, & the iconic fire breathing dragon at the foot of the hill, are both worth a visit.

Local tip: a friend from Kraków told us the castle is best enjoyed from the grounds, so we decided against paying the admission to get inside. Whether you decide to go in or not, you should get there early to avoid crowds.

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Hunt for street art in Kazimierz

The Old Town is beautiful, but if that’s the only area you visit you’ll seriously miss out. Be sure to spend some time wandering around the Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz - this was one of my favorite spots in the city.

The area has an entirely different look and feel than the Old Town... which probably has to do with the fact that it used to be an entirely separate city.

I’m a huge sucker for hole in the wall bars, cafes, and street art... and Kazimierz has plenty of all of them.

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cross the Bernatek Footbridge

After exploring Kazimierz, head towards the Vistula River to the Bernatek Footbridge. This pedestrian + bike friendly bridge opened in 2010, but the love locks & gravity defying aerialists were added a bit later.

The bridge connects Kazimierz with Podgórze, another hot spot for good eats and drinks.

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What to Eat/Drink (and where)



If you visit Kraków in the winter, you’ll find lots of delicious foods to warm you up at the Christmas Market like pierogi or, the most traditional polish dish of all - soup.

You can get mulled wine served straight from the barrel, or switch it up with other hot drinks like beer and vodka. I was as skeptical at first, but, turns out, the hot ginger beer at @piwnicapodbaranami, a super cozy underground cabaret turned bar, is actually pretty delicious.

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Good food is everywhere in this city, but, if you’re balling on a budget like me, I wouldn’t recommend eating at the Main Square.

As a general rule, the further away you get, the cheaper meal prices will be.

Unless you’re grubbing on street food at the Christmas market, you’ll likely find delicious meals for much less in Kazimierz.

The pierogi pictured below is from Zielony Balonik (The Green Balloon). For a cheaper (delicious) alternative head to the Old Town Restaurant and Wine Bar. It’s just a short walk away from the Old Town and is easily my favorite place we ate during our time in Poland. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos because… well, I was more focused on eating.

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Getting Around

The best way to get around Kraków is to WALK. Kraków is pedestrian friendly and most of the landmarks around Old Town are within walking distance.

Don’t feel like walking? You can also rent a bike or use the city’s public transit which operates 24 hours a day.

If you plan on taking buses or trams frequently, you may want to get a 2 or 3 day Krakow Tourist card (US$26 and $32 respectively). This card is good for airport transfer, unlimited public transport around the city, and will get you free admission to 40+ museums & attractions.

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Christmas Markets of Kraków



Have you been to Kraków? What is your favorite thing to do in the city?

Let me know in the comments below!


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Budapest’s Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel at St. Stephen's Basilica

On their website, Pal’s Hostel makes the bold claim that they are, “Not your average hostel.” After staying here myself, I can honestly say that this statement couldn’t be more accurate.

They say it’s because the hostel is actually a chain of dorms and apartments near St. Stephen’s Square… but I think their unique setup and prime location are just two of several defining characteristics that make Pal’s stand out from the rest.

If you’re travelling to Budapest (especially on a time limit), this is the best (and most budget friendly) place you could stay.

Here’s why.


Location

Voted 10th best large hostel worldwide in the 2018 Hoscar Awards, Pal’s is hands down the most conveniently located hostel I have ever stayed at… and I have crashed at my fair share hostels.

It is located so close to St. Stephen’s Basilica that you can literally see it from some of their properties. This is not an exaggeration.

This location puts the hostel a short walk away from Deák Ferenc tér - the metro station where Budapest’s three main lines intersect.

Staying in such a central location made it easy for us to make the most of our short time in Budapest and to see as much as we could.

Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld
Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld
Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld


privacy

In addition to its great location, Pal’s has a wide variety of room options ranging from mixed dorms and private rooms to ensuites and apartments. Thanks to their wide range of options, the hostel attracts a wide range of travellers. We saw families, older couples, backpackers, solo travellers and groups checking in and out.

Andrew and I opted for a private room in a shared apartment located in a building just across the street from the main reception building. Even though we were in the middle of the city (during the Christmas markets), our room was quiet and we had so much privacy.

It wasn’t just a place to sleep - I had a place to set up my classroom to teach online each morning, a kitchen to make our own meals, and, after a day of exploring, we could come back to chill and recharge, just the two of us.

There were a couple flights of stairs to get to the apartment - which isn’t exactly ideal for older, less mobile individuals (or for carrying our one shared suitcase - filled with lots of (my) winter clothes. Shout out to Andrew for carrying that sucker up).

The apartment had a living room, full kitchen, one other bedroom, and a shared bathroom. There were a couple of times that I had to pee or wanted to shower and had to wait because someone was in the bathroom… but this wasn’t a big issue.

It was a major upgrade from some hostel situations where the bathroom is either gross because it’s shared by too many people and not cleaned often enough, or you have to wait for ages. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever had to race for the shower while staying at a hostel. Not ideal. This was much better than that)


Social Atmosphere

Just because Pal’s offers guests more private room options doesn’t mean it isn’t a social hostel.

There are communal spaces located in the main building where you can get some work done or grab a free cup of coffee while mingling with your fellow travellers. They also host daily activities here like trivia nights, family dinners (featuring traditional Hungarian dishes), and even beer pong tournaments.

Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld
Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld

It definitely isn’t the most social hostel I’ve ever been to, since it’s so spread out… but, in my opinion, it’s nicer to have the option of attending events than to be bombarded by a loud party crowd when you just want some privacy or peace and quiet.

It was just the right amount of social… in that socializing was optional and not unavoidable… (I’m kind of a recluse sometimes… sue me).



Friendly Staff

Speaking of the social atmosphere, the people at Pal’s are pretty great, too… but I guess when you work at a place called “Pal’s,” you kinda have to be.

The staff was comprised of a fun and friendly group of people from all over the world. Many of them had been in Budapest for awhile, so they were able to give great advice on the best places to see in the neighborhood, around the city, and how to get there.

Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld

Fast Wifi

Since I work on the go, having a good wifi connection is crucial.

Some hostels are hit or miss when it comes to their high-speed internet, but in our apartment at Pal’s I had zero problems connecting and teaching my English classes online.



Clean and colorful

Some people may not care where they lay their head or what it looks like, but when I’m deciding on a hostel or hotel, I almost always make sure it meets these two bonus criteria.

Call me crazy, (extra, bougie, high-maintenance… whatever)… but there’s something special about staying in a place that’s visually appealing.

Pal’s is filled with colorful artwork and murals in its shared spaces… and when I say filled I mean these masterpieces literally cover the majority of the walls.

In my opinion, they could have done a little more with the interior decoration in the apartments… but they were clean, and that’s what matters most.

Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld
Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld



Affordability

As with anywhere, prices at Pal’s vary greatly depending on when you go, what type of room you choose, and how long you stay.

We visited at the start of December for the Christmas markets and found the costs to be significantly lower than comparable accommodations in the neighborhood.

Booking

Check current rates or book your room using the search box below.

Booking.com

Don’t forget to add your name to the wall!

Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld

What is the best hostel you’ve ever stayed at? Let me know in the comments below!

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Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld
Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld
Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld

Teaching English Online with PalFish - What's Required + How to Get Started

Teaching English Online with PalFish - What's Required + How to Get Started

In the month of January, I made over $1.2k for about 50 hours of work.

I didn’t have to leave the house, wear real pants, put on makeup, or interact with anyone over the age of 12. I could travel without having to “take time off,” and, so far, have been able to work in over half a dozen different countries.

SEEMS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, RIGHT?

Well, it’s not! It’s completely legitimate and it’s made possible by an innovative online teaching company called PalFish.

I’ve received a lot of questions from family and friends about this company and how they can get started, so I figured a little blog guide was in order!

Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul

Ahhh, Seoul.

My home away from home, and a vastly underrated travel destination.

From endless underground shopping to incredible nightlife... a vibrant, well-preserved culture and amazing, modern architecture... this sprawling city seriously has it all. 

Turns out, it's also a photographers paradise…

In no particular order, Here are 10 urban photo spots you won’t want to miss.


Ewha Womans University

Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld
Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld
Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld

I was pumped when my friend Nick said he wanted to shoot here because, despite living in Seoul for years, I still hadn't been. We arrived so early on that Saturday morning that the, typically crowded, famous walkway on campus was practically empty... which made for some incredible shots.

According to google images, this is also an epic spot to shoot after the sun goes down and the buildings light up. I didn’t get a great shot of the buildings (because I only had my phone camera, and, when it comes to night photos, its shooting abilities are subpar at best). I did, however, get this cool photo of the empty cafe area.

Getting there

Head to Ehwa Womans University Station on the green (2) line. Take either exit two or three and walk straight for a few minutes. You'll run right in to the university grounds!

Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld

CanonPlex

On the southside of the Han, in an unsuspecting camera shop, is one seriously swoon-worthy spiral staircase. There's really not much to see here other than that... (unless you're in the market for some new Canon stuff), but it makes for a pretty cool "Down the Rabbit Hole"-esque shot.

If you're in Apgujeong, pop in to the CanonPlex for your next insta-post!


Getting there

Head to Apgujeong Rodeo Station on the Bundang (yellow) line and walk straight out of exit 5. The CanonPlex will be just down the road on your right!

Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld

Dongdaemun Design Plaza

CAN I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION, PLEASE... YES, YOU! If there is one place in Seoul you HAVE to go… it’s here. Seriously.

This was one of my favorite areas in the whole city since I first moved to Seoul in 2015. My friends made fun of me for loving it so much, but who could blame me!? - Look at those curves! (Side note: I also had a really adorable first date, first kiss on a butt-statue chair here, therefore, it will always hold a special place in my heart. The place, not the butt statue...).

Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld
Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld

Aside from its sentimental value, the DDP's futuristic architecture and design never cease to amaze and inspire. Be sure to wander inside the spaceships as well. Scotty might not beam you up, but I guarantee you'll find an exhibit, stairwell, or spacey corridor that'll make you feel like you're on another planet.

Getting there

Head to Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station, (located on lines 2, 4, and 5), and walk out of Exit 1.

Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld
Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld
Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld

Blue Square

Blue Square is a culture complex with a bookstore, cafe, and even a performing arts theatre. The walls of its Book Park are lined with books from the floor to the ceiling, and the massive windows, giving this aesthetically pleasing location an even cozier feel.

There are several little nooks and lofts where you can literally sit amongst the bookshelves... so, that's exactly what I did. I got a cup of tea, pulled out my journal, and was happily stuck here waiting out a rainstorm for the rest of the afternoon.

Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld
Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld
Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld

Note: BYOB(ook). 

There are lots of books here, but, as I wasn't here book shopping, I'm honestly not sure if any of their books are actually in English. It isn’t uncommon to go in a book store in Korea and find fake English books on display.

Getting there

Blue Square is located at Hangangjin Station on the brown (9) line, and just outside of exit 2. Pair this with a visit to Leeum Art Museum (mentioned a bit later).


Sulwhasoo Flagship Store

This location is a spa, a boutique, lounge, and the home to what may be the most genius staircase concept I've ever seen. The metal grid alongside the outdoor stairwell seems to go on forever... and, though it actually stopped at the rooftop garden lounge, it was still awesome.

We got some really cool, minimal shots here - in most of which, I was either sticking my tongue out (or taking photos of Nick taking photos of me)... but I was such a minimal midget, you'd never be able to tell... (which is why I LOVE THIS TYPE OF PHOTOGRAPHY - as there's zero pressure on the person in the frame).

The golden metal staircase at Sulwhasoo would undoubtedly be an amazing background for portraits as well... but, unfortunately, at this point in the day, my sniffly nose was wayyyy too red and runny for that

Getting there

The Sulwhasoo Flagship Store (not to be confused with the Sulwhasoo Spa in Jamsil) is also accessible from Apgujeong Rodeo station.

Take exit 5 and walk straight along Seolleung-ro (선릉로).

When you reach the first major intersection, past the CanonPlex & Sony store, turn right on to Dosan-daero (도산대로). Turn down the third road on your right. This spot will be down the road and on the right - can't miss it!

Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld
Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld
Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld
Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld

Anyang Art Park

This park deserves a post of its own… because it is quite literally the most elusive park I have ever been to. The installations are scattered throughout the woods… and the signage is all in Korean… so the first time I attempted to go, I didn’t find any of them.

The second time, I found a few installations but most of them were locked… so I tried a third time… (and, surprise surprise, still didn’t find all of the installations I was looking for).

Thankfully, Seoul photographer James Lucian let me snag a few of his photos for this article!

Each installation is so unique. I love the different compositions you can make of the textures and colors.

Getting there

Gwanak is the nearest Metro Station to the art park. Like I said, it’s super tough to sort out where everything is… I’ll go into more detail in a post just for this a bit later.

In the meantime, I’ve pinned it in the map below - Pay attention to the signage when you leave the station and be prepared to walk through the woods. May the odds be ever in your favor!

PHOTO BY JAMES LUCIAN

PHOTO BY JAMES LUCIAN

Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld
Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld
Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld
PHOTO BY JAMES LUCIAN

PHOTO BY JAMES LUCIAN

Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld

StarField Library

The beautiful StarField library is located in the COEX mall, Asia’s largest underground shopping center. It is well lit, aesthetically pleasing, and has the cutest little photo spot at the curve of the shelf.

Though it isn’t the quietest library in the world, it’s definitely a cool spot to check out while visiting the city.

In addition to the library, there are so many other things to see and do within this complex. There is an aquarium, clubs, hotels, restaurants, and, of course, lots of shops.

Right across the street from COEX, you’ll find the Bongeunsa Temple - one of the largest Buddhist Temples in the city.

Getting there

Take the metro to Samseong Station and take exit 5 or 6 to get to the mall!

Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld
PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY BRITTANY VARANO

PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY BRITTANY VARANO


Leeum Art Museum

On my second weekend in the country, I braved the metro and headed to Itaewon to visit the Leeum Art Museum and explore the area… making this museum one of the first places I visited on my own… not just in Korea, but probably ever. Prior to moving abroad by myself, I had a group mentality, and was honestly a bit scared/nervous to go places on my own. This would be the first of many times I ventured out solo.

Unfortunately, being by yourself sometimes means missing out on epic shots like these. Thankfully, Brittany of LifeOfBrit let me borrow this shot of her in one of the Museum’s most well known exhibits.

The Leeum Art Museum has many permanent and rotating exhibits of traditional and modern art. Museum 1 showcases traditional Korean art and Museum 2 features modern and contemporary pieces.

There is an admission fee of 10,000 won, but if you are a university student with school ID, under the age of 24, or over age 65, you can get a 50% discount.

Getting there

Head to Hangangjin Station (Seoul Subway Line 6) and take exit 1. Walk straight for 100m then take a right down the first alley. Walk about 5 minutes up the hill to reach the museum.

Pair this with a trip to Blue Square (located at the same station) or a day of eating your way through Itaewon.

PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY BRITTANY VARANO

PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY BRITTANY VARANO


Seoul Botanic Park

This gorgeous Botanic Park opened in Western Seoul in October 2018… (which is a huge bummer for me because I had already left the country by then).

Like the famous Cloud Forest in Singapore, the Seoul Botanic Park has a skywalk through its upper canopy. There are currently about 3,100 kinds of plants, but their goal is to eventually have 8,000 plant species.

The architecture of the park looks gorgeous… especially in these golden hour shots by James Lucian… plus - I love plants. The best part… during their trial period, admission is free!

Getting there

Seoul Botanic Park is a short walk from exit 3 of Magongnaru Station on subway Line 9 and the Airport Express Line.  They are open from 9 am to 6 pm.

Visit their website for more information!

PHOTO BY JAMES LUCIAN

PHOTO BY JAMES LUCIAN

PHOTO BY JAMES LUCIAN

PHOTO BY JAMES LUCIAN

PHOTO BY JAMES LUCIAN

PHOTO BY JAMES LUCIAN

PHOTO BY JAMES LUCIAN

PHOTO BY JAMES LUCIAN


Ttukseom Resort Station

Okay, so I know I said the DDP was my favorite spot in the city… but that’s not entirely true. This riverside station actually takes the cake for my number 1 favorite spot in Seoul.

There are plenty of parks by the Han, but, the first year and a half that I lived in Korea, I’d ride the train 40 minutes across the city just to get to this one. Thankfully, my last apartment in Korea was just a couple stations away!

The spaceship-esque building connected to the station is actually a small library and events center, so if it’s too cold to be outside, you can go inside and still get a great river view.

This is a great spot to chill and have river beers, go biking, or just do some people watching. On weekends when the weather is nice, the lawn areas are filled with tents and blankets as friends and families picnic together (one of my favorite Korean pastimes).

Getting There

Directions for this one are easy. Take the train to Ttukseom resort station… and then you’ll be at Ttukseom resort station!

Make sure to take exit 2 or 3 so you come out of the station on the river side.

PHOTO BY JAMES LUCIAN

PHOTO BY JAMES LUCIAN

PHOTO BY JAMES LUCIAN

PHOTO BY JAMES LUCIAN

Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld

BONUS PHOTO SPOT

While you’re in the area, I’d recommend walking or taking the train one stop to Konkuk University station area and heading to another super trendy photo spot in the area - Common Ground.

Common Ground is a shopping and restaurant area made from shipping containers where lots of festivals and special events are held.

Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld

MAP

Need a little help finding your way in Seoul? Click around my custom map to discover the best urban photo locations in and around the city.


About the Contributors

Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld

Nick Classen

Nick Claasen, a New Zealand born photographer based in Hong Kong, is absolutely incredible behind the camera.

During his visit to Seoul last year, we teamed up to create some minimal shots that show off just a handful of the city’s many futuristic, architectural masterpieces.

I can say without a doubt that he is one of the most creative people I've ever met and has what is easily one of my favorite urban photography accounts on Instagram


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Brittany Varano

Originally from the states, Brit quit her job to move abroad and  teach English in Daegu, South Korea for two years.

She has loved spending her weekends finding the most picturesque spots in Seoul and  
practicing her photography along the way.

Brit shares all of her Korea travel tips, guides and recommendations on her blog LifeofBrit.com.

Follow her adventures on Instagram.


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James Lucian

Originally from St. Louis, James is now lives and teaches English in South Korea. Though his interest in photography began in high school, and he majored in photography in university, James says living in Seoul really rejuvenated his desire to pick up the camera.

He bought an old camera at the Namdaemun Market and started taking pictures again.

James says that living in Seoul has given him a great canvas for photography. “The streets of Seoul are so different from home and I am constantly stimulated by them, even after three years of living here. It’s been such a pleasure to go photograph them!”

Check out his work on Instagram.


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Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld
Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld
Urban Photographers Guide to Seoul - HallAroundtheWorld

Vienna's Most Instagramable Hotel - 25hours beim MuseumsQuartier

Last November, Andrew and I set off on a one month, eight country journey around some of Europe’s most beautiful Christmas Markets.

Our first stop was Vienna, where we had the pleasure of staying at the quirkiest, coziest, and most conveniently located hotel in the city - 25hours Hotel beim MuseumsQuartier.

25hours Hotel beim MuseumsQuartier - HallAroundtheWorld


ABOUT 25HOURS VIENNA

Located at the heart of Vienna’s 7th District, the 25 Hours Hotel beim MuseumsQuartier was a great home base for our three day stint in Austria. It also might be the most insta-worthy hotel I’ve ever stayed in.

From the lobby and guest rooms to the corridors and rooftop bar, you’ll find the entire hotel filled with colorful, circus themed wallpaper and vibrant vintage finds. The design team paid so much attention to detail when bringing this unique, dreamy hotel to life.

From what I could see, 25hours attracts a wide variety of guests ranging from young couples like Andrew and I to businesses travellers and families. Like their slogan suggests, we likely had one thing in common… We’re all mad here.

The property and design let off a cozy vibe, the staff was welcoming, the location was prime, and the food was delicious… All in all, I was a huge fan.

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WHAT’S IN THE BUILDING?

INSTA-FRIENDLY LOBBY

If you don’t take at least ONE photo of this lobby… why’d ya even come?

A Polaroid camera wall greets you in the entranceway, and, through the doors, the lobby is filled with a retro photobooth and loads of other vintage finds. As you can see in the photo below, we didn’t quite get the hang of the photobooth… but we did get three hilarious candids and one caught off guard butt shot out of it.

It’s almost worth coming here a bit before check in just so you have an excuse to chill in the cozy lobby for a bit. Unfortunately, we arrived so late that we were eager to drop our bags in our room and head straight for food.

25hours Hotel beim MuseumsQuartier - HallAroundtheWorld
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25hours Hotel beim MuseumsQuartier - HallAroundtheWorld
25hours Hotel beim MuseumsQuartier - HallAroundtheWorld

1500 Foodmakers

In our quest for food, we didn’t make it very far… because just through the lobby is an equally charming culinary hotspot.

When we walked in, we were greeted by a waiter who asked if we had a reservation - (yes, it’s that popular, and no…we didn’t). Thankfully they were able to squeeze us in, because we were absolutely famished.

With eyes bigger than our bellies we went for the Chefs special for two… a 4 course meal that is totally worth it if you’re willing to splurge a bit.

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See that three gelato dessert spread in the photo above? Well we each got one and it was phenomenal… especially the flavor in the middle.

I can’t remember exactly what it was - but it had hints of lime and mint and something else, and, in one word, it was HEAVENLY. So good, in fact, that Andrew attempted to steal mine, and then almost ordered a second.

1500 FoodMakers is also where 25Hours serves up its delicious buffet breakfast. We came here each morning during our stay to get our fill of coffee and grub before heading out to explore.

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Dachboden

If you’re looking for a good bar in Vienna, again, you won’t have to go far. Dachboden is 25Hour’s famous, in-house rooftop bar. Not pictured - the ridiculous amount of people here!

On the first night we tried to come here for a drink, it was full… on the second, it was booked for a company Christmas party… and on the third (and final) night, there, again, was nowhere to sit.

Though I unfortunately can’t personally speak about the quality of their cocktails, as I never got to try them myself… my friends who visited a couple of weeks later said they really enjoyed theirs. They must be doing something right to attract such a crowd.

I can only imagine how nice it is in the summer when the weather is warm and you can enjoy your cocktail on the terrace.

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Mermaid’s Cave

Downstairs in 25Hours you’ll find the mermaid’s cave - a cutesy lounge/gym area. It’s the perfect spot for a quick workout or to relax after a day of exploring the city… if you’ve got the time… which we unfortunately didn’t.

I didn’t get any photos in the gym (because there were always people on it and I didn’t want to be a creep) but there was loads of equipment where you can get your sweat on.

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GET A ROOM

The lobby, restaurant, and rooftop bar can be enjoyed by anyone… but if you’re only in Vienna for a short amount of time, I’d highly recommend checking in and staying awhile.

We stayed in 25Hours M+ Room and were really impressed with the space, amenities, comfy ass bed, and incredible view of the Museums Quarter.

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25hours Hotel beim MuseumsQuartier - HallAroundtheWorld
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25hours Hotel beim MuseumsQuartier - HallAroundtheWorld

Other room options include the M Room, L Room, XL Room, Suite, and Panoramic Suite (which has an outdoor terrace and bathtub feature that I’m dying to soak in next time around).

Each of these options is decorated in its own unique way. Check out the 25Hours website to see which you prefer!

IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

ADVENTURES ON FILM

Watch: Christmas Markets of Vienna

BOOKING

The bed was comfy, the vibes were good, the food was delicious, and the staff was great!

They loaned us umbrellas to take around town and extended our checkout when I got a last minute class booking… which was KEY - (fun fact: hotel rooms can double as classrooms).

Sold yet? ‘Cause ya should be. I honestly cannot recommend this place enough.

To book your stay click here or use the search box below.

Booking.com

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Vienna's Most Instagramable Hotel - Hotel Highlights HallAroundtheWorld
Vienna's Most Instagramable Hotel - Hotel Highlights HallAroundtheWorld
Vienna's Most Instagramable Hotel - Hotel Highlights HallAroundtheWorld

The Most Delicious Meal in Hoi An... (under $2)

If there’s one thing that keeps me dreaming about Vietnam (aside from the beaches and the people and the general laid back way of life)… it’s the food.

Vietnamese food is fresh, flavorful… and, best of all, it’s cheap.

This summer, while visiting Hoi An, I ate my way through the city in an attempt to find the best places to grub. I was surprised to discover an up and coming Western style Brunch scene… and was unsurprised by the associated Western style prices.

Click here for: 7 Budget Friendly Brunch Spots in Hoi An

I’m a big fan of brunch… however, as tempting as it might be to eat those comfort foods, I stronglyyyyy suggest you try to eat locally whenever possible instead.

The BEST meal I had in Hoi An, in terms of taste, affordability and ambience (because, yes, that is a thing) was at a little family run tea house called Mot Hoi An.

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If you’re walking down Tran Phu Street, you might notice the Mot’s adorable shop front… or you might not… because during opening hours it’ll likely be blocked by a huge line of customers.

Mot’s attracts loads of drive by visitors each day with their delicious (and very photo-worthy) take-away herbal teas.

This signature tea is made from a blend of herbs which can be seen displayed in ceramic bowls at the store front - cinnamon, lemongrass, honeysuckle, and lime, with a lotus petal added as a decorative touch.

It is the perfect refreshment on a hot day, and will only cost you 10,000 VND, (roughly 43 cents). However, as delicious as it is, this tea does have one very obvious downside… its single use straw and the plastic cup that it’s served in.

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Though it might be tempting to grab one on the go, I suggest you go inside and grab a bite to eat, too… that is, if you can find a seat. There are only about half a dozen tables inside the cozy restaurant, but if you can get one, it’s so worth it. (Plus, maybe as Hoi An continues to get rid of single use plastics, Mots will provide reusable cups for its dine-in customers).

I decided to have the Cau Lao, a Hoi An specialty, a herbal tea - and the whole meal only cost me 45,000VND. That’s about US$1.50! As far as Old Town restaurants go, that is a steal… and it tasted ohhhh so good!

Mot’s has a wide variety of other options on their menu like curry noodles, wonton soup, and (of course) pho. For or all you vegan/vegetarian travellers, they also offer meat-free options. Overall, their prices are incredibly affordable, with the most expensive dish ringing in at just over US$1.

Mot’s offers great food at a Great price (in a great location). It’s a win, win really.

Do yourself a favor and skip the flashy waterfront restaurants of the Old Town. Head to Mots Tea House on Tran Phu Street instead! This family run joint is a cozy, delicious, and affordable spot that you' won’t want to miss.

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Have you been to Mots? What’d you think?

Let me know in the comments below!


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Top 9 Hoi An Photo Spots

From its beaches and lush rice fields to the lantern lined streets of the Old Town, all of Hoi An is just screaming to have its photo taken… And everyone knows it. To be honest, the selfie sticks and posing tourists are actually my least favorite part about Hoi An… but who can blame em - the town is flippin’ adorable.

Here are some of the top photo spots in Hoi An and a map to help get you there!


 
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COCONUT BEACH

Depending on when you go, you’ll likely find more bamboo boats than tourists on this quiet beach. This not only makes Coconut Beach a great spot for some very insta-worthy sunrise and sunset shots, but also my favorite spot for beach hangs in Hoi An… Easily! More on that here.

Once you get your shot, be sure to stick around! - Put your cameras away and enjoy.

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RICE FIELDS

Aside from lounging on the beach, another thing I loved to do in Hoi An was starting my day with a morning run, or taking the scenic route to town through the city’s lush, green, rice fields. Though it was my second time visiting Hoi An, the beautiful landscape still blew me away.

To the locals, I probably looked ridiculous stopping every few meters and snapping away - but I mean… come on… the rice fields green and beautiful and unlike any of the (many) fields we have in North Carolina.

Though there are plenty of rice fields to choose from around Hoi An, my favorite spot for photos was behind Hub Hoi An - (a co-working space that is also very insta-worthy and worth checking out if you’re looking for a cozy spot with good WiFi to get some work done).

I recommend getting up early and heading there for sunrise. At this time, the roads are (more or less) quiet and the lighting is still soft.

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OLD QUARTER

For the most part, all of Hoi An is photogenic, but, with its bright walls and lively streets, Old Town stands apart from the rest.

I loved capturing the buzz of the area, but if you want one of those quiet “wow I’m the only one here” shots for your insta feed, you’re gonna either have to get creative… or get up at the crack of dawn.

Here are a few of my favorite old town shots. The particularly colorful, (and oddly quiet) spot pictured below is located just around the corner from the Japanese Covered Bridge (by Rosie’s Cafe - one of my favorite spots in the city to grab a bite).

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Pro Tip: Hoi An is hot… if you’re out taking photos, at some point, you’re going to need to stop for a drink. As tempting as it may be to down yet another Vietnamese coffee, cooling down with a delicious herbal tea from Mots Tea House is a tasty alternative.

Mots is a cute little family run restaurant that also serves up local favorites like Cao Lau and Pho. Their signature herbal teas are as refreshing as they are cute… If only they’d get rid of the plastic cups and straws, then these teas would be perfect.

More on Mot’s famous herbal tea and their other affordable menu offerings here!

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TEMPLES

Just like rice fields, there is no shortage of temples to explore around Hoi An.

We really enjoyed Chùa Long Tuyền, a Buddhist temple located just around the corner from one of our Homestays. It’s a bit off the beaten track and away from the Old Town… which we didn’t mind at all - this meant it was totally empty.

It’s a great spot to stop and snag some photos, but make sure you’re dressed appropriately (which I unfortunately was not in some of these pictures).

When visiting temples, you should always make sure that your shoulders are always covered. Vietnam is HOT, and I, having not planned for a stop at the temple, made the rookie mistake of wearing a tank top. Learn from my mistakes and either go in a top with sleeves or bring a scarf with you to cover up!

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HOI AN CENTRAL MARKET

If you go to Hoi An and don’t go to the Central Market, you’re doing yourself a massive disservice. If you do plan to go, prepare for sensory overload. This lively market is a great place for snapping photos, grabbing a bite to eat, or just people watching.

I recommend heading here early for a traditional Phở brekky. Early as in, before the cooking school tours roll through… not that there’s anything wrong with being a part of a cooking school tour! I’ve done a couple in Hoi An and really enjoyed them, however, I just suggest you explore the market on your own, too!

Pro tip: look out for bikes and scooters on the side streets surrounding the market.

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CAM THANH VILLAGE

Taking a bamboo boat ride through the water coconut palms forest is also a must while visiting Hoi An. It’s such a fun experience, not to mention an awesome photo opp.

Kill two birds with one stone and book a cooking class with Hoi An Eco Cooking Class. They begin the class with a tour of the Central market, a bamboo boat ride, and then an awesome cooking experience.

If you’re lucky, you might get to see how the pro bamboo boaters have fun on the water. (Hint - there’s lots of spinning involved).

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“Hoi An Vibes Only” Mural

Sunday in Hoi An is an adorable shop that sells everything from housewares and gifts to clothes and accessories. Their products are made from natural materials by artisans in Vietnam and throughout Southeast Asia.

It isn’t uncommon to come here and see a line of people waiting to take a photo with the mural, but my advice is to actually take a look around. If you’re anything like me, I guarantee you’ll want one of everything. So, in that case, maybe put your blinders on and don’t look around…

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I practiced self control and settled for two things - an adorable two piece jump suit and a wooden phone case. The were both a bit pricey by Vietnam standards, but both worthwhile purchases. I wore the jumpsuit for the rest of the trip, and the phone case saved my phone from getting destroyed when it fell out of my pocket while riding the scooter.

Pro Tip: There are actually two Sunday in Hoi An locations in the old town, but only one where you can get this shot of the mural. Be sure to head to the location on Trần Phú.

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MURAL VILLAGE

If you liked that last mural, you’re gonna love this photo hot spot - an entire mural village.

The Tam Thanh Mural Village was a joint project between the Vietnamese Peoples Committee of Quang Nam Province and the Korean Community Art Exchange Program. Over a dozen Vietnamese and Korean artists painted over 100 murals around the community.

The project aimed to create art for a better community and to bring more tourists to the area. So far, it has been a massive success and has even inspired other similar projects to spring up in the area… more on that soon.

Though it’s not technically in Hoi An, the Mural Village is just a short day trip away and well worth a visit if you’re a fan of street art. It lies alongside a beautiful beach which was totally deserted when we visited… making it a pretty surreal spot for photos as well.

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Pro Tip: Though the entrance to the mural village is just beside the market, the murals actually begin much further down the street.

If you’re coming here by car, I’d recommend getting dropped off a bit closer to save yourself a sweltering walk.


CHAM ISLAND

Cham Island, located about 9 miles off the shore of Hoi An, is another picturesque location for photos. However, not during peak tourist visiting hours… which is basically all day.

The best way to snap a decent shot (and to have a good island experience) is to stay overnight. By around 3 or 4pm, most tour groups leave for the day… and then Cham island is basically deserted.

We camped out on Cham Island and had the best time playing some footy with one of the local kids on the island, getting to know fellow travelers around a campfire, and sleeping in a tent by the sea.

The good thing about booking a tour and camping out overnight is that most tours also include your choice of diving or snorkeling! Read more about our trip to Cham Island here.

Cham Island
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Map

Need a little help finding your way in Hoi An? Click around my custom map to discover the best photo locations in and around the city.

Have you been to Hoi An?

Where did you take your favorite shot? Let me know in the comments below!


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Holiday Gift Guide - The Best Gifts for the Travel Loving Ladies on Your List

Christmas may be over a month away… but, here in Sweden, Andrew and I have already been gifted our advent calendars (and are fighting the urge to begin opening them), we have set up our Christmas tree, and watched our first Christmas movie.

We even bought our first bottle of glögg, a mulled wine which, according to Swedishfood.com, is an essential part of the lead up to Christmas in Sweden… and I’m not one to argue.

…The one thing we haven’t started - Christmas shopping.

Maybe you’re against jumping from Halloween to Christmas. Maybe you think it’s too early for decorations or you’re just not feeling festive. I can’t say I can relate, however, I think we can all agree that it’s never a bad idea to get a head start on holiday shopping.

If you’re stuck for ideas and are wandering what to get the travel loving lady in your life this holiday season (other than plane tickets), look no further.

Being a travel (and christmas) loving lady myself, I’m kind of an expert on the subject, so I’ve compiled this list to help you out.

…it’s filled with things I have recently purchased, plan on purchasing, or hope Santa puts in my stocking. Tis the season for giving, so you’ll also find insider tips on upcoming holiday sales and discount codes!

 
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1. THE GIFT OF ORGANIZATION

…(or, in my case, slightly increased organization)

Every boss babe needs a planner, and with the new year right around the corner, most people will be needing a new one. You could gift an average planner, or you can go with one that is totally personalized.

When you give a gift card from Personal Planner, you allow the recipient to create a planner of their own. They can choose from one of Personal Planner’s designs or come up with something original. They can customize the layout of the pages, add personalized special dates, and even add inspirational messages.

I recently received mine (with stickers!) and absolutely love it! It’s so cool seeing an idea come to life, and I’m happy to finally have a planner to start mapping out 2019 adventures.

Personal planner also offers products like wall calendars, diaries, and notebooks.

For 15% off your Personal Planner order, use code HALLAROUND15. Valid until January 31, 2019.

To buy: personalplanner.com, $39

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2. THE ULTIMATE TRAVEL DRESS

Trying to pack for a trip can be a nightmare - especially when it’s a long-term adventure.

You want to pack practically, but you also want to have some cute options with you just in case. My packing problem has always been that many of these “cute options” either end up being too impractical, too wrinkley, or just totally ruined by the end of my trip.

Kosan created the Go Travel Dress to solve this problem… and it’s definitely at the top of my wish-list this year.

The creators of the Go Travel Dress couldn’t find the perfect travel dress… so they made it instead. They believe that, no matter where you are in the world, you deserve to look your best… without having to compromise on style, comfort or functionality.

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The Go Travel Dress, which is made of wrinkle resistant, anti odor (v important), performance fabric, has lots of other travel friendly features, too.

It has four pockets, two convertible skirt lengths, and currently comes in four different colors. The only downside to this dress is that it won’t be making it under any Christmas trees this year.

Kosan’s Go Travel Dress is still in the pre-order stages, but you can get 30% off the retail price by pledging on KickStarter now (and 20% after that)! By pledging now, you guarantee you’ll be one of the first to rock the Go Travel Dress when it ships next summer!

To buy: KickStarter.com, $85 - (Campaign ends Nov. 30).

3. WATCH + JEWELRY SET

Hey, Santa - I’m no expert… but I think this gift set from World Market would make a perfect stocking stuffer ;)

You can’t really go wrong with anything from World Market, in my opinion, but this in particular is the perfect little gift for the world travelling fashionista in your life.

It includes five dainty bracelets and a watch with a taupe faux leather band and a map on the face.

WorldMarket usually has BOGO deals on Black Friday, so be on the lookout for that.

To buy: WorldMarket.com, $29

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4. THE GIFT OF EXPERIENCES

I’m all for exploring cities on my own, but sometimes its nice to learn about a place from a local’s perspective. Though I have been on a few tours, they were never really my thing… that is, until I heard about Urban Adventures.

Urban Adventures is a global tour company offering locally led private and group tours in over 150 cities around the world. These tours are perfect for travellers wanting to escape the crowds, skip the big tourist attractions, and really connect with a city for a genuine, local experience.

I am a big fan of this company because they keep their tour groups small, employ local guides, and give back to the community. They also are big advocates of sustainability and responsible travel. According to Urban Adventures, “‘Responsible tourism’ isn’t just a marketing catch phrase or box we tick. It’s at the heart of everything we do, from how we design our tours, to who we employ, to where we grow our business.”

There’s a lot to be said about their mission and dedication to sustainability - I’d highly recommend heading here to read more about it.

Support a great company and give the traveller in your life the gift of a real life experience with an Urban Adventures gift certificate. Choose a dollar amount or a specific best day ever tour experience. Urban Adventures will email the gift certificate directly to your recipient!

To buy: UrbanAdventures.com, $10 minimum

Urban Adventure Tours

5. PIN-BOARD MAP

At the end of an adventure, we all eventually come home… and that’s where Conquest Maps comes in. With a Conquest Map, you can document all of your past, present, and future adventures.

This company offers several products the traveller in your life will love including pin-boards and poster maps of the world, the USA, and even individual states. Each map is crafted by hand and can even be personalized.

Conquest Maps make great gifts - but I don't blame you if you want to keep one for yourself! We ordered the modern slate pin-board map pictured below, and I cannot wait for it to arrive.

If you’re interested in ordering a Conquest Map for a loved one (or yourself) here’s the inside scoop on all of their upcoming holiday deals!

Shop their Fall Sale from November 22 to November 26 and save up to $100, or shop their Holiday Sale from November 27 to December 7 for BOGO 30% off on Pin-Board Maps or 10% off your entire order with code Holiday-10.

To buy: ConquestMaps.com, $99

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6. PACKING CUBES

I seriously underestimated the importance of packing cubes until they became absolutely essential for keeping my backpack organized.

When I was only going to be visiting a city for a few days, I’d keep different items and outfits in each of my packing cubes to avoid having to unpack my bag entirely.

I recommend purchasing a set with multiple sizes and colors to avoid getting them confused!

To buy: Amazon.com, $14.95

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7. PORTABLE POWER BANK

There are few things worse than a dead phone battery… especially when exploring a new city. I normally travel with multiple power bank so I can keep my phone charged for photo taking and navigating. The Anker PowerCore 10000 is an awesome long-lasting, and lightweight option. If you’re travelling with multiple friends (or multiple devices), consider the EasyAcc Portable Charger with 4 USB ports.

To Buy: (single port) Amazon.com, (multi-port) Amazon.com

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8. THE PERFECT TRAVEL CAMERA

When I started travelling a few years ago, I knew nothing about photography (still don’t), and was shooting all of my travel photos on my iPhone. If I wanted to be in a picture, I had to pull the awkward “ask a stranger and hope for the best” technique… and when none of those pictures ever turned out great, I kinda just stopped asking.

In my first year of travels, I can count on one hand the number of decent photos I had that I was actually in. I finally broke down and purchased an action camera (something I wish I had done a lot sooner).

My GoPro was a god send during my solo backpacking trip. I captured so many great photos (pictured below) by using its screen capture feature, and a ridiculous amount of video footage.

The best part… I never had to worry about breaking it.

Seriously ladies, if you plan on travelling and are trying to decide on a camera, I highly recommend gifting yourself a GoPro. It’s easy to pack, easy to use, and will capture all of your epic adventures (with you in the frame).

To buy: Amazon.com

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What’s on your holiday wish list this year? Let me know in the comments below!


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Some links above are affiliate links. This means if you click the link, I may make a small commission if you purchase something from the website at no extra cost to you. When you are ready to make your purchase consider using one of the links above to help support HallAroundtheWorld.  I only recommend products and brands that I trust.

Life Update + 8 Things I Love About Living in Malmö, Sweden

As most of you may know, at the start of October, I moved to Sweden with my boyfriend Andrew. We tried the whole long distance thing a couple of times this summer, and let’s just say neither of us were a big fan.

The day after Rachel’s wedding, without much thought or preparation, I found myself on a one-way flight bound for Europe. Before long, we arrived in Malmö, a coastal university town in southern Sweden… conveniently located just a 30 minute train ride away from Copenhagen, Denmark.

Now, I know what this may look like… it probably looks a whole lot like me running around the world chasing the boy I love… and, yes, while that is part of it, there’s much more to the story.

When my initial residency application was denied (and put under what may potentially be a year long review process) we decided to say screw it and found an alternative… a very fortunate alternative - Getting my British passport.

 
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My mum is British, making me a British citizen by default, so the whole process of getting my passport was pretty straight forward. The most difficult part was making sure that all of the forms were filled out properly and the passport photos sized correctly, but after a stressful few days, it was submitted. A week later, my application had been received, processed, and I was sent my brand new, shiny, god send of a UK passport.

I say god send, because this passport is going to make things so much easier for me here in Sweden (until Brexit I guess… but that’s a problem for another day). I can travel freely between EU countries, I can legally work in Sweden, AND (here’s the best part) - I can go back to school for my masters - FOR FREE… (so you can bet money that I will be taking full advantage of that).

 
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All EU citizens can attend university in Sweden for free… and all Swedish citizens are actually given monthly stipends for attending school from the time they’re in high school.

Being from the states, this whole concept is completely foreign for me.

Most of my friends and I entered “the real world” with some serious college debt. We have been working since we could, and while this has given us lots of “experience” to put on our CV’s… (experience that doesn’t help much when it comes to landing a “real job” after graduating)… it also distracted us from the studies that should have had our full time and attention.

Sweden is getting the whole education thing VERY right. Once you’ve jumped through the governmental red tape, residents and citizens are actually offered a number of awesome benefits - universal health coverage, paid vacation, free Swedish classes, and maternity leave (maternal AND paternal).

…but those aren’t the only things they’re getting right here.

 
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I can’t speak much for the rest of Sweden, but, in no particular order, here are 8 of favorite things about living in Malmö after month one.


1. Fresh air

This is a biggie.

In Korea, the air quality in general is far from ideal, and it only got worse during yellow dust season. While living there, it seemed like I was constantly sick… due to the polluted air or perhaps my germ-infested classrooms.

It’s nice to go outdoors without feeling like I need to wear a mask… to take a deep breath of air that isn’t slowly killing me. A bit dramatic?? Maybe… but I cannot emphasize enough how great it is to live in an environment that doesn’t make me cough incessantly for weeks on end.

 
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2. Everyone speaks English

Well, maybe not everyone… but the vast majority. Though there is a bit of a language barrier, it’s nothing like what I experienced in Korea.

Not only does just about everyone here speak English… just about everyone I’ve met is bi or tri-lingual. I fully intend to do my best to get on their level.

Even though I could totally get by on English alone, I have been trying to learn how to speak Swedish… starting with the essentials - foods. Jag älskar mat - (translation: I love food).


3. Sunsets by the water

When I attended uni in the little coastal town of Wilmington, North Carolina, one of my favorite things to do for sunset was going for a run down to Wrightsville beach or alongside the Cape Fear River.

In Korea, I frequently enjoyed sunset runs and river beers by the Han.

I was happy to find that these were traditions I wouldn’t have to give up after moving to Sweden. From Västra Hamnen to Ribersborg, there are so many beautiful places to enjoy sundown by the water in Malmö.

 
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4. FIKA

Aaah, fika. A Swedish noun/verb with no direct English translation.

Basically, it means to have a coffee break… but fika is more about socializing than getting your caffeine fix.

Best paired with something sweet and good company, this daily break is a Swedish custom that I can definitely get behind… and thanks to fika, there is no shortage of cute cafes to choose from, (which I was happy to discover, since cafe hunting was one of my favorite weekend activities in Seoul).

With unlimited coffee (for about $3) and an attached plant shop, Atrium Kaffe Bar is definitely my favorite spot for fika so far.

 
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5. It’s easy to get around

In North Carolina, having a car is a necessity… but here in Malmö that’s not the case.

In it’s Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan, the city says “Walking, cycling and public transport are the first choice for all who work, live or visit Malmö. These travel choices, together with efficient and environmentally friendly freight and car traffic, are the basis of the transport system in our dense and sustainable city - a transport system designed for the city, and for its people.”

While, yes, there are times when it would be nice to have a car… like when we bought our Christmas tree and then carried it all the way home… it definitely isn’t essential (making it one less expense residents need to worry about).

It’s affordable, easy, and safe to take advantage of the city’s public transportation and well kept bike paths. As a matter of fact, Malmö has been named one of the most bike friendly cities in the world. I guess I have all the cyclists to thank for the fresh air.

Pro tip: Look both ways before crossing the bike path.

 
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6. Diversity

Before moving here, Andrew told me that all of the girls in Sweden are tall, blonde, with huge boobs. Needless to say, I was happy to find this was not the case.

Though I have been in some areas where Andrew and I were the only two brown haired people there… this hasn’t been very frequent. It’s a nice change of pace… as, in Korea diversity was a bit… well… lacking.

A Diverse community means diverse foods.

…and you already know how much I love food.

People at home asked me, “What do Swedish people eat?” and other than meatballs, I honestly had no idea.

Turns out, Swedes have their own traditional foods and drinks like anyone else, but for the most part, I’ve found the food choices here to be really diverse.

Believe it or not, here in Malmö, I’ve found myself eating more falafel and kebabs than anything.


7. Being closer to family

…my family and Andrew’s family.

After years of being 7,000+ miles away, it’s nice to have people who treat me like a part of the family just a short train ride away. Family meals and gatherings are something you really miss after living on your own for awhile.

I’m also closer than I’ve ever been to my family in England and Ireland… a proximity which I plan to take full advantage of very soon.


8. International day-trips

Remember how I said Copenhagen was just a 30 minute train ride away? Well, this is something we’ve taken advantage on more than one occasion since I moved here.

From Malmö, it’s so simple to make a little day trip to Denmark… so simple, that this weekend, we even went over one evening just for a concert. It feels like a little vacation… but it actually takes less time to get there than it used to take for me to drive to work in the states.

 
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there’s a lot to love about living in Malmö.

So far, it’s been a bit of an adjustment process in a very unexpected place… (long-term, solo life in Asia will do that to you I guess) but in a positive way.

Though I hardly have life here all sorted out, I’m really enjoying this journey I’m on, and am loving that it brought me to Sweden.

Month two is shaping up to be a pretty exciting one… though a big chunk of it won’t even be spent in Sweden. I’m so excited for new opportunities and adventures, and to share them all with you as this chapter in my life unfolds.

What do you love about Malmö? Let me know in the comments below!


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The Most Hands-On Cooking Experience in Hoi An - Hoi An Eco Cooking Class

While visiting Hoi An, or Vietnam in general, it would be silly to miss out on taking a cooking class. With so many to choose from, you may be wondering where to begin.

During my first trip to Hoi An, I spent a day at Green Bamboo Cooking School. This time, I wanted to try something different, so Andrew and I decided to go to the Hoi An Eco Cooking Class. It shared some similarities with Green Bamboo Cooking school, but overall I think it gives guests a more hands-on cooking experience.

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WHAT TO EXPECT

Visiting The Market

Like my previous cooking class experience, the Hoi An Eco Cooking class begins with a trip to the Central Market. Here you’ll see the colorful lively market where many locals buy and sell their produce and other goods. If you’re a first timer at the market, it’s nice to go with a guide who can teach you a bit about the market and products sold there.

(Tip: Once you’ve been given the inside scoop, be sure to head to the Central Market on your own, and do it early! - before the parade of tourists comes through. You’ll see what I mean).

Bamboo Boating

After visiting the market, we drove to the cooking school which was conveniently located right beside the water in Cam Thanh Coconut Village.

Before the cooking begins, you’ll take a ride in a traditional coracle, better known as a bamboo boat, through the beautiful water coconut palm forest.

The local fisherman guiding your boat will teach you how to catch fish and purple crabs. He also attempted, with no success, to teach me how to properly paddle the boat… let’s just say I’ve been skipping arm day at the gym for way too long.

Hands-on Cooking Experience

After exploring the channels, you’ll return to the cooking school for quick refreshments. Then you’ll get down to business. You’ll be given an apron, a number, a chef’s hat, and full responsibility for everything you cook from then on. Everything we were to eat we had to make totally on our own, so if your cooking sucks, your food will suck… the head instructor’s words… not mine. No pressure.

We learned how to make rice milk, which we then used to carefully make rice paper. The whole process was so delicate and precise. We used our rice paper to make fresh spring rolls, which we dipped in a delicious sweet and sour fish sauce.

We cooked some of Vietnam’s famous Pho Bo (beef noodles), Aubergine with soy sauce, and a delicious banana flower salad. Then things got hot as we played with fire to fry up some Banh Xeo (crispy pancakes).

As each dish was finished, we placed it on a tray with our number, and, once everything was complete, sat down to a delicious and rewarding feast.

To end the day, everyone watched an incredible food art demonstration! Sadly, I didn’t manage to turn tomatoes into roses and carrots into flowers on my own. We were given special cooking tools, a mini cook book, and serious food comas to take home with us!


WHAT I LOVED

Unlike the Green Bamboo Cooking School, where each guest chose and prepared a single dish (but got to try a bit of everything), at the Hoi An Eco Cooking Class you prepare everything you eat on your own. Though it was a bit more fast-paced, I really enjoyed getting to learn more about each food and how it is made.

(Note: Since you were only responsible for preparing one dish at the Green Bamboo Cooking School, there was more time to relax and chat with the other travellers. If you’re looking for a more laid back experience, this may be a better choice for you).

I for one felt proud when I successfully prepared all of the dishes on my own… and even more proud when they actually tasted good. I also really enjoyed the Bamboo Boat ride - This was something Andrew and I wanted to do anyway, so it was great to get that experience and a cooking class all in one!

This class is also great for those with dietary restrictions. Even the vegetarians in the group were able to cook veggie-friendly versions of each dish (which is something you definitely won’t get at every cooking school)!

If a fun, hands on experience is what you’re after, then the Hoi An Eco Cooking Class is the perfect choice for you.

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BOOKING

To request a spot at in the class, head to hoianecocookingclass.com.

Note: I was a guest of the Hoi An Eco Cooking Class, however, all thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.


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Beach Camping on Cham Island - When to Go & What to Expect

The big cities of Vietnam can be a bit overwhelming… and Hoi An is no exception.

I love its lantern lit streets, cozy cafes, and endless tailor shops… but if you plan on spending more than a week there, you may find that you need a little break from the incessant horn honking and selfie stick filled streets of the old town.

Thankfully, there’s an island escape a short boat ride away - Cham Island.

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what is cham island?

“Cham Island,” is actually a cluster of eight small islands just eight miles off Hoi An’s coast… but only one is inhabited. This island is said to be the perfect getaway for anyone wanting to get out of the city for a bit… and after a couple weeks in Hoi An that’s exactly what we needed.

We booked our trip to Cham Island with ALO Travel Asia, a company which offers a number of tours and excursions in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. Our booking included roundtrip hotel and boat transfer to and from Cham Island, snorkeling, all meals, and an overnight stay in a little tent on Bai Chong beach.

What to expect

At 8am the day of our trip, we and a bus full of other travellers were picked up and driven to Cua Dia pier. From there we boarded a double decker boat with Cham Island Divers and began to make our way to the islands.

The boat stopped twice along the way for snorkeling, diving, and free time to swim and jump off the boat. This was the first time I had gone snorkeling since I was a kid… and I must say, I was pretty horrible at first. Andrew got a huge laugh as I kept going too far under with my snorkel on and ending up with a mouth full of water. It also didn’t help that my first pair of flippers were WAY too big. Anyway, once I got my mask/flippers/general technique sorted, we both had a really great time.

At around 1pm we arrived at Cham Island and had lunch on Bai Chong beach. The beach was already filled with other tourists at that point, so, after lunch, we grabbed a beer and a hammock under the palm trees.

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An hour or so later, the tourists boarded their boats back to Hoi An and the only foreigners left on the beach were six French girls, Andrew, and myself. It was then that we really got to enjoy this quiet island getaway.

We went swimming, relaxed on the beach, and Andrew had a mini game of football with a young local boy. Though he hardly spoke any English, he and Andrew got by with hand signs, smiles, and laughs. I’ve always known a smile to be universal, but now I’m fairly certain that football must be too.

After awhile, the boy proudly proclaimed, “My name Thuy. Who you!?” - and then laughed hysterically when he found out our names.

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Soon, it was time for dinner. We joined the French girls in the little island restaurant for beers, freshly cooked fish, delicious tofu, rice, spaghetti and tropical fruit for dessert - an interesting combination, and quite a feast considering. We tried to order cocktails from the “bar” but they had already stopped serving liquor. Instead, they gave us a cooler filled with beers, and charged us for what we drank the next day.

Surrounded by the island pups, we spent the rest of the evening around a bonfire, (which Andrew proudly kept stoked). We drank as many of our cooler beers as we could, and played a really fun game called FishBowl - I had never heard of it before but would 100% recommend. We chatted about life, politics, and got to bed fairly early since we had to be up early for breakfast and more activities the following day.

We woke up to one, two, then three guard pups outside our tent, ate breakfast, and then headed back out onto the water.

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Typically, when you book through ALO Travel, day two of this trip just includes a free day on the island, lunch, and your boat transfer back to Hoi An. The staff at Cham Island Divers were kind enough to pick us up that morning for another day of snorkeling and cruising on their double decker boat.

After that, we came back to the island for lunch - (unsurprisingly, the same lunch as the day before), and, I have to say, I was absolutely appalled…

wait, what happened…?

Everything was going great… the staff and people on the island were welcoming and hospitable… the food was good… the water was cold… but the beach, which just a few hours before had been for the most part clean, was filled (and I mean FILLED) with garbage… and I don’t just mean trash the tide had brought in.

Surrounding the lounge chairs and hammocks… and, in general, all across the beach there were bottles and bags and pieces of plastic that were so small they weren’t much of an eyesore… You might not even notice them… until they ended up in the stomach of a fish who’d go belly up and wash up on the shore. And yes, we did also see a dead fish… with a very swollen belly.

Like most of us, I’d seen lots of pictures and videos on the internet of beaches hidden under a layer of plastic… until that day, I’d never seen anything like that with my own eyes.

Though I couldn’t believe this was the same beach where we’d spent the most perfect night, I was more shocked that that none of the other tourists on the beach seemed to be doing anything about it.

While Andrew and I lugged hand-full after hand-full of trash to and from the island’s bins, all the other tourists that I could see just sat and watched… or didn’t watch… maybe they didn’t care. (Plastic not pictured because, like I said, we were busy trying to pick it up.)*

I get it. People want to go to a beautiful beach… they want to enjoy their time… to relax… to have someone else clean up after them. Maybe there should have been more bins… maybe there should have been less tourists… Or maybe everyone needed to start caring a little bit more.

The fact is, if we don’t get our shit together, there won’t be anymore pretty little islands with crystal blue waters to lounge around on.

Fortunately, the first step to solving a problem is noticing that their is one… and thankfully that process has already begun.

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What is being done?

Plastic pollution is a huge problem everywhere, not just Cham Island… The island is just the first place where the severity of the problem really hit me like a slap in the face.

I spoke with Deano, one of the boat captains at Cham Island Divers, and he gave me some reassuring information about what the government and Cham Island Divers are doing to address the waste issue we witnessed on the island.

Across Vietnam, plastic bag usage has been the focus of many recent government campaigns. Additionally, Danang, one of Vietnam’s largest cities located just a short drive away from Hoi An, is launching a new campaign against single use plastics specifically. These single use items make up a majority of the rubbish we found on the beach.

On Cham Island, plastic bottles, mainly water bottles, remain a huge issue. The waste on the island, which, as you can imagine, is much worse during peak tourist season, is tidied twice daily by locals employed by the Marine Park Authority (MPA).

Cham Island Divers also works with the MPA and other local authorities to implement strategies and practices to help the people of Cham Island protect their beautiful home. On a daily basis during their dive and snorkeling sessions, the instructors do their part in cleaning up the ocean floor… all while keeping their customers educated and ensuring they have a great time.

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What can I do?

Well, it’s simple really…

You don’t want people coming and trashing your home… so don’t trash someone else’s.

If you’re planning to visit Cham Island be aware and be conscious… Aware of the plastic pollution problem the island faces and conscious of how you yourself are contributing to it. Make an effort to minimize the waste you are producing and to clean up the litter that’s already there.

I think people today are becoming so much more conscious… of the foods they eat, the clothes they wear, the products they consume, and the waste they create… the fact that you’re even still reading this post proves that.

Campaigns like plastic free week and Jackson Grove’s Adventure Bag initiative are a huge step in the right direction… but it’s a step we need to take together, and a step we need to take often.

While visiting Cham Island, lead your own adventure bag clean up with travel companions, or clean up what you can solo.


When should I go?

The best time to visit Cham Islands is from March to September, but, if you are planning on diving during your trip, it is recommended that you visit between June and August.

I’ve reached out to Cham Island Divers to ask if they are leading any upcoming island cleanups. I will update that info here as I get it - because that would obviously be a pretty great time to go, too!


Booking

I would highly recommend booking a trip to Cham Island through a dive school or tour company versus trying to plan a trip on your own, especially if you want to camp out overnight.

You can book your overnight trip through ALO Travel Asia like we did here, or book directly through Cham Island Divers here.

Despite it’s pollution, Cham Island is beautiful… I really enjoyed the time I spent there, and genuinely hope it remains beautiful for all of its visitors in the future.


GALLERY

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Hometown Photoshoot with Madalyn Yates Photography

Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.
— Dorothea Lange

I love photography.

I may not be the best at creating beautiful photos, but I really enjoy snapping em, editing em, sharing em, and having the memories held inside to look back on.

Since I began travelling, my love for photography has grown exponentially.

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In my first couple of years living and travelling in Asia, I successfully mastered the art of the selfie thanks to my GoPro and tripod. Then I met Andrew… and he’s kind of taken over as far as insta-boyfriend duties are concerned. We’ve captured some pretty great photos of each other on our travels, but still struggle a bit when it comes to capturing good photos together.

I was so happy when my friend Madalyn Yates said she was looking for couples to shoot in the Greensboro area. I was visiting home for a couple of months, and Andrew was planning to visit for my sisters wedding, so I quickly signed us up… without asking him. Sorry, babe - (but it turned out alright, eh?).

We’ve taken a lot of pictures in a lot of places, but these hometown shots might just be my favorite.

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Though it rained (actually, poured), we still had so much fun during our shoot.

Madalyn made us feel comfortable in front of the camera, gave us directions when we didn’t know what to do with our hands, and somehow managed to capture our love, happiness, (and awkward) in a beautiful way.

Andrew is such an important part of my life, and I’m forever thankful for his love, kindness, and full support of my every project, passion, and whim - including this impromptu photoshoot, lol.

Thanks so much again for capturing us together in my hometown, Madalyn! Now I have cherished memories, beautiful photos to frame in our new apartment, and an inexhaustible amount of boyfriend posts for the gram - (sorry I’m not sorry).

Madalyn Yates Photography

If you’re in the Greensboro area (and even if you’re not) I would highly recommend booking a shoot with Madalyn and guarantee you will not be disappointed with the results. This creative genius shoots weddings, engagements, babies, family sessions… You name it, and she probably does it. Now I’m just waiting on her to visit Europe for some destination shots ;)

To contact Madalyn visit her website MadalynYatesPhotography.com.


Gallery

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7 Budget Friendly Brunch Spots in Hoi An

I love a good brunch…

…so, while visiting Hoi An, I was happy to discover that the beloved meal between breakfast and lunch is becoming increasingly popular in the lantern lit city.

Whether you’re craving Western favorites, local flavors, or vegetarian friendly choices, you’ll find several places throughout the city where you can get your mid-day fix.

These were some of my favorite (and budget friendly) brunch spots. 


DINGO DELI

Dingo Deli is one of the best places in Hoi An to get a large-portioned, Western style brunch. Opened in 2010 by a western couple, the Deli’s extensive menu offers a variety of brunch dishes like French toast, eggs benedict, and breakfast burritos. All of these meals are served with your choice of bottomless drip coffee or tea.

If you’re not in the mood for a full breakfast, Dingo Deli has several delicious options on their a la carte menu as well.

(FYI: The Deli also has a quiet room, which is perfect for digital nomads wanting to get some work done while having a meal. When we visited, the use of this quiet space was first come first serve, but you may be able to reserve it in advance by contacting the folks at Dingo).

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Feel like hitting snooze? No problem. Dingo Deli serves up brunch all day, and, if you don’t feel like getting out of bed, they even offer delivery! Head to their website via the link below and get your brunch (lunch or dinner) delivered straight to your door!

  • Vegetarian Friendly ✓

  • Hours: 7:30am – 9:30pm daily

  • Location: 277 Cua Dai Road

  • Website: Dingo Deli


THE KEBAB SHACK

The Kebab Shack is another spot where you can get your brunch fix all day long. Opened by English owner Tim and his wife Ly Anh in 2014, this is the perfect place for English expats to go when they want a little taste of home… and we’re not just talking about their huge English breakfast.

At The Kebab Shack, locals and travelers alike can enjoy the hospitable atmosphere, while indulging in hometown favorites like Heinz beans, Magners Cider, and (almost impossible to find) HP Sauce!

The English aren’t the only ones who will find comforts of home here. The Kebab Shack also serves extremely affordable Middle Eastern style kebabs, and delicious Aussie beef pies!


ROSIE’S CAFE

Rosie’s is probably my favorite of all the brunch spots on the list.

Owned and operated by My and Thuy, two local girls and longtime friends, this cozy little café can be found tucked down a quiet alley, away from the hustle and bustle of the Old Quarter. Considering its proximity to the popular tourist destination, Rosie’s is actually extremely affordable. 

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The two girls say Rosie’s is the result of their mutual passion for coffee shops, and their desire to serve up a little something of their own. I was a big fan of what they’re serving up, and with loads of healthy options that everyone can enjoy, I think you will be too.

Start your day with one of their colorful smoothie bowls, avo toast, or Rosie’s signature Brekky. While you’re there, don’t forget to try one of their delicious cold pressed juices, a traditional Vietnamese coffee, or satisfy your sweet tooth with one of their milkshakes!

  • Vegetarian Friendly ✓

  • Hours: 9am-5pm Monday - Friday, 8am-3pm Saturday, closed Sunday

  • Location: 8/6 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai

  • Website: Rosie’s Cafe Facebook


MORNING GLORY

Opened in 2006 by Ms. Vy, local celebrity and author of the cookbook Taste Vietnam, this restaurant takes its name from the morning glory vegetable. Known for its resilience, the morning glory is able to thrive and survive in the harshest conditions, and (after rice) is the second most commonly eaten food in Vietnam. According to Ms. Vy, it symbolically represents Vietnamese character.

Morning Glory, the fourth restaurant opened by Ms. Vy, aims to give guests a broader view of Vietnamese cuisine by also featuring dishes from outside of Hoi An. Some of their most popular dishes among guests are their Banh Xeo (crispy pancakes) - and Cao lầu (YUM).

Check out the original Morning Glory restaurant, the Morning Glory cooking school, or one of Ms. Vy’s many other restaurant locations in Hoi An for a delicious spin on local favorites. You can also take advantage of their delivery service on their website!


HOI AN CENTRAL MARKET

For a truly unique experience, do as the locals do and trade your western brekky for a bowl of pho or Cau Lau at the Hoi An Central Market.

As the name suggests, this market is literally located in the center of town, making it the perfect place to grab a bite before a day of exploring the Old Town.

Though you will likely end up paying a bit of a foreigner tax on anything you buy here, a visit to the market still guarantees you a delicious meal and an experience you won’t forget - all for less than a couple bucks!

Don’t forget your camera! The sights and sounds of the market and its food hall are something you’ll definitely want to write home about.

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  • Hours: Open daily from 5am

  • Location: 73 Phan Boi Chau Son Phong


THE DECK HOUSE

For a delicious brekky on the beach, head to An Bang Beach’s Deck House.

From 7-11 everyday, they offer a variety of breakfast entrees ranging from veggie omelettes and breakfast bowls to avo toasts and traditional cau lau.

The prices are a bit higher here than some of the other spots on the list, but the beach views more than made up for it.

We loved beginning our day with a run to the beach, grabbing a bite here, then taking advantage of the Deck House’s lounge chairs to soak up some rays on the beach.

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  • Hours: 7am-11pm

  • Location: When you arrive at An Bang Beach, take a left at the end of the street. The Deck house will be located on your right.

  • Website: The Deck House


FISHERMAN

To all my vegan, Instagram lovin’ readers - this last one is for you.

The Fisherman is an affordable, sustainable, and vegan restaurant also located on An Bang beach. They serve up a delicious healthy breakfast all day, and boast one of the most insta-worthy interiors and restaurant patios that I have ever seen.

The Fisherman also has happy hour specials and hosts the occasional full moon party, so if you’re visiting Hoi An, be on the lookout for that, too!

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  • Vegetarian Friendly ✓

  • Hours: 7:30am - 11pm

  • Location: Head to An Bang beach via Hai Ba Trung Street. When you reach the end of the street, turn right. Continue down the path until you see The Fisherman on your left.

  • Website: The Fisherman Vegan Restaurant Facebook


MAP


Did I miss any?

Where is your favorite place to brunch in Hoi An? Let me know in the comments below!

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Checking in to the DoubleTree by Hilton Kuala Lumpur

Looking for a place to stay in Kuala Lumpur?

Look no further than the DoubleTree by Hilton Kuala Lumpur.

It is conveniently located just five minutes away from the nearest metro station, and a 10 minute walk away from the city’s famous Petronas Towers.

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The DoubleTree by Hilton KL offers its guests countless amenities and perks, but my personal favorite is the warm cookie they greet you with upon check-in… and this dessert tray wasn’t half bad either.

There are several room options ranging from basic twin bed guest rooms to king bed terrace suites, but honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of them! I stayed in a twin bed deluxe room, and had everything I needed.

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In addition to its many other features and services, the DoubleTree by Hilton KL also offers its guests a delicious complimentary breakfast and boasts five in-house bars and restaurants.

Read more about my experience at the DoubleTree by Hilton Kuala Lumpur, and view the full photo gallery here.


OTHER FEATURED ACCOMMODATIONS

The Best Beach Spot in Hoi An (& How to Get There)

If you're heading to Hoi An, you're undoubtedly planning to spend some time by the beach… but with such a lengthy coastline you might wondering where exactly to go.

Well, when you look at the map, you’ll see you've got two main choices - Cua Dai and An Bang beach... but if you look a bit closer, you’ll see a littleeee spot between the two called Coconut Beach - a name I had hardly seen on the "go to the beach" sign by the main road.

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Located at the northern end of Cua Dai, just by the Boutique Hoi An Resort, this quiet little beach spot was my favorite escape from the hustle and bustle of Hoi An.

In the three weeks I was there, I can count on one hand the number of other foreigners I saw on the beach here, making it the ideal spot for me and my sometimes reclusive tendencies.

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By some stroke of luck, Andrew found this cozy little spot for the first time one afternoon while I was getting some work done at Hub Hoi An.

He was on a mission to find a cool spot at the beach, and discovered this absolute gem.

Coconut Beach was our go-to spot for the rest of our time in Hoi An. 

Prior to finding Coconut Beach, we spent our beach time by the two major beach accesses, and they were both always packed with tourists... more so An Bang than Cua Dai.

Andrew and I much preferred the local vibe, and peace and quiet of "Coconut Beach."

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Though it lacks the restaurants, bars, and shops found at the major beach spots, it does have a charming little snack bar bungalow.

At this little family owned bungalow, you can pay a small amount to rent beach chairs for the day, buy beer, icecream and other snacks.

The ladies who owned it were so friendly, and their kids were adorable.

As the sun went down that first day, we had successfully befriended the shop owner’s daughters. Though they didn’t speak much English, they played in the waves with us, and laughed hysterically every time Andrew intentionally wiped out in one.

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This is also a fishing hotspot, so the beach is lined with several bamboo boats. In the early morning, and as the sun goes down, lots of local fishermen could be seen heading out into the water and preparing their fishing nets.

Each time we came to Coconut Beach we were greeted with warm welcoming smiles… which is always nice when you’re in a new, unfamiliar place. By the third time we went there, the ladies stopped charging us to use the chairs, so we just had to pay for our beach beers.

Though there isn’t as much going on, I found the cozy “Coconut Beach” to be much more enjoyable than the larger beach accesses. If a quiet beach beach day is what you’re after, definitely head to this lesser known area of Hoi An’s coastline.

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LOCATION


A Day At the Tracks - How to Get to Hanoi's Train Street and When to Go



The first time I visited Vietnam, I travelled from Hanoi to Hue on an overnight train.

I had no idea that, shortly after leaving the station, the train passed right through the narrow streets of a lively, residential area – Hanoi’s Train Street.

Unlike most areas in Vietnam, you don’t have to worry quite as much about getting run over by motorbikes here… Though it’s still possible, most people are more concerned with the speeding train that passes through the area multiple times a day.

Keep reading to find out more about our day at Hanoi’s Train street, how to get there, and when to go.

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Every day, multiple times a day, residents of this teeny tiny street, located in the midst of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, stop what they’re doing, clear the tracks, and make way for the passing train. Before and after that, life carries on as usual.

This summer, instead of passing through on an overnight train, Andrew and I decided to go explore this unique neighborhood for ourselves.

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After spending some time walking along the tracks, we grabbed a seat on a couple of little plastic stools outside the Railway Hanoi, a cozy cafe in the middle of Train Street. It was the perfect spot to have a Bahn Mi and have a couple local beers. We shared conversation with fellow travellers aross the tracks while watching life unfold on Train Street.

We saw residents chatting on the tracks, families preparing meals, laundry being hung out to dry, tourists trying to snap that perfect photo, roaming roosters pecking at our sandwich crumbs, and children racing up and down the tracks.

It was all fun and games until the smallest one stepped on a loose railway tie and got a nail through her foot.

Basically, we saw everything but the train. 

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Getting There

Train street is located between Le Duan and Kham Thien. You can easily walk there from Hoàn Kiếm Lake or the Old Quarter in about 20-30 minutes.

If it’s too hot to walk, or you’re short on time, use the Grab app to catch a ride there!

When to go

You can wander down train street at any time of day, but if you want to pay a visit to the Railway Cafe, or catch a glimpse of the passing train (which we sadly did not), you’ll have to plan your visit carefully.

The Railway Hanoi is open from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. everyday but Tuesday. It’s the perfect spot to have a bite and people watch while you’re waiting for the afternoon train to pass.

From Monday to Friday the train passes through twice - once at 6 a.m. and a second time at 7 p.m.

On Saturday and Sunday it runs more frequently, passing through at around 9:15 a.m., 11:35 a.m., 3:20 p.m., 5:45 p.m., 6:40 p.m., and 7:10 p.m.

Note that these times are all approximate. The owner of the Railway recommends you arrive at least 30 minutes prior to ensure you get a good (and safe) spot to view the passing train.

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Have you visited Hanoi’s Train Street? What did you think?

Let me know in the comments below!


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WHERE WE STAYED IN HANOI - GOLDEN CHARM HOTEL

MORE VIETNAM DESTINATIONS - HA LONG BAY - HANOI - HOI AN


Why I Loved Teaching English in Korea... And Why I Left



If you’ve been following this blog, you probably already know that my round the world travels began in 2015 when I quit my jobs, packed up my life in North Carolina, and moved to the big city of Seoul, South Korea.  

For over a year I’d talked about teaching abroad.

I took a TEFL course after graduating college, and I’d started considering where I wanted to go… but even to me, the thought of actually DOING it seemed absurd. So absurd that even I kind of doubted that I ever actually would… until I did. Twice. 

Teaching in Seoul was a great experience and Korea was an amazing, highly underrated country.

Here’s why I loved it… and why I left.

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Throughout my time in Korea, I taught literally hundreds of students ranging from Western age 4 to 14. I wasn’t properly prepared, trained, OR certified to do so, but I quickly found myself teaching MUCH more than just English.

I basically taught everything, but IN English… basics like the ABC’s and phonics to subjects like science, debate, social studies, art, and even cooking. Though some of these posed a real challenge for me at first, they also made me get creative and put my teaching ability to the test. 

I really enjoyed teaching and living in South Korea. I was able to learn about a new country, got involved with local organizations like Teach North Korean Refugees, and learned a little bit (but not nearly enough) of the language. I discovered a passion for education, language, culture, (food), and a deep love for the innocence, hope, and joy that comes with spending time around children.

Unfortunately, for all the positive aspects of this experience, there were several negative ones too.

 

The education system in Korea is extremely intense and competitive. From a very young age many kids are involved in numerous extracurricular activities. They go from their regular elementary school to academy after academy, and, when they finally come home, they study even more, sometimes with an in-home tutor.

As a teacher at one of these private academies, called hagwons, I found myself going through multiple textbooks a month with my kindergarten students, giving scantron tests to seven year olds, and memorizing speeches with kids who, months earlier, didn’t even know the English alphabet. At school and at home, many of them never have time to just play and be kids.

In a parent teacher meeting at my third (and last) school, I had a mother tell me that, lately, her child didn’t want to study at home… that he seemed to be getting burnt out on phonics. This came as a surprise to me because this kid loved phonics at school…. Every day he would literally choose to practice writing new vocabulary words over having playtime with his friends. 

After spending hours at school (then going to whatever afterschool classes and extra-curricular activities he was involved in), I can only imagine that, once he got home, he wasn’t too keen on studying anymore. After all, he was only 6… and already learning about the silent k in “kn” and that “ph” actually makes an f sound.

A few minutes after trying to reassure her… since she seemed concerned… she then expressed that she felt he wasn’t learning enough in comparison to a kid in their neighborhood. This competition between parents is not an uncommon occurrence.  

Parents are highly concerned with their kid’s success… and there’s nothing wrong with that. But what some of them fail to understand is that more textbooks don’t necessarily mean more learning. Unfortunately, in my experience, the administration at many hagwons will cater to these parents and allow them to call the shots…. Making it feel more like you’re working at a business than a school. If the parents want more books, then you’ll find yourself cramming more material into your already rushed lessons.

The heavy emphasis on fast, textbook learning is stressful on teachers and students, and, overall, it isn’t doing anyone any favors. In my experience, kids who may have been incredibly book smart lacked skills like creativity, critical thinking, and were unable to work as a part of a team. They were afraid of making mistakes… a harsh reality that likely comes from not getting nearly enough time to play, explore, and just be kids.



I worked at three different schools during my time in Korea, and while the overall job was pretty similar, each one’s administration and organization was exponentially worse than the last. The expectations became higher, the pay and resources become lower, and my stress level absolutely sky rocketed.

At my final school I took a significant cut to my salary. I initially didn’t mind because the working hours were (seemingly) much shorter. I quickly found out that less working hours doesn’t necessarily mean less work.

Though I was supposed to be out by 5 pm every day, I found myself staying anywhere from one to two hours later, just so I had time to finish correcting books, writing comments, and preparing for the next day. This happened multiple times a week, but was never considered overtime, and I was never compensated for it, since it wasn’t technically “teaching hours,” (just the time it takes to prepare for teaching, which, in my opinion is almost more important… but, anyway, I digress)…

I was doing a lot more. Making a lot less. And dealing with a lot more bullshit.

This school was the most unorganized by far. The constantly changing administration had zero clue what they were doing, and frequently sprung things on teachers with little to no notice. They didn’t take into consideration the time or effort that went into doing the job and doing it well, and were constantly raising their expectations and our work load.

Though my students were tough to handle at times, they were nothing compared to the stress I felt working under such a disorganized and inexperienced administration.

 

“Comparison is the thief of joy” is a pretty adequate quote explanation of the situation I found myself in here…. because even though the school and its management were an absolute mess, I still really loved teaching and all the little monster students in my class… (even the one little bundle of energy and enthusiasm who couldn’t sit still, colored on the walls, and plugged the sink, intentionally flooding the hallway a few times).

If I hadn’t had my previous schools to compare it to, I probably could have stuck it out here… but, I DID have those comparisons… and I knew that this school was seriously ripping teachers off, and taking advantage of the ones who didn’t know any better.

 

Despite the negative circumstances I left under, I still love Korea - it was my first overseas home away from home, and the place where I met the love of my life. I loved teaching, and will never forget my students or the close connections I made.

Moving there and documenting the travels that followed allowed me to rediscover my love of writing, and uncover new hobbies like photography and video. Due to my draining, toxic work situation, I found myself with little time or energy to dedicate to these personal passions… so finally, after having two different directors, and three different co-teachers in a three-month span, I decided enough was enough and put in my notice. 

After roughly three years of teaching in Korea, it was time to move on…

 

I took a few weeks to detox in Vietnam, took advantage of some pretty big partnerships while I was still in Asia, then made a quick stop through Thailand before returning home.

I decided that it’s time to pour more of my time and energy into fulfilling my own goals and less fulfilling every unrealistic whim of ungrateful, parent-pleasing, hagwon bosses. It’s time to be closer to my family and friends… and to be around for the things that are important.

 I loved Korea, but it was time to leave.

It’s time to begin new adventures and take on new challenges… So that’s what I’m going to do.

 

So, what’s next??

Well, stay tuned, y’all… cause I’m moving to Europe!


*Disclaimer - My perspective of teaching in Korea and my decision to leave was entirely dependent on my personal views of education, and the experiences I had in my work environments. Other individuals may have vastly different views depending on their experience and the type of schools they worked in.

For example, teaching in the EPIK program is very different from teaching at a hagwon, and each hagwon varies greatly. Other factors like the neighborhood you live in, the status of your housing, and personal relationships with coworkers and other staff also come into play.

I have both lived, and heard my fair share of horror stories when it comes to teaching in Korea, but still believe there are plenty of great companies to work for.

For legal reasons, I’ve chosen to not fully disclose any names or specific situations I dealt with, but if you are considering teaching in Seoul and have any questions or concerns about the interview process, contracts, or specific schools, feel free to contact me for the full, unedited scoop.

Sustainable Tourism in HaLong Bay aboard the Au Co Luxury Cruise



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Named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994, HaLong Bay is easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, and a popular tourist destination in Vietnam for domestic and international visitors alike.

For years, waking up in the crystal blue waters of the bay on a junk boat amidst the limestone cliffs was at the top of my bucket list, and, in 2017, I finally made it there. According to statistics from the Halong City People’s Committee, so did about 7 million other tourists... with a majority of them flocking straight to the port to board their cruise in the bay.

As you can imagine, this mass tourism can have detrimental effects on the environment in HaLong Bay, however, I don't think tourists should let this dissuade them from visiting. There are companies who care about preserving the beauty of HaLong Bay, its wildlife, and the local communities who call this place home... companies like Bhaya Cruise Line.

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About Bhaya Cruise Line

In 2007, Bhaya's first ships set sail, and just over ten years later, with four different fleets and several cruise packages to choose from, it is already become the largest cruise operator in HaLong Bay. It is also one of the Bay's most reputable cruise companies.

In 2017, Bhaya launched several sustainable tourism initiatives designed to protect and preserve the environment, and to help local communities.

This summer, I had the pleasure of exploring the beauty that is HaLong Bay a second time aboard Bhaya's Au Co Luxury Cruise. I was very impressed with the ship, the staff, the off the beaten tourist track excursions, the food(!), and with Bhaya's overall dedication to leading the way for sustainable tourism in HaLong Bay.

Want to learn more about the Au Co Luxury Cruise, Bhaya's social and environmental initiatives, or how you can get involved?

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The Cutest Homestay in HaLong Bay - HaLong Ginger Homestay



 
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HaLong Ginger Homestay

If you're planning a trip to northern Vietnam, chances are taking a HaLong Bay Cruise is high on your list. Most people go straight from Hanoi to the bay and almost immediately board their cruise, however, if you have the time, I highly recommend staying at least one night in mainland HaLong beforehand.

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Why stay a night in mainland halong bay?

The journey from Hanoi to Halong Bay can be a bit exhausting. If you're a morning person, maybe you won't sweat the early morning wake up call, but I personally was SO tired once I had finally arrived and it was time for the cruise - (Seriously... barely survived happy hour... mostly due to my extreme exhaustion).

This time around, we opted to head to HaLong Bay a day early. This allowed us to rest up, while also giving us just enough time to explore. We got an early morning bus from Hanoi, and were dropped off right at the door of our adorable homestay in HaLong. Once there, we dropped off our bags, ate some lunch, and went to hike Bai Tho Mountain.

If you're not already convinced to stay a night, check out this incredible view of the bay from Bai Tho Mountain, and then get ready to book your accommodations in HaLong.

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Where to stay

Sold on staying a night in the mainland?

Skip the fancy hotels and resorts, save a few bucks, and book a stay at the HaLong Ginger Homestay instead... a cozy, convenient, affordable, (and totally instagrammable) little homestay...

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other featured accommodations