Travelling isn’t just my hobby, it’s my addiction. I’ve clocked up 35 countries to date (don’t ask me how many cities), and this year alone I’ve been away 9 times. If I don’t have something in the pipeline, I genuinely feel quite down about the whole affair (1st world problems much?).
So with that in mind, here are my top 10 places so far…
10 – Marrakech, Morrocco
I don’t think Marrakech is for the faint hearted. A lot of people I’ve spoken with hated it; found it intimidating, dirty and sleazy. Most of the people in question were your classic pool lounging holiday maker. I love a dirty city with loads of character. Marrakech has so much to explore, day trips out into the middle of the desert, the vast mazes of souks, and a shed ton of vegan food.
Insider tip: Find yourself accommodation in the old town. The new town is pretty personality-less and the old school riads in the old town make for an authentic Moroccan stay.
9 – Vang Vieng, Laos
I was fortunate enough to visit Vang Vieng before they banned the river tubing. I’ve heard that since the famous river bar hopping was burned down, the place has lost a lot of its tourism. Regardless, i’d still make the trip to see it. The mountain scenery, lagoons and treks are out of this world (and it’s cheap as hell!!!).
Insider tip: Cross the river over to the mountain lagoon. Locals will take you an hour into the mountain to a dark cold water lagoon with nothing but a torch. Safe? Probably not? A sight you won’t forget? Definitely.
8 – Siem Reap, Cambodia
Choosing just one place in Cambodia was tough, but it HAD to be Siem Reap. Visiting Angkor Wat was one of my bucket list points, and I was blown away when I discovered that the surrounding Angkor Thom and other ruins were just as spectacular. The city was perfect for backpackers, taking me way past my travel expectations. Immersing myself with locals, I was invited to a small village school for dinner and met a group of children from a sex trafficking rescue centre. If there was ever anything to make you realise how over privileged you are…
Insider Tip: Find yourself a good tuk tuk driver for the entirety of your stay. I found a guy that took $10 from me per day and carted me everywhere, waiting at each stop for hours until I was done. As the days went by, he became my ‘insider’ friend – taking me places that other tourists might not see, and even giving me a phone in case of emergencies.
7 – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Europe doesn’t tend to be my thing – I’ve already seen a lot of castles (I’m from Scotland). Amsterdam, however, is utterly beautiful. I’m always disappointed to hear people saying that they only smoked weed and went to see the prostitutes. The city is teaming with galleries, festivals and little hipster coffee spots and restaurants. My Instagram account has a field day with the beautiful big windowed buildings alone.
Insider Tip: Visit De Pijp for city centre boutiques, vintage shops, restaurants and locals’ bars.
6 – Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai
One of my biggest regrets is that I only stopped in Chiang Rai or a mere 45 minutes to see this place. Have you ever been somewhere that was so overwhelming beautiful that it made you cry? This was the first place to ever set me off. Designed and privately owned by a local artist, it is a contemporary art exhibit in the form of a Buddhist temple. Big statues of new media icons, such as ‘the Predator’, surround the temple, whilst a moat of clawing hands circle the front. Inside are hundreds of little paintings of material and media icons like Kung Fu Panda, Superman, Converse covering the walls and ceiling. Mind. Blown.
Insider Tip: Take a few days out to visit Chiang Rai and experience real Thailand.
5 – Cairo, Egypt
Another dirty city on my list? Yep. But another opportunity to see how completely different cultures live. Our bus ride alone taught me things that I never knew; a lot of homes had their fouth and final wall missing as it deems the building incomplete, and therefore, not liable for tax. I was worried the pyramids weren’t going to live up the the hype.. I was wrong. Their sheer size is amazing.
Insider tip: Don’t eat anything unless it’s cooked. As a veggie, I thought I was safe in decent restaurants. Even the salads were washed in water my stomach wasnt used to and I was sick for weeks after.
6 – Railay, Thailand
I loved this stupid little place so much, I made it my home for two years… so although I wanted to chuck Bangkok into the mix, I couldn’t leave it out. It’s fast becoming utterly ruined by tourism, but was a lovely backpacker haven for those wanting to go off the main route without being completely hardcore. Famous with climbers for its huge rock formations, it even hosts some of the Red Bull climbing events. If you want to try real rock climbing, the instructors here are some of the best, and accommodate all levels.
Insider tip: Go see the Fire show at the ‘Last Bar’, and watch the sunset on the West beach
3 – Rio, Brazil
Rio completely surpassed all my expectations. There was so much to do there that I could have easily spent at least another two weeks. Take a surfing class on Ipanema beach, visit the Christ the Redeemer, watch the Sunset on Sugarloaf mountain and party like you’ve never partied in your life.
Insider tip:Visit Pedra do Sal on a Monday night for a much more intimate locals street party, full of music and street dancing.
2 – Ubud, Bali
Ubud is like walking into an Asian version of that movie ‘The Secret Garden’. Breathtaking tours of rice paddy fields, coffee tastings, hidden jungle temples and little secret garden alleyways are everywhere. Please forget that Julia Roberts went there and filmed that awful ‘Eat, Pray Love’ thing there..
Insider tip: Visit the Dog rescue centre on the main street. They’re always looking for volunteers and donations, and I got loads of doggy cuddles.
1 – Cusco, Peru
I sobbed like a baby at the top of Machu Pichu…Like. A. Baby. By myself, surrounded by a boat load of climbers. The journey 8000 feet above see level is exhausting. My sheer happiness to be at the top, teamed with tiredness, thirst and the fact that it was my life long no.1 bucket list spot just got the better of me. The views were like nothing I’d ever seen, the ruins are still in phenomenal condition. I’m feeling quite emotional even writing this.
Insider tip: Do the extra climb up Machu Picchu mountain instead of the famous Huayna Picchu. Huayna Pichu sells out fast, but the mountain opposite is taller, and gives the photo op that you see in all the brochures.
I’d love to hear other’s favourites???