10 things I wish I'd known before visiting south-east Asia for the first time


Taking a trip to Malaysia was my first time I had ever been to south-east Asia. It was a massive culture shock to be somewhere so different from home. I like to think of myself as pretty well traveled despite only having been to Europe and North America but it completely took me by surprise. It was unlike anywhere I had been before. Here are ten things I wish I'd known before travelling to the region for the first time.

1. Be prepared for squat toilets
For some reason I only though squat toilets existed in China which is ridiculous. This is not the case. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with squat toilets but it is just something I'm not quite used to. They take a hell of a lot of time to get used to when you've only ever used a western loo. All there restaurants always had a western loo but keep in mind some service stations and temples only have squat loos...

2. The toilets don't always have toilet paper
It seems to be very heavy on the old toilet situation doesn't it? But one thing I really noticed about going to the loo in Malaysia is that toilet paper is in short supply. Luckily I had already been warned about this from Michelle so always had some in my bag. I would have come unstuck a fair few times if it wasn't for her! All toilets have toilet sprayer which again was something I had never come across before. But you can use them instead of using toilet paper if you forget it.

3. Health and safety is not the same as home
We had a rather hairy time involving some fireworks and fire crackers which scared the life out of me! You could tell someone hadn't watched the firework safety video at school as a kid... Heath and safety doesn't really exist the over there and it definitely takes a while to go used to. You just have to learn to turn a blind eye!

4. Be prepared for people to ask you for pictures
I'd never been to a country where I was the minority before and one thing that really stood out for me was people asking me for my picture! One family asked me to pose with their children. Another man secretly filmed me when I was buying some food. People really did stare, especially where our friends lived as it wasn't a very touristy place so we stood out like a sore thumb. It wasn't uncomfortable and no one was rude but it took a while to get used to.

5. Drivers don't always stop at red lights
Driving in Malaysia was certainly an experience, luckily our friend was there to navigate. Everyone drives on the same side of the road as we do in the UK but that's where the similarities end! We were ok driving in Langkawi as it was pretty quiet. But on the mainland it was chaotic. No one seems to indicate, no one seems to stop at a red light and the traffic can be horrendous. The no stopping at a red light was particularly scary!

6.  Leave your shoes at the door before you enter guesthouses
I'm used to taking my shoes off at home at the door but it's never been expected of me to take them off at a guesthouse before I enter reception. It's a sign of respect in Malaysia so many will ask you to leave your shoes inside. This is why when you walk past any guesthouse you will see piles of shoes outside. If I had realised this I would have packed a pair of slippers.

7.  The sheer amount of whitening beauty products
I ran out of moisturiser while we were out there and popped to the pharmacy to pick up some more. It took me a good 15 m minutes to find something that didn't have 'whitening' or 'bleach' in the description. I couldn't quite believe the sheer amount of whitening products on sale from body lotion to deodorant. It's quite a sad sight if I'm honest and really makes you think.

8. No one wears helmets on mopeds 
No one at all wears a crash helmet on a moped, not even a six month old baby. Literally everyone drives around helmet free and it gives me a heart attack. See what I mean by heath and safety is not the same as home? Just because no one else seems to wear a helmet doesn't mean you should skip it if you decided to hire a moped.

9.  Sometimes eating western food affects you more than the local food
I love to stick to local food whenever I visit a new country but sometimes you just have a craving for food that reminds you of home. I'm talking burgers, pizza and chips. Sometimes needs must! I have no problem eating street food wherever I am despite people often warning against it. I think it's the best way to get a feel for a country. I was shocked that the times I felt a bit out of sorts - and really poorly at one point - was when I opted for the western food. So keep in mind eating western food won't necessary be better for your stomach!

10. The humidity is unlike anything I would have ever experienced before

My friend said before we went that in Malaysia you are always wet. Be it from the rain or from sweat because of the humidity. I thought he was exaggerating. But he wasn't! I wish I had been much better prepared to deal with it. Maybe taking a misting spray or lighter clothes from natural fabrics. It can get pretty intense!
0 Comments

Postcards from Dublin


Last month we spent a few days in Dublin for Connor's 30th birthday and we both fell in love with the Irish capital. There isn't a lot to see in Dublin but the best thing about the city in my opinion is simply wandering around, dipping in and out pubs stopping for a quick drink to soak up the atmosphere.

The city is extremely touristy, we joked that you heard more American accents on the streets then you did Irish. It's really busy and you'll spend your days dodging people especially in the Temple Bar area. It took a while for us to get used tooas all the other places we've visited in Ireland haven't really had to many tourists. The city felt very European which was a surprise and at times it didn't feel like we'd only flown over the Irish Sea.




One thing I'd 100% recommend should you find yourself in the city is book a tour at Kilmainham Gaol as it was the best thing we did. We may be biased and have a huge interest in Irish history because of my boyfriend's heritage but it was so fascinating. I thought I already knew a fair bit about the partition of Ireland and the Easter Risings but the guide was incredibly knowledgable and offered snippets of history I had no idea of. You have to book a fair few weeks in advance because it sells out very quickly. It's only around 8 Euro.




As cliche as it may be it's also worth booking a tour around the Guinness Storehouse. The self-guided tour is a lot of fun and it's fairly interactive too. You get top enjoy a free pint of the black stuff in a bar offering 360 degree views of the entire city. Keep in mind its a fairly long way to walk from Temple Bar but it's quite a nice walk to enjoy. Definitely go for at least one drink in Temple Bar, I don't think it's worth spending your whole night in there but it's definitely worth a quick tipple to say that you've done it!

We had such a fab time in Dublin that we're thinking about when we can pop back for a second round!





1 Comments

My top ten must see sights and places to see in Malaysia

I've been back from Malaysia for nearly six months now and still can't stop thinking about it. It was such an incredible trip and at times I can't quite believe I was able to visit such a stunning country. Travel is pretty incredible eh? I feel like we covered so much ground during our trip but there is still so much of Malaysia we still didn't get to see. But if you're planning your own trip travelling around the country, here are ten places and sights you absolutely have to put on your itinerary.



1. Take a tour of a tea plantation in Cameron Highlands
The tea plantations in Cameron Highlands were stunning. I had no idea rows upon rows of tea could be so beautiful. You'll struggle to buy tea from this area outside Malaysia as they don't make enough to export it to other countries. The towns which make up the Cameron Highlands are very touristy but it's well worth making the effort to go all that way up above sea level. Definitely make sure you book yourself on a guided tour as you'll get so much out of it. I'd recommend Eco Cameron who promote sustainable tourism and have such knowledgable guides. He really did make our trip.



2. Spend a day in Melacca
To me, Melacca was exactly how I had imagined Malaysia to look like when I had images in my head. The city is full of old colonial buildings from when the Dutch and British colonised the country.  It is quite tourist heavy so keep this in mind. The best things to do is simply wander and soak up the atmosphere. It has a fab cafe culture so you'll find lots of cute places to sit down, escape from the blistering sunshine and rehydrate before heading off on to the next site. Make sure you climb to the top of the hill to St Paul's Church for some cracking views over the city.



3. Go to the top of the Petronas Towers
No trip to any capital city is complete without a visit to the top of the tallest building right? Admission to the Petronas Towers is around £15 (depending on the exchange rate) and this includes a visit to Sky Bridge which connects the two towers together and the main observation deck on the 86th floor. Seeing KL below you really is a sight to behold.



4. Try all the street food in George Town
I don't know about you but one of my favourite things about traveling to different places is trying the local food. In fact I plan most of my holidays around food. If you're a foodie too then you're in for a treat in George Town. The city had the best food I ate in Malaysia. Make sure you pay a trip to all the hawker stalls. If you have a travelling partner share dishes so you can try twice as much.



5. See the street art in Ipoh
Much like George Town Ipoh is full of cool street art. Some of it has been created by Ernest Zacharevic who was commissioned to do the street art in George Town too. Seeing the murals does get busy so go hunting for them early on the morning to beat the crowds.



6.  Stay off the grid in The Sticks
You'll need a car in order to make it to The Sticks but the off the grid guesthouse is well worth attempting those Malaysian roads for. Located in Fraser's Hill, this guesthouse is surrounded by flowing rivers and lush forest. You won't be blessed with any WIFI signal which is a god send. Enjoy home cooked food, going down the rapids in rubber dingy, talking long leisurely walks and if you're feeling adventurous, paragliding.



7.  Visit Chinese temples
I don't know if it was because it was my first time to Asia and I'd never been to any type of temple before but I absolutely loved seeing all the Chinese temples during my trip. We went during Chinese New year so they were so packed and it gave a great insight into everyday life. I was fascinated. Everyone was so welcoming to us and took the time to give us tours and tells us all about traditions which was so kind.



8.  Do the Sky Cab in Langkawi
This isn't something I enjoyed but something that you absolutely have to do if you find yourself in Langkawi. I'm so glad I did it! The Sky Cab is the steepest cable car in the world and it definitely feels like it when you're in it. You're treated to absolutely stunning 360 degree views of the whole island and it will blow you away.



9.  Hire a car and take a road trip
The first week we were in Malaysia we took an epic road trip consisting of six different cities and towns in seven days. It was pretty intense being in a new place practically every day but it was such a fantastic way to see the country. It made you appreciate the cities even more because you knew you didn't have much time there to explore. Road users are pretty chaotic in Malaysia but they all drive on the same side of the road as us so it makes it a little easier.



10. Take a rainforest trek in Cameron Highlands
We did an organised tour with Eco Cameron for a visit to the Mossy Forest. The Mossy forest a type of environment which only exists in Cameron Highlands and Malaysia. Driving 6,666 feet above sea level to the eco-system our guide took us on a walk to explain all the different type of plants. It was so interesting and incredibly sobering to listen to what will happen to this eco-system if we fail to look after it.

3 Comments

Hotel review: House Dublin, Dublin, Ireland


Address: 27 Leeson Street Lower, Saint Kevin's, Dublin 2, Ireland
Cost per night: Around £150 for room only.

It's not very often we stay in hotels when we travel, instead we opt for an Airbnb as they're cheaper. But I booked Dublin for Connor's 30th birthday so I wanted to choose a hotel as it was a special occasion. A word of warning, accommodation in Dublin is pretty expensive. Much like London, you have to spend at least £100 to get anywhere pretty decent.

After lots of research I settled on House Dublin as I loved the Soho House vibes I got from it. So hipster. As well as a hotel it's home to a nightclub, restaurant, outside terrace and gin room. Safe to say it's pretty buzzing all the time! We stayed midweek so I can't comment on how noisy living above a nightclub was but reading from reviews I think it gets a bit loud on a Friday and Saturday night.





It's located in St Stephen's Green which is close enough to all the action in the centre of town but far enough to not be tourist central. It took us about 15 minutes to walk to Temple Bar. There are lots of pubs and restaurants nearby so you don't have to venture into the centre of town if you don't want to.

Sadly we had to make last minute arrangements as we had a funeral to attend in Northern Ireland. We flew into Dublin and hired a car to drive to Derry that morning. I rung the hotel to explain the situation and they were fantastic. They canceled our original booking without the cancellation fee (saved us 160 euro!) and rebooked us in for later on in the week. I'd also arranged with them over email to fill the bedroom with balloons for my boyfriend's birthday. Nothing was too much trouble for them.

We had breakfast one day to try it out. Priced at 15 euro for a drink and breakfast it was actually quite good value considering Dublin is probably one of the most expensive cities I have ever been. We both opted for an Irish Fry and it was enormous. Certainly kept us going for most of the day!



House Dublin was a great shout for us. We loved the location, staff were very helpful, the Rituals toiletries in the room were a nice touch, the bed was very comfortable and the cool general vibe was great. It is pricey but I feel that is Dublin in a nutshell. I'd definitely recommend the hotel if you find yourself in the city!
0 Comments

Why you should put London's West End on your trip itinerary


When you're planning a trip to a capital city like London it can be hard to choose what to put in your itinerary. It's such a sprawling place, full of great little neighbourhoods. I've been coming into London for 26 years and I still haven't even scratched the surface! But one thing you should most definitely put in your itinerary is a trip to see a play or a musical at the West End. I may be biased here but the London theatre scene is one of the best in the world. I've been lucky enough to see a musical on Broadway and it was fantastic. But it didn't quite have the magic of the capital's West end.

Where to get tickets
Whether you're after seeing a musical for fun escapism or a hard-hitting play to make you think, it's difficult to know where to start to choose the right show for you. Head to Official London Theatre* to find endless tickets available for the West End. You'll also find news about the upcoming shows due to begin their run so you can pop it in your diary. There's also some great deals where kids eat for free to help keep the cost of the day out down. Going to the theatre can soon add up! They very kindly offered me two tickets to catch SWEAT before it is due to finish it's run next week. The politically-charged play is set in Pennsylvania amidst simmering racial tensions. It felt unbelievably current, exploring the anger and resentment currently directly towards immigrants and people of colour today. It really left a lasting impression after it ended.


My favourite theatres
My favourite theatres to see a play at the National Theatre on the Southbank and Barbican theatre. The Barbican is quite small so it feels so intimate when you see a play. You really get caught up the action! I was really lucky to get tickets to see Cillian Murphy in Grief Is The Thing With Feathers earlier this year (twice!) in front row seats. It was probably one of my favourite theatre experiences.

For musicals I love catching them at Apollo Victoria and the London Palladium. I have fond memories of the Palladium as it's where my nan took me to see my first musical at the age of 7. It was Oliver and I remember being mesmerised. It's been the home of the annual pantomime the last few years. My mum and I went last and it was incredible. Absolutely hilarious.

Musicals to look out for
One of my favourite musicals in recent years is The Lion King. The costumes are out of this world. You immediately forget you're watching humans dressed up, it feels like you're watching real animals gliding across the stage. I'd also recommend Wicked - which I'm actually seeing for the third time next week - and 9-5, the Dolly Parton musical.

0 Comments

Four tips to do Las Vegas on a budget


When we went to Las Vegas earlier on in the year I was shocked by how expensive it was. I knew it was going to be pricey but it was SO pricey. That's coming from a girl who spends most of her life in London where being expensive is a way of life. After being there a day we quickly realised we were going to spend a lot of money BUT as the days went on we realised that maybe we didn't have to take out a second mortgage in order to have a good time. Here are some four tips to help you see Vegas on a budget...



Make the most of the hotels
To be honest one of the best things about Vegas is wandering from hotel to hotel, with each one being even more bonkers than the last. It's completely free to soak up the atmosphere and people watch in the craziest place on earth. For sheer opulence The Venetian was a sight to behold, you'll find yourself wandering around with your mouth open. For retro vibes, head to the Flamingo with real flamingos hanging out in the pool area. For Willy Wonka-style grandness the Wynn has some absolutely incredible floral displays that are crying out for an Instagram snap. The Ballagio has cool old-school vibes and really sums up what Las Vegas is all about.

Take advantage of the fast food joints
I've been lucky enough to visit a few cities in America and Vegas is probably the worst foodie choice. I may not have eaten at the right places but I did my research and everything still fell a little flat. The city seemed to go for quantity over quality. But one thing America does do well is a fast food joint! Shake Shack in particular tastes an million times nicer out there than it does in London. We tended to opt for fast food for lunches and then splash out a little for dinner to help keep costs down.



Avoid the taxis and download Uber
The strip is absolutely huge and after a few times, the novelty tends to wear off walking up and down. It takes such a long time as the crowds really do slow you down. I recommend to download the Uber app to get around cheaply. We got a hell of a lot of Ubers over the week and we spent around £38 each which was unbelievably cheap. I'd fully expected it to be at least £100. Someone told us there are a staggering 30,000 uber drivers in Vegas so you never have to wait longer than a minute for one.

Stick to the slot machines in casinos
If you make it to Vegas you have to have a little flutter at some point. But it can be easy to blow loads of money before you know it. Keep an eye out for the slot machines which are 25 cents a go. That means you have four tries on the one armed-bandits for a dollar. When you start using dollar machines it can soon add it and cut into your budget a lot.

1 Comments

How to spend 24 hours in Ipoh, Malaysia


8am: Wake up
You'll want to make an early start in order to make the most of your time in the city. After waking up at Ban Loong Hotel, make sure you're ready to be out of the door for 9am. Nice and central, Ban Loong is spotlessly clean with incredibly helpful and friendly staff. The rooms come with air conditioning and free WIFI. It's a great option if you're on a budget as a private double room with a private bathroom was priced at around £35 per room.



9am: Breakfast at Plan B
We always opted for a western breakfast throughout our Malaysia trip. Luckily the cities we visited had cute cafes that wouldn't look out of place in Shoreditch. Drinks and food isn't cheap at Plan B but if you're eating street food in the evenings then you can afford to splash out. The bar/cafe has a great wine list, something we found was unusual in Malaysia. The menu is a hybrid of American-inspired dishes such as hotdogs, loaded fries and burgers. You'll also find Asian themed dishes if this is what tickles your fancy. The cafe is located inside a market which have some lovely stalls dotted around.



10.30am: Take a stroll around the street art
Just like Georgetown in Penang, Ipoh is full of street art by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic. Download a map on your phone whilst you have WIFI and it's fun to spend an hour wandering and soaking up the city. They're all pretty close to each other and watch up for the crowds. Everyone loves street art!



11.30: Take a stroll down Concubine Lane
Concubine Lane is said to be where rich men hid their mistresses from their wives. Now it's a bustling street of pop-up stalls, food vendors and little boutiques. It is a bit hectic but that's part of its charm. I highly recommend it for some cheap sunglasses if you lose yours! Grab some street food from the stalls if you're feeling peckish. The street food is out of this world in Malaysia.



12:30pm: Look at the colonial architecture
Malaysia was colonised by the British and as a result the country is full off typical colonial architecture. Ipoh is no different. One of the most famous buildings in the city is the train station. Designed by British architect Arthur Hubbard, the main behind Kuala Lumpur train station, it's a stunning building. We sat for a while on the bench outside and people watched. Other buildings to keep an eye out for include the town hall and clock tower. Also look out for the state mosque which is a incredible example of Islamic architecture. The call to prayer will give you goosebumps.




2pm: Sam Poh Tong temple
Sam Poh Tong is located about a 10-12 minute drive outside the city. We had a car but you can easily get a taxi, they're pretty cheap in Ipoh. Make sure you download Grab which is their version of Uber. This Chinese temple is built within limestone caves and is quite a site to behold. If you can hack a steep climb of 246 steps to the cave opening, you'll be rewarded with a view of Ipoh and the surrounding areas. The peaceful gardens were my favourite part. We got an ice cream and sat on the benches soaking up the surroundings and the atmosphere.




2.45pm: Buddhist temple
About a five minute walk from Sam Poh Tong is a Bhutanese Buddhist temple. I have no idea what it was called as I can't seem to find it on Google. We just stumbled across it and it was great! We were kindly given a tour by a women who was looking after the temple. She armed up with leaflets and despite the language barrier tried to teach us all about it. She was a very enthusiastic photo taker!

3.30pm: Head back to the city for some coffee
Ipoh is famous for its coffee. I'm not a fan but my boyfriend fell in love with it and bought some home with him as a souvenir. Ipoh coffee is very sweet so perfect for those who aren't too keen on the bitter taste. The city is full of hipster coffee shops so just pick one that tickles your fancy. You can't go wrong!

4.30pm: Head back to the hotel to have a shower and get ready for the evening.
The weather in February was ridiculously hot as we constantly felt sticky. A shower before you head out for the evening was always welcomed! So was a nap if we could fit in it... The heat makes you so tired!



6pm: Try local delicacies for dinner at Tong Sui Kai
Special thanks to Michelle for giving me the heads up on these hawker stalls. Order a grab and give them the street name of Jin Sultan Ekram. It can be quite overwhelming when you see the sheer amount of stalls on offer but always go to the one with a decent sized queue. It means that it will be tasty! I couldn't tell you what stalls I visited only that it was some of the best food we ate in Malaysia. I'm still dreaming about those noodles!

8pm: The city is yours! We went bar hopping then headed back to the hotel to grab some beauty sleep before leaving the next day.
1 Comments

Search This Blog

About me

About me
A Essex based lifestyle blogger who lives a champagne life on a lemonade purse!

Get in touch at
sophie.warner89@yahoo.co.uk.

As from July 2015, all PR samples will be marked with a *.
Follow

Blog Archive

Design by elevatormusik. Powered by Blogger.

Copyright

All content copyright to The Story of a Girl Who Lives Above Her Means unless stated otherwise.