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.


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.


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.

Hotel review: The Sticks, Fraser's Hill, Malaysia

Address: Lot 213 Jalan KKB - Fraser's Hill, 44000 Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor, Malaysia
Cost per night: Starting from around £47 based on four people sharing a hut with half board meals. It's an £5 to opt for full board.

I can't take any credit for finding this gem of a place. All credit lays with my friends who live in Malaysia and I'm very glad they knew about it! You'll need a car to drive to The Sticks as it really is in the middle of nowhere. But it's well worth navigating those Malaysian roads for.

Free of WIFI in the middle of a forest, The Sticks consists of lots of self-contained huts dotted around. You can spend your days sitting on your terrace with a cold can of beer, splashing around in the river with a rubber dingy, feasting on delicious home cooked meals, petting the dogs wandering around or competitively playing board games. The whole point of The Sticks is to be with nature and completely switch off from the outside world.

We only stayed overnight so just took advantage of exploring the river and catching up over a few ice cold beers. But you can book jungle treks, white water rafting, paragliding or botanical walks - depending on how adventurous you're feeling.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner can all be included in the price, meaning you don't have to worry about a thing. We missed lunch as we got stuck in traffic on the way there but made up for it stuffing our faces at dinner. We were served a delicious evening meal of BBQ'd fish and veggies on a banana leaf. Breakfast was Western themed and just as tasty.

The Sticks really is a great place to get away from it all and well worth making the extra effort to find. It was one of my favourite places during my trip. Such a hardship to leave!


Cameron Highlands, Malaysia: How to get there, where to stay, what to do and where to eat

I think I spotted pictures of the Cameron Highlands on Instagram and immediately fell hard for it. And I fell even harder for it when I saw it in real life. The scenery is just mind blowing and so unlike anything we have here in the U.K. I honestly had no idea that a tea plantations could be so impressive. The towns in Cameron Highlands are very touristy and don't get me started on the sheer amount of traffic. But if you can look past the mock-tutor hotels, giant strawberry statues advertising farms and an incredible amount of people then you're in for a treat if you make it to this part of the world. We were only there for 24 hours but I think we saw the best bits!

How to get there
We visited during our Malaysian road trip so drove here from Ipoh. It was a pretty simple route and took us around 3 hours, do keep in mind that you'll have to schedule in time for traffic as it seems to be notorious in Malaysia. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous as we kept climbing higher and higher above sea level. Definitely one of the prettiest drives we took over the week. 

Where to stay
Address: Father's Guest House, 2000, Jalan Mentigi Utama, Tanah Rata, 39000 Tanah Rata, Pahang, Malaysia

Cost per night: Just under £20 for a private double room with an en-suite bathroom 

Father's Guesthouse was basic but it was perfect for one night. The staff couldn't be more helpful, it was within walking distance of restaurants and bars, the rooms were clean, the shower was great and they offer free tea and coffee. If you really don't fancy venturing far then they have a restaurant on site when you can feed your hunger. We didn't use them but they also offer nature tours around the area which I've read great things about.

What to do

You can't make a trip to the Cameron Highlands without visiting a tea plantation - after all, it's what the area is famous for! We took a tour with Eco Cameron (we did something else too which I'll talk about in a minute) as I wanted to use an organisation that promotes ethical and responsible tourism. We've gotta save the planet we live on! The tour picked us up in a minibus at 8.45am sharp from our guesthouse before driving us to the tea plantation. Our very knowledgable guide gave us the background information of tea plantations in Malaysia and what the future means for them. He showed us all the best spots to get that ideal Instagram shot! After our tour we had some spare time to enjoy a cup of tea in the cafe, browse the shop and take a quick guided tour of the factory. It was really cool and definitely something I'd recommend. 

Take a tour of the Mossy Forest
The second part of our tour with Eco Cameron was a trip to the Mossy Forest. After hopping in  a Land Rover, the guide drives you 6,666 feet above sea level - make sure you keep looking out to the window for the views. The Mossy Forest is a type of environment which only exists in the Cameron Highlands and across Malaysia. The eco system is perfect for moss, orchids, ferns and lichen. Our guide took us on a walk to explain all the different types of plants. It was sobering to hear what will happen to this beautiful eco-system if we don't look after it and treat it with the respect it deserves. Then we got to go on a specially designed walk through the forest and up to a cracking viewpoint with views for miles. It was stunning. 

Where to eat

Sri Brinchang
Indian food was our favourite cuisine while we were in Malaysia and we had some great dishes in Cameron Highlands. Before we checked into our guesthouse we went to Sri Brinchang to help satisfy our rumbling tummies. It doesn't look to much from the outside but in my experience that always means it will be pretty special. And I was right! We opted to have a variety of dishes to share between us. I highly rate the tandoori chicken, the roti canai and the vegetarian-friendly banana leaf meal. Service was really helpful, the food came out pretty quick and it was ridiculously cheap - even by Malaysian standards! If you've enjoyed your meal on the banana leaf be sure to forward it in half towards you to show your appreciation to the chef. 

Our guide from the Mossy Forrest recommended Kumars, which is another Indian restaurant. Next door to Sri Brinchang! This was so delicious as well and again we had the roti canai with the vetegarian-friendly banana leaf because we couldn't get enough of it in Malaysia. I also recommend the Murtabak which was incredibly tasty. It was a thick roti filled with egg, meat, spices and onion. The curry which came with the banana leaf was gorgeous, I really didn't want to share it.

Travellers bar
We only shared a bowl of chips here as we were craving some Western food but it's a great little bar to have a few drinks in the evening. Travellers Bar was recommended by our guesthouse as a place to chill out. It wasn't too far a walk and prices were pretty reasonable.

Five things to do in and around Las Vegas that doesn't include gambling

Las Vegas is famous for it's endless casinos but if you fancy a break from the all-consuming strip then are lots of other activities to do apart from gambling. In fact, getting off the strip was one of my favourite things to do. There's so much more to the city then sitting at a slot machine!

Container Park 
Located in Downtown Las Vegas, Container Park is about a 5-10 minute walk past Fremont Street. Built entirely from shipping containers, it's full of restaurants, shops and bars. We stopped for a pint of craft beer in the shade and had a lovely chilled few hours. It's a great place to get away from the madness of the strip and had a real local vibe. They had a cool market on whilst we were there which was fun to wander around to find unique souvenirs to take home.

Hoover Dam
It's possible to do a guided tour of the Dam but I've heard that it sells out pretty fast due to limited numbers and you have to get to the Dam pretty close to the opening time to snag a spot. We didn't make it but I don't think you need it to appreciate the attraction. Schedule time in the morning to see everything, in fact you probably won't need more than an hour there. There are various plaques dotted around to give you information so make sure you give them a read. Just take your time soaking up the  surroundings. It's a very photogenic place!

Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon is located around around 30 minutes outside the city but you could be anywhere! We decided to book ourselves on an electric bike tour with Red Bike Tours which was 100% worth the money. Consisting of around 15 people, we were taken on a guided tour for around three hours with the most knowledgable guide. It ended at a really cool visitor's centre - voted the best in the country apparently - which was home to a turtle sanctuary.

Fremont Street
Well Fremont Street is an experience! Situated about a 10 minutes drive from the strip, Fremont Street is the original strip and home to the Golden Nugget which was the first ever casino in Las Vegas. It's an explosion of garish neon tights, hundreds of jostling people and endless bars and restaurants. It's a fantastic place to people watch. If you're brace enough, make sure you try the biplane. I did and it was the worst experience of my life - but I'm a massive wimp!

The Neon Museum 
When I started planning my trip to Vegas, a visit to The Neon Museum was top of my list and it was everything I expected it to be. Located near to Fremont Street with entry priced at $22, the museum is home to funky old neon signs from various Vegas casinos and businesses from the last decades. It's really fun to wander around and spot the ones you've seen in films. I'd recommend picking up the leaflet and taking yourself on a self-guided tour because it really does help you make the most of it.

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