After last years #7yearhomecoming to Nepal, I returned this April with a super special someone (Mama) who I’ve always wanted to show my Nepal to!

Super long story short and I think I’ve mentioned this before, Nepal was probably my first solo trip at 19 when I went to volunteer for about 6 weeks and it’s always going to hold a special place in my heart x Mama’s been wanting to go for ages and ever since I can remember, she’s wanted to see the Himalayas and I’m sure climb them as well haha but I did the best I could and tried to fulfill that dream via watching the sunrise over them and Everest so it was a quarter of a win I suppose!

This is a rundown of what our 4 night, 5 day itinerary more or less looked like. I stayed for a bit longer last year with Lucy so we were able to fit in Chitwan National Park and see the elephant sanctuary and more wildlife etc. but that’s probably the only thing slightly missing from this time around; that and staying in an area called Bhaktapur. We lingered in and around the area but didn’t stay a night which we had done before, but I’d recommend it after ‘Day1’ if you’re going by the itinerary below just because location-wise it makes the most sense!

definitely think the following is realistic for someone who’s maybe headed to Nepal for the first time and wants to experience a bit of everything in a short time, which is what I had in mind for mama, but you can always stay a day or two longer in one place and take out another etc etc. as it suits you best! Going to try and not get into too much detail so this doesn’t long out, but places, things to maybe visit whilst you’re in the area etc. are down below and you’re always more than welcome to get in touch if you’ve got a jillion and one questions because promise I won’t mind answering them!

Nagarkot

Nagarkot is a village in central Nepal kinda sorta at the edge of the Kathmandu Valley and known for its views of the Himalayas and Everest. Its about an hours drive from Kathmandu Airport and one of the maddest car rides you’ll ever experience! Mostly uphill on the absolute worst, not even roads lol, ‘path’ I would call it, where 2-way traffic is a thing despite there only being enough space for one car and you risk falling off of steep cliffs (there are no barriers), but you do it anyways because you’ve got to get to Nagarkot! Nepal is actually known for having some of the worst roads in the world, and this is no exception lol last year the drive was made at night in the rain which meant mudslides and even more unevenness and no visibility whatsoever, so all my goodbye world messages were done as I prayed to make it out alive just because you never know what might happen!

Unless you’re interested in hiking and trails are your thing, I’d say 1-2 days max are enough in Nagarkot, maybe even one and a half. Get there midday, walk around the village, get through a smaller hiking trail, sleep in the cold (it’s always super cold in Nagarkot so bring a jumper and gloves!), wake up early to see the sunrise, have breakfast, and take the local bus back down to Bhaktapur!

I’ve never taken a local taxi upwards and instead opted for airport pickup by the hotel seeing as it tends to be the first stop; the drivers they send are slightly more familiar with the roads and terrain as opposed to the city drivers so that’s always a good thing. Nagarkot is also the first stop just because its slightly out of the way than other places and this way you’ll start at the farthest and make your way West-ish to everything else!

I’d recommend staying at the ‘Peaceful Cottage’ (hotel) just because so far they’ve given the best view of the sunrise. Didn’t stay there this time around, but I remembered where it was and snuck mama and myself onto the roof bit and caught it from there. There’s also supposedly an observation tower to catch the sunrise from as well but I’ve never ventured that way so can’t help with that!

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Thamel

Skipped Bhaktapur and instead of taking the local bus down from Nagarkot, mama decided we should hitch a ride with strangers lol initially it was just to the end of the road so we could catch the local bus, but turns out our new friends were also headed there so we joined lol to be honest if you get the chance, I’d recommend it; people are extremely nice and helpful and not even in a schemy get-rich-quick type way in that they notice you’re a foreigner [this happens in the city], but in remote areas everyones willing and wanting to help if they can, so step out of your comfort zone and have a little faith in the goodness of people and you’ll be glad you did!

Got dropped off at a random roadside only after our friends ensured the bus driver knew exactly where he was taking us (faith in people again!); I planned for us to spend the afternoon and night in Thamel because we needed to book bus tickets for Pokhara the next morning. Thamel is a tourist hub and this beautiful dusty congestion of people and shops and bikes and cars all on the same road lol and because of this there are tour companies at every corner where you can book anything from flights to paragliding to elephant safaris etc. Managed to bargain bus tickets at a decent price without getting the standard tourist scam price (I’m always proud of this lol) and also found a halal momo place outside the hotel which was blessed alhamdulillah.

Mama wasn’t a fan of Thamel because of the dust and chaos and garbage but I love it; walking through the streets, getting lost, coming across cool shops and trying random food on the street etc. lol I hardly notice the madness, but also maybe because I’ve been before so knew what to expect!

Bus ride to Pokhara

So this is definitely something I’d recommend everyone do if you’re ever visiting, like a must must!  A 6 hour bus ride doesn’t sound too appealing, but I promise it’s one experience you’ll never forget. No photos of the winding roads and incredible views below (which are actually a tad terrifying in real life) can really do it justice. Legit breathtaking and you’re left in awe of it all and how freaking beautiful and wonderful this world really is.

There are definitely other places which you can travel to via these buses which follow a similar route, but I’m not too sure whereabouts; Pokhara and Chitwan (Chitwan National Park) are ones I’d recommend just because I’ve been, and also if you opt to go water rafting, the same buses drop you off on the way so #samesame

Pokhara

Pokhara itself is a beautiful place in Nepal, one of them ones that makes you feel like you’re not really in Nepal lol quieter, cleaner, less busier, and I think suited for maybe an older audience (Mum preferred it to Kathmandu lol) I’ve got another post coming on what to actually do in Pokhara so I won’t get into too much detail here; think of it as a quaint getaway I suppose!

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Fly out of Pokhara to KTM

Because we were short on days, I opted to fly out from Pokhara on the way back instead of doing the 6hour bus journey again. It’s a small domestic airport and we totally underestimated the size of the plane itself! Legit the smallest plane I have ever seen or sat in ever ever ever! Maybe a 12 seater with the personal space factor being synonymous to what you’d find on a public bus lol it was one of those rides you say bismillah on and hope for the best haha

Once we got back to Kathmandu, the plan was to head to a small village called Godawari. Godawari is where I stayed during my very first trip and I wanted to take mum to show her my Nepali families, where my school was, the streets I roamed and all that good stuff! Mum also opted to not take a taxi so we did like the locals and bussed it from the airport to the local Lagankhil bus stop with suitcases piled on our laps and from there took another bus aka minivan cramped with as many people as possible lol and finally made it to Godawari!

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Godawari

Godawari is the type of village where electricity is sporadic and the day ends when the sun sets. The type where lizards are friends and if the occasional one is found on your bed or while you squat in the bathroom, you’re apparently not meant to freak out…! It was lovely to take mum around and show her the route I used to take to school, where I’d get local munch from and just reminisce all those memories and feels with her by my side. Lots and lots of love to my Nepali family for hosting mum and I for the night and treating us like their own! Love you Mridula!xx

Kathmandu

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Headed back to the city for our last night in Nepal and figured mum had been a good sport and stayed in some pretty unconventional accommodation thus far lol so we should maybe find something cutesy to end the trip with. We hadn’t yet roamed about Durbar Square or any of the temples so opted to stay at Hira Guest House which was right outside the Golden Temple and a stroll away to the main square. Pathan Durbar Square is another place one should definitely visit if you’re in town. A lot of it is still under construction after the earthquake and I suppose to someone who has never been before it all probably looks like rubble, but it always hurts my heart walking through because I remember what it used to be like; how certain temples towered over you as you walked through alleys, and the flow of people from tourists to locals to worshippers who would gather in the square, the smell of incense almost choking you as you’d breathe lol;  not to say it’s dead and there’s no vibe to it, but definitely a bit of difference from before! There’s also a fee to enter the square, different rates apply if you’re a foreigner versus local or Indian, and I know this sounds really terrible, but I always tend to enter from the back route just because of familiarity with the streets so have kinda sorta avoided the ‘toll’ if you will, but just letting you know so it doesn’t come as a surprise!

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As for Hira Guest House, mama loved it as did I, and would definitely recommend it to anyone. The building itself has some historical meaning behind it and I believe it belongs to a member of the royal family who had preserved its authentic architecture both inside and out, and its actually one of the few structures in the area which was untouched by the earthquake which is super subhanallah! Regular bathrooms, hot water, lovely view onto the courtyard as well as a rooftop you can get photos on, have breakfast at, or just creep on the city really lol don’t not stay here if you’re in town!

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–and that’s that! It has literally taken me ages to complete this and I feel a whole lot better now that it is lol but hopefully it might come in handy for one of you at some point and maybe even inspire you to trek over to that part of the world! Also put together this cutesy infographic of our 5 day guide to Nepal which I think might be something we do for future trips! Enjoy! xoxo

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Our last day in Seoul was a free for all so I had made a list of a few places I wanted to see and kinda sorta challenged meself to get it all done in about 12 hours!

I convinced myself at the airport that I didn’t need a local sim, which in all honesty I really didn’t, BUT it would’ve come in handy here and there just because. During breakfast the morning of, I sat with my ickle pencil and notebook, googled station stops and directions, any hints from the online world really lol and off we went!

If you’re from Toronto, you already know how slightly lame our miskeen metro system is. It’s nothing compared to the likes of London or New York, and now Seoul lol a whole lot of colors and interchanges and English words on top of Korean symbols and super overwhelming to look at when you’re already a tad confused! On top of that no one appeared to be at the information booth underground and besides a map, 3 ticket machines and an entrance barrier, there wasn’t much third party assistance.

The machines themselves are helpful if you know where you want to go. They easily translate into English and sort your fare accordingly. I was hoping to grab a tourist pass or a day pass of some sort but obvs couldn’t ask anyone so not sure if one exists, but from my understanding you purchase one-way tickets to your stop or via your route which I’m aware is completely ridiculous for people who live there and there must be a system in place, but just in my experience I’ve got no clue! Your girl did the one-way one-way thing and it was fine; fares are also super cheap so #winwin ! Did mess up one time and barriers wouldn’t let me exit, but some nice elderly Korean men helped me jump over (their idea promise) and that was that!

First stop: Bukchon Hanok Village

  • Anguk Station (Subway line 3; dark orange line)

-take exit 2 and walk North (this is dumb I know but it might help; I hate when people use north/south/east/west because who blady uses that anymore) toward Bukchon-ro Street. Walk for about 10-20 minutes and you’ll begin to see traditional houses and tourist shops which also rent out traditional dresses for all your Instagram needs! (*rumor has it that if you dress up, you’re granted free entry into the palace..!)

The village itself isn’t really a ‘tourist’ attraction; it’s simply a residential area which houses hundreds of traditional houses called ‘hanoks’ that apparently date back to the Joseon Dynasty. The traditional essence and structure of the houses has been preserved whilst still current with signs of ‘the modern world’ lol and its quite interesting to see the contrast between the two; ie. a benzo pulling out of a hanok house or security cameras overlooking traditional doors etc. but it’s a beautiful area nonetheless! Also if someone is selling strawberries while you’re around, buy some lol the sweetest strawberries ever!

Next make your way to  Bukchon-ro 5-gil street; go back the way you entered and make a right onto Bukchon5 and walk straight on for a bit. Depending on the season, Jeongdok Public Library on your right is (was) a beautiful spot to catch the cherry blossoms if they’re in season. We were apparently in the last week of the season so a lot of them had already bloomed and fallen but it was still super beautiful to see and walk through.

Continue on Bukchon 5 after that; the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is on your left if that tickles your fancy – I just admired it from the outside lol

Cross over at the lights and you’ve got both the National Folk Museum of Korea in front of you and the back entrance to Gyeoungbokgung Palace. The museum grounds are free to walk through (obvs your girl chose that option), which was lovely, and then I’d definitely recommend leaving and continuing [south] on Gallery Street until you come to the main gates of Gyeoungbokgung Palace. Again, the massive entrance grounds are free to tour and walk around [didn’t go in because we were on a time constraint], but the architecture of the palace and seeing people dressed in traditional wear is definitely something to experience!

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Palace over, head to the closest metro which would be Gyeoungbokgung station (Subway line 3; dark orange line) either towards Common Ground or Seoul Tower, whichever you fancy. I did Common Ground next only because we were staying closer to the tower so I figured I’d do that then head back to the hotel, but both are easily accessible once you’re on the metro!

Space: Common ground

  • Konkuk University Station [dark green line; line 2 or 7]

-take exit 6 and walk straight for 5-10 minutes and you’ll see it on your left

Common ground is one of Seoul’s first pop-up stores and has been built with about 200 vibrant blue shipping containers stacked and welded together to create the space. Definitely exudes a more hipster and urban vibe to the city and just a wicked spot to check out. Restaurants are on the 3rd floor with a terrace overlooking the grounds, café’s on the first, and food truck grub in the open area on the grounds; stores are lined up indoors and are def more urban/street brands.  Apparently there’s also a weekend market which takes place alongside various street performances and such.

Next up was Seoul Tower also known as Namsan Tower

  • Myeongdong Station (subway line 4; light blue line)

-Make your way to the opposite side of the street [exit 2-4] and wait for the number 5 bus at the bus stop; the stop is literally as it shows in the photo below

Seoul Tower is a communication and observation tower located on Namsan Mountain in Seoul. Presumably its become a tourist attraction because of the view it provides overlooking the city. I had planned to take the cable car up top to get a view and take some photos but time wasn’t on my side so hung about near the foot of the tower and enjoyed the blossoms and whatever view I could manage from there which was still quite lovely!

Because Myeongdong was en route to the hotel, took the bus back from the tower [same route], got off at Myeongdong Station and walked through the street itself to get home. Myeongdong is synonymous with Seoul itself and is definitely a must if you’re ever in the city. Shopping galore and just this exciting bustle which I haven’t experienced elsewhere. There seemed to be a daily evening street food market we caught a couple times which had vendors selling a variety of items if you’re into trying new foods!

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Skin care is another one that kind of took over the street lol its quite overwhelming the first time around, especially if you’re like me and super fascinated by the skincare/cosmetic world lol so I’d recommend doing a bit of research online about certain brands and specific products you might want to try to eliminate a) wasting time looking at everything & b) spending money on things you probably don’t need! The street is also a great place to pick up any souvenirs or novelty Korean items for your peeps back home! ie. Hello Kitty socks, dancing PSY dolls, keychains etc.

And that was that my loves! Made me way back afterwards and headed to the airport to experience the most wonderful week of uncomfortable jetlag possible haha FYI, Incheon Airport isn’t the greatest; we all struggled finding a place to sit let alone something to munch, and the only place open at 11pm was Starbucks which wasn’t quite able to fill the hunger void lol

Anyways! Hope that’s provided somewhat of an itinerary for those who might have Seoul as an upcoming destination, and/or shown how realistic it is to maximize a short period of time wherever you might be! Keep an eye out for a Korean vlog also coming your way soon which will hopefully provide more of a visual to some of the aforementioned! xxx

Hiya! We’re finally back from a few new places which means lots to share with you all and I can’t wait! You probably know by now that mama and I have returned from a pretty epic 10 days in Nepal and India which was an experience I don’t think either of us is ever going to forget! Seeing the sunrise over the Himalayas and Everest, sky-diving over the Annapurna Valley, seeing the Taj Mahal together and just freaking enjoying each others company is something I’m so grateful alhamdulillah that we had the chance to do x check out the pre-pre to our adventure on youtube here!

We moved around quite a bit during this trip, checking into a new place every night which did get a tad tiring, so I think we were both super grateful for our stay at bloomrooms in New Delhi during the final 2 days of our adventure! Coming back to the same place and same room brought a sense of comfort and ease, especially right before heading back to Kuwait, something I’d definitely recommend just before you head home ie. staying put in one location during the final leg!

bloomrooms New Delhi is part of the larger Bloom Hotels Group which oversees a few different hotels throughout Asia. This includes hotels in Delhi, Bangalore, Gurgaon, and Goa [secretly stoked about this one!] They’ve also been featured in the lonely planet guide, Conde Nast Traveler, Cnn, GQ, and the New York Times just to name a few!

The number one priority @bloom hotels is to ensure guests get a good nights rest during their stay, resulting in a custom built cloudbed placed in each room which I think mama and I can both attest to being super comfortable! Showers and the bath area were also super lovely and spacious; after experiencing a couple drip-drippy showers the one at blooms was heavenly. Mama particularly loved the scent of their body wash & soaps so its got an official mum seal of approval lol

We stayed at the bloomrooms @ Link Road location which was awarded with the Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence for the fourth year running. At first we definitely found it hard to locate, partly due to the fact our tuk-tuk driver had no idea where he was going and didn’t have a phone or googlemaps and tried to scam us hard core (your girl had to pull out the teacher finger on mandem!), but once we were settled and were able to situate ourselves it was definitely a blessing! It’s quite central and located in a residential area which made us feel quite safe and secure (again especially since our blady driver took us through the backroad slums convincing us we should trust him and check in someplace else he knew of as this was a smelly and unsafe area. Fact: it wasn’t!)

The location itself sports the cutest garden ever, alongside a lounge and café on the grounds. The general atmosphere and vibe was up me alley as well; not too stuffy or too lax, but a balance between the two. Someplace you could def hang out with mates and have a laugh or potentially hold a meeting at; perfect for both leisure and business purposes I suppose! The caf stays open til quite late which I appreciated because mum and I ended up getting munchy at random times lol food is freshly cooked which was another plus and again, mum approved! Mamas the type who isn’t too keen to eat out very often, so when she does she’s quite particular about where she eats lol so the fact that she opted to head back to blooms on several occasions whilst we were out and preferred to eat there is quite telling lol

A 5-10 minute walk via an overpass bridge to Jangpura Metro Station allowed access to the whole of Delhi. A tourist day pass was 200 rupees ($3 CAD) per person which gave us access to all lines including towards the airport metro which was lovely (you know I love me public transport). The location also has a car on the property which I’m sure you can book if you need to get someplace, but be sure to do it in advance so they can coordinate with the driver. Mum and I were kindly dropped off to the metro our first day which def helped visualize our surroundings and mentally map out the route there and back!

I also love meself an old fashioned paper tourist map with sites and metro systems etc. and the one provided by blooms was super helpful, especially because our location was so accessible to everything. Accessibility is definitely something I look for when wanting to stay someplace ie. is it close to public transport, can I get to sites, town etc. without a taxi, can I walk etc etc etc. and so was grateful for where we were placed.

Staying at blooms allowed for a much needed wind down to our trip which I was grateful for. The fact that both mum and I were able to enjoy the space and that it met our different needs (comfort, access to technology, food, location etc.) was blessed. If you’re ever in the region or come across a blooms establishment (click here for a list), definitely give them a go as they’re guaranteed to meet your needs and then some!

Special thanks to bloomrooms@Link Road for hosting me for a night during my stay in Delhi. All opinions and views expressed are my own.

Ahlan wa Sahlan!

Jordan was one of them last minute trips where you know you’ve got a few days to jet off but don’t know where to actually go, and then you wait too long to decide so tickets are ridiculously priced or have ridiculous routes, and I basically got caught up in all of that! Literally a 4 hour flight turned into 9+ hours with a layover in Dubai (so silly I know lol) but it is what it is and alhamdulillah for being able to make it out!

Thought I’d share some suggestions based on me experience and a few of you have also messaged saying you’re headed soon or its on your list, so hope this helps!

Firstly I’d definitely recommend renting a car if you can! The option for taxis and buses are available as well but a) it’s so much more cost effective and b) it was a tad hard to grab a cab! Lucy and I headed to Jordan together as did another friend with her mate and she ended up renting so we all kinda sorta road-tripped together after the first night which made life a little easier. I’d also just got back from London so didn’t have as much time to look up transport options etc. let alone somewhat of an itinerary lol but alhamdulillah for things just working out! Thanks B love you! X

Get a Jordan Pass! This is one of them tourist passes which actually benefits you and is worth your money lol costs 70 JD and you can get it online (we did ours as we were departing Kuwait). Gets sent straight to your phone with a QR code and your’e sorted!  It waives your visa fee which in itself is 40 JD, and grants you access to quite a few attractions (UNESCO heritage sites) and museums which are places you’re presumably going to visit; attractions include Petra, Wadi Rum, the Citadel etc. Entrance to Petra for one day is 50 JD so even if you just did Petra (like we did), it still worked out in our favor!

Start down south and do Petra and Wadi Rum first and then make your way back up towards Amman and  also give yourself 2-3 days to get through them. I’d def take this route next time around as it just made more sense in terms of the physical stuff lol we started by the Dead Sea for the first day and a half and then headed south which was still fine, but after the 4 hour drive to the camp near Petra and having to be up early the next morning and legit heading back to Amman the same evening was a tad tiring for everyone (and I wasn’t even the driver). After Petra and Wadi Rum head up to the Dead Sea area for a day or two to just unwind and then head to Amman for another day or two to experience more of the city itself. We just had half a day-ish in Amman which was still lovely but I’d definitely stay longer next time. The citadel and a few other sites are near Amman as well so it would be worth your time exploring in and around the area.

Try to stay in a Bedouin camp whilst you’re touring Petra and Wadi Rum for the experience. There are a number of hotels near the sites as well, but there’s nothing quite like sleeping under the stars and 6 layers of blanket in the middle of nowhere, and then waking up to the howling of wild dogs and frigid water – fact: I did not shower this day. (I’m really selling it init!) lol but in all honesty, you’ve come to experience all you can and try new things and step out of comfort zones so why not?! We stayed at the Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp and I’d recommend them; everyone was super friendly, food was lovely, and the camp was right up my alley so I was more than happy lol one of my favorite parts of the trip!

We didn’t have enough time to visit Wadi Rum so made the most of Petra itself which gives me a reason to head back lol but Petra is doable in a day. Start off early and beat the insane number of tour groups and the heat. It’s really such a spectacular place and it would be a shame if you rushed through. We started around 9am and were back out at about half 3 only because we wanted to be on the road before dark. I had read and seen pictures about a night tour at Petra as well which I’m sure is something worth experiencing, but we didn’t get a chance this time.

For Petra itself, make sure you’ve got comfortable shoes, duh. Even if you end up jumping on a horse or donkey to get you through, at some point you’ll still have to walk some and there’s really no paved route. Sun-lotion, water (pack a few extra bottles), snacks because you’ll get munchy (snickers and granola bars were my friends that day), sunnies and a hat are pretty much staples I’d recommend you take along; in a rucksack/backpack just because that way it’ll be on your back and not in your way or you fussing with a crossbody etc…this just makes more sense to me lol but obvs. you do as you please!

There are a couple shops on the way that do have munch and water and you can always use them as pit-stops, so that’s always an option. Also if you see a toilet en route, just go because you don’t know when you’ll see another! Chargers as well; external chargers will save your life especially if you take a million pictures of the same thing like I do and your battery tends to run out quick lol interesting bit of information though which I’ll heed next time around, taking makeup or mascara with me..! This was the most requested for item by so many of the ladies we met on the way, whether we had any makeup or mascara to give them and unfortunately I had noneL that and biscuits or sweets for the kids because kids are kids duh! My heart hurt when one of the girls asked for water so I gave her whatever I had and then she asked for a biscuit and I felt so silly because mama always says to keep sweets or something to hand out to kids and I should’ve known better so ugh for Saira but inshallah next time x

Most of you here are also aware of me not being too much of a food person whilst travelling lol I’ll munch whatever and if I absolutely love something I’ll rave on about it haha our lovely driver from the Dead Sea stopped at a bakala to grab us these Turkish delight ‘logs’ if you will, I’m pretty sure it was a Turkish delight type helawa, rolled in pistachios and comes in other flavors as well, but it was lovely jubly and prob the only food item which sticks to memory! (no photos sorry!) oh also the 3JD shawarma after Petra which was blessed after all that walking lol

In terms of souvenirs or trinkets to bring back or look for if you’re interested, mud masks from the dead sea can be found everywhere or you could always grab some yourself whilst you’re there. I learnt that ostrich eggs, especially painted eggs, are something Jordan is well known for so something tourists often take back. I think I got some jam for mama, a magnet and mud masks lol sorted

If you’ve got any questions or found this helpful, do get in touch because I love hearing from you!x

this year I promised myself I’d start trying to make little travel vlogs of wherever I’d travel as a keepsake for meself, so got a gimble and tried (still trying) to figure it out haha but here you have it! (click here)! Me first attempt, maybe the last because who knows whether I’ll be consistent with it, but yay! It brings a smile to my face and I hope to yours as well and if not oh well, I like it so hah x if you’ve got suggestions of how to make these better or what kind of footage you’d like to see (because if I do make more I’ll most likely share them), let your girl know! love you miss you byee xxxxxxx

You’re probably getting sick of seeing all my Istanbul postings on the gram, but I’m not finished yet because I’m having a grand time playing around with newfound tools and making it all visually appealing so #sorrynotsorry ! but thanks to the ones who are still showing love because it makes me feel like you appreciate the werk lol love you!x

This is a quick rundown of what our 3days kinda sorta consisted of. I don’t think I ever plan or schedule things to the T, it’s often a rough idea of a few places I’d maybe like to see or check out (I’ll google beforehand to creep) and the rest is whatevers stumbled upon on the way, but there were a couple new places I wanted to share incase anyones ever in town!


Tourist Attractions 

  • Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque

Standard (written about here and here)

  • Basilica Cistern

This is the largest of several hundred cisterns that lies beneath the city of Istanbul and used to act as a water filtration system for the Place of Constantinople.  Each time I’ve been to Istanbul I’ve always wanted to go but never got around to it, which is weird because its en route to the Metro and Gulhane Park and literally to the roadside of the Hagia Sophia lol lord knows I’ve walked past it a number of times, but definitely a really neat place worth seeing!

  • Galata Tower

This is another place I’ve been wanting to go for ages and always saw it from afar. I had heard it’s a mission to get to and so many stairs and an uphill climb that goes on for days, but it was neither. A bit of an uphill climb but that’s standard and its definitely worth it once you arrive. A friend recommended to go a bit before sunset so you could catch it whilst at the top of the tower and that was sound advice. Be prepared to queue for a bit, but theres a cutesy tram café to grab a cuppa while you wait! It also gets super crammed up top because you’re only able to do a round of the top and exit, but definitely take your time to appreciate the view and if you have to find a special spot to squat at for a bit, so be it! There wasn’t an epic sunset when we went, but it was beautiful to see everything wind down for the evening and the city light up with the call to prayer echoing from each side and seagulls crying and just ugh. Beautiful!

  • Süleymaniye Mosque

This was actually a random stumble and I don’t know why we’ve never crossed paths before. We were headed to look for something else and saw this beautiful mosque and thought lets have a look and dang! Massively beautiful with a gorgeous courtyard alongside a stunning view overlooking the city. The inside of the masjid donned this burnt-orange carpet and a similar interior to the Blue Mosque, but just super beautiful mashallah! (also I had to creep on this man outside the masjid because old people are just beautiful bless them x)

  • Dolmabahçe Palace:

I never knew this existed, but came across some photos of this intrinsic gate on Instagram, did some research, and turns out it was part of Dolmabache! Mashallah times a million for how beautiful this palace is. The architectural detail and grandeur of this place was magical and cleancut and just made me feel honored to be in its presence if that makes sense lol we didn’t go inside to the museum bit, but the grounds are still someplace worth visiting! Round the back of the palace dons the prettiest pink walls (you guys thought it was a filter didn’t you?!) and a rose garden which we were lucky enough to see in half bloom.

  • Grand Bazaar

Standard; super pretty and loads of wonderful bits and bobs with shopkeepers who speak a million and one languages which is quite impressive lol I strongly suggest bargaining a shitload if you’re purchasing something and if there’s no budging don’t fret at all because chances are you’ll find it elsewhere for much cheaper

  • Istiklal Street

another standard; kind of like a high street if you will with familiar shops (zara, Mango, H&M, Sephora etc.) but also has side alleys which are great to stop at for coffee or shisha and is buzzing at night!


Views

This was probably the thing I was most excited about locating and turning into a reality! After a lot of time spent trying to read suggestions on where I could get the best view of the city (not at any of the rooftop cafes-there are many fyi), a few seemed consistent with this place near the Grand Bazaar where you’re meant to knock on a door and ask for a ‘Mr. Mehmet’, pay him a little summin summin and he gives you access to the roof lol sounds super sketch I know, but one of the sites had a google location to the exact spot and another one had photos of what the stairwell looked like so I figured I’d have a go because why not!

Managed to get to the place, and the stairwell looked like it did in the photos but all the doors were bolted shut and there was no sign of anyone residing; more like storage behind the doors. Knocked on every door lol nothing happened but it was one of those moments where you know you can’t do anything but that motivates you to find another way because you just gotta somehow (my word choice and explanation is not its finest at the moment so apologies x ) SO, I was like Hash, you can scale the wall right, you go up and help me up lol there was one of them bushes growing out of the wall and a broken pipe so Hash managed to use them to get himself up and I followed (not as gracefully and it reminded me I have crap upper body strength), cut meself and lay there for about 5 seconds, but dang. When I got up, it was such a freaking beautiful sight to look at! And I was super excited that we had made it and that I was right (because I was on about it since before we left for Istanbul and Hash was like really, you’re not going to do it, how, blah blah) and just ahh! While we were finding a way to get on, these 2 Turkish guys joined as I guess they were also looking for Mr. Mehmet but helped them get up as well and so the 3 of us had a grand time overlooking the city and taking pictures and enjoying life until Hashmat waved at someone below like a dumb and the man started shouting that he was going to call the police and gathered a group of mandem so we jumped off and that was that!

Here is the exact location which you can always load up onto your maps (Buyuk Valide Han) if you go looking for the view lol it stops you at this 4-way crossroad and theres an arched stone wall on your right with Buyuk Valide Han written on it. Turn right and immediately to your right theres a stairwell going upstairs. Go up the stairs, and to your left there are some rusted stairs (like 6-7 steps) to a closed door. Use those stairs to jump onto the tarped material or whatever it is on your left and take on that wall. I’d suggest maybe going with someone so you can give someone a boost and pull the other up (I’m sure I would’ve found a way on my own), but that’s that! Try not to get clocked, but I promise you’ll love it (both the thrill and the view!)

Another recommendation for rooftops is high rise car parks! Walk in and take the lift to the highest floor, take the stairs, but eventually you’ll get to the highest point which more than likely will make you feel on top of the world! (kind of!)


Artsy Fartsy

  • Karaköy

Someone on Instagram had recommended munch at a place called ‘Batazar Burgers’ which was a super cool place and just the general vibe of the area itself (Karakoy) was up my alley (burgers were good too lol Hash loved it so thankyou!) Lots of street art and cutesy cafes, lunch spots, boutiques and the sort. I’d recommend going here after Dolmabache; we got the metro after Dolmabache to Sultanahmet, and my GPS signaling told me to walk…tell me why we ended up walking all the way back to where we started and had munched haha I was like hey! This is such a cool place, twice in one day well done Saira #winning! Turned a corner and went oh. We were legit right here haha #fail it was a lovely walk though so aadhee.

  • Umbrella [street]

I haven’t got exact directions for this next one, but if you stroll around the same area, or even if you ask I’m sure someone will help you, you’ll come to this alley with umbrellas hanging up top. I don’t think this is the famous one, but it got me excited so yay! I thought we could get a sick photo lol but Hash had just about had enough at this point and even the man in the shop came out with an umbrella to help get the right shot but alas. This is the closest we got to the perfect shot but I love it regardless because of the backstory lol

  • Rainbow Stairs

The Rainbow Stairs are also a cutesy place to check out for photos or just to put a smile on your face. In 2013 a man named Huseyn Cetinel spent 4 days painting the bland concrete stairs in rainbow colors simply to make people smile bless him x Unfortunately it was painted over [by the government], but people are freaking amazing sometimes and volunteers repainted them and they survived! Slightly run down now but put a smile on your face they do! If you’re heading by foot you’ll come across a set of stairs that look super broken and painted over in grey; don’t get discouraged lol keep walking and you’ll see the actual ones further up on your left! (*disclaimer: I just googled a bit myself to be sure and this is the location to the ones I managed to get to; not sure if they’re the exact same ‘famous’ steps but they were still coloured steps..!)


Food

In terms of food and munch, I can’t suggest a whole lot of places to try. wallah guys I’m not much of a food person, especially when travelling lol I love trying new dishes and eating etc. but when I’m away legit a cup of tea and a croissant or sandwich or something in the morning will usually get me through til the evening. I tend to grab and go and/or snack on streets as opposed to sit down places.

I’d definitely recommend Hafiz Mustafa if you don’t know if it by now lol for baklava and Turkish tea. The burger place we tried was good (Baltazar Burgers) Definitely fresh juice from one of the street vendors; the best orange juice ever for some odd reason lol alongside street side shawarma and roasted corn and chestnuts from the side stalls. Also love grabbing pieces of Turkish delight and chocolate mushrooms and Haribos for munching-while-walking because that’s just what I enjoy lol

Actually, if there’s one place you do go to, make sure it’s this one! Last year I mentioned we went to this place which Iman highly recommended and they only did a couple things on the menu but was so good and I didn’t remember the name, but I made a point to note it this time around so here it is: Meşhur Sultanahmet Köftecisi and I’ve got the location down below! If there’s a queue just wait lol and I promise you won’t be disappointed! I suggest a plate of the kofte with the red sauce and a salad lol so simple yet so satisfying!

This was my first time not having Lahmacun which is my absolute favorite Turkish dish (its not a dish) which is flatbread with mince on top. Add a bit of lemon juice and coriander on top, roll it and munch and you’re good to go. Super basic I know haha but I’m typically not fussy when it comes to food!


I hope that’s either inspired you to add Istanbul onto your bucket list, or given you some ideas of where to hit up if you’re ever in town, or even just put a smile on your face looking at all the pretty pictures! Let me know if this is helpful in anyway and if adding locations is something you’d appreciate in future posts; I found it super helpful when I was creeping so I hope I can make your lives a little easier too!

I miss blogging and sharing and I don’t know if you guys miss it as well lol but I’m super open to interactions and suggestions on things you might like to see or read about! Xx

Hope everyone’s winding down for the holidays and super excited for time off; I’m counting down to go home and really looking forward to seeing my family and have warm fuzzies inside lol lots of love, light, and hot chocolate sent your way! xoxo