10 must-do things in Japan


Determined to satisfy an obsession with all things Japanese, we sidestepped the usual travellers’ trail and went from the South-East Asia all the way up to Japan. Best. Decision. Ever. Japan is overwhelmingly different from anywhere else you’ve been before, retaining a rock-solid sense of identity through it’s unique culture, rituals, history and beliefs. There is so much to see, from beautiful artistry to the down right weird. It’s also nowhere near as expensive as I thought, catering for every type of traveller (if you book in advance). Mind blowing architecture, seriously good food, the very latest trends, incredible scenery, technology to make you look twice, gaming, shopping, wildlife and art.  Japan is a Mecca for those who find intrigue and wonder in the very idea of otherness. I’ve narrowed down our 3-week trip into these 10 amazing must-do things.

1. See the bright lights of Tokyo



That image of Tokyo you have in your head, of neon signs towering up to the skies, as far as the eye can see? That’s Shinjuku (see also Shibuya and Ueno). Go there at night and walk around in amazement. I felt starstruck, like I’d walked onto a film set. We drank whisky with strangers in Golden Gai, a hipster-heaven composition of about 200 tiny bars crammed into a few narrow backstreets. I had one of the moments where you just feel like you’re precisely where you’re supposed to be.

2. Picnic under the cherry blossom



We chose to visit Japan during cherry blossom season (Late March to April), which is one of the most beautiful times to go. Soft pink confetti fills every other tree and what was just a plain grey street is decorated with paper lanterns and treated as a premium picnic destination. There are loads of great places to see the cherry blossom in its full glory. My favourites were the Meguru River and Kanazawa Castle grounds, which are both spectacularly lit up at night.

3. Ski the Japanese Alps (and see the snow monkeys)



Exploring Asia for 6 months, we didn’t exactly expect to see snow, let alone go skiing, but realising we’d catch the end of Japan’s ski season, we spontaneously made our way across to Yudanaka and rented absolutely everything from a hotel in Shigakogen’s Inchinose ski resort. It was amazing to have such a massive change of scenery and we pretty much had the slopes to ourselves. Whilst in the area, we also went to visit the snow monkeys, you know the ones on snowy nature programs that bathe in hot springs? Definitely go and see them in real life.

4. Spend all your time (and money) in Kyoto



Whether you’re looking for fine dining, hip wine bars or a bit of serious shopping, Kyoto has got you covered. This fashionable city has a really cool vibe and there is so much to do. Get drunk with the locals down buzzy Pontocho Street, raid the vintage wonders of Three Star retro clothing and eat the best Ramen of your life at 1000 winds (just opposite). We also spent the day wondering up and down Philosopher’s Walk, bathed in the beauty of the golden pavillion and found the most amazing bakeries along the way.

5. Take in the temples of Koyasan



A train, cable car and bus ride away from Kyoto or Osaka (roughly 3 hours), you’ll find the spiritual mountain town of Koyasan. An area completely dominated by beautiful temples and home to many Buddhist monks. Some of the monks run their temples like guest houses, giving you the opportunity to spend the night. We stayed at Fukuchi-In, which is the most incredible Japanese building and felt very much like sleeping in a museum. We were served a huge Vegetarian dinner and breakfast in our rooms, relaxed in the lovely Onsen and attended the morning prayer ceremony at sunrise. Be sure to walk through Mount Koya’s woodland cemetery.

6. Walk with wild deer in Nara



In Japan, deer are considered messengers of the gods. In Nara, they are everywhere. It was a really surreal wandering around the temples, being followed by wild deer. You can buy crackers and, believe it or not, the deer bow for you, asking to be fed.

7. Pause for thought in Hiroshima



A volunteer tour guide took us around the Peace Park, and I’m so glad he did because it gave the attack on Hiroshima and the significance of the park the proper context, hearing the story and facts from an older Japanese person. I wasn’t quite ready for the horror of the museum. The remnants, memories and actual artefacts from the bombing are chilling, but essential for really driving home what happened. The park represents the importance of never letting something so awful happen again.

8. Take the ferry to Miyajima



Just 10 minutes by boat from Hiroshima, Miyajima is undoubtedly one of the prettiest places in Japan. Deemed a world heritage site because of its natural beauty, the floating shrine and famous temples sit in harmony with the surrounding, somehow managing the enhance the landscape even more. We followed the three-hour walking trail to the top of Mount Misen and took in the astounding views of the mainland from across the sea.

9. Spend the night in a Ryokan



If you’re looking for an authentic Japanese experience – the slippers, the kimonos, the onsen, the futons, the tatami mats, the tea – book yourself into a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese guest house. Be prepared to sleep on the floor, change your slippers every five minutes and bathe naked with strangers.

10. Eat ALL the food



Obviously the food is what attracts most of us to visiting Japan. We didn’t have a single bad meal. Even supermarket sushi is amazing. Ramen from Ichiran (Tokyo) and 1000 Winds (Kyoto), conveyor belt sushi, Tako-Yaki  (octopus pancake balls) on Dontonburi Street (Oskaka), deep fried oysters, grilled eel, green tea ice cream, yakitori (meat on a stick), tempura, Udon from Omen (Kyoto), yakiniku (cooking your own meat at your table), shojin (vegetarian buddhist cuisine), just to name a few favourites.

If you’re planning a trip to Japan and need any more tips, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Where to go in the Philippines


Despite the English-speaking natives and famous white-sand beaches, the Philippines still hasn’t quite found its way onto the typical travellers’ route. This is a good thing. Spanning over thousands of islands, there is still so much untouched, untainted paradise to discover. As with all less-trodden paths however, navigation and knowing what to expect is still a little harder to grasp than tourist-friendly Thailand. Planning a trip to the Philippines demands time and research, but I promise it will pay off in the end. Whatever you’re searching for, whether its the chance to experience traditional village life, see some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, be amongst a buzzing crowd of inquisitive tourists or find a secluded island of your own, this fast-rising country has more than your imagination is capable of. I was lucky enough to spend a month there, so here’s my recommendation of where to visit and why.

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We flew from Singapore to Cebu in order to make our way through the mainland and up to the islands of Bantayan and Malapascua. We stopped over in Cebu City for the night and despite appearances (chaotic roads and concrete slums), we had the best evening at what looked like a seedy bar and turned out to be the best live cover band I’ve ever heard, at El Gecko Bar.

We stayed at Tropical Hostel, which was amazing value with really lovely staff.


The very epitome of traditional island life, Bantayan is yet to succumb to mass tourism despite offering the most incredible beaches. We paid a tricycle driver to take us to ‘Paradise Beach’, which we had entirely to ourselves, and ‘Virgin Island’ which is another level of perfection, a short boat journey away. We bought fish from the local market which our boat driver prepared for lunch. The town, Santa Fe, comprises a few narrow streets of shops, food stalls and bars hidden beneath rows of Palm trees and pink flowers. It is such beautiful island.

We stayed at Sunday Flower Resort, which is right on the beach and feels like you’re living among the locals rather than staying as a guest.


We took a tiny boat that had no seats and kept filling up with water from Bantayan to Malapascua. It was terrifying and took 3 hours but is so much quicker than going back to the mainland to get the ferry. The water is really calm in March, otherwise I would have chosen the longer route! Malapascua is a tiny island with pure-white sand and incredible mountain views, built up solely for diving. The strip of dive centres doubles as beach-front restaurants, bars and hotels. We did a day trip with Evolution Divers, who have the biggest boat, and saw sharks, sea snakes and sea horses.

We stayed at Blue Corals, which has its own sunset bar out to sea and a private sun loungers on the beach. Although, we did have to shower using a bucket!



Kandaya isn’t an island or region in the Philippines, it’s a luxury resort on the northern coast of Cebu. It isn’t cheap, but it is the perfect option for a very special occasion. Joe proposed to me here, and it will forever be my ‘happy place’. Think ultra-modern villas on the beach, private infinity pools, horse stables, golf carts to ferry you about and a absolute tranquility.


Bohol is famous for two things: Chocolate Hills and Tarsias.  Chocolate Hills is a unique formation of huge coral-rock hills covered green grass that turns brown in the dry season, resembling a box of chocolates as far as the eye can see. Tarsias are the world’s tiniest primate and can only be found in Bohol. You can easily see both and much more in a one-day tour. I would also suggest the river cruise for lunch and Panglao’s lively Alona Beach for dinner and drinks.

We stayed at Villa Juana, just down from Alona Beach, and the hosts were so friendly. They drove us around to see the sights, feeding us sweets and satsumas.



We flew to Manila to meet friends that had travelled all the way from the UK to meet us (that’s love) and the next day took another flight to Palawan. Peurto Princesa is the capital and is worth sticking around for before doing what most people do and heading up to El Nido. We did the Honda Bay island hopping tour which was amazing. Snorkelling, a beautiful sand bar, BBQ lunch and a pristine white beach (with added banana boat ride) to finish. We also did the underwater-river tour, which is astounding  to see but very touristy and long-winded as a day trip. Head down to Rizal Avenue or The Bay Walk for dinner (we loved La Terrasse).

We stayed at Julieta’s Pension House, and Julieta herself was the loveliest lady. We also stayed at the Acacia Tree when we passed back through, which is a beautiful hotel with a pool and clean, comfy, modern rooms. Probably my favourite hotel in the 4 months I’ve been travelling.


Located in the north of Palawan, El Nido has a reputation as one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines. The rumours are true. It’s stunning, and although busy, it’s also a lot less built up than I thought. A traveller’s paradise. The best beaches are off the mainland, so you’re completely dependant on sorting a boat for the day. We skipped the crowded tours and found a really lovely couple (Tom and Maddie who run Pink Pirate) that would take a different route to avoid the crowds. We were rewarded with having El Nido’s infamous ‘Big Lagoon’ to ourselves, dropping anchor right in the heart of it for a BBQ on the boat. Las Cabanas Beach is on the mainland, and has wonderful views of the Bacuit Archipelago (surrounding islands). It’s also home to a couple of beach bars with surprisingly good music, snacks and cocktails. The best thing about El Nido? The sunset. Grab a table and some tapas early doors at Republika Sunset Bar, or sea kayak your way across the horizon.

We stayed at Islandfront, which was right on Corong Corong beach and a short tricycle from Las Cabanas and El Nido Town. The views are incredible, which just about makes up for the lack of running water. We really embraced ‘island life’ here, and then we all got sick. So worth it though.


If you’d like more information about any of the places we visited in the Philippines, please don’t hesitate to comment below!


Lesson 30: quitting your job to travel the world


Being Joe’s birthday, 13th October was already on my list of important dates. As it happens, 13th October 2015 also turned out to be the day I quit my job to travel the world. I didn’t exactly shout ‘I QUIT!’ and storm out the office (as much as I’ve fantasised about doing precisely this). I have an 8 week notice period, which makes it slightly less dramatic. But still, I made the decision to pack up my lovely life in London and say a big fat YES to the slightly more terrifying option instead. I decided I would pursue my dreams after all. And best of all? The love of my life is in the exact same frame of mind as me, so we’re off around the world together.

As you can probably guess, I’m going to document the whole experience. I want to write about travelling from the point of view of someone who, in reality, isn’t particularly carefree. Someone who struggles with change, who feels anxious without a plan and who wears a full face of makeup every day. Someone who over-thinks everything, is a massive perfectionist, and often likes to be alone. Someone who recently went through a phase of feeling constantly scared and worried about quite literally everything.

Not your typical criteria for a free-spirit backpacker, and not at all how I come across to other people (I hope). These are all things that I generally keep to myself, but have started to confront in various ways. Being open about these incredibly common challenges over the last few months has taught me one major thing: you can change the way you think. What better opportunity to push yourself to the limit than to expose yourself to completely different beliefs, attitudes, cultures, histories, societies, weather… And what better opportunity for a writer?

I often feel like the reason I’ve become preoccupied with what’s going on inside my head is because I’ve forgotten how to utilize my time. Doing the same old job and having the same routine every day can leave big gaps in your mental capacity, gaps I seem to have filled with worrying about unimportant things, like how many Instagram followers I have, or what colour shellac I want next. In a nutshell, I want to care less about superficial rubbish, and much, much more about what’s important. These ‘important’ things, I hope and pray, will materialise somewhere along the way. And if go away to realise that I just want my old life back, that’s totally fine too.

Aside from doing a stereotypical bit of soul searching, I also hate how ignorant I am of how other people live. The only times I’ve travelled outside of Europe I’ve stayed in super-luxurious resorts, which I find quite embarrassing. I want to be able to read the news and associate and empathise more deeply with what’s going on. Another huge factor is that I’m wary of how incredibly dependent I’ve become on material things. Living out of a single bag for 6 months ought to teach me a thing or two about what I actually need in life. I’m already 99% it won’t be the Smashbox primer I wouldn’t dream of foregoing right now. It costs £25. I wonder what £25 will buy me in Cambodia.

Aside from all of this, I just want to have fun. Like, constant fun. With my boyfriend. For 6 months. Who the hell wouldn’t? And then when I get home, I promise to put the whole experience to good use. That’s fair, right? I know how privileged I am to be able to up and leave my life for a bit. I’ve worked hard and saved to be able to do this, so I’m determined to make it count in a way that I probably wouldn’t have a few years ago. Plus, I still want to be a writer, and I’ll be doing much more of that in my own time, instead writing about the same boring crap at work every day. Right now, I would rather write about Japanese culture for free than get paid to write about dressing gowns. And I can say that because a) I’m still young and stupid enough not to care and b) I have zero responsibilities.

I will always have an uncontrollable urge to write and tell stories, and I think travel goes hand in hand with that. That doesn’t mean I’m not completely TERRIFIED. If you have ANY tips, suggestions or words of advice for a first-time traveller, please, please, please comment below because I’d love to hear them.

But for now… WOOHOOOO!