12 Things I Don’t Want To Miss In My Upcoming Trip To Japan

As those of you who follow me on Instagram will know, I am heading to Japan in a bit less than two months so, as soon as I finished university, I purchased my Japan guide and started planning my upcoming trip of two weeks. As a result, here is my Japan travel bucket list:

1. Sleep in a Ryokan:

They say that sleeping in these kind of Japanese traditional hotels is one of the most relaxing experiences in the world.

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Who would not love to relax here after a day of trek in Fujisan (Mount Fuji)? | Picture of Ryokan Konansou | Extracted from: Selected Onsen Ryokan Webpage

Although there are a lot self-denominated of “ryokans” offered online, not many of them accomplish the “requirements” to be considered as such. How to be able to distinguish a true “ryokan“? Well, they usually have tatami floors, provide you with a yukata to be around your room and are perfectly integrated into the surrounding nature. If you are lucky (and usually willing to stay out of your budget for a night), you might also get to stay in a ryokan with an onsen (a typical Japanese hot spring)!

If you are looking for the best ryokan to stay during your trip, these links can be of your interest: List of Best Ryokan in Japan by Hotels Dave & List of Best Onsen Ryokan in Japan by Selected-Ryokan

2. Climb the Fujisan (Mount Fuji):

With more than 3.500 meters of height, Mount Fuji is the highest peak of Japan. Unfortunately for most of the travellers, it is only recommendable to climb the mountain between the 1st of July and the 31st of August (I consider myself really lucky, as I am arriving on the 28th).

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Mount Fuji | Extracted from: Asia Travel Webpage.

There are two main possibilities when climbing it:  the traditional way, going from base 1 to 10, or the most popular one, going from base 5 (many busses arrive until there) to 10. It is also recommendable to go with a guide and to sleep on a mountain retreat if you want to contemplate the sunrise from the highest mountain of Japan.

If you are curious about the experience, you might want to check out: Climbing Mt. Fuji by Sharla in Japan & Official Website For Mount Fuji Climbing

3. Spot a Geiko or a Maiko

There are many stories regarding the origin of these female entertainers. Kyoto is considered the world geisha capital, where they are not called “geisha” but maiko or geiko. 

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Picture of geisha in Kyoto streets | Extracted from: Kyoto travel guide by Insight Guides Webpage

Which is the difference between them? A maiko is a girl between 15 and 20 years old who is learning to become a geiko. During this process, maikos are taught on traditional arts (dancing, tea ceremony…) and live in a okiya (a traditional geisha house). It is possible to spot them in Gion district (known as the geisha district).

If you also want to spot a geisha during your trip to Japan, check out this blog post on How to see a Geisha in Kyoto by Borders of Adventure.

4. Explore Dotombory at night

Located in Osaka, it is one of the most iconic streets of Japan due to the vibrant colours of its neon lights.

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Dotombory Street in Osaka | Extracted from: Japan Mega Travel

5. Wander around Yanaka district

They say that if you want to go back in time while in Tokyo, you must visit Yanaka district. The narrow streets of this area seem to have remained as if time had not passed and is a taste of Japan’s traditional side without leaving Tokyo.

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Yanaka Streets | Extracted from: 5 days in Tokyo: Hidden Yanaka by Suggestion of Motion

6. Try another Din Tai Fung

Probably all the dumpling lovers reading this post will know what I am talking about. Din Tai Fung is a restaurant chain specialised in xiaolongbao (for me, the best one is the one made of pork) and located (mostly) in the main capitals of Asia.

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Steamed Dumplings / Xiaolongbao | Extracted from: Taiwan’s No.1 Restaurant: Din Tai Fung

Last summer, I was able to visit different Din Tai Fung restaurants during my trip in Southeast Asia: first in Bangkok, afterwards in Kuala Lumpur and finally another time in Singapore! Now, I am going to make sure I visit another one (at least) in Japan!

If you are not only into travel but also into the pleasure of eating, you should check out Din Tai Fung locations , Why Is Din Tai Fung So Mind-Blowingly Delicious? & How to Eat Xiao Long Bao

7. Loose myself in Arashiyama

Located 10 kilometres away from Kyoto, Arashiyama is highly known because of it’s magical bamboo forest.

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Arashiyama Bamboo Forest | Extracted from: Top Places to view Autumn Foliage in Japan by PeerTours.

Although the main interest of this destination is walking around surrounded by bamboo trees, in Asrashiyama you can also visit the sanctuary of Nanomiya or explore Kameyama Park.

If you want to know more about Arashiyama, check out: 5 things to do in Arashiyama, Arashiyama by Inside Kyoto & Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Kyoto.

8. Visit Tsukiji Fish Market

One of the iconic captures of Japan are the fish auctions in one of the most famous fish markets of the world: the Tsukiji Market.

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Tuna Auction at Tsukiji Market | Extracted from: Tokyo Travel: Tsukiji Fish Market

If you want to assist to the famous tuna auction, you should be at the market around 3AM (which means sleeping closer to the market and/or be willing to pay a taxi to get there), be dressed accordingly and remain quiet during the auction. After the bid (which usually last for around 20 minutes), one of the most typical things to do is to grab sushi as breakfast in any of the nearby local shops.

If you are considering visiting Tsukiji Fish Market, don’t forget to check out this useful links: 10 Things You Should Know Before Visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction, Tokyo Travel: Tsukiji Fish Market & A local’s guide to the Tsukiji Fish Market.

9. Get to the top of Umeda Sky Building

If you are kind of afraid of heights but also crazy about overcoming your fears (like me), you will probably want to see the amazing panoramic views from the 39th, the 40th and the rooftop floors of this iconic building.

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Umeda Sky Building at night | Extracted from: Muza-chan’s Gate to Japan

If you are going to visit Osaka, you might also want to check out other city highlights like: 10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Osaka, The Highlights of Osaka & Osaka Travel Guide.

10. Try Kobe Beef

Although I am not the most carnivorous person in the world, I do enjoy eating good meat every once in a while. Kobe meat is highly appreciated and comes from a type of neat raised according to the strict traditions of Hyogo Prefacture.

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Kobe Beef | Extracted from: The Kobe Beef On Your Meal Is Almost Always a Lie by Uproxx

If you want to know more about Kobe meat: Where to Eat Kobe Beef: 10 Heavens of Grilled Greatness, What Makes Kobe Beef so Special? & The Difference Between Kobe and Wagyu Beef.

11. Walk Across the Torii Gates in Fushimi Inari Shrine

Only 5 kilometres away from Kyoto, you can find the beautiful trails of Mount Inari (which will lead you into the wooded forest across the Torii gates. In case you don’t know what a torii is yet: it is an arch (usually located in front of a Shinto temple), which limits with the “human/tangible” world and the spiritual world.

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Women at Fushimi Inari Shrine | Extracted from: Fushimi Inari Shrine by The True Japan.

As I have recently seen in some Instagram stories of one of my favourite travel bloggers (@claudiamary – she also writes in her blog in Spanish), who is currently travelling in Japan, it seems to be really worth to wake up earlier and enjoy this beautiful place with calm and without being surrounded by multitudes (as people hit the park around 9-10AM).

12. Find peace in Koyasan

According to many bloggers, Mount Koya offers you one of the most relaxing experiences in Japan (after swimming in a Onsen Ryokan I guess..). In Koyasan you can enjoy the calm while going from temple to temple and even have shukubo experience, which consists in staying in a monastery (at least for 1 night).

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Okunoin Cementry in Mount Koya | Extracted from: Temple Living in Mount Koya

If you are intersted in visiting Koyasan, you might find helpful: Koyasan – Guide To Visiting The Sacred Sites of Mount Koya, Temple Living in Mount Koya, How Not To Visit Mount Koya: A Step-By-Step Guide & Mount Koya Day Trip, Temple Stay and Itineraries.

Have you been in Japan or are you going soon? Anything else I should not miss? Leave a comment down below!

Where have I travelled to?

It has been six years since I first travelled outside of my country. It was in the last days of 2010 when I jumped on an airplane to visit one of my best-friends in England and since then I have been able to meet amazing people along the way, contemplate beautiful landscapes and live some of the greatest adventures of my life while travelling.

To show you where have I travelled to, I have decided to go ahead and do something different than just put a map of visited places so I am going to briefly explain you every adventure I have gone on since my first time in England.

England: December 2010

It was probably one of the most exciting moments of my life. I was fifteen and alone in a plane going to England, which was pretty amazing but kind of frightening at the same time!

I spent an amazing week in the country with my bestfriend’s family, showing me around where she lived a bit and exploring a bit London. I couldn’t have had a better time there!

During my week in England it happened to be New Year’s Eve so we spent an amazing NYs Eve with her friends, saw the fireworks by the Big Ben through the TV and celebrated the new year all the night!

England: July 2011

As it had been an incredible experience, I returned to England on the following summer and stayed for few weeks at Danielle’s place having one of the best times of my life.

This time we visited London, we had dinner with her friends, we watched Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 in the movies and really enjoyed our time together!

Italy and Vatican City: Easter Break 2012

My first time in Italy ever and it was amazing! We visited Padua, Venice, Pisa, Assisi, Pisa, Florence, Rome and the Vatican City during a school trip of one whole week.

It was a great experience as we got the chance to visit so many new places, try the delicious Italian food and discover some great gems in every city thanks to our Spanish tour guide.

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Belgium: December 2012

This four-day trip is one of those you remember the more for the experiences and the time you spend with your friends than for the city.

I personally didn’t like Brussels as much as I thought I would so it was a bit of disappointment but I also think it was pretty linked with the fact that it was cloudy and grey all the time.

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This trip was more of an adventure as we did couch-surfing for the first time and ended up in an enormous house of around 8 incredible bohemian/artistic/musicians who made our stay truly memorable!

Poland: Easter Break 2013

One of my favourite trips ever! Taking advantage of the fact that my sister had recently moved to the small and beautiful coastal city of Gdansk I booked a flight ticket with a friend to explore Poland by train.

The route we followed was: Gdańsk, Warzaw, Auschwitz concentration camp and Kraków. To me the best part of the trip was discovering the beautiful city of Warzaw (which had been completely unknown to me before that trip).

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Madrid: Week after Easter Break 2013

With only few days between both trips I headed to Madrid with my high-school mates and professors to celebrate our following graduation and know more about the history and art of Spain.

The trip was a time full of  great moments with friends, cultural enriching visits and night adventures in the Spanish capital!

Without doubt one of the highlights of the trip was returning to El Prado Museum, where I had already been in a family trip. Such an interesting place for classic art lovers!

Granada: January 2014

Is there something better than travelling to celebrate uni break? Well, yes, do it with your best friends!

This was exactly what happened in this 5-day trip in which we wandered the streets of Albaycín, explored the beautiful Alhambra and enjoyed our delicious tapas while drinking some beer.

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Mallorca: July 2014

This trip to Mallorca was literally a low-cost trip. We booked some flights under 20€ with a discount code for eDreams that was 30€ and we got to fly for free!

Once we were there we had our first AirBnb experience, done some Couchsurfing with really nice hosts and stayed in an apartment away from the touristic areas but really close to what we could call a small paradise!

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A week in Mallorca during summer for less than 200€. Interesting, right?

Loira Valley and Paris: August 2014

Another kind of “unexpected trip”. The company MEGABUS started operating from Barcelona in that summer and they offered really good promotions. Tickets were as cheap as Barcelona-Limoges (close to Loira Valley) for 1,5€.

Once we got the tickets we decided to make our way to Paris too, as it would be my first time and return tickets from there were less than 5€, so why not taking the chance?

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We prepared some Vikings episodes and new music in our phones and we jumped in those +10 hours busses! When I say that you can travel really cheap, you should start trusting me!

Tunisia: January 2015

It was my first trip to the African continent and it left me wanting more. It was also my first time ever in a Muslim country and I absolutely loved it! I personally find religions really interesting, specially Islam, so I love getting to know more about them 🙂

Tunisia has absolutely stunning sceneries and a truly interesting culture but, sadly, you can also see the effects of unrealistic/profit-seeking mass media covering the news in a country that had a strong tourism-dependence. Nothing that would bother you while discovering the country but definitely something to take into consideration in our daily-life, at least for me.

My favourite people were in the South, where life is peaceful and more traditional. My favourite villages? Mahdia and Sidi Bou Saïd <3!

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Andorra: August 2015

Although it was more like a week-end away trip, I discovered many places that were completely new to me. One of them, Estanys de Tristaina, is nowadays one of my favourite places in the world and I feel so lucky it’s not that far away from home.

Andorra is also a great place for shopping, eating meat and trying some typical French cuisine. And, if you like nature, it’s an amazing place to ski or hike… For some reason it is called “The Country of the Pyrenees”!

Kosovo and Macedonia: September 2015

It was one of the most “off the beaten track” trips I have ever done but it was so worth it! We rented a car and explored both countries in a week. Travelling to these unknown destinations was really interesting and completely worth it.

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My favourite cities? Ohrid in Macedonia and Prizren in Kosovo!

The Netherlands: September 2015

After winning two return air plane tickets with Vueling in a really interesting travel conference in Barcelona, we chose Amsterdam (out of 4 possible destinations) because I had never got the chance to travel there before and everyone seemed to love it.

I liked the city and its vibes but exploring it in cloudy/rainy days for a bit less than 48 hours did not allow me to love it as much as I thought I would. I hope to be able to see the sunny Amsterdam anytime soon 🙂

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If you go to Amsterdam save some time to explore Zaanse Schans, it’s a completely beautiful small town and it’s only 20 minutes away by train from the capital!

Alsace: December 2015

If you want to visit the region, do it during Christmas holidays. You are going to love it!

Exploring the Marchés du Noël in villages like Riquewihr is like living in your own fairy tale. Everywhere you look there’s these medieval and colourful streets with people selling delicious pastries and hot wine.

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While you are in the region, don’t forget to visit the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg, one of the most beautiful castles in France according to 101 Fantastic Places.

Rome: January 2016

Rome stole my heart at first sight the first time I put my feet in the city so I could not see the time to go back. Just few days before our big Christmas celebration I booked two flights to go to Rome so my mother, who always had wanted to know Italy and Rome, could finally do it.

The result: 4 amazing days with my mother showing her one of the most beautiful cities in this world!

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Southeast Asia: Summer 2016

Literally, THE TRIP OF MY LIFE. Going into this adventure meant a break in many aspects of my life. I quit my job, my relationship ended, I travelled around South East Asia for two months and I became one of the happiest humans on Earth.

This trip did not only bring me to beautiful destinations, it made me grow. It showed me what I wanted in my life and what I didn’t. It taught me, it made me more grateful, it healed my anxiety more than any psychologist. It was truly life-changing and, nowadays, I am 100% sure that every tiny decision I took in those two months were the best decisions I could ever take (and I am not usually 100% certain about anything, haha).

Nothing makes me prouder and creates me a greater sense of nostalgia than remembering this trip that took me to Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore with one of those souls I really appreciate in this planet, Xavi (with who I share a travel blog in Spanish too!).

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Read my Myanmar Blogs here!

Andorra: October 2016

My dearest “Country of the Pyrenees”! After spending two months dying because of the hot temperatures in Asia, I came back home right in time to make some amazing friends who were doing their Erasmus in Barcelona and show them this little piece of heaven!

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We rented a car and booked a fully-equipped flat with AirBnb for three days and bought some wine that we drank in endless night conversations. Definitely one of the best weekends of my life!

Portugal: January 2017

My first solo trip ever and one of the best trips in my life after Southeast Asia! Travelling alone was exciting and completely rewarding. It showed me I could truly do everything I wanted to do and it brought back to me the sense of absolute freedom I had while travelling for two months.

For 5 days I explored the beautiful city of Porto (I think I had never loved an European city that much before), the interesting village of Braga and the Bom Jesús Do Monte Church and the cosmopolitan Lisbon.

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Definitely, a destination I would recommend to anyone willing to try solo travelling for the first time!

Read my Portugal Blogs here!

North of Italy and Slovenia: February 2017

Just few weeks later, I invited my mum to travel with me for 4 days across the North of Italy and Slovenia for her birthday! The North of Italy was beautiful but Slovenia left me wanting for more. I cannot way to go back and continue to explore this charming country!

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Btw, if you are visiting Slovenia anytime soon, don’t forget to check out the Skocjan Caves, one of the most amazing natural things I have ever seen in my life that reminded me of the stunning Niah Caves in Malaysian Borneo.

Soon…

I am currently working a lot in a job I love and finishing my university degree so I am pretty busy but, from July on I will be trying to explore a new destination every month, do you want to join me?

Confirmed and Scheduled upcoming solo-trips:

  • From late August to middle September: Dubai and Japan.
  • From the 13th of September to the 16th of September: Paris.

My TOP 5 Hidden Gems in: Rome!

Rome is one of my favourite cities in Europe. It’s kind of chaotic, full of life and with plenty of personality; everything I love in a city! I have got the chance to travel to this beautiful city twice but I would easily repeat the visit it again. Today I want to show you my five favourite places that not many people know in the magical city of Rome:

1. Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II

I personally love white marble buildings and monuments so… how not to love this beautiful and majestic Italian masterpiece?

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The monument does not only have an spectacular architecture but also counts with the Museum of Central Resorgimento, the solemn tomb of the unknown solider and two sculptures of the magnificent Victory Goddess in the top but… the best thing of this building is still a hidden gem for most of the tourists that visit Rome: its panoramic rooftop!

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My friend Xavi told me about this place when I was about to do my second trip to the beautiful Italian capital and I could not be more grateful! The price to access to the rooftop is 7€ (3,5€ if you are under 18), which is cheap if you compare it with most of the tourist attractions of the city. In exchange you will receive the most spectacular 360º views of the city!

My recommendation: if you travel during winter season, take advantage of the schedule and visit it at sunset!

2. Villa del Gran Priorato dell’Ordine dei Cavalieri di Malta

If you are looking for a true hidden gem in Rome, it hides in a key hole at the Aventine Hill!

Look for the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta and, once there, you will probably see a queue of people waiting to look through a key hole. They are not crazy, just wait for your turn and let yourself surprise by the beautiful image of San Pietro’s at the end of a truly romantic garden!

Although this unique spot is becoming more known by tourists, it is still a quite peaceful place; specially if you go there by sunrise or sunset. I discovered this gem during my first trip to Italy and I absolutely love it!

My recommendation: look through the key hole and wait for the sunrise or the sunset with the city of Rome and the Tiber River at your feet in the nearby and romantic Orange Garden!

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3. Gelateria Giolitti

Are you an ice-cream lover? Because you are going to love this place! It was founded back in 1890 and soon after its creation it became the supplier of the Royal Italian family so you can imagine how good they are!

I discovered this vintage-styled gelateria back in during my first time in Rome with school (thanks to our Spanish guide) and, after a week trying different gelatti across Italy, I absolutely loved it! During my second time in the city (in 2016) I did not stop until I found the gelateria again so my mom could try the real gealatto.

My recommendation: Be brave, pick a new flavour combination and enjoy a delicious gelatto while walking the heart of Rome until you get to the beautiful Pantheon!

4. Musei Vaticani’s Gardens

With 20.000 art pieces on display, the Vatican Museums are a true paradise for art lovers  like me but my peaceful heaven it’s located in the gardens!

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If you are looking for a chill day away from the busy Rome, I would highly recommend you spending the afternoon contemplating Michelangelo’s frescoes in the ceiling of the beautiful Sistine Chapel or the poignant statue of Laocoön and His Sons and, when you have satisfied your artistic curiosity, contemplate one of the best views of San Pietro’s Dome from the gardens of the museum.

My recommendation: Buy your tickets online if you want to avoid really long queues to enter one of the best museums in the world. 

5. Ponte Sant’Angelo

This is probably one of my favourite places in the city to photograph San Pietro Cathedral. While crossing this beautiful bridge one might be captivated by the extraordinary view of Castel Sant’Angelo but… don’t forget to look to look at both sides of the bridge!

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Although this is a quite crowded spot, most tourists just cross the bridge without realising the stunning views (specially in winter time) so take advantage of that and enjoy a peaceful moment with this amazing views.

My recommendation: visit the bridge during sunset or sunrise and photograph the different sky tones with the most romantic frame of San Pietro’s Dome. 

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Portugal – Day 4 & 5 | Lisbon: Rainy Days in the Solo Ride

To me Lisbon is one of those cities which’s memories hurt you. They hurt you because of what you felt while you where there, because of the memories you made or because you left feeling that there was something missing. Mine is the last case.

Almost all the time I was in Porto, where I had one of the best experiences of my entire life, I was kind of worried about having already planned all my nights in advance. Of course I was excited and I wanted to know Lisbon but I felt so good in the Porto that I would have stayed for longer if I could. Porto was one of those cities in which you just connect, without even having a clear explanation of what means. But can you feel it. Then, as you can imagine, when I got to put my feet in Lisbon for the first time my feelings were kind of mixed.

As I explained you in my previous blog about this trip, I arrived to Lisbon a bit before the sunset started and, after taking the metro until Marquês De Pombal station, I walked all the way to my hostel because I barely had battery on my phone and I being lost on my first night did not sound like a plan to me. After that, I stayed in the hostel and explored a bit the city while shopping some food.

Thursday morning started well having a delicious breakfast at the hostel but got worse as the hours passed. It was heavily raining  most of the day and it gave me a lot of time to work on some things but it also spread a feeling of sadness. For the first time, after the two-months trip to Southeast Asia, I was travelling and I just felt that a 5-day trip was not enough to me anymore. I did not want to be time-constrained. I did not want to not be able to do one thing or visit one place that I wanted just because the weather was not good like that day.

That revelation was relieving but it was also quite devastating. I felt relieved because I finally knew what I wanted to do with my life and how but, at the same time, I knew I was not going to be able to travel as I wanted for a while. It was painful because I knew that for an undetermined period of time when I travelled I was going to be subject to the amount of available time and that meant that a situation like this could happen another time. When I first arrived to Lisbon and, although I was already missing Porto, I had so many plans and, as the day advanced, I was seeing them reduced to ashes and.. that bothered me A LOT.

Later that day, in the evening, me and a German friend I met in the hostel decided to take advantage that it had stopped raining and went to explore the city, even when it was already dark. At least, we got to do something else than be stuck in the hostel all day! We went from our hostel, close to Marquês De Pombal, to Praça do Comércio (Square of Trade) crossing all the old part of the city centre including the Arch of Rua Augusta (Arco Da Rua Augusta in Portuguese) and the Santa Justa Lift (Elevador de Santa Justa in Portuguese) and from there to somewhere close to K Urban Beach restaurant and back. At night I had the feeling that the day had improved from the way it had started and I was just hopping that weather on the following day was better.

My last full day in Lisbon started much more sunnier than the previous day and I had the feeling that I needed to explore it alone and be with myself so that’s what I did. Despite the fact that I love walking cities, I took the metro to Praça do Comércio to save some time. This square is probably one of my favourite places in Lisbon. It is a really elegant squares I have ever seen and the yellow tones make it delicate and beautiful. I couldn’t like it more.

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From there I walked all the way to the city’s cathedral (Sé de Lisboa). It has an interesting architecture from the inside but, in my opinion, the best thing it has is its’ location. Surrounded by tiny streets with full of beautifully designed walls, the cathedral displays one of the images I was looking for in Lisbon and that I easily found in Porto: it’s true and natural image.

After this stop, I decided to continue with the area close to Saint George Castle (or Castelo de S. Jorge in Portuguese). Although I decided not to enter to the castle because I found the entry fee too expensive and the visit too time-consuming, I still enjoyed walking around the entry area where there are this old tiny beautifully painted houses in which you can calmly walk.

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I continued my adventure going down until Largo Santa Luzia, where I found the beautiful Miradouro de Santa Luzia on my way to Largo Postas do Sol. I took some of the pictures I love the most from all the trip there and then I proceeded to loose myself while wandering the bohemian neighbourhood of Alfama.

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At lunch time it started to rain again and because I was not sure on whether it was going to stop raining soon or not, I took the metro and went back to the hostel, where I prepared some lunch and did some stuff while I waited for the weather to improve.

Just before sunset the weather improved so I made my way up to Chiado neighbourhood; more specifically to the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, where I could enjoy the view of the sunset with the city at your feet and the Castle of Saint George in front of you. After that I wandered the streets while coming across with few churches like the Igreja de São Roque,  the Igreja Da Nossa Senhora Encarnação and the Igreja do Loreto (the last two are really close to Praça Luís de Camões).

Given that it was my last night in the city and that still it wasn’t that dark, I decided to try to get to a viewpoint called Miradouro de Santa Caterina that my friend Ines had recommended me when I was in Porto. The truth is that the view is really beautiful but I would say that timing was not the best. The place was really crowded, noisy and with a really strong smell of weed everywhere you went and I think that it was mostly because it was sunset time and many people get together in miradouros (complete list of Lisbon Miradouros).

Everything I did after that moment was try to feel and see as much as I could so I could always go back to these moments in my mind. Despite the bad weather, my trip to Portugal was life-changing. It taught me so many things (and most of them were about me!).

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Total Cost of Day 4: 15,21€

Food: 6,05€

Hostel: 9,16€

Total Cost of Day 5: 27,04€

Transport: 5,80€

Food (I had some leftovers): 1,08€

Hostel: 9,16€

Others: 13,70€

Bagan: The Capital of the Kingdom of Pagan

Bagan with the air ballons at the sunrise is something that I think all travel lovers can picture in our mind. To me Bagan was one of the places I was more excited to know and, although it was definitely not a deception, I wasn’t as enchanted by it as I would have expected.

The area of Bagan, located 190km away from Mandalay, is divided in three different areas: Nyaung U, Old Bagan and New Bagan. Old Bagan is the closest to the most famous temples but it’s also the most expensive to stay while Nyaung G is the area with the cheapest options and larger ranges of food options.

A Bit Of Background:

The origin of Bagan dates back to the 11th century, when the King Anawrahta arrived to the throne. He decided to unify the Kingdom and to introduce the Theravada Buddhism. Since the arrival of Anawrahta to the power, thousands of pagodas where built in the area.

Most of these pagodas were destroyed by different earthquakes and, therefore, most of them have been rebuilt over the years.

Where Did I Stay?

Although Bagan is one of the most preferred destinations in Myanmar and many tourists spend the main part of their journey in the country wondering around the archaeological area, I only stayed two nights in the capital of the old Kingdom of Pagan. The hotel where I stayed was the Royal Bagan Hotel and I would really recommend it. The room was perfect and extremely conformable, the best one of my trip to Myanmar. The bathroom was also remarkable too, since the shower was amazing.

+ It has an amazing swimming pool in which you can refresh and chill at the sunnier hours of the day.

What Did I Visit?

When it comes to visiting Bagan, I would say that the most interesting thing to do is to rent a bike or a motorbike (usually an electrical one) and to go with the flow and wander around the temples. Stop in the ones that you find more interesting or more beautiful, walk through them and move to another one when you have had enough. I think this is the best way to visit the archaeological area and so I did.

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Another great thing to do is to climb a pagoda at the sunset (specially if it’s not a very crowded one) and wait there, silently, for the sun to go down. Contemplate the beautiful world that surrounds you, see how the day ends and enjoy it.

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*Be careful while climbing them up and down, since they are usually very steep and old. but I wouldn’t say it’s something too dangerous. Also, remember to take your shoes off, since it is a sacred place.

IMPORTANT ADVISE: There is an touristic fee of 25$ US dollars per person (15$ in 2015) to enter the administrative area of Bagan. We skipped this tax by entering with local transport from Monywa, since it did not stop in the checkpoint. When we realised we had passed it, we told the driver we wanted to jump out of the car there. He was quite reluctant to do it but he had no more option. We guessed that there was another checkpoint for tourists at the bus/van station where it stopped.

We read on other blogs that if you had passed the checkpoint you could still get caught by the police in the main four temples. We avoided them and we had no problem. When we left the city, were quite afraid we were going to be requested to show the tax recipt but we weren’t stopped nor checked.

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Portugal – Day 3 | Porto To Lisbon: Every Journey Starts With a Goodbye

My last day in Porto started in a really standard way. I woke up, dressed up and headed to the kitchen to have breakfast and meet with Ines, my Argentinian friend. During breakfast we commented everything we wanted to see before we both left the city.

Once I left my backpack in the hostel’s hall and gave back my keys, we headed to the beautiful Clérigos church and tower (in Portuguese, Igreja e Torre dos Clérigos), a symbol of the city. We planned our walk carefully so we could also see the Capella Das Almas (or Chapel of Souls) and the Mercado do Bolhão while we crossed (another time) through the Avenida dos Aliados.

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When we finally got to the church and the tower, we looked for office to purchase the tickets. The access to the tower allows you to climb up to 75 metres and offers you amazingly beautiful views of the city. The entry fee is 4€ and it also provides you with the right to see some of the expositions they have and to explore the church from another point of view.

After having what for sure are one of the best views of the city we walked until the famous Lello e Irmão Bookstore (in Portuguese, Livraria Lello e Irmão), which is really close to the tower. The stunning design of the facade and the sophisticated environment of the inside make this bookstores one of the most beautiful in the world, according to Lonely Planet or The Guardian, and I could not agree more with this statement.

It is also said that this bookstore was an inspiration for J.K. Rowling when writing her worldwide known books about Harry Potter and that Hogwarts stairs where inspired in the bookstore stairs.

To access this beautiful gem of the city you must walk first to the shop in the corner of the street with the Rua do Dr. Ferreira da Silva, where the sell the tickets and some gifts. The cost of entering to the bookstore is 4€ but, if you buy a book, this 4€ will be deducted from the price and, therefore, you can access “for free”. Most of the books are in Portuguese but you can also find books in English and in Spanish.

After we fell in love with the bookstore and even more with the city, it was time for both of us to continue our journey so we went to São Bento station again, where I purchased my train tickets to go to Lisbon. The fact that I specially wanted to travel by train and that I did not book in advance (there is the possibility to book offers online through their webpage, but I wanted to put the minimum time constrains in my trip and therefore I waited until I finished exploring what I wanted in the city to buy them) made the tickets from Porto to Lisbon quite expensive (30,30€). The train cannot be taken in São Bento and, since Campanhã train station was really close to where I was staying (the Alma Porto Hostel), I decided to take it from there.

When we were leaving the station, two guys from Porto Canal (Porto’s TV Channel) asked us to talk about the city (what we liked, what we thought of the beautiful station…) and to publicly “vote” for Porto as the Best European Destination for 2017Of course, I gladly did it because Porto is pure love and one of the most beautiful cities I have been to in Europe.

Once we had say goodbye to each other, I went back to the hostel but not without stopping for few minutes to contemplate the beautiful facade of the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso (or the Church of Saint Ildefonso). After that, I picked up my backpack and headed to Campanhã Train Station and jumped into my train to Lisbon.

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I was completely exhausted and after seeing the beautiful postcard of the see and the beach from the train, just after we passed Vila Nova de Gaia, I fell asleep. The journey to Lisbon was really calm and I only woke up a few times until I realised there wasn’t much time left to arrive so decided to stay awake.

After arriving to Lisboa Santa Apolónia Train Station I looked for the metro, where I took the blue line until I arrived to Marquês de Pombal stop. I walked all the way to City Hostel Lisbon, where I was going to sleep during my whole stay in the city.

When I finished charging my phone a bit, I decided to go out and take a walk. I walked without any other intention than trying to get closer to the city centre but, once I arrived to the Monumento dos Restauradores I had to turn and go back to the hostel to buy some dinner before the supermarket closed.

Total Cost of The Day: 56,69€

Transport: 32,25€
Hostel: 9,16€
Food: 6,78€
Others: 8,50€

Myanmar | Monywa: a Buddhist theme park?

Located 136 kilometres away from Mandalay, Monywa is also chaotic and dusty but not as known by tourists as the old capital. Most of the travellers that get to the city do it in a one-day trip from Mandalay but, in my case, I stayed 3 days in the city.

My feeling with this city was kind of contradictory. Although I would strongly recommend the visit, I felt that touristic places like restaurants or hotels are craving so much for tourists that try to take advantage of the lack of options to eat and sleep. Price and quality relationship is not as good as in the rest of Myanmar and the personnel is not as gently as in Mandalay.

A Bit of Background:

Although there’s not much history available about the city, the Second World War period was really relevant for Monywa. During that time, the city was between the Japanese and the British army and, therefore, ended up being completely destroyed by bombs twice during the war.

Where Did I Stay?

During the two nights of my trip to Monywa I stayed in the King and Queen Hotel. The hotel installations were good and the room was comfortable but the attitude of the staff, specially to those in charge of the hotel, was not really positive. All the time we wanted to do something and asked them about it we found a lack of honesty and willingness to help.

– The rooms were supposed to have Wi-Fi but it barely worked, I had to go to the lobby every time I wanted to use my phone.

*Another aspect that I really disliked from this hotel (and that also happened in other places) is that when we had dinner in the hotel, they charged us with a lot of “government taxes” (it’s kind of crazy because depending on the area and the place you pay a lot or nothing in terms of taxes) without even telling us or mentioning it in the menu.

What Did I Visit?

In the city of Monywa:

During the first afternoon in Monywa, I enjoyed taking a walk across the city until the river Chindwin shore and along it. On the way, I found really nice people that were kind of surprised to see foreigners and welcomed us with a smile and a “Mingalaba”. We even found a man with his two kids that walked us to a temple with them and asked us for a picture. My memories from that afternoon are really good and I would strongly recommend the experience of walking around the city.

Shwezigon Paya:

This pagoda is located in the centre of the city, quite close to Monywa’s clock tower. There’s noting remarkable to say about this pagoda, I found it really common but it’s good to visit it if you are just wondering around the city.

Night Market (Food):

Although Myanmar is not a country known because of its fresh and delicious food (most of the people I heard from got sick because of food they ate in the street in Myanmar), the food market that opens every night close to the Clock Tower was such an exception.

Differently to other cities of the country, most of the food was recently cooked or made at the moment and everything was delicious. I tried some fried potato sticks (I would eat them all the time), some soup and, finally, some insects. Yes, Monywa is a great place to try an insect for the first time. It’s cheap to buy some and, sometimes, you can even try them for free!

In the surrounding area:

To visit the following touristic attractions, we wanted to rent a motorbike but we had a lot of problems to rent it with the hotel, as they requested us to leave our passports there. We were previously advised that in some countries of Southeast Asia there’s a common fraud when you rent a motorbike: they request to keep your passport, they rent you the motorbike, they steal it from you and they end up requesting you to pay huge amount of money because of the “stolen motorbike” in order to get your passport back.  Because of this, we decided to finally hire a half-day trip in a motorised trishaw to a really friendly local.

Thanboddhay Paya:

There are two main curiosities that make this pagoda really special. The first one is that the temple contains more than 500.000 images of Buddha in both, the inside and the outside of the pagoda. The second one are small mini pagodas that cover the ceiling of the temple, which some say that are similar to the ones in the Indonesian Temple of Borobudur.

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The entry fee to this pagoda is 3 US dollars, although it’s also possible to enter for free if you convince the guards that you are going inside to pray, just like them.

Maha Bodhi Tahtaung:

This Buddhist monastery is something similar to a Buddhist theme park. It contains so many different things/areas inside the monastery that its difficult to know how to start talking about it.

The monastery complex has, among others, a reclining Buddha image that has 101 meters of length and the second biggest standing Buddha image, in which you can actually access. The interior of this standing Buddha is covered with different paintings in the different floors and, specially the first ones, illustrate the punishments that Buddhist would suffer if they don’t behave accordingly. During my visit to the monastery, another big sitting Buddha was under construction.

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Other places to explore in this Buddhist complex are the fields covered with thousands and thousands of smaller Buddha images and the Aung Sakkya Pagoda, which is quite normal in the outside but it’s cool (and dirty, of course) to explore the inside.

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