Grecian Days with Becky

Two years ago while traveling South East Asia a rooming mishap led me to meeting my soul sister, Becky J.

Ever since our teary goodbye in Vietnam Becky and I have been planning our next adventure together. My fluctuating job security caused me to cancel our trip together to Peru, which was absolutely devastating for me. But in the long run a good choice financially. Becky still went and I lived vicariously through her. Luckily just a few months later I landed a full-time position as video producer and we were able to start planning for our reunion trip. The top of both our lists? Greece!

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Becky and Becca reunited in Athens!

Somehow I managed to secure two whole weeks of consecutive paid vacation (unheard of at my job) so our plan was to spend a whirlwind three days in Athens before I embarked on a solo tour with Contiki Tours.

Becky was flying from London and I from NYC so we met up at the airport in Athens. From there we took the very easy to use metro into the city. We got off at our station Agios Ioannis where our very friendly AirBnB host met and guided us to her flat. Becky had a lot of previous experience with AirBnb but this was my first. I couldn’t have asked for a better first time experience, host or apartment.

Here’s where we stayed: Agios Ioannis Cozy Apartment 

Our host Lydia provided us with detailed maps, snacks and AIR CONDITIONING (which we were very grateful for).

As soon as we could we slung our luggage down and headed out to begin our Grecian adventure.

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First stop: Temple of Olympian Zeus

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From the Temple of Olympian we able to catch the
I love riding the sight-seeing buses. They’re a great way to get your bearings on a new city and easily get around without having to navigate public transportation.
During our loop of the cities we saw the Panathenaic Stadium & Olympic Stadium, National Archaeology Museum and so much more.
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After a full loop of Athens we decided to hop of at Agora. Before exploring the ancient city of Agora we sampled some of the most delicious ice-cream either of us had ever had.
Looking back, Agora was my favorite part of Athens.
Yes, yes, yes the Acropolis is nice. But it’s so crowded and their’s construction everywhere.
We entered Agora late in the afternoon. So it was nice a cool and we were practically the only people there. It was quite, calm and magical. There were so many nooks and hidden buildings to see that we really felt like explorers. You can not go to Athens without exploring Agora.
Tired and hungry we plopped ourselves down at the first restaurant we could and feasted on some well…subpar Greek chicken. It was underwelming, but we were so exhausted we didn’t really mind.
DAY 2
Good morning Athens!
This morning we decided to grab pastries from the bakery near our AirBnb. Which sounds simple, but when we entered the bakery they had very little left to choose from. Not wanting to seem rude, we both selected the easiest thing to point to. Which turned out to be sort of stale tasting bread. Life lesson, when in Greece make sure to go to the Bakeries very very early in the morning.
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After just one day we were Greek metro experts. So we hopped aboard the subway and then returned to the City Sight Seeing bus stop. Our first stop of the day was the must see changing of the guards at the tomb of the unknown sodlier. The Greek military have very unique uniforms and marching style. So this ceremony is a treat to see. I highly reccomend camping out and watching this hourly event. 14322387_10154266910020813_4042692386468058701_n.jpg
After that we continued on the bus to the foot of the Acropolis near the Acropolis museum. We stumbled upon the most charming little street with cute little cafes and decided we should probably eat lunch before our hike up Acropolis. That’s when we discoved Arcadia resturaunt (Makrigianni 27, Athina 117 42, Greece). We had the most amazing Kebabs, taziki sauce and fries. So good we went back to the same restuarnt the third day. When I think back on Greek food I remember this restuarunt. What a gem.
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So fresh and colorful. 

Next stop The Acropolis.
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Here’s my mandatory picture with the Acropolis. 

Like I said before, yes the Acropolis is important to see. But it’s not the most amazing thing in Greece or Athens. It is very very very crowded and when I went big chuncks of it were under construction. Worth the time and energy to get to? Yes. Would I go again? No. (I actually did go twice because it was included in my Contiki tour).
Hint to my future finace, don’t propose to me at the Acropolis. lol I a tad bit bitter about this UNESCO sight, if you can’t tell.
On the plus side of the Acropolis. There are tons of kitties around!
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Remeber that amazing ice cream I raved about earlier? We went back again. I wish I could remember the name of this place. I guess you’ll have to wonder around Agroa and find it for yourself!

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Butterscotch 

Day 3:

Travel Advice: If you want to book an excursion do it in advance. We learned this the hard way after trying and failing to book a trip to see the ancient theater Epidaurus. However, we decided to take advantage of our extra day in Athens and have a beach day!

For alot of people Athens is all about the ruins and city life. But actually Athen’s sits just on the edge of beautiful beaches. Today Becky and I decided to venture outside the city to Spa Lake of Vouliagmeni.

We purchased an upgraded ticket with the City Sight Seeing bus and used their Athens – Piraeus – Beach – Riviera line.

If you’re lucky enough to have a half day extra to spend in Athens I highly reccomend taking a trip to spend a few hours at Spa Lake of Vouliagmeni. This freshwater lake is said to have mystical healing powers, so it’s the perfect way to unwind after several days of hiking through busy city streets. The lake is privately owned and operated. So you have to pay to get in. I think it was around $20 USD to enter and then if you want a locker its a little bit more. There are sun bathing chairs, tables, a restuaunt and bar. We managed to snag to prime realestate chairs right on the waters edge. We spent several magical hours floating in the lake and having our toes nibbled on by little fishes (which was weird at first but then soothing). It was the perfect way to end our whirlwind Greacian advenure.

After working on our tans we relunctantly boarded the bus back to the city, packed our suitcases and treked through Athens. Becky was ending her trip while I was preparing for a second part. So she and I hiked to my new hotel where we then said teary goodbyes.

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While I love the adventure of traveling solo, traveling with a compainion (exspecially someone you are so intune with like Becky) is so much more satisfying. It’s nice to know that there’s another person I can reminise with. Someone who has shared in my adventures and misadventures. I will never forget my Rasberry Chocolate Ice Cream and our waiter friend at that one resturaunt. Thank you Becky for being my traveling soul sister! I can’t wait until our next adventure.

What I ate in South East Asia; The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

THE GOOD

I never felt healthier than while traveling through Indochina. Every meal was colorful, fresh, and delicious. I sampled every local deliciously and tried many dishes I would have never picked in the states. My favorite temptation throughout South East Asia were freshly juiced drinks. I had one at every meal. I tried watermelon juice in every country and for most breakfasts. The best was at a tiny cafe in Luang Prabang, Laos.

JUICES

THE BAD

Personally some of the worst foods I ate were fish dishes. However many of my tour mates loved these meals. I do not like fish. I did try everything. But I did not enjoy any of them. Plus the way fish was presented (with its eyes and scales) was not appetizing.

THE UGLY

In Indochina you have to try the weird stuff. Sometimes you just need to close your eyes and eat. I sampled a couple of weird delicacies that turned out not bad! I tried several different fried bugs in Thailand. They were crunchy and had weird textures, but for the most part tasted like popcorn. I also sampled rat in Laos. Honestly if I didn’t know it was rat I would have just that it was BBQ beef skewers. Snake whiskey was the weirdest thing I tried that I actually enjoyed! I did a shot once in Laos and again in Vietnam. It tastes like tequila.

FOOD PORN PHOTOS

RECOMMENDATIONS

You have to take a cooking class in Thailand. I learned tricks that I implement today at home. The class took me through the Asia markets. It taught me how to shop for ripe vegetables, eggs and the perfect meats. I learned how to make Pad Thai, Pumpkin Curry and Sticky Rice. I absolutely loved learning to cook in Chiang Mai.

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT MY TRIP THROUGH SOUTH EAST ASIA? CHECK OUT:

Destinations1

Review of the Big IndoChina Adventure with Contiki

I initially chose to go to South East Asia because I wanted to travel to a tropical location for my winter holiday. Other then wanting to catch some rays, I had no other aspirations. But I now have a new love and appreciation for asian culture and solo travel.

This trip introduced me to a completely foreign culture, new (amazing) foods, friendly people, peaceful cultures, exotic adventures and stunning landscapes. This trip put me out of my comfort zone and completely emerged me in different ways of life. I can honestly say I have returned as a stronger, braver and more confident person. I recommend going on this adventure alone. You will meet many like-minded travelers and you will discover so much about yourself.

When I booked this trip I expected to stay in mostly hostels and cheap hotels…expectations were blown out the water. We stayed in mostly 4 and 5 star hotels. Every place was nicer then the last. But my favorite places we stayed we not the 5 star hotels. We stayed at two charming guest houses and on a beautiful junk boat in Ha Long Bay. Every place we stayed had free wifi, water bottles, safes and hot water!

I couldn’t have asked for a better group of fellow travelers. I will forever be friends with many of the people I met. Especially my tour manger Lee (Hailey). I can safely say she made my trip. Lee is super cool, chill and fun. She showed us the best bars, hangouts and foodies in town. She was familiar with the locals and even spoke most of languages. I told her initially I planned on turning my brain off for most of my trip. So it was awesome having her plan most excursions and helping me have the time of my life.

The coolest thing about this trip is you’re not stuck on a bus all day long like many other contiki trips. Don’t get me wrong there are bus trips. The longest was 6 hours. To get through the different countries you will take an overnight train, boats, tuk tuks, buses, vans and jets. I loved our overnight train ride. It really gave everyone a chance to bond.

My favorite things I did on the trip were the Wat Phrathat in Chiang Mai, Thai cooking class in Chiang Rai, Elephant riding, “Kangaroo Sunset” bar and kayaking in Luang Prabang, causing a street dance party in Siem Reap, jumping off our boat in Nha Trang and sailing in Ha Long Bay.

I would recommend this trip to everyone. I always felt safe, culturally submerged and had a blast.

Tips I wish I had been given:
-Bring temple wear (Long pants, t-shirts)
-Pack your bag and then take out half. It’s super easy to do laundry.
-Bring only one swim suit. There are water activities, but not consecutive ones. You only need one suit.
– You should not need more then $25 a day if you don’t plan on doing much shopping.
– Invest good pair of flip flops. You have to remove your shoes a lot and they’re easier to get on and off then sandals.
-Don’t bring a huge suitcase. A back pack is better.
-You don’t need to bring makeup. Most of the girls on the trip won’t wear it. It will just sweat off.
-Bring your own bug spray.
-Bring or be prepared to pull out american dollars. You will need to pay for most excursions with USD. Also Cambodia widely prefers USD over Riel.
-If you’re coming from the states you don’t need an adaptor. All outlets take the US plug!
-Wifi is everywhere. Turn your phone on airplane mode and don’t bother getting a plan. Just Skype and iMessage people using wifi.
-Pack playing cards!
-Pack your own portable charger!

Last night in Hanoi

Where did I stay? Hong Ngoc Hotel

Our final night in Vietnam we went to see a water puppet show and had our final group meal. It was pretty anti-climatic, but it’s hard to top Halong Bay.

I have loved every second of my tour of South East Asia. I’ve met some truly amazing people. A few who I hope to be friends with for the rest of my life. I will honestly miss Becky, Sam, Adam, Rhys, Lee and everyone else too! It’s been an amazing life changing experience. I feel like I’ve grown into a more confident, happier and braver citizen of the world. Every expectation I had for this trip were blown out of the water! Check out my next post for an overall review!

Halong Bay

After a three hour drive from Hanoi we arrived to Halong Bay. To board our junk boat we had to catch a ferry. Our group was split up when a bunch of Chinese tourists invaded our ferry. So half of us had to figure out which boat was ours without our local guide! After searching we eventually found it.

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Our ship!

Then we boarded our beautiful Chinese-style junk boat for an overnight cruise. Our ship was absolutely stunning. It was a five-star cruise ship. defiantly more than what I expected. The company is called Halong Sails. It would recommend them to anyone! Our room was the fanciest of the trip so far and the best was like sleeping on a cloud!

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After a bit of sun bathing on the top deck we jumped into Kayaks to explore the lagoons and secretive mountains of Halong Bay. For a while we were alone in a beautiful lagoon surrounded by towering mountains. It was so peaceful and quiet. We paddled through the stunning blue waters and past playful monkeys. It was simply breath-taking. As we were leaving several tourist boats zoomed by us and into the lagoon. I’m very glad we had the place to ourselves while we could. 1501730_10152765343290813_6595236365577869226_n

After kayaking the sun started to come out so we headed to the beach. While some people trekked to the top of a mountain I decided to take a nap on the beach. It was glorious and refreshing. I felt well rested which was important because that night we had a “Pirate Party”!

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The party was wild! I drank my weight in vodka and even got to DJ. I got a bunch of people to dance by playing mega hits like “Grease” and Spice Girls. We even convinced the cabin crew to dress up. At one point the bar stopped keeping track and we were pouring our own shots!

I woke up early in the morning with only a mild hangover. But my hangover was amplified when we went to the VERY loud Sung Sot Caves. We had to wait in a long line and push through tons of tourists before getting into the caves. Our guide neglected to mention the winding staircases and long hike. So those of us who drank a bit too much the night before had a pretty rough time at the caves. But we had a great time laughing at each other’s misery!

Bustling Hanoi

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We arrived into busy Hanoi mid-day and headed to the famous Temple of Literature. It was college graduation day so the temple was insanely crowded. But it was cool to see the locals dressed up, celebrating and socializing. All of the girls looked stunning in their traditional Vietnamese gowns and the boys looked like models in their perfectly tailored suits.

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Then we went to this great restaurant right outside of the temple. The restaurant supports local kids and provides job training. I had delicious Pho and Water Melon Juice. Everything was heavenly.