All my life I've said I would get married in Crete. I would lie in bed with my best friend talking about my wedding to an amazing man in a small church in the middle of nowhere. Today, my dreams came true. Crete was everything I thought it would be and more. We were walking through the historical streets and visiting monasteries and spectacular beaches and it got me thinking.. I did not need a wedding to fulfill the dream, I had my dream right beside me. This post is dedicated to the highlights of our 8 day trip and the places you should not miss!
Rent a car as the island is huge and you will see nothing without one. (We rented with SK rentals and everything went smoothly).
April is the best time to visit with nice sunny weather (20-24 degrees) and less tourists
Split your days between the three major cities: Chania, Rethymnon and Heraklion
Tip: We spent 2 nights here. Chania is a pretty city with narrow streets, waterfront cafes and restaurants and not forgetting the Venetian port and lighthouse. Crete has history being occupied by the Venetians and Ottoman empire so you will see strong influences on architecture everywhere. Apart from the walk around Chania be sure to check out a really nice cafe called Carte postale. There are guaranteed panoramic views of the city! Just a short walk from the cafe you will find a nice park with the graves of Eleftherios Venizelos and his son Sophocles. There is information in the parks about these men, you will enjoy the walk and read.
Day 2 was spent on looking for the oldest olive tree in the world! It is said to be around 3000 years old. You will find this tree at ano vouves.
We also spent some time looking for balos lagoon! A tip here: the views are worth it but the drive to balos is horrendous! the roads are really bumpy, you will be driving at 10km/hour for at least an hour. Maybe get a jeep? Also, be prepared to walk to the lagoon after you arrive by car to the parking lot.
On the way to Rethymnon, we stopped at a cute village of springs called Argyroupoli. It had fresh spring water flowing through the village its definitely work a stop.
Tip: We spent 2 nights here. It is the third largest city and the best one in my opinion. It is full of history with every street leading you to a story. Rethymnon was taken over by the Ottoman empire so you will see a large Turkish influence here in terms of architecture and culture.
Day 2 was spent at the famous Arcadi monastery and Preveli monastery that played a key role in the Cretan revolution and world war II respectively. Lots of reading to do but I promise you wont get bored. The fight for freedom was inspiring, the Arcadi monastery is recognised by UNESCO as a freedom monument.
Preveli monastery has a history with helping wounded allied soldiers escape from the German soldiers during World War II through the lake. When we visited we were amused to see they kept an animal sanctuary with llamas, peacocks and ducks etc. It is a functioning monastery, even a priest had a chat with us. For lunch nearby, I recommend you find "Panaroma taverna" , it has a view of Libya. The food is really good too!
Heraklion is the capital city of Crete. We did not stay here as we wanted to be away from the city so we chose Hersonissos. It is a beach town with lovely spa resorts! Some party tourists choose Malia for the crazy nights but obviously its all quiet in April.
Tip: We spent 3 nights here.
Day 2 was spent in Spinalonga! The last active leper colony in Europe was based here. Also there is a famous book called "the island" by Victoria Hislop and I highly recommend it. I was so excited to see the island and the story come alive. To get there, drive towards Plaka, there are boats (5 min ride) that will take you across and back for 10 euros. The entrance will cost 8 euros and do note there are no guides unless you are in a tour group. So for those, like me who like details, read up before!
For all the history lovers, Knossos is a must! The palace was built during the Minoan civilization and is linked with the legend of Minotaur and the labyrinth. Tip here: get your tickets online as the queue is long! Also do consider a guide as it is worth hearing the stories and history told to you! You will appreciate the highlights of the palace better such as the meaning behind the frescoes, throne room and the ways of the Minoan people.
I am happy to answer any questions if you have any! Eventually, Sar and I loved Crete and will not rule out a return ;)
First of all, I did this trip with my father and my best friend in the world! It is easy to see why the company made Hong Kong all the more appealing. We only had 4 days and 3 nights and we wanted to see the famous city skyline and experience living like a local with foods and travel. Hong Kong is populated with about 7.3 million people, so the first thing you will notice is the crowds at most places and super tall and packed buildings! There are brand new shiny ones and there are old dirty ones! Good thing is they're a mix around the city! I think it is fair to start by saying that all hotel rooms in Hong Kong are on the smaller side so best not to expect too much and just embrace the experience. We stayed in a family room at Butterfly on Morrison (4 stars) near causeway bay MTR and we felt it was the best location with great staff! You can easily take the bus and MTR places you wish to go and honestly, do take the local transport as its the best way to explore Hong Kong. The hotel gave you free rental of WIFI devices, selfie sticks with clip on lenses to help you take nicer pictures!
So, we spent a day trekking the famous Victoria peak! Let me be honest and say we started around 12 ish in the afternoon as we were told it would not be too crowded. Truth be told, it was indeed quieter than later in the evening. We took the bus up and it was very easy and relatively cheap! Here is where there could be a confusion. All the tourist went to the tower peak to take pictures! Up there on the deck you are required to pay to enter or you could stand on the sides outside the tower to take pictures which is still beautiful and worth it. What we did though was very different. We decided to walk to the actual peak. It was a steep trek up the hill and we got lost several times as many of the little routes were either shut or led you to satellite towers or water stations? we were not sure, but we know it was definitely prohibited entry. The good thing is on the trek, you will pass nice parks and also a few peak points you could take nice pictures of the other side of Hong Kong. Yes, you will sweat like crazy so make sure to have snacks and water with you. If not, there is a little shop at the peak with a nice old lady who will sell you water and whatever drink you fancy. She also sells traditional snacks like fish balls and steamed dumplings!
Another place to explore is central Hong Kong! Let me suggest you get the old town map and walk around using the traditional method without google. You will find that amidst the high street there are little streets that maintain street culture. Not forgetting the tall skyscrapers all closely packed together. We had the most delicious egg tarts from Tan Cheong bakery and 2 mins away you will find a street milk tea stall! Its simply mouth-watering delights. We also explored tsim sha tsui promenade and wow'ed ourselves with the city skyline. Okay, so coming from Singapore I was concerned about the wow factor here. But I should say I was impressed at how densely populated Hong Kong was and how all these buildings came together perfectly. Lastly, temple street! If you want to skip the crowds and fortune tellers, go late around 9pm. There are shops that sold all kinds of quirky gifts. We had space to walk around and also managed a lovely meal at a street stall with the best eggplant fried with garlic! So simple but amazing how it bursts in your mouth. Highly recommend it to all eggplant lovers.
Jun and I spent our last night partying at the famous Lan Kwai Fong which was 5 minutes from where we lived and only cost us 40 HK dollars by taxi. Okay, truth be told, for some strange reason we were offered so many free shots that night (by bouncers at the bar). We thought it was to attract men to the bar if they saw ladies drinking. Anyways, Graffiti club was great for dancing! We had most of our drinks at Tao bar because the people who worked there was nice and we made some expat friends! I will end it by saying we had a really good night out with one of us having one of the worst hangovers of our lives ( I won't be pointing fingers now!).
Hong Kong was a delight for food! Make sure to have your dim sum fill! Ask the locals for the nearest banquet and they will guide you. I will waste no time with words and indulge you with pictures! For this reason only, you should embrace Hong Kong and give this city a chance!
We started our adventure in Cebu! What a beautiful city, I should say that from the moment we landed we were amazed with how clean it was! Coming from Singapore we had low expectations but Cebu surprised us. Upon arrival, we got our SIM cards with data for a week right outside the airport and it cost us 500 pesos for about 7GB data (this information may be important for those of us who need to make calls home, especially since we were going to the islands with poor connection). But, if you are adventurous and want no connection, by all means do it!
In Cebu, we stayed in an airbnb "Myra's bedsit" in Horizons 101 condominium for 3 nights. This cost us 47 SGD each person which was really cheap considering it was clean and at a great location! We would definitely recommend it to anyone planning a few nights in Cebu.
Osmena peak and Kawasan falls
We booked our tour about a month earlier just because we were on a tight schedule and wanted to be prepared. We booked with Cebu tours and it cost us 61 SGD each person. This tour included the driver and lunch. The journey to osmena peak took us 3 hours by car depending on traffic as sometimes it could be longer! Osmena peak is worth the journey and money! The view was magnificent! The trek up takes about 20 minutes but be warned it could be slippery with loose rocks. It is considered a beginners route but we did find out that there is a harder route that takes about 2 hours so you may consider that if you like. We had a guide who was very kind and patient! He spent quite some time taking pictures of us and even climbed higher peaks to help us take the perfect picture! Tip here would be remember to bring a jacket, it gets a little cold up at the peak.
After the peak, it takes about an hour to get to Kawasan falls. When you get there you will need to walk for about 15 to 20 minutes to get to the falls. It is required that everyone wears a life jacket as the locals say the water is very deep and can be rough from the falls. When we took our first dip we were freezing! The water was very cold, we could not sit there for long. Maybe it was just the cloudy day? As we know this time of the year it gets chilly and rainy. One tip here would be to know if you take a picture with the "I love kawasan falls" be prepared to pay 50 pesos! There will be an angry guy standing there demanding for the money. Overall, we were underwhelmed with the falls, I would suggest you do canyoneering if you did Kawasan falls!
El nido island hopping
The journey here took us ages! We flew into Puerto Princessa airport from Cebu and had to get a 6 hour van ride to el nido. It costs 450 pesos per person which was a really good price. Despite the time it took us, el nido was our favourite! it was raw and beautiful with very few tourists (but this could be due to the low season). We stayed at spin designer hostel and we gave it a high rating as it was very clean and breakfast was nice! One of the nights there was a black out in el nido but our hostel had a back up generator and we were fine. The only negative would be poor wifi (but you are in paradise, don't think you will need it!).
Island hopping is a must! We decided to go on a private tour as we read blogs about how crowded the boats get and we wanted to have the freedom over our trip. We booked with el nido paradise tours and it cost us 55 SGD each person with lunch included. We chose tour A which included the small lagoon, big lagoon, secret beach and seven commando beach.
We did some kayaking in the small lagoon, which cost about 400 pesos. It was worth it except be warned that it gets crowded with lots of other boats and people kayaking. The big lagoon is protected so you can only pass through it and they will not allow you to go into the water. The seven commando beach was a a white sand turquoise water beach for swimming and lots of picture spots. Lunch on the boat had a good variety- it included freshly made (they cook it on the boat) BBQ prawns, chicken wings and eggplant salad and lots of fruits. We told our guide that we wished to get down at las cabanas beach to watch the sunset and it was doable! So, we ended our evening with a bottle of wine watching the sunset- perfect end to the day!
Nacpan beach, el nido
You will need to book a shuttle van to take you to the beach. It costs 600 pesos each person. The beach was pretty empty! you will get vouchers for welcome drinks and a free drink at mad monkey hostel. We did try to get a seat there but it was packed and so hot! eventually we paid 200 pesos and rented a bamboo hut from the locals- best decision ever! It was cooling and it fit us all.
The water was clear and wavy! Don't think it is particularly ideal for swimmers but its great for surfers. We enjoyed jumping around in the waves and we were doing this all day. The only downside at this beach are the stray dogs. There is a pack of them and the moment you take any food out, they will jump at you. It got a little scary at times. One of the dogs jumped at my friends chicken on the table (while she was still eating).
Last night in Puerto Princessa
Our last night was simply for food and karoake! we stayed at the acacia hotel and resort and they served us the best lunch! it was huge with several grilled seafood options not forgetting the eggplant salad we loved. I wish to dedicate a whole post for food in the Philippines! One paragraph is not enough! So stay tuned for my foodie post! For now, our final verdict is we would definitely return to the Philippines! There is so much more to explore!
Dear Santorini, you are like a woman who knows she has it all and the world is at her feet. Yet, we cant help but fall in love with you. You would think all that charm would be nauseating or some may call it cliche. Not by me, you swept me off my feet and showed me that haters are going to hate and you just have to keep your charm and true beauty. Oh, how you've taught me.
We started our journey by taking the slow ferry with "Ferry hopper" from Kimolos island to Milos for a transfer and then Milos to Santorini. in total, the tickets cost about 70 euros each person one way. I would recommend you plan and book your tickets before your trip! you can collect your tickets in person at the ticket offices before your trip. If you are travelling from Athens, there are direct ferries and flights straight to Santorini!
Once we arrived to Santorini, we had our rental car waiting for us. We booked with "Santorini rent a car" and they were very timely and always picked up their phones when we had issues. it cost us 213 euros for 5 days with full insurance.
We stayed in Perissa at a hotel called "Villa Anemomilos Perissa" John the owner was very friendly and the facilities were decent, there was a pool on site and the black beach was a 8 minute walk away! John checked us in himself and gave us a good amount of tips for things to see and do. We paid 260 euros for 4 nights with free parking which is very affordable for Santorini standards! Don't worry about the room, it was very clean and we even had a cute balcony facing the mountains! Okay so with logistics out of the way, lets get to the fun part!
Day 1: Famous Oia for beautiful pictures and Fira by night!
Let's get honest about Oia. It is definitely worth the hype! The iconic white washed houses,small streets that lead you around like a mini maze, view of the caldera and the many photo opportunities. BUT be aware that its going to be really hot from the burning sun and super crowded with tourists from around the world. Especially if you visit in the summer months. Unless you have a larger budget to book a beautiful villa or room in Oia, I would suggest taking all your beautiful pictures in the day and moving on to explore other parts of Santorini.
Picture spots: When you first enter Oia, you will see Atlantis book store (they sell really good books which I honestly think you should check out) and just on the roof of the store is a cute photo op. Next, walk towards Oia castle, on the way you have lots of opportunities with the blue dome and white washed houses. At the castle, you'll be faced with a treat of pictures, enjoy! Ultimately, I would say go down the little streets, you never know where they will lead you and that is where we took most of our pictures! So put on your explorer hats, brave the crowds and create your own story.
Also, a good tip is to bring lots of water. We sat down for non-alcoholic juices in a nice tavern with a view and got charged 23 euros. I would like to think we paid for the view- it was magnificent with the blue domes and the sea! But if you are on a tight budget, be prepared for Oia!
We went home to freshen up and decided to go to Fira in the evening for the sunset and dinner. We had no plans, we wondered the streets and walked into boutiques and shops, admiring work from Greek designers. Fira is where the party is at! There were several fun looking bars and clubs we would have loved to enter if we were not so tired from the day! We ended up at a Greek tavern and ordered my favourite stuffed aubergines and grilled sardines (yum!). No pictures here as we were starving and forgot! (This happens to everyone I'm sure?).
Day 2: Imerovigli by day and wine tasting by night
This felt like the day of photo shoots! We just kept snapping everything we saw. I would really suggest Imerovigli for photo taking! Its quieter and less busy, you will have the place to yourself to take as many pictures you want (hence, the poses!). We originally wanted to hire a photographer but note its really expensive! They were charging 130 to 140 euros for 30 minutes. So, instead I made Sar my photographer! It was still a hot day but at least we were not rushing about. A little tip, you could stay in this town too! It is also called the "balcony of the Aegean" with beautiful sunsets! Honestly though, sunsets in Santorini are magnificent in every town.
After the photo shoot, we drove up to Akrotiri for some pictures by the lighthouse! It was quiet up there, it felt like us against the world. If you have the time and a car, it is worth a look!
Finally, for the evening we made a table reservation at Santos winery for wine tasting and the sunset. This is definitely a must do on the list! But first, I recommend you request for a table right in front with the best view (your hotel could book this for you). Also, you do not have to book for the winery tour! you can have the view by just buying a glass of wine. Have a look at the menu before hand, it helped us decide what we liked and was affordable. We ordered the 10 wine flight for tasting which cost 31 euros shared between 2 people, saying that we really liked the famous vinsanto a dessert wine made from sun dried grapes! We also ordered the seafood platter made with "beech wood smoked salmon fillet, Greek steeped trout, octopus, marinated hake fillet with olive oil and capers, breadsticks, tomatoes, rocket leaves" it costs 29 euros and note the portion was small but delicious. We were definitely still hungry after! So maybe get a snack before?
Day 3: Volcano trek and sunset on the boat
We booked the sunset cruise in person at Fira in a tour office called "Dakoutros Travel". It cost us about 32 euros each person but it was worth every penny. You will have to get the boat from the old port. Going down is NOT EASY! it is steep and slippery and the sun will be burning so just imagine. You have three ways to get down. The cable car, donkey ride or walk down. the cable car will cost you 6 euros each person and it takes 2 minutes but the queues are massive, the donkeys cost the same but I would avoid it as we saw them being mistreated and they just looked sad it was hard to watch. So we walked down and it took us about 20-30 minutes and we saw quite a few people fall, not forgetting the smell of donkey poo.
Once you're down, you'll get on the boat with a group of people. It was not so crowded, we had about 20-30 people! this is amazing as the day boats could go up to 100 people. We started with the volcano trek, it was steep but easy to overcome and hot but not as hot as earlier in the day. The guide explains the history of Santorini and how the island split due to an earthquake. The volcano is on sea making it unique I felt! We saw several tiny craters with sulphur gas coming out from it and hot water. Very interesting experience-It takes about 20 minutes to reach the peak! Note here to bring a large bottle of water, you will need it!
After the trek, we made our way back to the boat and were taken to the hot springs where everyone jumps off the boat and gets the opportunity to swim in the volcanic hotsprings. Here they will provide floats too for people who need it. If you do not swim, you can skip this part too. Avoid wearing a white swimsuit as the hotsprings could colour your clothes.
Next, they brought us to Thirassia island. It is the old Santorini where houses are traditional. Here we could swim or get something to eat. Sar and I got a quick souvlaki for 3 euros to conserve our energy! it was heaven. Such a nice secluded spot away from crowds.
Finally, we ended up watching the sunset on the boat. Lets just say it was the best sunset of our lives! I had a little corner and we just sat there admiring the sunset together. no picture can ever do justice to what we experienced. Good thing is you will get complimentary wine on the boat while watching the sunset (don't expect much as they're in tiny plastic cups, but still a treat!).
Our night had not ended yet. I should add that Sar and I attended a concert from a famous Greek singer called Giannis Haroulis. Sar loves his music and want to know what I thought? He was indeed amazing! His voice was so beautiful it could serenade you and excite you at the same time. By the end of the night we were out of our seats jumping around with all his other fans. What a perfect way to end the night.
Day 4: Beach day
You will need to climb down to get to the beach which some people say is abit tricky, but I say its worth it! What a beautiful sight to see the blue waters crash against the red shore.
We came to have a look at the beach and it was definitely a sight! Maybe sneak in a cheeky swim!
But as you can see, we liked the black beach best! Rest assured the black sand is not going to stick to you as much as white sand. Perissa beach is organised, which is perfect if you wish to get your freddo cuppacino or some food!
We finished our trip at the sunset view cafe! it is in the middle of nowhere with a windmill. The perfect find. Sar tried the local beer "volcan" which he really liked and I had a strawberry mojito which was not that great so maybe stick with local beers! The sunset once again blew our minds. Santorini you have stolen our hearts and minds and the best part is, you know it! Confident, strong and beautiful.
I would like to leave a tip at the end that we flew out of Santorini back to Athens - don't expect much from the airport. Only one tiny duty free shop and you will be cramped in there with hundreds of people waiting for their flights. Well, what is one bad experience versus all the good we just shared with you! Start planning your holidays to the Greek islands!
We only went to Kimolos because we were invited to one of Sars good friends wedding! We were so thankful to be invited, as that weekend ended up being a great one! So here are some tips to explore Kimolos and have an authentic Greek experience from my perspective.
The town and port is a short walk so we felt the best place to stay would be in between. We booked two nights at Kimolis hotel for 220 euros with breakfast included and I assure you the service provided was amazing! Yes, it may seem costly, but its a great location if you fancy swimming by the port or a walk around the town exploring the small streets, 17th century churches, traditional Greek taverns, shops and homes. However, it is not too near to the beautiful beaches, you will need car for that! This may cost around 30 euros a day. In the summer, it gets so hot, its a good idea to have a car, we tried walking to the Rema beach with the elephant stone but after 20 minutes of walking it gets nearly unbearable in the heat. So definitely get yourself a ride!
Prassa beach is so beautiful and the furthest away (about 10 mins by car), but definitely worth the travel! It has white sand with turquoise waters, also organised with umbrellas and a little cafe (get yourself a nice cold freddo cuppacino!). You can also swim at the Psathi (port)! We saw quite a few people jumping into the clear waters! There is also Rema beach where you'll find the fisherman village (picture with colorful doors) and a great place for pictures too.Another tip is there is a nice elephant shaped rocks that you could snap a cute picture at! Some people like diving and there is a nice place for that, Karas beach! Poliagos beach is located on the island nearest Kimolos, you will need a boat to get there (10 mins approx) that is where the wedding beach party was hosted! It is a natural beach with endangered species such as seals etc. You won't see them near the beach where people swim but maybe you could get lucky if you explored the island?
Food & Drinks
Look for the Agora street in the town center! you will find nice bars to hang out at. Also, the town center which the Greeks call the 'platia' is where you'll find taverns with yummy Greek food. Although, we only spent the weekend in Kimolos we felt it was an authentic experience.
I feel like I did not do justice to our trip in Vietnam. It was the best one month of my life and I spent it with my best friends Jun and Jonas and a friend I met while travelling Cambodia-Lukas! We started in Ho Chi Minh city and visited the cu chi tunnels - Nha Trang for some beach days - Dalat for canyoning at the waterfalls (scariest thing I have ever done but most rewarding!) - Hoi An for culture and its tailoring (It is a pretty little town!) followed by motorbike ride to - Hue for a walk around the perfume river and a trishaw ride through town - Hanoi for culture and the secret night life (due to military curfew!) and street food was amazing! - Halong Bay we took the party boat which allowed us to meet new people; we got to explore the caves and kayak through them. Needless to say the party on the boat was fun; we made new friends and two of them eventually visited us in Singapore! Lastly, we ended up in Sapa where we did a home-stay with the local people. They took us for a 13 km walk up the mountains where we met their families and ate with them and learnt from them about their culture and what a daily day is like for them. In the day, we explored the market in town to have a look at all the natural works by the people. They made beautiful handicrafts using natural colours and materials.
I think of this trip often. It was the one time in my life I had no plans and just went with whatever I felt the next morning. Yes, I was broke but I was so happy. I always get carried away worrying about the future, and its made worse with my drive to be perfect. Now, whenever I feel myself drifting away, I think of Vietnam. Letting go all worries and just thinking for today. Thus, for me Vietnam will always be in my heart and I am glad I shared that month with my best mates.