The Travel Bug

The term ‘travel bug’ is something which I have discovered is very real. The moment you have the opportunity to wander aimlessly around a strange destination, is the moment you will be bitten. Is it the people you fall in love with? Or the fact you can do whatever you want, when you want? For me, it is a concoction of desires whipped up into a great, big mixing bowl; and Thailand is my first delicacy.

 

It wasn’t hard to pick Thailand as a worthy contender for my first trip. The cheap food, booze and stunning beaches is something which people worldwide are drawn to. Some of my University friends have been before and gave me advice and recommendations on the areas and activities. The possibilities are endless. Kayaking in a crystal clear blue lagoon, snorkelling with sharks and hiking massive mountains, have always been on my bucket list.

 

Discovering the culture was one of my favourite parts. It’s a whole different world to what we live back home. The hustle and bustle of Bangkok was the first taste of this month-long holiday. I had never seen something so chaotic yet so wonderful. Seeing the street sellers, massage ladies and smelling the local delicacies was something I’ll never forget. The constant smiles of Thai locals and their effort to sell you anything and everything always makes me laugh.

 

Scorpions, cockroaches and spiders for 1000 baht? Seems like a tasty bargain to me. Toasting under the intense heat, they were calling my name. “When in Thailand,” I thought. After tasting the crunch and spray of blood I knew I had made a huge mistake. But that unexpected aftertaste of crispy bacon made this one of my favourite moments.

 

Around the corner from the food vendors and restaurants, was the apparent madness of Khao San Road. It certainly lived up to its expectations. I’ll always remember the smell of buckets upon buckets of alcohol and crowds of dancing people who had similar traits of happiness. This reminded me of New York City being the ‘city that never sleeps’. The loud noises, bright lights and weirdly unique people – this lifestyle was wonderfully mad.

 

Although I loved the chaos of the city, it was time to unwind on the scenic beaches. There’s nothing better than feeling the sand beneath your toes and the sun on your skin. This place was paradise! I had seen Thailand on TV and on social media videos but it’s even more beautiful in person.

 

I was excited to wake up at the crack of dawn, relax on a boat and float over to Maya Bay. Supposedly one of the most stunning beaches in South East Asia, this dream island is the one from the movie “The Beach”. I could see why this place was so popular. Being one of the first people on the island was surreal. The limestone rocks looked like they were perfectly chiselled and the wooden long-tail boats were picture perfect. The crystal-clear water was so inviting and the cheeky monkeys’ stealing belongings was  like being in an outdoor paradise comedy show.

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Visiting the elephant sanctuary was up there with one of the best days of my life. We learnt about the cruel elephant trading that happens around the world and this sanctuary is one step closer to combatting this, as the proceeds go towards helping these big, friendly giants. It was amazing feeding and bathing them and swimming under a freezing waterfall whilst the two youngest elephants were play -fighting. To end the day on a high, I attended a cooking school where I whipped up 6 delicious Thai cuisines from scratch. When I arrived back to the hotel with a full stomach, they luckily upgraded me to the most extravagant room. As if that day could get any better!

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After travelling to 7 cities and islands, the urge to cancel my flight home was stronger than ever as the final day was approaching. We ended our journey in the same place where we started – Bangkok. This time, we splurged out our remaining cash on one of the most spectacular rooftop bars you could ever imagine. Looking over the city allowed us to reminisce about our memories of the past month, there were too many to even count!

 

 

Spinning around a plastic world globe is something you see in movies. My next trip will be 100 times more exciting as I’m travelling the world with one of my best pals. Australia, New Zealand and South America are definitely on the list. But who knows where we’ll end up!

 

Usually a bug’s bite is something that would irritate and annoy you. But the travel bug is a bite like no other. Go on, there’s a whole world out there to discover.

If you want to know more about the experience, please feel free to contact me.

 

Cal McIlwaine is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Facebook – Facebook Account / Twitter – Twitter Account / LinkedIn – Linkedin Account

 

Holidays of a lifetime

For most people, myself included, holidays are the highlight of the year. A lot of time and money goes in to planning and paying for the perfect get away to create experiences we will never forget.

I’m extremely lucky that in the past couple of years I’ve had two of the best holidays I’ll probably have in my life.

 Vietnam and Thailand

Planning started about six months in advance when we gathered a crowd and planned the dates. Then it all became real when we finally booked our flights and had something to look forward to! We headed off to Bangkok for the start of our six week trip not really having a notion what to expect.

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At the Top Gear spot on the Hai Van Pass

Beforehand we had planned a route and had a rough plan as to how long we were staying in each place. First up was Hanoi. Hanoi was absolute mayhem. It is constant madness with so many motorbikes about that you could barely cross the street. While we were here we went to Ha Long Bay for the hyped up Castaway Tour which is a must do if your ever in that neck of the woods! From here the plan was to go to Hue and stay for a couple of days.

After arriving we quickly realised it wasn’t really our cup of tea, so found locals who ran a bike touring company. So we rented bikes and had a guided tour through the Hai Van Pass to our next stop Hoi An. The Hai Van Pass, which some might recognise from Top Gear, was hands down one of the best days of my life and will take a lot of beating!

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Was quite proud of my handywork at bandaging

Next up was Nha Trang where we rented our own three story villa. For the equivalent of around £10 a night it really is true that you can live in luxury for the next to nothing! From there we planned another bike tour to Da Lat. Unfortunately for myself this one wasn’t as successful as the first for me as I ended up putting the bike into a ditch. I’m still maintaining that it was the bikes fault and not mine, but it sort of put a dampener on things! Pretty sure the place we ate that day also served us dog instead of pork, but the less said about that the better. From there we went to Mui Ne and then Ho Chi Minh and got ready to meet up with the other 10 of our group that were flying to meet us in Thailand.

We had 6 different stops in Thailand and so was a lot to squeeze in with a lot to do at each one. It consisted of a lot of boats and buses to get from island to island. Everything was planned around the full moon party in Koh Phangan, which I think should be on everyone’s bucket list. Absolute chaos.

My favourite place was probably Phi Phi, where you would think half of Ireland was there at the time. The elephant sanctuary and white water rafting in Chiang Mai and the Slip N Fly in Koh Phangan were probably the other highlights.

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West Coast of the States

Never having been to America before I was absolutely buzzing to be heading off here for 3 weeks. The plan was to do San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Yosemite.

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Probably looking a wee bit too happy than I should have been after the incident

However, the bad luck from Vietnam seemed to follow me when I was held at knife point in a bar in San Francisco. It really wasn’t the way I wanted to spend my first night out in the states, but that’s what I got. Don’t think I put my mum’s mind at ease either writing “Lol some boy just put a knife to my throat” into the family Whatsapp. On the upside it’s a good story to tell (because I’m not dead) and was usually greeted with “Welcome to America” by anyone we told.

We also had to fork out twice for our rental car as, being as stupid as we are, we didn’t realise you needed a credit card to put on file. Eventually we got sorted with the company saying, “You’re lucky you’re Irish” as the reason they helped us out.

Not everything was all doom and gloom but. In fact everything else we did was unbelievable. We did the usual touristy stuff like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the San Diego Zoo.

The highlight for me was definitely Las Vegas. We were there the week before the McGregor Mayweather fight, and so the buzz around Vegas was unreal. We went to Wet Republic when DJ Tiesto was playing which is something I’d say everyone should go to if they get the chance. Seeing all the different hotels was absolutely mad and people really don’t lie about how hot it is (all the time) there. After Vegas, Yosemite was the perfect spot for a chill out, with the dogs at our AirBnB greatly assisting in our recovery.

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All in all two absolutely once in a lifetime holidays (which have left me skint) that I don’t think will be topped. But I have learnt that you probably shouldn’t ever go on holiday with me as something bad is bound to happen!

Wonder what’s going to happen next year…

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The car that our Irish charm got us… not much but did the job

Daniel McGrenaghan is a Final Year Public Relations student at the University of Ulster Jordanstown. He can be found on Twitter @danielmcg132

Amsterdam Top City Break Destination…as voted by me!

Amsterdam Top City Break Destination…as voted by me!

Although many people view Amsterdam as the ideal place for a mad weekend away, it is also suitable for a fun city break with friends or your other half! For my boyfriend’s 21st, I was getting fed up of looking up places to go and with the loan almost being non-existent at that stage, I decided to book a city break deal for Amsterdam! At first I was quite sceptical from all the crazy stories I heard, but how wrong was I! It was hands down the best city break I’ve ever been on, fact! Although we went in the winter season we were still not limited to what we could get up to! Here’s a little insight into the top things to do when visiting the ‘dam!

If you’re searching for top tips on visiting ‘coffee shops’ this is not for you! That’s not how I roll…

Shop ‘til you drop

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If you’re hoping to go on a massive shopping spree when on a city break, Amsterdam will certainly not disappoint! There is everything a girl could possibly dream of, from Ted Baker to Tommy Hilfiger, Urban Outfitters to Zara! Not to mention, the super amazing cosmetics stores offering everything under the one roof!  Brisking through the narrow cobble streets, walking in and out of the row of stores that lay in front of me, my heart was complete. It was of course my favourite way to spend my first day in the city! On a further note, if you’re all about those candid Instagram foodie pics, there are endless bakeries and pastries shops offering the most picturesque cupcakes, donuts and macaroons!

Visiting the ‘I Amsterdam’ Sign

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If you didn’t get a picture in front of the ‘I Amsterdam’ sign, did you really go? It is one of the top attractions to visit when in Amsterdam, but be aware, getting a pic of just yourself in front of the sign is rather hard with at least 20 other people trying to do the same thing, but it is manageable!

We were fortunate enough to have been going in the Christmas season, so that meant beside the sign was the Christmas markets, and wait for it… an ice rink! On a downside, I can’t skate but I made the most of the wooden chairs in the rink to hold onto!

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Amsterdam Ice Bar

When visiting the city, it would be rude not to visit the renowned ice bar! Unlike me, be sure to wrap up warm because although you get a thermal coat, the rest of your body is literally -10 degrees! Everything and I mean everything is made of ice, the tables, the seats and even the glass for your drink! I think we must have lasted about 15 minutes in the ice bar with it being so cold, but I would still go back (with more layers next time!).

Visiting Madame Tussauds

If truth be told, I wasn’t fussed on heading to Madame Tussauds, but Mark was dying to go so I thought why not! Much to my surprise, it turned out to be a second to none experience, and of course we were both mind blown as to how alike the wax figures were to our favourite celebs! To top off our Madame Tussauds experience I got a pic beside Justin Bieber, because why not, it’s Justin Bieber! *love struck emoji*

I would definitely recommend Madame Tussauds if you really want to be in total awe as well as getting endless cringey photos beside celebs including Adele, Taylor Swift, Bob Marley and even Barack Obama!

I’m all about them wining and dining evenings

When opting for a city break in Amsterdam, probably your biggest dilemma of the whole trip is deciding where to eat! With rows upon rows of restaurants, we were totally spoilt for choice! There are of course popular American diners such as Hard Rock and Frankie and Benny’s which I’m a huge fan of! Not to mention, the city is full of contemporary bars to spend the evening sipping away on cocktails or perhaps, if you are hoping for something more lively like I did, the place was packed with buzzing Irish bars offering top class live music! But we aware, if you’re like me and look about 16, Amsterdam is not like any Spanish holiday resort, you will need to bring ID everywhere you go, even if you are just going for an evening bite!

Hands down, Amsterdam was most definitely the best city break I have ever been on and wouldn’t think twice about going back! If I were to go back here are a few of the places I would visit next time:

  • Anne Frank House
  • Heineken Experience
  • Body World
  • A’dam Lookout

Shannon Grogan is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn on https://www.linkedin.com/in/shannon-grogan-09712510b/ 

Mr Worldwide

Mr Worldwide

I have always wanted to travel around the world and see new and exciting places. However until this year I had only been to Spain, Liverpool and Blackpool not quite the exotic travels I had thought about. However, this year I visited Madrid, Liverpool and I even decided to go inter-railing. Much to my fathers despair I didn’t save a lot of money from my placement year, but sure here, your only young once!

I spent a few days visiting a friend in Madrid while he was spending a year teaching English in the Spanish capital last January. It is that trip that has convinced me to consider moving abroad to study or work after I finish my degree. Despite sleeping on the floor with a towel for a blanket in late January I loved every second of it! Sight seeing in the rain, trying tapas, seeing Real Madrid play, meeting people from all over the world to finding a home away from home in la fontera. I’ll not go into too much detail as the saying goes, “what happens on tour, stays on tour”.

Next up, across the water to Liverpool! Deciding to fly out to celebrate my 21st birthday the day after St. Patrick’s Day.. perhaps not our brightest idea. Even if the hangover nearly killed me, Liverpool didn’t beat Man City and 8 “young adults” crammed into a 8 bed hostel room with the windows locked shut and the heating on full blast. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see that many sights, I guess I’ll just have to go again.

Inter-railing

Spending 3 weeks with your mates traveling around Europe drinking, sight seeing, eating and relaxing. What could be better? I loved every minute of it. Even the few disasters that I encountered along the way. It’s safe to say that I’ve caught the traveling bug now.

Visiting Prague, Krackow, Budapest, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Belegrade, Sofia and Sunnybeach. I would love to say that I have always had a keen interest in the culture of most of these cities but I’d be lying. My knowledge of most these countries was simply that I knew a football team from my vast football manager careers. (Computer Game by the way). The route was formed because it was the cheapest way to meet some friends in sunnybeach for the final leg, but looking back I’d have it no other way.

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After months of planning out the route and dreaming of sun, shorts and well not wearing suits 5 days a week. We finally set off to Prague in August. Arriving in the beautiful city of Prague full of excitement to begin our holiday.. despite a small mix up with the hostels and the weather being awful (not that it stopped us wearing shorts) a fine, 2 pub crawls, new Friends at every corner, seeing Prague castle, sampling the local beverages and a 6 story night club with an ice bar to top it all off ( Curtis’ Top tip, Ice bars are absolutely freezing so don’t wear shorts).

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Next stop! Poland! I’ll keep this one short and sweet just like my time in Krackow. We missed our train to Krackow meaning we arrived late and while I had been told of how wonderful and brilliant Krackow was, however my sight seeing consisted of 5 or 6 bars and a Mc Donald’s due to the tight schedule we unfortunately we didn’t get to see much of Krackow. (Starting to see a bit of a theme here).

From krackow we then traveled to Budapest for the leg of the trip I had been looking forward to the most. I heard great reviews about Budapest, it’s baths, architecture and great night life and well it did not disappoint! We booked tickets for the Sparty and it was almost magical, great music in a all night pool party! The next day we returned to the scene of the crime where by morning the baths had been transformed back into a relaxing paradise to lounge about and enjoy the sun. It really is a toss up between Prague and Budapest for my favourite spot along the trip and I hope it’s not long before I am back!

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In what was the most gruelling journey I have ever experienced. The train from Budapest to Ljubljana made a Translink bus seem like a private jet. The blistering heat, lack of seats and air conditioning meant we where in for a tough ride. However when arrived in Slovenia we where all in agreement that it was one of the most beautiful places we had ever seen and that was before we even seen Slovenia’s crowning attraction. Lake bled, stunning. Just stunning. (Another Curtis top tip, 20 oil during is a horrible idea during a heatwave unless you enjoy getting sunstroke).

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Next up, off to Croatia. Well so I thought, as we arrived at the Croatian border toward Zagreb I was stopped and told I would not be granted entry to Croatia due to a missing page in my passport. I was sent back to Ljubljana to the embassy to get an emergency passport. Determined not to be a party pooper I sent my amigos on to Zagreb without me and I would meet them later that night. 12 hours later, a “missing” Wallet and dripping in sweat I arrived at the hostel defeated and exhausted. Zagreb was a lovely spot for the day I spent in it, however there wasn’t a lot to keep us entertained so off to the zoo we went spending the majority of our time beside the sea lions hiding from the 40 degree heat.

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We continued our journey east Belegrade, Serbia our next stop. If there is one lesson I’ve learned from my time in Serbia is DO NOT TRY RAKI. It is not enjoyable and honestly it came up as quick as it went down. Serbia was a lonely place with a booming night life, we managed to even briefly crash a wedding on a boat. However it was probably my least favourite of all the stops.

Last call! Bulgaria! After the longest journey in the history of long journeys we arrived in Sofia. Awaiting the arrival of 3 more friends from home to meet us. (It’s amazing how many people we met from home on our travels, two groups from newry and man from lurgan, all of which we never knew would be there.) Spending a short time in Sofia before catching our final train to Burgas or sunnybeach as its more commonly known.

Time to relax by the pool and not have to worry about another train for a long time! However expecting a holiday like Santa Ponsa was our mistake as I was left somewhat disappointed. It is amazing how different the cultures changed as the further east we traveled, I didn’t enjoy the latter stops as those at the beginning.

Despite being exhausted from all the traveling, I’m not deterred and hope to apply to university in Berlin after my degree is completed. After all imagine how beautiful German would sound in a Newry accent!

Curtis Cregan is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be contacted on Twitter: @CurtisCregan17, and Instagram: @CurtisCregan7.

Travelling 101

After finishing off a fantastic placement year at Smarts Communicate, I decided that I needed a big summer blowout before dedicating my life and soul to the Ulster University library for all that final year would entail.

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My best friend Jess and I booked to travel to Thailand and then Bali on a bit of a whim late on a weeknight. After getting over the initial panic of almost booking to travel for a year and a month instead of just a month, we soon forgot about the trip and got on with our jobs until the trip slowly crept up on us. It is safe to say that we were absolutely petrified, and did question if we could ever make our way across South East Asia and back successfully.

When it comes to travelling I have never claimed to be a professional and would say I’m actually quite the opposite due to my occasional forgetfulness. Team that with Jess’s lack of direction and we were proving quite the team. However, against the odds Jess and I managed to:

Catch 8 flights,

Make 9 boat trips,

Visit 6 different islands.

All without losing anything more significant than the contents of my stomach due to some questionable driving on occasion.

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I have briefly surmised what the experience has taught me:

Just appreciate it

Take time to take it in. When travelling from place to place I never wanted to sleep because I was constantly trying to take in my surroundings while listening to new music Friday on Spotify and battling my tiredness. These moments allowed for reflection and appreciation. You will learn a lot about yourself while travelling and I learned exactly how fortunate I was. However, on the contrary, I did also learn that I need to buy the travel socks that old people wear to help their poor circulation, as my feet, knees and ankles now double in size on long-haul flights, who knew?

It’s kind of all about the people you meet

I think that when it comes to travelling, it really is what you make it, so always make an attempt to spend time getting to know the people you meet along the way. Everyone has their own interesting story and outlook so make time to listen to it. We met some really great people and between Jess and I, we have tried to keep in contact with most of them, promising to meet up again in the future.

Plan… but don’t plan too much

The best thing to do is to make a rough list of the things that you really want to do, the once in a lifetime kind of things and aim to complete them. No need to try and jam pack 5 activities into one day because you won’t give yourself time to enjoy them and will stifle the fun. Furthermore, there will always be an alternative route, it may not be the comfiest or the fastest or indeed come with the luxury of air conditioning, but my point is don’t stress if things don’t go according to plan. Sometimes the beauty is in taking a few extra hours and travelling the scenic route.

You don’t need to spend much to have fun

Everyone assumes that they can’t afford to travel, and granted, it is pretty expensive by the end but cheap really can be cheerful sometimes. Some of the nicest meals I had cost little more than a quid and the most hilarious nights were spent in some of the most tragic hostels fully furnished with insect infestations of course. It was cool to stay in nice resorts as they are pretty inexpensive but don’t get too hung up on that. Save your money to spend it on experiences while your there.

Lastly and in my opinion, most importantly:

Pick your travel buddy wisely!MR2I never really anticipated how vital this element would be but my trip really would not have been the same without Jess and nowhere near as fun. We worked well together as we had a good understanding of each other and respected each other’s views, opinions and space. We were able to pick each other up, laugh with each other and at each other, never letting anything get too serious.

My advice for anyone considering jetting off to explore pastures further afield is to book it, pack a bag and go! Don’t hesitate and allow for any self-doubt.

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And a bonus tip: If you are ever in Bali, you need to check out La Favela, trust me!

Megan Rea is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/megan-rea-a52437111/

Ireland to Australia… by BIKE!

 

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Yup that’s right, who would be mad enough to cycle from Ireland to Australia? Definitely not me!! My good friend David Stanbridge, AKA Stanner’s has always had a keen interest in traveling and adventures, what better adventure to go on than cycling around the world!

This blog really won’t do Stanners’ trip much justice, I think a book would be more appropriate. Maybe that could be his next project after he finishes cycling around the world?

Anyway… here it goes. In 2016 Stanner’s thought a lot about taking this trip and then decided to start planning it.  He spoke to the bosses at work and they were willing to grant him a career break so in December 2016 he put the wheels in motion and sold his car – this was 3 months prior to his departure date.

After numerous good-bye parties and lots of tears Stanners left his home town of Islandmagee in Co Antrim on Monday 3rd April 2017 at 4.45 am. His father cycled with him to the boat in Larne and continued to cycle with him all the way to Newcastle Upon Tyne which is 360 km (I’m not sure my legs would even take me that far…rather you than me Stanners!).

He then cycled to Dover where upon boarding the boat and waving to his family from the top deck he spotted two other heavily loaded bikes: this couple were also headed to Australia! Imagine that, there are other people in the world as crazy as Stanners. Within the first month of cycling Stanners hit Slovakia and covered a total of 2400 km! All in one month! From Ireland to England to Netherlands to German to Austria to Slovakia. He experienced temperatures below freezing whilst sleeping in a tent and cooking meals in pots and pans like I’m a celebrity, get me out of here (without the fish eyes and kangaroo balls etc).

By the early part of May Stanners had reached Turkey and this is where he would be for the next month, cycling from one side to the other to reach Iran.

He encountered many different things while in turkey, he learnt a lot about the Turkish history and had a Turkish bath at Cagaloglu Hamam – the last Turkish bath to be built in the Ottoman Empire, so Stanners says anyway! This was one of his camping spots during his travels through Turkey, who needs a tent anyway?

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Stanners spent his birthday in Turkey – on the morning of his birthday he received a video link form his dad with pre-recorded birthday messages from all friends and family. He watched this at 3 am after waking up for a pee during the night. He said he didn’t cry but I don’t believe him! On the day of his birthday he also reached the highest point of his trip at that time – 1500 m.

In June Stanners crossed over into Iran. After making it to Tehran, Stanners soon discovered the roads weren’t very safe; the traffic wasn’t overly heavy but there weren’t many rules on the road.  The lines weren’t very clear and at junctions they disappeared altogether, thus it became like the area after a toll booth where a super wide area of cars are all darting for one narrower section of road.  Meanwhile Stanners is trying to stay out of harms way. After a late night and early morning rise the sun soon got the better of him – he cycled to a car park where he came across a guy driving a truck and despite the language barriers he discovered that the fella was heading in the same direction that Stanners wanted to go. He clipped his bike securely onto the back of the truck and climbed into what should have been the passenger seat.  However, there was no seat just a flat area covered with a carpet, needless to say no seat-belt either. As the journey progressed the man got a little too comfortable, sitting completely side ways with cruise control on and no way to break if he needed.  At one point, whilst still driving, he proceeded to pull out a gas cooker, hooked it up to the engine and began to melt some sort of ‘substance’.  Stanners was concerned for his life at this point as he laughed nervously and asked him if he was still okay to be driving while smoking ‘that’. Anyhow Stanners made it out alive and the nice man bought him lunch before they headed their separate ways.

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Skipping on and missing a ‘few’ countries not to mention a hell of a lot of stories, (like how Stanners managed to get himself invited to weddings and how he survived through an entire country without money – he arrived at the Iran border with no cash and not realising you weren’t allowed to lift cash in Iran.

Stanners is now in Aisia and will spend Christmas in Vietnam, his goal is to make it to Oz by February 2018.

Stanners keeps his own blogs which have a lot more detail for anyone who is interested and wants to keep track of his whereabouts and how hes getting on – it really is worth the read.

Website: www.solostan.com

Facebook: @Solostantravel

What a man and what an inspiration to anyone wanting to travel. I’m one for an adventure and enjoy travelling myself but I think I’ll clock up my air miles rather than cycle! See you in 2018 Stanners and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at home. We miss you!

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Jenny Martin is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. You can follow her on Twitter @Jennymartin95 or on Facebook: /jenny.martin.12979431

Malaysia, Bali and Itchy Travel Feet!

Malaysia, Bali and Itchy Travel Feet!

Have you ever just felt stuck in a bubble of reality? Caught up on the little things: someone eating too loud, the bad weather…whatever it is.

We spend so much of our energy focusing on things we have very little control over, instead of focusing and what we want and working for it.

Not to get into the boring detail of it, but I was having a bad day, it felt like things just weren’t going my way and my mind was focused on everything negative going on around me BUT I am not complaining. This made me make the best decision of my life!

That night I was sitting on the edge of my bed, scrolling through Facebook (as you do) feeling sorry for myself, when an ad for an 18 day trip to Bali popped up at the side, I do normally ignore these but I was intrigued. I clicked in and straight away I knew this was it. Call me impulsive, but I didn’t think twice, I got my bank card out and put the deposit down (lucky it was just after pay day!) All jokes aside, I didn’t look back.

Call it fate or call it good advertising, I don’t care!

I had been debating for months whether to go travelling in the summer when uni finished or to save up and go when I graduated. Considering I couldn’t convince ONE friend to come with me, I was a bit apprehensive of booking alone but I did just that. A few months later, after talking about it so much I had managed to convince one of my friends to book on with me and that’s where our adventure began!

The trip included 18 days travelling around Bali everything planned to a T! We didn’t have to worry about doing research as The Bali Adventure had done all the dirty work for us. All we had to do was show up on the 2nd of August. With the itchy travel feet I had, I also managed to persuade my friend to book a week in Malaysia before Bali as well. Bonus!

After months of saving and excitement, we packed our bags and went.

After an extremely long and tiring flight we arrived in Kuala Lumpur. With Indonesia having the largest Muslim population in the world, this was a huge culture shock. We clearly stood out from the crowd!

We spent our time in Malaysia exploring the beautiful Kuala Lumpur (KL) visiting the famous Petronas Twin Tours, Suria KLCC Shopping Complex and my favourite of all and the best area for bargain hunters…China Town. TIP: If you want to buy something in China Town, get ready to haggle – It is offensive if you don’t! Hate to admit it but…we decided to eat in an Irish Restaurant almost every day we were there, not so cultured…

A week on, exploring of KL done, now time to catch the flight to Bali. I cannot even describe how excited I was! The flight was only 2 hours but felt like FOREVER!

This is where the real adventure began!
We started off in South Kuta, where we stayed in The Hidden Valley hotel, our first destination. We got checked in and Day 1 was spent exploring the area, chilling by the pool and meeting our new friends that we were spending the next 18 days with! The next day we started with a welcome breakfast and we got the choice of a group yoga session or chilling by the pool…with a few too many drinks the night before I choose chilling by the pool! In the afternoon we had a group surf lesson in one of the most famous surf destinations of Bali, I think I managed to stand up on the board a total of 2 or 3 times…I’m not going to be a pro any time soon! That afternoon we headed to the Uluwatu Temple to watch the sunset alongside a traditional Balinese Kecak Fire Dance, I have never seen anything like it in my life, if you ever go, you have to see!

The next few days we spent visiting the spiritural Batuan temple, followed by an afternoon at the absolutely stunning Tegenungan Waterfall and an evening tour of Bali Zoo…WOW! We caught a rare glimpse of the animal kingdom and how they live when darkness falls (I even caught an Orangutang trying to pick pocket me!)

We explored the monkey forest sanctuary (the monkeys are cute but very scary!) the Tegalalang Rice Terrace and took in the beautiful sites around us. We started travelling across to the West of the Island to Bratan Lake, stopping of at the picturesque Ulundanu Bratan Temple and the Gitgit waterfall for a dip on our way to Lovina where we spent the next few days. A 5am start and we got to see the dolphins at sunrise on a traditional outrigger boat and for all you coffee lovers, we got to taste the world’s most expensive coffee produced from the Luwak animal. Another early start and we began to trek an active volcano, Mount Batur…a once in a lifetime experience!

Lastly, we spent a few days on my favourite island…Gili Trawangan, also known as Gili T…all I can say is look at it for yourself.

If you haven’t been to Bali…you are missing out! With The Bali Adventure we were able to travel in luxury, with a backpacker’s budget and made some amazing friends for life, some even planning to come over to Ireland for St Patricks day!

If Bali isn’t on your bucket list, stick it on!

To see a full itinerary, click here

Christine Murtagh is a final year BSc student in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University. Find her on Twitter @Cmurtagh95, and Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christine-murtagh-413409b9/