Category Archives: Tours

Awesome trip to Austin, Texas

I’ve heard a lot of great things about Austin so I was really pleased when a friend organised a trip there for three of us. We rented out an apartment on www.vrbo.com close to 10th street for three nights.

I was able to book return bus tickets from Dallas to Austin on www.megabus.com for a mere $4.50.

Before we got there, we had recommendations coming out of our ears for all the great places to eat and drink at. It was pretty easy to find places near the apartment and also by going to the popular areas like 6th Street and Rainey Street.

So here are some highlights…

Friday night drinks at 6th street

This street is lined with bars and some restaurants. We started the evening at Coyote Ugly, a classic dive bar with the addition of ladies dancing on the bar who were mildly abusing men, who volunteered to be abused. It was amusing to watch. Good bar with a good feel.

After a few drinks here, we headed down the street and found Pete’s Dueling Piano bar. This was loads of fun with a playoff between various musicians. Music included Backstreet Boys and some good old rap on piano. The atmosphere in here was great.

We drank a lot here… and the rest of the night is lacking a bit of details! However, when we headed out the street was alive, there were lots of food stands and plenty of bars to visit.

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Saturday visit to Rainey Street

We took Uber to Rainey Street and ended up in a fun bar called Unbarlievable. There was a big slide in the back as well people practicing with hula hoops. Food was also pretty tasty and they had cool live music.

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There are more bars and restaurants along this street, we did pop into some. I love that day drinking was completely normal and expected. It has a more mature vibe than 6th street. Both were awesome and they’re both worth a visit.

Tipster free walking tour

I always love a good free walking tour and my friend found this Tipster tour that started at the Capitol. No need to sign up in advance and you can leave a tip of your choice. Our tour guide was very friendly and knowledgeable. She covered a lot of the Austin history. I was surprised that the tour didn’t include any fun stuff like the nightlife, but fortunately my friends and I already had that covered. The tour was a good little walk in the centre of Austin and it was nice to see something other than bars!

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We did see some cool street art, including this lovely picture of Matthew McConaughey!

Food recommendations

We ate very well throughout the trip. Plenty of bbq meat from food trucks and restaurants.

Here are some highlights:

  • Stubb’s BBQ

I was happy to check out the restaurant connected to one of my favourite meat marinade brands. Stubb’s BBQ was nice and busy. The food was good and meaty. The service was a little slow, but the food was tasty so they are forgiven.

 

  • Gloria’s Latin Cuisine

We found this using Google maps as it was close to where the walking tour ended. Gloria’s Latin Cuisine turned out to be a lovely little find. A classy restaurant with really great drink prices, including $2 mimosas! My friend even asked the waitress if it was a typo. It wasn’t… so we had a few. The margaritas were also tasty, as well as the food.

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  • Walton’s Fancy and Staple

We were inspired to have breakfast here after hearing that it’s owned by actress Sandra Bullock. Walton’s Fancy and Staple is a really lovely quaint cafe-style restaurant, that also sells plants and flowers. I had the breakfast dish with eggs, toast and bacon that was tasty and filling. The mocha latter was pretty good too. We were all satisfied.

 

  • Voodoo Doughnuts

This was recommended to us and seems to be an iconic place. The line was huge when we got there on Sunday afternoon. We got a few different doughnuts between us, and I have to be honest, we were pretty underwhelmed. The doughnuts were very dry, bready and stodgy, there wasn’t really anything special about them. Fortunately they weren’t stupidly expensive, so we survived the disappointment. I’d say Voodoo doughnuts is pretty overhyped, but if you just want a doughnut with no expectations, then go ahead and join the line!

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Conclusion

We all had a great time in Austin and I’d be happy to go back in a heartbeat. Getting around was really quick and easy (and cheap) by Uber, or if you felt like it there were plenty of electric scooters everywhere you looked. People were friendly and there was a really good vibe there.  Food and drink was easy to find and there are plenty of places to explore.  A great place to visit and hang out with friends!

 

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Filed under Restaurants, Texas, Tours, Travel

Central London Megabus Tour

Megabus tour in London

Even having lived in London for over ten years, I know there’s always more to see and learn.  I’m already a big fan of the Sandeman free walking tours so I decided to try a London bus tour for a change.

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I found that Megabus has started doing bus tours!  They are already great for cheap coach travel across the UK and US, so I was happy to check out their 2-hour London bus tour with a friend.  Tickets start as low as £1, and you can easily find tickets for £5 per person.

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Here is the info from the website:

See London for less when you experience our non-stop bus tour, which will take you to up to 50 of the capital’s most famous sights in the space of just 2 hours. Prices start from just £1 plus a booking fee.

You’ll be able to get onboard one of our open top double-decker buses in central London every day of the week, every hour between 10:00 and 17:00. And you can start and end your tour from three locations:

  • The London Eye
  • Tower of London
  • Park Lane

Why choose megasightseeing.com for your open top London bus tour?

  • 2-hour tour – you’ll see all of London’s best bits in two hours
  • Non-stop – we’ll take you through the city, minus the pit-stops
  • Mega Value – prices start from £1 plus a booking fee, subject to availability
  • Seat available upstairs – so you get a great view of all of London’s best bits
  • Easy to use – just get on at your choice of three locations
  • Book online – you can book online right up to time of departure
  • Departures every hour – find the time that suits you best
  • English Commentary – we’ll give you all the fascinating facts about London with a special appearance from Sid.

I booked the tickets online.  I foolishly made some booking errors and was able to correct them easily online for a fee of £2.50.  Our pick up point was at Hyde Park Corner, a couple of minutes from the underground station.  Our bus was late by 15 minutes because of traffic, luckily it was a beautiful sunny day so we waited in Hyde Park.

We sat at the top of the bus and there was a clear recorded commentary throughout the tour.  It was really awesome!  We had great views and went past loads of things like Trafalgar Square, the new Bloomberg building, the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye.

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Overall, this Megabus tour was definitely a big HIT.  It was cheap, simple to book, easy to find, then you can just sit back and enjoy!  I did learn lots of new interesting info, like the spike monument at London Bridge station (pictured below with the Shard in the background) is to remember all the beheadings that used to take place there… before the heads were placed on spikes along the bridge!  How times have changed!!

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Bear in mind when booking that there are various pick up points.  Make sure you pick the right one!  And take a brolly.  We did get a few minutes of rain, but what’s a summer day in London without a sprinkling of rain??

Click here to book the Megabus London Tour.

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A wonderful trip to Thailand – The North and Chiangmai tour

September 2016

In my mind, I was going to Asia for four or five months to travel around Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and any other countries in Asia I decided to add along the way.

In reality, a three week trip to Asia was much more convenient and affordable, and also a good compromise given I’d spent six months in Costa Rica and was wrapping up my travels.

The actual plan was to spend two weeks in Thailand and one in Malaysia.  Thailand has been very high on my ‘to visit’ list, mainly because I love Thai food.

As I was travelling solo, I decided to join a tour for the first week followed by a week in Bangkok.  This post is about the first week with the tour.

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Street markets

I had a look at various tours and settled on the Bangkok to Chiangmai Express tour with G Adventures.  I hadn’t used this company before, but a couple of friends recommended them, the price was reasonable compared to other tours, there was no hill trekking or mandatory cycling (not my cup of tea) and I liked the varied itinerary that included multiple places, nice hotels, a floating raft house and an overnight train.  Exciting!!

I arrived in Bangkok on a Monday morning in September, the same day the tour was starting.  Luckily I was able to check in early to the hotel after my 15 hour flight from London, so I had a few hours of sleep and woke up in time to have a wander around the area and grab something to eat before the introductory meeting in the evening.  The tour guide and our group of ten tourists seemed friendly enough.  We went out for dinner together and called it a night for an early start the next day.

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Cooked rats

I should point out that September is the rainy season.  In an ideal world, this trip would be in November during the best weather.  However, having lived through a rainy season in Costa Rica, I know there are a lot of perks to rainy season.  Flights are cheaper, there are fewer tourists around and the weather is generally cooler.  After all, a bit of rain isn’t going to ruin my holiday!  It did rain pretty much every day, but usually only once or twice for an hour or so in the late afternoon or evening.

The tour started in Bangkok and we worked our way north via private van and an overnight train.

Most of our travels were in air conditioned vans, which was great with our luggage in the hot and humid weather.  We stopped at little cafe style restaurants for lunch and dinner that provided decent and cheap meals.  For me, all of the food was amazing and delicious. I’m a fan of spice and it was hard not to find a flavoursome dish at every place.  And I was thrilled that a meal usually cost less than 80 baht (£2 or $3).

We visited so many different places. In Bangkok we visited the Wat Pho giant Buddha.  Our guide explained a lot of history about every place we visited.

 

 

 

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Bridge on the River Kwai

One of my favourite parts of the trip was the raft house.  I had imagined we’d be staying in a wooden hut on stilts in the water.  The raft house was actually a little white house-ship that was docked at the side of a lake.  It was not luxurious, and it was definitely different.  The real surprise was that a  motor boat connected to the raft house and pulled the whole thing along the lake!  We all sat on the deck and enjoyed the ride.  We ‘parked’ along the lakeside on the mountainous side and the motor boat left us.  This was our isolated stop until the morning.  I hopped in a canoe with three new tourist friends and we paddled around a couple of bends.  The views were amazing.  Our canoe was precariously balanced with four of us, which added to the fun. I’m pleased to say there was no tipping over.  Some of the others had a swim in the warm water before dinner, which was served at an open table and delivered to us by a motor boat. It was a quiet and relaxing evening, and I loved sleeping in a floating house!

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A raft house being pulled along the lake

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Beautiful morning views

There were a lot of beautiful temples and ruins on our agenda.  I liked the places we stayed at and breakfast was included everyday.  Sometimes we had time to explore on our own or relax.

The overnight train was an interesting experience, and one I was glad to have the guidance of our tour guide!

Another highlight was the cooking class that I signed up to in Chiangmai.  We visited a local market to buy fresh ingredients before going to the cooking school to make spring rolls, green curry, tom yum soup and pad thai.  I was really impressed by how easy it all seemed (of course it helped that the school pre-prepped a lot of things for us!). I actually feel I could make all of these dishes again.

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Meat market

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Cooking the best Tom Yum soup

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Also in Chiangmai, some of us in the group went to a ladyboy cabaret show, which was a lot of fun.  It consisted of beautiful ladyboys dressed in cabaret style outfits, feathers and all, performing dance routines to classic hits like ‘it’s raining men’. There was a great atmosphere and everything was in good jest.

The tour finished on a Sunday morning and I decided to stay an extra night in Chiangmai before heading back to Bangkok by train.  I had a great time at the Sunday night market which had a variety of items on sale and amazing food stalls.

In a country that feels so ‘foreign’ – different language, culture and food – the tour was a really nice and safe introduction to Thailand. I appreciated the good company and having someone to ‘hold my hand’ when going to restaurants, tourist sites and using tuktuks for the first time.

I did go on to spend another week in Bangkok which was really fun and felt like a breeze to get around on my own after a week with the tour.

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