The second part of my adventures around Canada during my semester abroad was a trip to Banff, the number one place that I wanted to visit in Canada… and boy did it live up to my expectations! I spent my thanksgiving long-weekend in early October 2017 exploring Banff National Park and the town of Banff. Some of the highlights included visiting Lake Moraine, the Banff Gondola, hiking around Lake Louise, exploring the Cave & Basin National Historic Site, and trekking through some of the trails around the city of Banff like the Bow River/Falls trail, Fendland Loop/Vermillion Lakes, and the Tunnel Mountain trail.
In September of 2017 I arrived in the Fraser Valley in BC, Canada for my university semester abroad. Since the town I was living/studying in was only an hour and a half from Vancouver, I decided to get a job working on the weekends in Vancouver. My first adventure around Canada was to explore the top tourist attractions in Vancouver, and I managed to see Grouse Mountain, Vancouver Lookout, and the Capilano Suspension Bridge, as well as cycle the Stanley Park Seawall and do a whale watching tour (where I saw humpback AND killer whales) all one long weekend.
As the final destination on my July-August 2017 Asian backpacking trip, I was determine to go out with a bang- and Vietnam helped me do just that. From Phnom Penh Cambodia, my friends and I made our way to Ho Chi Minh City, where we learnt all about the Vietnam War and visited the Cu Chi tunnels, explored life for the locals living out along the Meekong Delta, and checked out HCMC and its nightlife. From Ho Chi Minh we flew up to Hoi An, where we spent a few days exploring the city by bike, visiting the beach, and a trip to My Son, a group of abandoned and partially ruined Hindu temples near Hoi An. We then flew from Hoi An to Hanoi, where we did a day tour of the nearby Vietnamese countryside, a day trip to the beautiful archipelago of Ha Long Bay, and spent some tie exploring the city of Hanoi with some new friends.
Cambodia is a small country, but it has a lot to offer. When I was travelling through South East Asia in August 2017, I met some of my friends in Phnom Penh where we spent a few days before visiting Siem Reap, just getting a taste of Cambodia’s history and culture. In all honesty, the main reason for visiting Cambodia was because I was travelling through Asia and my friends were coming from Australia, so we needed a good place to meet and organise our visas for our Vietnam trip- but we still made the most of the few days that we spent in Cambodia. Highlights of our time in Phnom Penh included a sunset cruise along the Meekong River, the city palace, Wat Phnom temple, the killing fields, the genocide museum, and a vegan cooking class. Siem Reap is most famous for Angkor Wat- the largest religious monument in the world, which is definitely not to be missed. Also, if you’ve never seen a floating village, Kompong Phluk makes a great half-day trip.
Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is a culturally diverse and rich country that has not seen a boom in tourism like its South East Asian counterparts. It’s a large country that has a lot to offer tourists, but if you’ve only got a short stay in Myanmar (7-10 days) this wold be an ideal itinerary for you. Make sure that when you book flights you fly in and out of a different airport (fly in to Yangon and out of Mandalay like I did, or do the reverse). If you fly in to Mandalay and out from Yangon, just follow this guide in reverse.
One you have arrived and settled in to Yangon get out and explore the city. Just wandering the streets will give you such a great insight into what Myanmar is like. Make sure you head to Shwedagon Pagoda- the most sacred Buddhist Pagoda in Myanmar, with a large gilded stupa that dominates the surrounding skyline.
On your second day, get out and do a tour of Yangon via the circular loop train line. The circular train is a local commuter train that goes into the suburbs of Yangon, for a taste of what life is like for the locals outside the city. Purchase tickets at the central train station, and jump off wherever you want to explore further, and don’t miss out on all of the markets along the way. This was definitely a highlight of my time in Yangon, but don’t just take my word, check out what people are saying on TripAdvisor.
1 or 2 days
Ideally, try to get an overnight bus to Inle Lake, that way you will not only save money avoiding a hostel but also get an extra day to spend at Inle or in Nyaungshwe, the town surrounding the lake. I was unable to book an overnight bus so I had to spend a day traveling to Inle.
Upon your arrival book a boat tour of the lake. You can do this through your hotel/hostel or a local travel agency, and should look at paying between $5-$20 USD. This is the standard introductory tour to Inle lake that pretty much everyone who visits will do, and regardless of who you book your boat tour with they will take you to a standard set of sights to visit cigar makers, silk and lotus weavers, jewellery makers, blacksmiths, and Kayan people. You will be encouraged by all of the locals to buy things from their shops, but if you’re not interested just tell them and they wont pressure you. If you have more time in Inle rent a bicycle and explore around the town or the lake.
Ideally, catch an overnight bus from Inle Lake to Bagan.
When you arrive in Bagan there are multiple ways to get out and explore the temples. You can hire bicycles or motorcycles, join an organised tour, or hire a taxi. I hired a taxi because I only had 1 day to explore Bagan, and it cost me $40 for the whole day- this could be split between up to 4 people for $10 each. There is also the option of a horse and cart, but this is extremely unethical.
Mandalay is a lovely city and is far less crowded than Yangon. A visit to the city palace and Mandalay hill is a must, both offer incredible sites and views of the city. If you have time, hire a motorbike driver (about $8 for the day) to take you to other temples and sites in between the two- you wont regret it.
Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is a gorgeous country, it’s culturally diverse and nowhere near as toursity as its South East Asian counterparts. Whilst I was travelling an another Asian backpacking trip in July/August 2017, I decided to shorten my stay in Sri Lanka so that I could spend some time in Myanmar before meeting up with my friends in Cambodia. I had about 8 days in total to explore the country of Myanmar, and while I was hesitant at first as to how much I’d actually get to see during that time, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I did get to see, thanks to some careful planning prior to arriving.
During my stay in Myanmar I visited Yangon, Inle Lake, Bagan, and Mandalay.
Check out my MYANMAR TRAVEL GUIDE to help you plan a short stay in Myanmar.
After my time in India, I made my way to Sri Lanka at the end of July 2017. I arrived in Colombo, before travelling to Kandy where I spent time overcoming a stomach bug. After spending a day exploring Kandy and its famed Temple of the Tooth Relic, I jumped on a train to Habarana to visit Kaudulla National Park and Sigiriya Rock. From Habarana I caught a train to Trincomalee, where I spent two days relaxing around Nilaveli beach and Pigeon Island. From Trincomalee I cuaght an overnight train back to Colombo, before taking a day trip out to explore the town of Galle.
The final destination in my trip to India in July 2017 was around Kochi in Southern India. At the airport I become friends with two Australian guys that I then travelled around with. From Kochi we explored the Kerala backwaters, Munnar, and Kodaikanal, before I caught a stomach bug that abruptly ended my adventures.
In order to truely experience life in Northern India, it is essential you spend some time exploring the State of Rajasthan, renowned for its colourful cities, huge forts, impressive palaces, and stunning temples set amongst rugged desert landscapes. Most travellers who visit India will visit Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan as it forms part of India’s tourism hotspot the “Golden Triangle,” which consists of Jaipur, Agra, and Delhi. But Jaipur only brushes on the surface of what life is like in Rajasthan, and if you have anywhere from 1-2 weeks to explore the state, there are a few other Rajasthani cities that are not to be missed.
There are several ways to travel around Rajasthan, depending on your timeframe and budget. Trains and buses frequent between most of the cities, and are an affordable but slightly longer option. Alternatively, the cost to hire a private driver is between $30 and $50 USD per day (which can be split between people).
So without further ado, these are my must-see cities in Rajasthan (in a Delhi-Delhi circuit)…
Bikaner is a great first destination in Rajasthan from Delhi. We visited the impressive Junagarh Fort, probably the most impressive fort in Rajasthan (at least in my opinion,) and one of Bikaner’s lesser-known attractions, the rat temple. Karni Mata Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Karni Mata, and as its name suggests, a temple that is filled with rats scurrying about.
Jaisalmer was probably my favourite city we visited in Rajasthan. It is known as the “Golden City” because of its distinguished golden sandstone architecture. Dominating the skyline is Jaisalmer Fort, the only remaining living fort in Rajasthan (meaning the fort is still used as a place for people to live and work). The city itself is small enough to navigate on foot, and the abundance of eateries and markets make the city very easy to get lost in.
Located in the heart of the Thar Desert, Jaisalmer is also one of the best places to do an overnight desert safari, where you are able to go out into the desert and spend a night sleeping under the stars. This was one of the highlights of our trip for sure, there was plenty of entertainment for use and the food was great too!
Jodhpur is known as the “Blue City,” because of its blue buildings that line its skyline among the Thar Desert. Also prominent in Jodhpur’s skyline is the 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort, which was formerly palace but has now been turned into a museum.
Heading from Jodhpur to Udaipur it was clear the Udaipur was far more developed than other parts of Rajasthan. The city is set around a series of artificial lakes and is known for its lavish City Palace, definitely the most impressive palace we explored on our trip.
Pushkar was our final destination in Rajasthan before heading to the capital Jaipur. It is set around Pushkar Lake, a sacred Hindu site with 52 ghats (stone staircases) that is an important Pilgrimage site for locals. Make sure you hike (or take a cable car) up the mountain to the temple for an impressive view of the town, and try one of Rajasthan’s famed bhang lassi’s: a drink that’s made of yoghurt or milk, nuts, spices like cardamom and cinnamon, rose water, and cannabis.
One vendor even made me a vegan version of a bhang lassi!
After Pushkar we explored the city of Jaipur, and continued on to rest of the Golden Triangle, which you can read about here.
After spending 10 days exploring the state of Rajasthan in July 2017, my travel companions and I ended our trip in Northern India by spending our last 3 days together in India’s Golden Triangle, from Jaipur, to Agra, to Delhi (where we had already spent some time exploring when we arrived in India.)
Many of the amazing photos you see in the vlog & below were taken by my friend @dandgough (on instagram).