Travel Fails: Hong Kong Edition

Hong Kong

When planning this trip I was extremely nervous. By this point I’d been out of the country by myself a few times but going out-of-continent was a step further so I made sure to do my research. I went on the ‘gov.uk’ website which advised Hong Kong was relatively safe for tourists, watched vlogs, read blogs of other solo travellers, googled the question, generally got a lot of advice and decided that Hong Kong would be safe to visit by myself. I booked it feeling relatively confident.

Of course no one could predict the protests that would start taking place throughout the city and as my trip began to approach I started to get nervous. I don’t know enough about the protests to comment my opinion on them, I was just slightly selfishly worried that they’d ruin my trip. The news made it sound disastrous but I kept an eye on ‘gov.uk’ website which basically said ‘you can still go but make sure to avoid the protests’. I started checking out tourists’ photos on Instagram and lots of people still seemed to be having a good time in the city. Besides, I couldn’t really risk losing my money so I set off.

The flights went okay. I was due to travel to Amsterdam and then Hong Kong. The first flight got delayed by twenty minutes and I was proper on edge about missing my second flight but even though we set off late we still arrived on time. The only fail from that flight is that during take-off I must’ve looked terrified because once we’d levelled out a member of the cabin crew came over and asked “Are you okay? I saw you gripping your arm rest during take-off.” In my defence, yes there was some shaking from the clouds but also the pilot was flying like a madman. But luckily we made it into Amsterdam in one piece.

My original plan had been to find a souvenir shop in the airport as the only snow globe I’m missing from my collection is Amsterdam (I started buying a snow globe of all the places I visit abroad but unfortunately didn’t start this until I went to Luxembourg). I was so stressed about my next flight that I just went straight to the gate and completely forgot about the snow globe. Earlier that year me and my friends had missed our connecting flight to Belgium and I was desperate not to repeat this as my flight was the only one going to Hong Kong that day. I went straight to the gate and just sat there until we were allowed to board the plane.

Once on the plane we were informed there was a delay which lasted about an hour but I wasn’t too concerned. My flight was landing in Hong Kong in the early morning and I knew I’d be shattered so I wasn’t fussed if we were late. In fact I hoped we were later so that I had less time to kill between landing and checking into the hotel. I was quite lucky on this flight because the middle seat on my row was left unoccupied (the guy had turned up, said it was his seat and then disappeared and never came back) so me and the window seat guy had extra space which was appreciated. We took off and landed in Hong Kong after ten hours of flying bang on the time we were originally supposed to land – apparently they’d put extra fuel in so that we could fly faster and therefore we made it on time. This never happens when I’m in a rush.

Hong Kong 2

I won’t lie, day one wasn’t fun. I landed at 10:20AM and my hotel didn’t open check-in until 2PM and I didn’t want to start dragging my case around the city. It was a Sunday so apparently there were protests happening but luckily not at the airport. I spent the morning in the airport before setting off at 1PM to find my hotel.

To be fair the transport in Hong Kong is so easy to understand that I didn’t get worried navigating. I did get worried on the Island Line when we went via Causeway Bay as I’d heard there were protests there and I’d seen that some do spill onto the MTR, however we passed by and all was fine. I made it to the hotel in one piece to be informed my room wouldn’t be ready for another thirty minutes. Obviously not the end of the world but as I sat down in reception I realised I was way more tired than I thought I was originally as I was feeling super spacey. Luckily the receptionist came over and informed me my room was ready and also that I’d been given a harbour view room. I was pretty happy with this considering harbour view cost extra and I hadn’t splashed out for it but it had paid off anyway!

The reviews had made it sound like the room was going to essentially be the size of a cupboard but it was a decent size and spotlessly clean. I’d chosen an ibis as I wanted a trustworthy chain hotel on my first out-of-continent trip.

Hong Kong 3

Day One was a bit of a write-off to be honest. I was so bloody tired that I went out to try and do some sight-seeing in the local area but it was so hot and busy that after an hour or so I ended up back in my hotel. I read for a bit but found I was nodding off and it was still only about 4PM. I decided to have a ‘half-nap’ for a couple of hours which is where I lie down and try to sleep but also play music moderately in the background so that if I do nod off the music will startle me awake again – I get to relax but not so much that I can’t sleep later. Got up again, had a shower and then finally gratefully collapsed into bed at 7PM.

Unfortunately I was woken up by the woman next door. It sounded like there were three people in the room and one of them, whom I nicknamed Foghorn Voice, was on the phone to someone else and they were on loudspeaker. I didn’t want to get out of bed and check the time but I kindly gave her the benefit of the doubt and assumed it was around 8 – 9PM and she had no idea someone was trying to sleep as it was still early. Luckily she eventually hung up and everyone in the room stopped talking so I managed to get a decent night’s sleep and was up early on my birthday.

My birthday at Disneyland was fabulous, I wrote a long post about it here but the only fail was that I hadn’t brought sun cream with me from England. I’d had a quick look in Boots before I left but hadn’t spotted any so decided not to take any at all – it had been hot in Japan but I hadn’t burnt. I quickly realised this was probably because the dresses I’d worn then covered pretty much all of my skin whereas at Disneyland I was showing a fair bit of chest and all of my arms were exposed. By the end of the day my chest, shoulders and nose were burnt. Also from all the walking I’d done I ended up with horrendous blisters and had to deal with that for the rest of the week.

Hong Kong Disneyland

The next day was October 1st, National Day in Hong Kong. I’d initially been sort of excited upon finding out as I’d heard there was going to be a fireworks display and all sorts of celebrations but of course due to the protests I believe these were cancelled and there were major protests planned across the city. In fact that night I heard Foghorn Voice (at bloody 11PM so she was an inconsiderate hoe after all) telling whoever she was speaking to on the phone that her and her partner weren’t going out as they were worried about the protests. It got me wondering if I was being wise to go out but since I only had limited time in Hong Kong I decided I’d have to risk it.

My sight-seeing that day was on the outskirts of the city and I made it there on public transport just fine. I didn’t see any protests and where I was everything was nice and calm. I managed to tick everything off my list for that day and I decided to head back to the hotel early as I wanted to avoid the worst of the protests.

Too late unfortunately. I made it back to ‘Hong Kong’ station but unfortunately couldn’t change to ‘Central’ station because it had been closed in the protests. The station staff were telling people to go and catch the bus so out I went to the bus station to discover none of the buses were running either. I won’t lie to you I got very panicked at this point until I overheard a member of staff tell another tourist to ‘go and catch the ferry’.

The ‘star ferry’ had been on my itinerary but I hadn’t hoped to catch it in these circumstances. When it got to its destination I realised that although I was technically now closer to the hotel I was also on the wrong side of the river. Google Maps advised me there was a bus around the corner that would take me straight to the hotel. I felt a bit more hopeful as there were other buses working in the area so round the corner I went and started to wait.

The bus was meant to be once every twenty minutes but after forty-five minutes I admitted defeat and I had to go and find water because I was dying of thirst. Even though the sun had now set the city was still boiling and I was still completely panicked. The last thing I wanted to do was walk over an hour through the city back to my hotel and come across a protest. I was proper on edge, hot, thirsty and tired – all I wanted was to be back at my hotel!

After a lot of research I discovered there was another harbour where I could catch a boat to North Point harbour which was right opposite my hotel. Unfortunately this harbour was a half-an-hour walk away but I had no other plan so I set off hoping to find it.

Hong Kong 4

About ten minutes into the journey I made the briefest eye contact with the bloke standing next to me and he turned to me, smiled and said “Hi.” I responded in the smallest voice ever and when he asked how I was I responded “Good, you?” and then immediately beat myself up internally for returning the question. When he asked for my name I ignored him. He asked me a couple more questions before I wearily said “I’m just trying to find my hotel.” “I want to get to you know you a bit better though” he responded and I said “Okay but I’m a bit busy right now”. Luckily he took the hint then and buggared off somewhere else but like? I was sweaty and stressed, some random bloke trying to hit on me was the last thing I needed – or expected to be honest!

Unfortunately I hit a dead end on Google Maps. It was telling me to continue walking but there was a ton of building work meaning I couldn’t go any further. I decided to try and get back on track and went up a ramp and into a tunnel which took me into an MTR station which was still open. I had a quick look at the map and realised if I went up I could change to a different line, go across, change lines again, come back down and end up at the station for my hotel. It was a bit of a risk because if I went up and the line wasn’t running or the station was closed then I’d be even further from the hotel but it was a risk I’d have to take.

Luckily the risk paid off as all the lines were open and all the stations I needed were open. I made it back to the hotel three hours later than I would’ve if the original station had just been open. I was just grateful to be back in my nice air-conditioned room. I had a shower and gratefully collapsed into bed. It sounds so easy and simple reading it back but I was genuinely panicking that I wouldn’t be able to make it back to the hotel at one point. I honest to God don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to make it back to my accommodation before – I even bought some chocolate from the 7-11 in the metro station to celebrate.

Hong Kong 5

The next couple of days generally went without a hitch, even the people next door were generally quieter until Thursday night. I got into bed at a reasonable time when next door started watching something – sounded like it was on a tablet or laptop and it was a stand-up comedian. They had it literally on full blast and the sound of the studio audience was going right through me. I put up with it for as long as I could stand before getting up and knocking on the door – you have to understand that I’m such an awkward person that this was a big leap for me! I’d expected to hear some grumbling but the programme was immediately switched off and then I didn’t hear anything for the rest of the trip – thank God!

All went relatively well until Saturday morning. I spent most of the morning doing last minute packing and getting ready to go then left my suitcase in the hotel and said I wouldn’t be back until 6PM. However when I left I discovered the entire MTR system wasn’t running due to protests that had happened the night before. I was a bit worried but tried to carry on with my day – I was going to catch a tram to the first sight-seeing place on my list but all the trams were packed and I was a bit confused anyway. I sat in a McDonalds for about an hour before messaging my Mom when it turned 7AM back home to ask whether she thought I should just go straight to the airport. I didn’t know if the public transport situation was going to get worse and I really didn’t need a repeat of Tuesday. She told me she thought that was sensible and I went back to the hotel to collect my suitcase – they seemed a bit confused that I was there so early but I wasn’t taking any chances!

Luckily the buses were still running and I caught one which took me to the airport within an hour. I arrived at the airport at around 2PM and my flight wasn’t until 10:50PM, I hadn’t even intended to set off for the airport until 6:30PM. But at least I was there and ready to catch my flight. I killed the time by watching shows on my fire tablet, got dinner when I was through to departures and had a good look around the airport Disney store before boarding the plane.

The flight home luckily went without a hitch, I slept better on the way back and got to Paris in plenty of time for the next flight. Unfortunately this time I had to go through security so I had to bin an unopened bottle of water and it just really annoys me when you have to do that. I just got off a flight, what would I have obtained between now and then?

The flight from Paris to Birmingham was absolutely horrendous, the turbulence was so bad that a member of the cabin crew fell over as she was walking down the middle and I consoled myself with the fact that at least it was happening on the short flight – you’re in the air probably less than an hour.

Overall I think considering what was going on in Hong Kong during my visit it was a relatively successful visit. I didn’t bump into any protests (I briefly went into a shopping centre where lots of people were yelling but that was it) and any problems that arose were eventually solved. So for my first solo out-of-continent trip I think I did very well! I’d love to go back to Hong Kong one day, hopefully when the political situation has calmed down.

Hong Kong Haul

BT21

As the days passed in Hong Kong I realised that a lot of the things I was doing were either free or quite cheap. The most expensive thing when I was there was obviously my trip to Disneyland but I had quite a lot of spending money. I definitely could’ve gone more overboard but I also allowed myself to spend quite a lot extra than I would’ve done normally. I love being able to take a suitcase on holiday, it means way more room for souvenirs. So I decided to write a list of the things I bought whilst in Hong Kong. Enjoy!

I’ve tried to order it correctly but some of it may be incorrect!

Hong Kong Disneyland Tin

Disneyland Tin

I didn’t buy much at Tokyo Disneyland – the shop me and my friends went in at the end of the day was heaving so I felt like I couldn’t have a good browse because everyone was in there and they were getting on my nerves. I bought a plushie, a postcard and a present for our friend Hirst but that was it. At Hong Kong Disneyland I went earlier in the evening when the shop was still quiet and managed to come away with a few goodies.

When in Tokyo Becca had bought a Pokémon tin and I always regretted not getting one similar so when I saw this one in Hong Kong Disneyland I knew I had to have it. I haven’t tried the cookies inside yet because to be honest I don’t imagine they’ll taste amazing and anyway I was more interested in having the cute tin so I could store whatever I wanted inside of it. I’m glad I bought it because it’s so sweet!

Winnie the Pooh Key Ring

Winnie the Pooh Keyring

I think Winnie the Pooh is my favourite Disney character – it changes all the time but he was when I visited the Tokyo park too and he was the character I was most excited about meeting at Hong Kong Disneyland (don’t care how lame that makes me sound, I love him!). When I saw this cute Key Ring of Winnie wearing a raincoat I just knew I had to have it. He’s now on my back pack. I also saw a larger plushie wearing the raincoat and I was so close to caving in but decided not to because I doubt I would’ve done much with it but God it was difficult because it was so cute!

Disney Key Rings

Disney Keyring

I knew I had to get my friends a present from Disneyland; it wasn’t even up for debate. I was having a good look around with no idea what to get when I spotted these key rings. I wanted one for myself and realised I could grab my friends favourite characters. The one pictured above is the one I chose for myself – I don’t think Winnie the Pooh was an option with these ones and I also absolutely love the Toy Story films.

Disney Keyrings

These are the ones I bought for my friends – Mulan for Becca, Belle for Hirst and Alice for Jess. Then at the airport there was a Disney store – a small one in the airport and a bigger one once you’re into the departures lounge. I had a good browse in there and then decided to also get a couple of key rings for my friends Sorcha and Emma – Ariel for Sorcha and Spider-Man for Emma. I think they’re so cute, if there’s any at the Florida one I might get a couple more!

Disneyland Fridge Magnet

Disneyland Magnet

I normally give magnets away as a gift – normally to my Mom or my brother’s ex-girlfriend but never really bother with any for myself because like, the fridge isn’t mine, it’s my parents. But when I saw this magnet I just couldn’t resist. It’s gone so many cute characters on, including my fave Winnie the Pooh so I decided to get it. When I eventually get my own place it’ll come with me and be the first magnet on my fridge!

Disneyland Stickers

Disneyland Stickers

As the Halloween event was on when I visited Disneyland the cast members were giving out different things. When I was queuing to meet Mickey and Minnie there was a cast member giving out candy to children and he eventually offered me some too so I accepted because like free candy, why not? Unfortunately once I had them I realised they were marshmallows of which I’m not a fan but hey it was still free candy! Other cast members were also giving out stickers – I’m not sure if this was just for the Halloween event or if they always do this but it was a nice touch. I was too shy to specifically ask cast members for the stickers but I managed to get these two – one from the woman in the shop who cashed up my items and another from the woman at the front of the Mystic Manor ride who handed one to me. They’re so cute and they’ll look good in my scrapbook!

Disneyland Travel Tag

Disneyland Travel

Something else I picked up from the airport on my way home. I do already have a luggage tag, its Harry Potter themed but when I spotted this I couldn’t resist. It’s gone straight onto my suitcase, I love it so much – I hope my Mom doesn’t bloody lose it when she borrows my case!

Toy Story Pen

Toy Story Pen

This was the last thing I picked up from the airport store. As previously mentioned, I really love the Toy Story movies so when I saw this pen I decided to get it. The idea was I’d take it to work with me to write messages but I tried it out at home and it’s bloody heavy and difficult to write with! So I’m not sure if it’ll end up at work.

Hong Kong Snow Globe

Hong Kong Snowglobe

Since me and my friends visited Luxembourg I decided to start collecting snow globes for all the places I visit. The only one missing from my collection at the moment is Amsterdam – I was meant to look for one actually on my stopover on the way to Hong Kong but the plane had been delayed and I was so fucking stressed about missing my flight that I sprinted straight to the gate and sat there without moving until we are all called onto the plane.

Luckily I did manage to find one for Hong Kong. I had been worrying I wouldn’t find any as I hadn’t seen many tacky gift shops in Japan or South Korea but when I visited the Big Buddha statue there were a couple of stalls that sold water, fruit and souvenirs. The cold water was a saviour and I spotted this cute snow glove which was the perfect size for my collection and also contained Big Buddha, one of the things that had drawn me to the country in the first place. It’s now taken pride and place on my travel memories shelf.

Little Buddha Figure

Buddha Figure

I hadn’t realised how much stuff was at the top of Victoria Peak when I visited, I just figured it would be like the top of a hill – I hadn’t realised Madame Tussauds was up there along with a bunch of places to eat and souvenir stalls the moment you entered. I had a good browse through all of them and although there was a lot of stuff not all of it was incredible. I decided to get this little Buddha figure though because as mentioned, the Big Buddha had drawn me to Hong Kong when I’d been looking at things to do and it was one of my favourite things I saw whilst there. It’s also been added to my travel memories shelf.

Lucky Cat

Lucky Cat

When me and my friends visited Amsterdam I’d bought a lucky cat figurine that I’d put on my desk at work. I thought I was leaving my job so I brought the cat home and then when I realised I wasn’t going I never took the cat back, it stayed on my travel memories shelf. My cat from Japan is also on the shelf but I wanted one for my desk at work again. So I bought this one from Victoria Peak and I’ve put it on my desk – hopefully it will bring me some luck! God knows I need it.

Postcards

Postcards

I really like scrapbooking my adventures so postcards are always a good idea as you can stick them in and they’re a good reminder of where you’ve been. The photos also generally look better than the ones I take so it’s just a bonus all around really!

Hong Kong Magnet

Hong Kong Magnet

I’m never really sure what to buy my Mom as a present so I’ve settled on fridge magnets now as she’s collecting them from places she visits as well and she always buys one for my brothers fridge so I’ve started doing the same. This one was the best one I found and I really like it.

Jackie Chan Photo

Me + Jackie Chan

I don’t know, okay? You weren’t allowed to take photos on your phone with Jackie Chan and I figured I’d never likely go back and get my photo taken with him again so like why not?

Ocean Park Key Rings

Ocean Park Key Rings.jpg

I didn’t get much from Ocean Park but I absolutely love sea lions/seals, they’re my favourite animals and after visiting their enclosure I decided to buy myself the little key ring with a seal wearing pyjamas. I decided to grab my friends one each too – the Whale for Becca as I know she loves orcas, the penguin for Jess and the turtle for Hirst. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised although I’d got my friends some cute gifts I hadn’t really got them anything that screamed ‘Hong Kong’ – whoops!

Wooden Fork

Wooden Fork

I spent so much money on those key rings that I got given this free fork at Ocean Park. I don’t imagine I’ll ever use it but like hey, who doesn’t love a freebie?

BT21 Chimmy Key Ring

Chimmy

I wasn’t all that fussed about BT21 when it was first announced, it wasn’t until earlier this year when me and Becca saw BTS at Wembley and visited the BT21 pop-up shop that I actually decided I liked it. When I saw someone with a Line Friends bag with the BT21 characters on I knew I had to visit the store. I was a bit nervous about visiting Causeway Bay as a lot of protests had taken place there but I figured if I went first thing in the morning it might be okay. As I was planning this very spookily my sister popped up to me saying ‘Don’t visit Causeway Bay’ – she has colleagues in Hong Kong who had been advising her where the worst of the protests are happening. Desperate to visit the Line Friends store I very badly ignored her advice.

Although J-Hope is my bias I still think the ‘Chimmy’ figure is my favourite so I went for this little key ring. It’s now on my backpack right next to my Winnie the Pooh figure. It looks so cute!

BT21 Tata Pen

BT21 Pen.jpg

I can’t really remember what made me pick Tata but I guess the pen must’ve been the cutest one. This was another one where I wanted a cute pen to take to work so I settled on this one. I did take this one to work earlier this week, used it for one day and then it bloody ran out of ink. Ripoff. A friend on Twitter has advised me of a way to potentially get it working again but I haven’t had chance to give it a go yet. We’ll see I guess!

BT21 Notebooks

BT21 Notebooks

The notebooks were all so cute – I was only going to get one but I narrowed it down to these two and in the end I just couldn’t pick. My original plan had been to also take these to work and use them for note taking etc as I use notebooks the most when I’m at work but mine is the bog standard one that comes with the stationery orders, other people have ones they’ve bought themselves and they look much cuter. But these look a bit TOO cute for work, I’m not sure I want to use them to scribble people’s phone messages inside. Ah, I don’t know!

BT21 Eye Masks

BT21 eyemasks

As my friends Becca and Jess are also BTS fans I decided to get them both something from the BT21 store. I have no idea why but I settled on these eye masks. I got Koya for Becca because she chose Koya back in June when we visited the BT21 store and chose Shooky for Jess as Suga is her bias. Hopefully they like them and find some use for them?

Line Friends Gift

Line Friends Gift

I spent so much at the Line Friends store that I got given this free gift. Looks like a key ring and a lip balm. I’ll probably use the key ring, I bloody love key rings.

Toy Story Plushies

Toy Story Plushies

One evening I decided to visit a shopping centre as I’d heard there was a K-Pop store. It wasn’t a ‘store’ as such, there was some K-Pop merch but you couldn’t take them off their little hooks without getting the member of staff to do it for you and I wasn’t feeling very confident. I didn’t want the things THAT badly, I’d have bought them if it was easier but like I wasn’t desperate you know?

However, I came across a little arcade with claw machines and couldn’t resist having a go. I’d had a go on a machine in Tai O Fishing Village the day before but had been unsuccessful – I partly blame the two little kids that stopped to watch me and were going “Ooooooh – AHHHHH!” as I played, it was a bit off putting but bless them they were cute haha. I had a go on the machines here and managed to win on the Toy Story machine before heading off to have dinner. After dinner I decided to have one more go and for some reason ended up back on the same machine… And won all over again. As I didn’t get Hirst anything from the BT21 store I’ve decided to give her the spare plushie.

So there we go, that’s what I bought from Hong Kong! I splurged a little but definitely could’ve spent a lot more I think!

Hong Kong Disneyland

Hong Kong Disneyland

This year I decided that I wanted to do something fun for my birthday. I wrote down a list of things that I could do and then an idea struck. Could I go on a solo ‘out-of-continent’ trip for my birthday? Could I afford it? Would I even dare to go that far on my own? My research began and I narrowed it down to two destinations – Taipei in Taiwan or Hong Kong.

I ended up settling on Hong Kong for one reason – Disneyland. Okay, hear me out before you jump down my throat! I was obviously interested in visiting other parts of Hong Kong and all the cultural sites but it’s on my bucket list to visit every Disneyland across the globe and I also figured that meant I could spend my birthday doing something fun. I hadn’t found many theme parks or anything similar in Taipei so it was settled. I was going to spend my birthday at Hong Kong Disneyland.

Before I even made it to the airport I began watching vlogs and making plans. I only had one day at Disneyland and I wanted to make the most of it. I downloaded the app onto my phone so I could check the wait times for the rides each day. I went on the website and wrote a list of rides I thought I’d be okay on and highlighted any that I definitely wanted to check out – I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to rides but I still love going to theme parks!

One of the main things I was looking forward to was queuing only for things that I actually intended to ride. My friends are more ‘big thrill seekers’ so they like going on big rides so I often end up joining them in the queue and then not going on the ride. And don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t mind queuing for things they want to ride as it’s their day just as much as it is mine but I was still excited to only queue for things I wanted.

In the end I had a loose plan on what I definitely wanted to ride and the order I intended to do things and soon I’d arrived in Hong Kong. I arrived the day before my birthday on the 29th of September and had an extremely early night so that I’d have some energy for the next day. I woke up early on the 30th of September, grabbed breakfast at the hotel and set off nice and early for Disneyland.

I was really pleased with the dress I’d bought. For Tokyo Disneyland I’d really wanted a cute Disney themed outfit to wear but unfortunately hadn’t found anything. This time I was more determined and had a quick look on etsy when I found a cute shop that had tons of Disney themed dresses along with other designs. Although they weren’t cheap they also weren’t unreasonable, and they had sizes up to 5XL. I was still worried it would be too small but after ages I settled on a Buzz Light-year themed dress and prayed it would fit. When it arrived it was actually slightly too big but I was pleased because you can work with too big, there’s not a lot to be done about too small.

Hong Kong Disneyland has slightly weird opening times as it doesn’t officially open until 10:30AM and closes at 8PM. I was so keen to make the most of every second of the opening times since they were so limited that I arrived at the park at 9:30AM. A stranger very kindly took a photo of me in front of the Mickey fountain (that I’d seen in so many vlogs and was really excited to see in person), bought my ticket quickly and then joined the queue at the closed gates. At around 10AM a family were let into the park and they got to take photos with Mickey and Minnie in front of the flowerbed before Mickey and Minnie hopped into a vehicle and were driven off. Then the gates opened at about 10:15AM.

Hong Kong Disneyland 2

The gates are opened early as Main Street USA is open before the park officially opens. I went round the corner and spotted the queue to meet Mickey and Minnie. I hadn’t intended to meet them, it wasn’t on my list but the queue wasn’t long and I suddenly decided that I was GOING to meet Mickey and Minnie on my birthday. So I joined the back of the queue.

I knew Hong Kong was going to be warm when I visited but I didn’t realise how humid it would be and I quickly realised that in the dress I was wearing I was most likely going to burn. I’d intended to pack sun cream but hadn’t been able to find any in my local Boots so I’d given up – it was out of season in the UK but definitely not in Hong Kong! They’d put up some umbrellas so parts of the queue were shaded but unfortunately not enough of it.

Mickey and Minnie went off a couple of times during the queue which is fair enough ‘cos it was 30 degrees or more so they were probably dying but even so I was only in the queue for about 40 – 45 minutes before it was my turn. I’m always worried it’ll be awkward meeting the characters but the ones who can’t talk are easier. I gave them both a hug, got my photo taken and then got a hug off each of them again. Shout-out to the photographer who got some fab photos and then I left to officially start the day as the park was now open.

Me, Mickey + Minnie

My first stop was the ‘Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh’ ride because I’d seen this generated longer queues as the day went on. When I got round the queue was pretty much non-existent and I was let straight onto the ride. In fact as it was so quiet I got a honey pot all to myself. I was feeling a bit nervous, as I always do on rides I haven’t been on but reassured myself it was the bloody Winnie-the-Pooh ride – nothing was going to happen. Unfortunately, being me, I did get creeped out because the honey pot went into each section on its own and just as I began to relax the thought of ‘what if the ride breaks down and all the lights go out and you’re stuck in here on your own’ jumped into my head. When I was a kid I’d been at a place with singing animatronics, think ‘Chuck E Cheese’ but like a British version and I’d peeped behind the curtain to look at them and ever since then there’s something that really creeps me out about animatronics in the dark. Luckily the ride did not breakdown and it was a good ride – not as good as the Winnie-the-Pooh one from the Japan Park but I think that’s a Tokyo exclusive ride. The only downside was you get your photo taken mid-ride and I was so busy stressing about a potential breakdown that I completely missed it!

Hong Kong Disneyland 3

Since I was already in ‘Fantasyland’ I decided to hop onto the ‘It’s A Small World’ ride. We’d ridden it in Tokyo and it’s one of those classic rides that you just can’t miss. Again there was pretty much no queue and I was let straight into the front row of the boat – I had the row to myself but the other rows in the boat were filled, however the people before us had had the entire boat to themselves. It was a relaxing ride and it was so nice to be inside, Hong Kong know what they’re about when it comes to air conditioning so being on the rides was a great way to escape the heat.

Hong Kong Disneyland 4

I decided to go on ‘Cinderella’s Carousel’ next as it was in ‘Fantasyland’. Cinderella herself was next to the carousel and there was a short queue to meet her but I decided not to as it wasn’t shaded and I worried it might be a bit awkward. The carousel was good fun though, I absolutely love carousels.

The carousel ride was quick and I set off to visit ‘Toy Story Land’ – I’d been intending to go on ‘Slinky Dog Spin’ since my friends had ridden this in Paris and I hadn’t because I was sulking (I have no idea why because nothing had happened to put me in a mood but there you go?) but I suddenly didn’t feel confident enough to go on it. I imagine I would’ve been fine but decided not to. I love the Toy Story films but unfortunately other than that ride the others were a bit too big for me so I carried on walking until I’d made it to ‘Mystic Point’.

Hong Kong Disneyland 5

The one ride I knew I definitely had to ride was ‘Mystic Manor’. I’d chickened out of the ‘Haunted Mansion’ in Paris simply because the first room is an elevator and I was afraid of them at the time. ‘Mystic Manor’ is a Hong Kong exclusive ride – I read online they changed the theme of the ‘Haunted Mansion’ ride because China have cultural beliefs about ghosts or something. The general storyline for ‘Mystic Manor’ is that it’s the home of an eccentric explorer and his monkey companion. In the first room the explorer mentions a music box they’ve found that supposedly brings inanimate objects to life and the ride itself shows the monkey, Albert, turn it on and the adventures of all the objects coming to life.

I was a bit nervous about riding but I’d seen brief clips on YouTube and the app advised that although there was spinning and darkness it wasn’t anything too scary so even though I was apprehensive I joined the queue and got put in the front of the first cart. I’m so glad I went on it because that ride quickly became my favourite, it was just so much fun. It’s a trackless ride like the ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ ride in Tokyo which made it even better and it was just so much fun!

Hong Kong Disneyland 6

By this point it was around lunch time and I was starting to feel hungry so I had a look at what was available and ended up in the ‘Starliner Diner’ in Tomorrowland because most of the places to eat offered local cuisine and ‘Starliner Diner’ offered international. I’m not very adventurous with food when I go abroad, I’ll be honest. I had chicken on the bone with chips and an orange juice. This came with plastic gloves to eat the chicken with but it was so hot that I didn’t wanna squeeze them onto my hands and make them all sweaty so I didn’t bother. The chicken wasn’t amazing and I was really keen to get back out and go on more rides so once it had filled a hole I was off out.

Since I was in Tomorrowland my next ride was the ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ ride. The website and app had advised that these were slow rides but I hadn’t 100% believed them so I’d watched the first ten seconds of a YouTube video of the ride and quickly discovered this was true. If you’ve ever been to Madame Tussauds in London it was very much like that ride where the carts don’t stop and you just hop on and it slowly takes you through. You have a blaster gun and the aim is to earn as many points as possible. A lot of people in the comments had complained the theming wasn’t very good but to be fair you’re so busy trying to points that I didn’t even pay much attention to the actual ‘ride’.

Hong Kong Disneyland 7

It was fun but for the first few minutes I hadn’t realised I was pointing my blaster the wrong way. Someone had left it the wrong way so I’d just picked it up and I was wondering why everyone else could see their light and sort of ‘aim’ whilst I was shooting and having no idea where it was landing. Weirdly, I was still getting SOME points before I realised it was backwards. Once it was the right way I started to do a lot better unsurprisingly.

Hong Kong Disneyland 8

I came off and went straight over to the Iron Man Tech Showcase – it was closing soon and reopening later and since I was in the area I decided to go straight in. The app advised the wait was 40 minutes but I definitely didn’t wait that long, I’d say it was probably 20 minutes max and it may not have been that long. This is where you meet Iron Man and it was really cool, they make it look like he flew down behind some closed doors and then he walks in and everyone can take their picture with him.

Hong Kong Disneyland 9

As I was heading off to find the next thing to do I saw the streets were blocked off for the parade so I stopped to watch. It was difficult as all the spots in the shade were nabbed and the only decent spots left were right in the direct sunlight and it was BOILING. The parade itself was quite short and definitely didn’t compare to the Halloween one I’d seen in Tokyo. Like the floats were good but it just didn’t last long enough. Never mind.

Hong Kong Disneyland 10

By this point I hadn’t expected to have completed as much as I had so I was now in my sort of ‘overflow’ of rides and decided to go on the ‘Jungle River Cruise’. This was okay but wasn’t as good as I’d thought it would be and didn’t last as long as I’d thought it would. Still, the boat was shaded so that was the good thing. I’d spent so much time in the sun my breathing was starting to go a bit funny so I think it was making me a bit ill but I was determined to do as much as possible by the end of the day!

They’d added a temporary attraction which was Halloween themed and there were several different lines for different things. I think one was for a scary walkthrough and I sort of regret not going through it but since I was alone I didn’t feel confident enough to. I did however join the queue to meet Jack and Sally from ‘The Nightmare before Christmas’ – I was at the front of that queue and by the time we got sent inside there were only about three people behind me.

This one was a bit awkward as Sally could speak although Jack couldn’t and to be honest Jack was creeping me out a bit, it was really odd! Sally noticed my birthday badge and wished me a Happy Birthday and said she hoped ‘Birthday Town’ were planning a huge celebration for me. Then she noticed I was wearing a Jack choker so she was like “Look Jack, she’s got your face on a pendant! The Pumpkin King is honoured! Would you like to hold his arm for a photo?” which I won’t lie did make me cringe a bit but I had my photo taken and it came out looking pretty good.

Hong Kong Disneyland 11

I was in desperate need of some water at this point and decided to get a snack as well so I headed back to Main Street USA because in vlogs I’d seen some really cute doughnuts in the theme of Disney characters but unfortunately there was a queue to enter the café where they were sold and I needed water like now. I found a cart selling water and also the Mickey waffles that I’d also seen in vlogs so I decided to order one of them too. It was tasty but also extremely sickly – I appreciated having a few minutes to just sit in the shade though to be honest.

I checked the app to see what else was available in the park and saw that there were character meet and greets going on in ‘Fantasyland’ for the Winnie-the-Pooh characters. I absolutely love Winnie-the-Pooh so I decided to go and take a look. There was a short queue for Piglet but people weren’t being allowed to join, however they were being directed to what looked like a short ‘overflow’ queue so I stood with everyone else. After a few minutes Piglet left and we were let into the proper queue. I was low-key hoping that since Piglet had left Winnie-the-Pooh would come out instead now and he did! It may be childish but I was super excited to meet him. When it was my turn the photographer pointed out that it was my birthday and started singing while Winnie-the-Pooh danced to the tune. It was really sweet and the photo came out looking cute.

Hong Kong Disneyland 12

By this point it was absolutely boiling so I decided to hop onto ‘It’s a Small World’ again to escape the heat. By this point the lines were getting a bit longer but again, nothing too long. I was in the queue maybe 10 minutes if that before getting into the back row of the boat. It was nice to just relax in the air-con for a bit.

Next up I decided to go on ‘Mystic Manor’ again. I’d heard there were slightly different variations of the ride depending on which cart you ended up in. I don’t think the differences were major but I wanted to see. I joined the queue which again was longer but still wasn’t ‘long’ in the grand scheme of things and unfortunately ended up in the very same cart I’d been on originally. Oh well, the ride was a lot of fun and as before I’d managed to escape the heat.

Since I was repeating rides I wanted to go on ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ again – it would be more fun having my blaster pointed the right way round for the whole ride! I headed over but unfortunately it was temporarily closed so I ended up sitting in the shade for a bit before seeing another small ‘parade’. Again, this didn’t last very long but I had only caught the end of it – it was mostly the Mickey characters on various floats but it was still cute.

I’d wanted to see ‘Mickey and the Wondrous Book’ – not desperately but I had heard it was a good show but the next show time wasn’t for ages yet so I headed to ‘Mickey’s Philhar Magic’ first in ‘Fantasyland’. It was essentially a small cinema where you got 3D glasses and it was a short film about Donald trying to perform with Mickey’s magic hat and then getting sucked into several Disney films and trying to get the hat back. It was cute but it unfortunately meant that when I came out ‘Mickey and the Wondrous Book’ was now full. There was another one later but I decided not to bother.

I headed back to ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ and luckily it had reopened so I jumped into the queue and rode again. As predicted it was definitely more fun with your blaster pointed the right way the entire time. The ride does stop every so often, presumably if someone is having difficulty getting in or out of their cart as the ride doesn’t stop it just keeps going.

By now the sun was starting to set and I made the decision to go on ‘Mystic Manor’ again. I was absolutely determined to get on a different cart at least once but as luck would have it I ended up in the exact same cart. Again. As mentioned though that ride was definitely my favourite so although I would’ve like a different cart I’m just glad I got to ride it at all. It’s definitely the one ride I’d recommend if you’re at Hong Kong Disneyland.

When I got off I realised I was hungry again so I had a look on the app at places available to eat. As I already mentioned I’m not very adventurous with places to eat so I’m ashamed to say I went back to the ‘Starliner Diner’ and got some fish nuggets with chips and a water this time. At least in theme parks I’m more likely to eat an actual meal, I often make do with snacks when out and about sightseeing because I’m too nervous to order actual foods.

Once dinner was done the sun had completely set and I wanted to watch ‘Jack’s Villainous Gathering’ at 8PM so I decided it was time to start doing some shopping. At the Tokyo theme park we’d left our shopping until after the fireworks display but unfortunately so had 75% of the park so I wanted to get it done now before it was too busy. I headed back to a shop in ‘Fantasyland’ and stocked up on things for myself and also a present each for my friends Becca, Jess and Hirst.

I was going to head to Main Street USA and do some shopping there but on my way I noticed people were already sitting in front of the stage for ‘Jack’s Villainous Gathering’ and I wanted to nab a good spot so I sat down too. I ended up in the second row and hoped we’d be able to sit down throughout the show but a Cast Member told us all to stand up closer to the time. This low-key annoys me because sitting down I had such a clear view but when we stood up the guy in front of me was much taller and therefore blocking my view. And if my view was ruined then God knows how all the kids’ views were affected. But whatever.

The show began and although it was good, again, it wasn’t very long and there wasn’t much of a story to it. Jack and Sally were hosting a gathering of villains and it was cool to see a lot of villain characters as I hadn’t really seen any in the other parks I’d visited, only the heroes and princesses of the story. The villains I remember were Captain Hook, Oogie-Boogie, the Queen of Hearts, Maleficent, the Queen from ‘Snow White’ and Jafar. I’m glad I stayed to watch it but disappointed there were no fireworks.

Hong Kong Disneyland 13

I haven’t previously mentioned but I’m also slightly disappointed the castle was still under renovation. It was when I booked the trip but had been predicted to be finished by ‘Fall 2019’ but I think it’s been pushed back to early 2020 now. It does look like it’s going to be incredible, definitely an improvement on the little one that was there before so I’ll have to go back someday to see it when it’s finished.

After the show I decided to call it a night. I didn’t want to cram into the shops with tons of other people so I headed back to the MTR and headed back to the hotel. Overall it was an incredible day and I’m glad I got to visit. I saw many people saying that the Hong Kong park is a bit of a let-down since it’s quite small but I think it was fabulous – it may have been small but there was still plenty to see and do. I managed to do more at this park than any of the others I’ve visited, I think the Florida park will come as a bit of a shock now!

I definitely recommend a visit to Hong Kong Disneyland, it was so much fun and definitely ride ‘Mystic Manor’ if you get the chance.

Top 5 Favourite Memories from Seoul

Seoul 5

It’s been almost a year since me, Becca and Jess set off on our adventure to Asia and to be honest I’m still not over it. Not a day goes by when I don’t wish I was back on that exact trip, reliving the entire experience. I wanted to share my five favourite memories from Seoul. It was an amazing city but unfortunately I don’t think we spent anywhere near enough time there. We arrived on the Thursday from Japan and were boarding our plane back to the UK on the Monday. We will definitely have to return to South Korea at some point but for now I’m gonna relive my favourite moments!

Banana Tree Café

Banana Tree

I’m not sure where I heard of this place, I think I’d been googling whacky cafes to visit in Korea since we already had so many lined up for Japan and when I heard of this place I wanted to go. They make cakes served in little flower pots and you receive a little shovel spoon to eat them with. When I told my friends they were happy to go too and off we set.

The café was actually tiny upon arrival, there was maybe like three or four tables when we arrived. There wasn’t a table that seated more than two people so my friends sat on one table whilst I sat on a seat by a little ledge. Unfortunately I believe we’d eaten at the SM Town café earlier and had been keen for something savoury but they only served sweet food so by the time we arrived at Banana Tree, again, we were craving something savoury. Unfortunately for me the only savoury food wasn’t anything up my street so I ordered a chocolate and banana cake so at least I’d still get the cute flower pot. I also got a chocolate milkshake.

I can’t remember what drinks the girls ordered but when our drinks arrived first theirs was bloody impressive as it came with a large dollop of candyfloss on top. My chocolate milkshake was lush and then the food came. Becca and Jess had ordered mozzarella toast, a sensible choice as Becca’s a veggie and they both like cheese on toast and fancied something savoury. For reasons known only to the café the mozzarella toast also came with peanut butter and pieces of ham. That’s the thing I found most bizarre about Asia, most food didn’t have a description of what was in it and for those that did they occasionally missed ingredients out. At one café in Japan Becca ordered the one item she thought was vegetarian and it still came with meat in. That would definitely not fly in the UK.

Banana Tree 2

On the bright side my chocolate and banana cake was gorgeous and was really cute. It was a shame that I fancied savoury food but luckily there was a rib place over the road so once we were done in Banana Tree we headed over – me and Jess shared some pulled pork with fries whilst Becca had a serving of fries. So in the end I got the cute cake and something savoury so it was a good experience!

Ice Museum/Trick-Eye Museum

TrickEye

The journey to the Trick-Eye Museum was eventful as Google Maps advised us to get on a specific bus but unfortunately this bus was only supposed to go to the airport and wasn’t meant to let travellers off beforehand. The driver wasn’t thrilled to let us off at our stop but luckily we made it to the Trick-Eye Museum with no further problems. We’d been cutting it a bit fine as it was getting late and wasn’t long off closing time.

When we arrived we received a ticket for the Ice Museum as well as the Trick-Eye Museum as they were in the same building and we were advised to go straight into the Ice Museum as that was closing quicker than the Trick-Eye one. I was looking forward to it as the year before we’d visited an ice bar in Amsterdam and that had been enjoyable!

Seoul 3

They didn’t give us anything to wear – in Amsterdam you were given a large coat to keep yourself warm but in Seoul we weren’t given anything and very quickly we were all shivering too much to particularly enjoy the sculptures. There was an ice slide which we all took a turn on but it didn’t go as fast as one would’ve expected from an ice slide and in the end it was too cold for us to stay in there. None of us had any jackets or anything with us and it was bloody freezing! It took me forever and a day to warm back up.

We headed over to the Trick-Eye Museum which was right up our street as it was mostly just photo opportunities but as it was nearing closing time we were literally tag-teaming getting some decent photos, kicking our bags to the next thing and then starting all over again. For the first few rooms I was genuinely sweating my balls off as we tried to get everything done. We did calm down in the end and the museum was tons of fun, I’d definitely recommend if you’re visiting Seoul. As it was late we had the place pretty much to ourselves and it was so much fun.

SM Town Videos

SM Town

As massive K-Pop fans we couldn’t have visited Seoul without a trip to SM Town so it was one of the first things we did. The museum was fun as it was cool to spot all the references to our favourite K-Pop artists but arguably the best bit about it were the photo opportunities.

On the top floor there was a photo booth where you could take a photo with two K-Pop artists of your choice – I chose mine quickly as I just wanted Sunny from Girls’ Generation who came with Tiffany which was fine by me, and then Jess chose hers relatively quickly and Becca took forever a day. Then when she finally did settle on someone she closed her eyes just as they took the photo so she had to retake it.

Then there was a section of the museum that you had to pay to enter and as you walked through each group had their own ‘room’ and just like the photo booth there were photo opportunities but these were more fun as two members would saunter onto the screen as if they were really preparing to pose with you and then the rest of the members just appeared as photos. In this room they also had small intros – for example my favourite one was in Super Junior which was ‘Mamacita’ themed, two members came on the screen and had a ‘shoot-out’. There was also two toy gun props and a cowboy hat – Becca donned both and made me pee my pants as she pretended to fire straight into the air – it’s hard to explain but there’s a video on my Instagram and I laugh every time I watch it.

It was really fun going from room to room pretending to interact with my favourite idols – if you’re a K-Pop fan in Seoul I definitely recommend a visit to SM Town as I imagine most K-Pop fans are fans of at least one SM group.

Lotte World

Lotte World

I wrote a long post about everything we got up to here but theme park days on long trips are NECESSARY! It’s a chance to just have fun without getting stressed about getting from one tourist spot to the next or running out of time to do everything etc. It was nice to just relax and have a good look around.

Unfortunately as we didn’t know much about Lotte World I don’t think we planned the day as well as we could have. For example the big thrill rides were in the outside section which we didn’t discover until the early evening which by that point all the queues were massive. I didn’t mind too much as I’m not a big thrill ride kind of person but I know Becca and Jess are so we should’ve gone outside first but we had no idea it existed!

My favourite parts were probably the parades as they were just whacky. I still get the ‘you’ve got a pum-pum-pumpkin head’ song stuck in my head occasionally and it was just a lot of fun. So was the night parade with the indoor fireworks. If in Seoul I’d definitely go back to Lotte World ‘cos it was just so much fun!

Karaoke

Karaoke

My favourite night from the trip! We took tons of videos and I love rewatching them, especially the ‘Lie’ (Jimin) video because we sound so drunk even though we were sober. We definitely wanted to do Karaoke whilst in Asia and Seoul seemed to have a lot of places to do it so Jess found one and off we went.

We were given a room for an hour and it was quite small with no windows but as there was only three of us it fitted our needs just fine, there were even maracas and tambourines for us. Unfortunately only two mics but it didn’t matter as we just shared. On our way to the room we could hear people in the other rooms and I don’t think we once heard anyone singing an upbeat song, everyone was singing slow ballads – if they could hear us they probably hated us.

In the first room we kicked it off with ‘Bang Bang’ by Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj but I also remember singing Mic Drop by BTS, Bang Bang Bang by Big Bang, Breaking Free from High School Musical, Boombayah by Black Pink and Waterloo by ABBA. I can’t remember everything but all our songs were upbeat and we sounded like messes – especially when we had to sing in Korean.

Once the hour was up we didn’t want to stop so we went downstairs and paid for another hour. Becca also grabbed us each a bottle of water as screaming lyrics for an hour had absolutely killed our throats. We were given a different room number and when we went up it was bigger with a large window which although felt nicer as it was less claustrophobic meant that people could see into the room whilst we did karaoke. It definitely didn’t stop us though!

In here we sang Lie by BTS’ Jimin, Shake It Off by Taylor Swift, Hello B*tches by CL, Ring Ding Dong by SHINee and I’m sure tons of other songs – we also sang Sorry Sorry by Super Junior, I’m pretty sure that was our last one, and as Becca was doing the choreography she looked out the window and noticed two guys from the street were watching her.

That night was so much fun and we got some amazing videos of it – the only downside was that our throats killed by the end of the night but never mind, definitely worth it.

So there we have it, my five favourite memories from Seoul! Let me know yours if you’ve ever been or what you’d like to do if given the opportunity to visit.

Top 5 Favourite Memories from Tokyo

Japan Takeshita

I’ve written a sort of ‘series’ where I describe my three favourite moments for the places me and my friends have visited. Tokyo was packed full of so many amazing memories that I couldn’t possibly narrow it down to three so I’ve upped it to five which will still be a struggle but slightly easier. Here goes nothing!

Mt Fuji Day Trip

Mt Fuji 8

I wrote a long post about this but it was an amazing day. We all knew we wanted to see Mt Fuji but had heard it was difficult to reach by public transport so we booked ourselves a day trip that would take us to Mt Fuji and to the Aokigahara Forest. It was full of so many moments – my favourite being that we’d all been looking forward to a two hour coach journey to relax, maybe have a nap and our bloody tour guide was like “Let’s all sing a song together!” To be fair she was lovely, very enthusiastic and knew a lot about the mountain.

We thought the whole group would also go to the Aokigahara Forest but it turns out it was just us three and the tour guide. It was a bit embarrassing but was also good because our experience was very personalised. I’m proud of myself for getting down into the ice cave even though I was terrified and for not falling flat on my face once we were inside.

It was an amazing trip that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Gundam Robot

Gundam Robot

I don’t think I looked up the Gundam Robot before we went, I think it was put on the list by Becca and Jess because I hadn’t heard of it before we went. The girls just described it to me as a giant robot and I was definitely down to visit because like who doesn’t wanna go and see a giant robot?

It had been on our itinerary to visit the robot after visiting Joypolis and we’d had so much fun inside there that it was quite late when we left. We took photos of the Rainbow Bridge and then walked over to the Gundam Robot. As the thing is massive we spotted it as we were approaching and it looked INCREDIBLE. It was all lit up and moving around and I was so excited to take photos of it. The literal second we got close enough to fully enjoy it he shut down – the lights went out and he stopped moving. That’s absolutely typical but he still looked super impressive anyway so we took lots of photos.

He was the last tourist spot we visited in Tokyo as it was our last night and it was a perfect way to end the day. If I ever return to Tokyo (which I intend to do) I’d love to go back and see him actually moving around properly this time as it was so annoying that he shut down just as we arrived. It was still an awesome sight though!

Fortune Forest at Joypolis

Joypolis

Speaking of Joypolis my absolute favourite attraction was no doubt ‘Fortune Forest’. When we arrived Becca and Jess bought tickets that basically got them into every ride as they’re thrill seekers and knew they’d happily go on anything. I’m more timid, not a big fan of anything fast and stuff like that so I bought a ticket that I had to top up once inside which worked out better all around. I didn’t go on as much as them as a lot of the attractions were in little rooms and I was worried about going through and discovering it was too fast or too scary for me but I did go on a few things. I was easily persuaded into ‘Fortune Forest’ as it wasn’t a ride, it was just described as being a fortune telling experience.

I topped up my card and the three of us went to the entrance where we were given ‘crystals’ from the women manning the stall and we went in. At the first stop you enter some basic information about yourself and what you want to find out. So your name, age, gender etc and then I think we all just picked a ‘general’ fortune. You then walk into a room where you put your crystal into different slots of your choice and then you answer questions. I think you pick three slots, they’re all decorated and it’s a forest theme hence the name. Then you go through to the final room where you put your crystal away and you receive a printed out fortune.

Maybe the best thing about it was that it was accessible for everyone, it was available in a ton of different languages so there weren’t any barriers – all the questions were in English and the fortune was printed in English because that was the one I’d selected as obviously it’s the only language I speak. The fortunes were quite generous, they were on an A4 piece of paper and were split into different sections. The three of us took it in turns to read our fortunes to each other and decided that we’d had so much fun that we had to do it again!

The woman at the entrance didn’t even blink when we reappeared, just gave us our crystals and let us through. We all went for a different theme this time, I can’t remember exactly what everyone picked but mine was to do with relationships, I think Becca’s was similar but slightly different and Jess’ was money related. I think you could also do joint friendship crystals but I can’t really remember, it’s been a while since we went now!

As we went round the room picking our slots I noticed a room that was barred off and pointed it out to my friends. They read the instructions on the wall and they were like “Oh, we need to both put down our crystals and maybe it’ll let us in!” So Becca and Jess both put their crystals either side of the door, held hands and waited for a moment only for a loud voice to boom “STOP! YOU MAY NOT ENTER THE SPECIAL ROOM! TAKE YOUR CRYSTALS AND LEAVE IMMEDIATELY!” It doesn’t sound funny but watching them hold hands and then hearing that loud announcement had me crying with laughter throughout the entire trip whenever I remembered it.

I have a suspicion that we went in a third time because we were really enjoying it but I can’t fully remember. Joypolis in general was a lot of fun but ‘Fortune Forest’ was definitely my favourite aspect of it!

Awkwardness of Maidreamin

Maid Cafe

I wrote a longer post about this in my themed cafes blog post but this was one of the most awkward experiences of my life. We’d known a Maid Café would be a bit of an awkward experience but we wanted to do it anyway ‘cos hey we may never return to Tokyo so might as well experience all of it. Becca was less keen but me and Jess dragged her along. It might’ve been just about okay but unfortunately the Maidreamin we ended up in was absolutely empty except for us.

We got the full experience from wearing animal ears to having to do cute actions before we ate our food. I think my absolute favourite though was when she told us that when we were ready to order to get her attention we had to go “meow meow” whilst pretending to be a cat. None of us were feeling particularly confident about this so when we were ready we made eye contact with her and she went “meow meow?” and we had to do it anyway.

A bizarre experience but still a fun one and I’d definitely go back to a Maidreamin if in Tokyo – but probably the more popular one in Akihabara!

Electric Parade at Disneyland Tokyo

Disneyland 4

Arguably my favourite moment of the trip was the electric parade at the end of the day when we visited Tokyo Disneyland. To be fair the whole day at Disneyland was just a lot of fun, any day spent at a Disney park always is but if I had to narrow it down to a specific moment it would definitely be the electric parade. When we’d visited Disneyland Paris a couple of years previously we hadn’t had much time and we hadn’t had chance to see any parades but we planned Disneyland Tokyo a bit better and managed to catch the Halloween parade earlier in the day and then the electric parade in the evening.

I think it was fun to just sit and catch my breath for a minute whilst enjoying the amazing floats that were coming past. The parade went on for quite a while, Becca kept turning around to where we could see the parade approaching and she kept going “THERE’S MORE!” The best was when the Peter Pan float came past and me and Becca waved madly and managed to get a wave back from Peter Pan. Then hi-fived each other ‘cos we’re lame.

If I could return to one moment from that trip it would probably be that one. It was fun and we weren’t far into the trip by that point, we had a lot left to do and I was looking forward to it all.

So there we go, my five favourite memories from Tokyo! I could’ve included a lot more, as I was about to publish this I remembered our crazy experience at ‘The Lock-Up’ which was absolutely hilarious as well. Tokyo was just an amazing city and it was definitely my favourite holiday ever. Let me know your favourite memories of the city or what you’d like to do if you ever visited!

Travel Fails: Berlin Edition

Berlin 2

Those of you who read my Belgium Travel Fails blog post will be aware that me and my friends got off to an unfortunate start with our flight. The moment I got home I lodged a complaint and waited for a response. We were told we’d each receive some compensation money and I imagined that we’d probably receive about £40 each. I mean, the flights had cost about £108 each, our flight home left on time and we’d actually still made it to Belgium on the day we were meant to so I figured we’d get a part refund. Imagine my surprise when we each received about £230 each.

Immediately I was on skyscanner planning the next trip and before I knew it I’d booked myself flights to Berlin and back. I’ve wanted to visit Berlin for a few years now and my friends Becca and Jess had been in 2017, and both of them said they loved it. I booked my hotel and before I knew it Friday 5th July had come around and I was ready to set off.

Although I’m a nervous flyer and it’s not recommended I like being at the airport as early as possible. I need time to account for long queues and then I want time to relax in the departures lounge before catching the flight instead of having to rush around everywhere. I was flying with Flybe who I like flying with because I like their self-service machines and for some reason I just trust them more than I do other airlines. Also generally their flights are more comfortable as they’re 2-2 instead of 3-3.

I sauntered down to the self-service machine, popped my passport in and then… The machine told me it wasn’t possible to check-in? I didn’t have any suspicions at this point, I optimistically went up to the main desk and told the women there the self-service machine hadn’t let me check-in. Maybe I was too early, maybe because I’d booked through a third party site they needed to manually check me in – oh how naïve I was.

Turns out my flight had been downgraded and there was now no longer a seat available for me on the plane. My options were a flight the next day at 6:40AM or a 7PM flight to Hannover today with a coach taking us to Berlin. Neither option was particularly perfect and I asked if the airline would put me up in a hotel for the night if I chose the 6:40AM one but I was informed that since they’d offered me an alternative to get there today they wouldn’t be able to. So I took the Hannover flight.

To be fair to the women that had to break this news to me she immediately gave me a compensation form that she’d filled in, told me how to send it off and made sure I got a food voucher to spend in the airport while I was waiting. Sure £7.50 wasn’t going to get me far but it knocked a bit off my usual pre-flight meal in Giraffe.

The first thing I did was tell my Mom, my best friends and a colleague from work. I hadn’t taken out my frustration on the woman behind the desk because that wouldn’t have achieved anything but I needed to let it out somehow so I had a good rant to everyone I could think of that would actually give a damn.

Berlin 3

Obviously I was pleased I was still reaching Berlin tonight but Hannover is about a three hour drive away from Berlin so at the best we were going to make it there by midnight. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that for me, my least favourite part about solo travel and the part that makes me nervous, is getting from the airport to my accommodation. I’m not sure why but once I’ve checked in I can relax and enjoy the holiday, the moments leading up to it though are anxiety-ridden.

I messaged Flybe on Twitter to ask where we were going to be dropped off and was informed it would it be at Berlin Tegel airport which to me didn’t make sense – what am I supposed to do at the airport at midnight, how would I get to the city centre? But there wasn’t much to be done so I got on my flight to Hannover and hoped for the best.

The flight went smoothly and landed a lot quicker than I’d thought it would. I was one of the first off the plane, raced through border control, quickly used the bathroom and then went to find the coach. I was terrified at getting left behind and at first I had no idea where to go so I went over to the information desk. Luckily I was intercepted by a lady whose job it was to round up all the Hannover-Berlin people, she told me where to wait and said there was eighteen of us that she needed to find.

I was the first one there and it was quite a wait as people slowly made their way over. One couple even went and grabbed some food which was slightly annoying as we were left waiting but they turned out to be nice so I let them off the hook. After about maybe half-an-hour there was a grand total of nine people even though she’d been expecting eighteen of us. She made us wait another ten minutes before finally taking us over to the coach people. I had a quick look at the prices for transfers when we got there and it was a whopping 325 euros to be transferred to Berlin!

There was then a bit of a kerfuffle as some of the guests thought along the same lines as me – being dropped at the airport so late at night was a bad idea and it would be a lot easier if we were dropped off somewhere central. There was a lot of arguing in German whilst I stood there awkwardly until eventually one passenger who could speak German and English said “Who doesn’t speak German and needs me to translate that conversation?” He was actually super helpful and sort of became the ‘leader’ of our little group as he managed to convince our driver that being dropped off at the central train station in Berlin would be a better idea.

I ended up in a car with him and two guys from China whilst the rest of the group got into a different car. The people I was travelling with were lovely to be fair, we did some quick introductions before we set off but then as it was so late we tried to sleep or just chilled on the long journey. The driver asked if we wanted to stop on the way but we were all keen to just get to Berlin at this point so we said no. To be fair our driver got us there quicker than expected but due to the delays before we left we made it to Berlin at about 1:20AM.

Berlin 4

I hoped and prayed that we wouldn’t be a long walk from my hotel but Google Maps said it was about forty minutes. Not impossible, I’ve walked that far before but I didn’t really want to set off by myself at this time for a forty minute walk in an unfamiliar country. Luckily there was public transport still running and according to Google Maps it would only take about twenty minutes. The German/English guy checked with everyone whether they were going to be okay to find their accommodation and we went our separate ways.

I was surprised public transport was still running but also surprised how busy it was? I think it’s a good idea to have public transport still running so late on a Friday night but I’m pretty sure they don’t do that in London. Luckily I didn’t get lost once and before I knew it I’d made it to my ibis styles hotel.

Someone was still up and on reception and by this point I was so happy I hadn’t gone for an independent budget hotel as sometimes these don’t have twenty-four reception. Check-in went smoothly and quickly, and I took the lift up to my room. I was right down the end of the corridor so I found my room, put my key in the door and… It wouldn’t turn all the way? I tried back and forth for a good five solid minutes before admitting defeat and heading back to reception.

I told him the key wasn’t working and he was like “oh maybe you got the wrong one” but I was pretty sure that wasn’t the problem because the key still fit in the door? Never mind, he went and fetched me a new key and told me he’d watch out on the CCTV footage to make sure I got into my room. So back up I went and yet again, unsurprisingly, it didn’t work. I headed back towards the lift and the receptionist came out, confused as to why I couldn’t get in. He came down the corridor… And immediately opened my door with the key I’d been using. I was baffled but he just said “The door gets a bit stiff sometimes” – I was certain that wasn’t the problem as I’d been putting my full weight on the door at some points. Whatever. I went in, had the quickest shower ever then finally collapsed into bed.

Berlin 5

I was up earlyish to fit in with the times the hotel served breakfast (which to be honest hadn’t been worth paying the extra money for) and got locked out of my room again afterwards. Luckily I’d heard two other guests complaining they were locked out of their room too so I knew it wasn’t just me having these issues. A different receptionist was on this time and she came with me to my room and immediately opened it. She advised you have to pull the door towards you when you open it so I was able to actually get into my room for the rest of the trip. I was a bit annoyed though considering I’d spent the extra for a ‘styles’ hotel – why do I need to perform circus tricks to get into the bloody room?

To be fair as trips go this one went quite smoothly. The main thing was really that I kept worrying about unnecessary things. I kept getting stressed about public transport but I navigated it smoothly. I was worried I didn’t have the right transport ticket but on the three times my ticket was inspected they all thanked me and said it was correct.

The only major fail I can think of whilst actually in Berlin was that on Saturday night, after an extremely late night and a full day of sightseeing I was looking forward to climbing into bed and having an early night. I don’t know what was going on across the road, there was like a little outdoor pub/club and some guy kept talking extremely loudly into a microphone for about three hours then occasionally playing songs. I assume there was some kind of quiz night or something but it was SO LOUD. I just laid in bed fuming my absolute head off until luckily it eventually stopped and I was able to fall asleep.

Berlin 6

Unfortunately disaster struck again when I reached Berlin Tegel airport to return home. I went to check in but unlike at other airports this one didn’t have the self-service machine – I don’t like hanging round the first bit of the airport, I like being in the departures lounge so I went up to the desk but was advised check-in wasn’t open yet. No biggie, I headed to Starbucks and got myself a drink and a cake.

As I sat there I got a text alerting me that my ‘8:15PM’ flight was now a ‘9:40PM’ flight. Not the biggest disaster in the world but it started me worrying on whether I was going to catch the last train home. I never book the day after a trip off work, I just don’t have enough annual leave for that and the last thing I needed was to sleep at the train station for the night. I tried to think optimistically though.

Eventually check-in opened so I got my boarding pass and I soon discovered that Berlin Tegel airport is the weirdest airport ever? At every airport I’ve been to you go through security into a central departures lounge. Not here, you wait by your gate, go through security there and then just sit in that specific gate until your plane arrives. I was praying there’d be a food stand and luckily there was, I grabbed a hot dog, two bottles of water and sat down to relax. Security had been slow and frustrating but I was through to the gate now, I could just relax.

Wrong sir, wrong! After watching the first episode of ‘Derry Girls’ on Netflix I overheard a woman announcing anyone waiting for the flight to Birmingham now had to go a different gate. This other gate was literally on the other side of the airport, I had to get in an elevator, go down, literally leave the airport and enter a different building only to join another long security queue. I had to bin my two unopened bottles of water and nearly ended up in a long ‘documentation check’ queue but luckily followed two girls and went through an automatic system straightaway.

I think if I hadn’t had issues with my flight on the way over I’d have been fine but since there’d been so many flight problems I was literally like stomping around the airport in the worst mood. Fair play to our pilot though who was like “I apologise for the delay BUT I AM GONNA SAIL US BACK TO THE UK, WE WILL GET THERE EARLIER THAN SCHEDULED” and was true to his word. I was very stressed but did manage to make it to my last train in time.

Berlin 7

To be fair, in the grand scheme of things all of these ‘fails’ were outside of my control and compared to other trips I feel went extremely well. So pat on the back to me, I finally had a trip where I didn’t make a complete idiot of myself. Well, I did get locked out of my hotel room but never mind. Could have been worse!

Favourite Sights in San Francisco

San Francisco 2

I recently got back from a weeklong trip to San Francisco with my Mom. To be truthful San Francisco has never really crossed my mind when considering places to visit but my Mom had been talking about it for a while and was really keen to go. She mentioned it to my step-dad who didn’t want to so I offered to go with her. Booking the trip was a nightmare because my Mom’s so fussy but in the end we chose a week, Mom found some flights she was actually happy with and before we knew it we were jetting off!

There was a lot about San Francisco to love so I thought I’d write a quick blog post about some of my favourite sights!

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Probably the most obvious and iconic landmark in San Francisco. Most people hire bikes and cycle there from the city centre and then cycle across the bridge, either by themselves or in a group tour. This is sensible as although the bridge looks relatively close it is quite far. Nevertheless me and my Mom decided to walk towards it from Fisherman’s Wharf  – we did mention the bikes but I’m not sure I’d remember how to ride one. I know they reckon you never forget but I have serious doubts about that.

The walk wasn’t horrendous compared to central San Francisco as after the first hill it was pretty much all flat until you’re almost right at the bridge and then there is a bit of an uphill climb. It’s just quite long and on the day we walked although the sun was shining the wind was horrendous.

Golden Gate Bridge 2

By the time we reached the bridge we were quite tired so we only walked halfway across it. I think we’d have only done that anyway as the bridge was so windy that my Mom was holding onto the poles as she was worried about ‘getting blown off the bridge’.

I’m normally the type of person to be like “it’s just a bridge, big deal” but there was something about it that just made it seem special and I’m glad we decided to walk there.

Alcatraz

Alcatraz

Another obvious ‘must see’ whilst in San Francisco. My Mom was stressing me out by telling me how quickly they sell out and that we needed to book it in advance but she didn’t seem to do anything about it until luckily one day she forwarded me a confirmation email to say she’d booked it. Make sure you buy from the official website though, there are a lot of rip-offs and we even heard one Australian family on the boat coming back talking about how they’d been scammed on one of these sites.

There are a few buildings on the island but the most interesting one is obviously the Cell House. Upon arriving you’re given an audio tour guide which I normally avoid like the plague as they just irritate me but I was keen to learn more about the prison so I accepted it and I’m glad I did. It was really interesting and kept you moving from one place to the next. At first it was a bit annoying as everyone was clumped around the one section of where the tour was meant to be but it thinned out as the tour went on making it less frustrating.

What I liked was that it wasn’t just ‘the building was built in this year, it served this purpose’ – there were stories about the prisoners and life there. My favourites were about the attempted escapes. There was one where supposedly in the canteen the prisoners began to riot because they were served spaghetti again or something? Either way, the audio tour was really interesting.

Alcatraz 2

Also I never knew that the prison officers lived on the island too with their families. They’d bring their wife and kids with them and they’d just live on the island – they never had any contact with the prisoners but it’s bizarre! The kids would catch a boat to the mainland when they went to school and I believe there were a few boats a day so families could go over to San Francisco, do what they fancied and then return back home at the end of the day.

Anyway, Alcatraz is a must see when in San Francisco but make sure you book it in advance. There were still some available tours when we went but my manager at work told me she’d visited and unfortunately it had been sold out when she was there. Don’t risk it as Alcatraz is not somewhere you’d wanna miss visiting!

San Francisco Play House

San Francisco Playhouse

My Mom knows I’m a massive theatre fan so before we left she researched some theatres in San Francisco and some shows that were on. One of the shows she suggested was one called ‘Significant Other’ – we weren’t sure but decided we’d make our minds up when we arrived.

In a weird coincidence it turned out that the show was actually playing inside our hotel! On the second floor of our hotel was the ‘San Francisco Play House’ and any hotel guests got a discount on their tickets. On our second night we decided to get tickets as we couldn’t miss out on seeing a play right inside our hotel.

More people turned up than I’d been expecting and it was an interesting show. I wouldn’t say it was ‘ground-breaking’ or anything but I’m glad we saw it. The basic plot is about a gay guy who watches his three best friends get engaged, married and essentially move on with their lives whilst he worries he’s getting left behind. It was quite a simple show but I was impressed at how they all remembered their lines – I know that’s their job but there was one scene with just two actors where they both had long lines of speech at a time and it was just pretty impressive.

My favourite part was probably that once the play was over instead of having a long walk back to our hotel we literally just jumped in the lift and we were back in our room within minutes. How convenient!

Pier 39

Pier 39

I think this place was somewhere I would’ve spent more time with my friends. It’s full of gift shops, arcades and places to get food. Me and Mum did spend some time here more than once and it was strange because it didn’t feel like America, I could’ve just as easily been at Blackpool. It was a lot of fun though.

There was a carousel at the end of the pier and I’m normally a sucker for carousels but to ride this one cost like five dollars so me and Mum gave it a miss. Behind the carousel was a stage – I’m not sure if they have different shows every so often but while we were there it was one guy called Bob who put on a show. I’m pretty sure he had different ones but the one we saw he rode a unicycle and stood on some cylinders – it’s difficult to explain but it was pretty impressive.

Pier 39 2

My favourite shop on Pier 39 had to be the Christmas shop. Whenever I go away my Mom always asks me to bring back a Christmas decoration themed like the country I’ve been to which is usually the most difficult thing ever to find so to find a whole Christmas themed shop in San Francisco was awesome. There was literally a decoration for almost everything in there. We’d actually already bought a Cable Car themed decoration from one of the gift shops in China Town but the shop was still amazing, a must see for any Christmas fan.

Beach Blanket Babylon

Beach Blanket Babylon

I didn’t really know much about this show but Mum was adamant it was ‘the’ thing to see whilst in San Francisco. Apparently the show began in 1974 and is the world’s longest-running musical revue. Mum was even keener to see it when we found out the show was actually ending later this year – it would be our only chance to see it.

Unfortunately we waited until the night we wanted to see it to go to the box office to enquire about tickets (fun fact, the Americans kept calling it ‘wilcol’). We were told tickets were sold out until the following Wednesday (when we’d be back in England) but if we wanted we could wait outside the theatre as sometimes people came along to sell their tickets. The show didn’t start until 8 and it was 6:30 by this point so I wasn’t keen as I highly doubted we’d get two tickets but Mum was determined, especially after one woman told her she had just one ticket. We only needed to find one more and then we could both go.

It got very complicated, the woman with the original ticket went outside and then we found another woman selling one ticket but we weren’t sure they were in the same part of the club (I said it wouldn’t matter but Mum wasn’t sure) so she went in then very kindly came out to tell us she had been seated in the part the woman with the original ticket had also been seated. It was getting close to show time so I paid the money for this woman’s ticket, my Mum went in with that ticket, bought the ticket off the other lady we’d originally seen, came back out to get me and soon we were both inside. I was originally seated away from Mum anyway but it turned out the seat next to her was free so I moved. I had a worse view next to her but it didn’t matter.

The show was bizarre to say the least. It was basically a musical following Snow White was looking for love and all the characters wore bizarre costumes with oversized hats or wigs. There were a lot of pop culture references and I was surprised at the scene where they took the piss out of Donald Trump and his family as all the Americans thought that was hilarious – which to be fair, it was. I’m so glad I got to see it and it was definitely worth the wait outside the theatre.

Sea Lions at Pier 39

Pier 39 Sea Lions

Probably my favourite part of Pier 39 was that off to the left of the pier there was a large gathering of Sea Lions. They’re below the pier and unless you jumped into the water or had a boat you can’t get near enough to teach or harass them so they’re pretty much left alone. There are a few signs up asking people not to feed or bother them and people stuck to that rule. There’s usually a crowd of people on the pier watching and taking photos of them but the sea lions are still pretty much left alone.

As there were so many of them I wondered if they were there of their own freewill and it turns out that yes, they are. There was a sign up nearby that said the sea lions had shown up a few years ago to the annoyance of people who had boat slots in that particular area. There was a debate apparently but it was decided the sea lions could stay and a lot of boats had their slots moved to a different part of the pier.

The area didn’t smell brilliant and the sea lions made a lot of noise but it was interesting and nice to be able to see the sea lions without feeling guilty the way you do when you visit a zoo or aquarium. I’d definitely recommend giving them a visit when in San Francisco.

Cable Cars

Cable Car

Everyone at work kept telling me I’d need to ride the cable car and I assumed they meant the ones you get that take you over the city, you know the ones I meant? It turned out they were cute old fashioned trams and there was a stop at the end of the road where our hotel was. On our first day we walked pretty much everywhere and I had not realised when people said San Francisco was full of hills they MEANT it. So when we next needed to get to Fisherman’s Wharf from Union Square we paid the seven dollars each to catch the cable car.

We rode it twice and both times managed to get the best seats – there are two compartments to the cable car, one indoors section and an outdoor one where you can either sit or stand and hold onto the pole. It did look cool to stand and hold on but my legs were already aching and we had two seats in the front of the outdoor section so they were good seats!

The ride on the cable car was amazing and a bit scary at times – whenever it went downhill I’d be struck with the worry that the cable car would just start rolling down at full speed but of course it didn’t, they were driven very well. It was an absolute must in San Francisco and I’m glad we got to ride it twice.

So there we have it, those are my favourite sights from San Francisco! If you’ve visited feel free to leave me your favourites or let me know which ones you’d love to see one day.