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Copenhagen

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How to spend 48 hours in Copenhagen

Sometimes a change of scenery and routine is all that the mind and body needs. Not having to think about making the bed, cooking meals, planning and organising the days and even having to replace the loo rolls (you know what I mean, right?) are just the mundane things about day to day life that I LOVE to escape.

Copenhagen came at the perfect time for us. I initially booked the weekend trip for our 5 year wedding anniversary but the tickets were too expensive for that time of the year (April). It didn’t really matter when we went I guess as long as we did something to mark our half a decade long relationship. Sounds insane even typing that as it feels like yesterday when we got married! Almost feel like Ahmed deserves an award for the occasion. Or two…Lol.

Anyways, end of February was the cheapest in terms of the flight prices. We paid around £150 for the three of us to jet off together for a weekend. We flew out on Friday evening and returned on Monday night which meant we had THREE FULL days abroad (yey)!

As it happened, the week before our departure date, Ahmed had to fly over to Pakistan which meant I wasn’t able to plan or organise AT ALL in terms of packing, buying last min bits & bobs. Solo parenting ain’t fun ya’all. I just about managed to keep me and Nael alive.

Planning an itinerary

Luckily I had already preplanned our itinerary one day randomly while on my lunch at work so I wasn’t panicking about where to go, what to eat etc. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am ridiculous when it comes to planning and making an itinerary for a trip. I like to know exactly where we’re going, what the most popular places and landmarks are. Of course who am I kidding. I want to know where the grammable places are!

As anyone with children can appreciate, travelling with a 15 month old toddler means that we have to alter our itinerary somewhat to suit his needs. Nothing ever really goes according to plan and the dream of taking the most grammable photos goes down the drain (true story). Especially when your child is having a meltdown because they do not want the rain cover over on their pram even though it’s absolutely lashing it down with rain. You then opt for Plan B which is to find somewhere indoors (toy shop…??) and give them snacks to calm the situation down.

And we’re okay with that. We’re okay with not seeing EVERYTHING on the list as long as what we do see is fun and memorable for us all. This mindset really helps us to enjoy our holiday as we are much more flexible!

Day 1

We started the day by having brunch in a gorgeous little cafe called Daizy. In Copenhagen they have a pretty awesome concept of having a platter with different options including eggs, croissant, cheese, and yogurt.

We then headed off to the city’s main street called Stroget which was really busy despite the rainy weather and strong winds. We instantly thought that the city was truly full of charm and had an element of class in terms of the buildings, and even the locals who were dressed immaculately. There were lots of colourful buildings all around the different streets that looked like a painting!

Rundetårn

Our first visit was to Rundetarn (The Round Tower) located in the town centre. What I loved the most about the round tower was how accessible, pram and wheelchair friendly it was. We were able to easily stroll almost to the top of the tower by just pushing Nael in his pram. Towards the top we managed to park his his pram and walk up some steps to get the roof stop views. This is not something we have come across when visiting places with panoramic views of the city. What I also loved was that they had a huge hall aimed towards children, with lots of activities like colouring and crafts, huge soft toys scattered around and a seating area where we chose to give Nael his lunch. And as you can see in the middle photo, he even got to sit on a fake horse!

Rosenborg Castle

This Castle is super gorgeous! As you begin approaching the castle you find yourself stood in large, perfectly maintained gardens, full of different statues and a long row of trees. I could really feel the Danish history walking through the gardens and approaching the castle. There was a long wait to get into the castle but we didn’t mind as it was pouring it down and we were under a shade for most of it! Once we entered the castle, we found ourselves in rooms that are kept in the style from that time, and beautiful art. As you leave the castle you enter the amazing treasury full of crowns and jewels belonging to the kings and queens.

Marble Church

This gorgeous church has the 4th largest dome in Europe. Whi wudda thought, right? You can’t miss the church’s copper green dome when walking down the street. Oddly enough the church is not marble, but limestone. It’s named the marble church because they longed to have one, but the construction was slow and budgets were cut. The church, also known as Frederik’s Church, is immaculately decorated inside with statues and rococo architecture.

Day 2

We woke up and had a bit of a chilled morning. Because of Nael’s allergies we brought some cereal and fruit with us and he had his breakfast in the hotel room. I didn’t want to risk anything while we were away so I packed and organised all his meals beforehand. We had a good look on the internet to see what other breakfast places were around but they all seemed a lot more expensive so we decided to return to Daizy’s.

Nyvahn

We then headed to the famous area in Copenhagen called Nyhavn which was around the corner from our hotel. The gorgeous colourful buildings and canal reminded me a bit of Amsterdam for some odd reason! There are many ways to see the city of Copenhagen, but we chose to walk for all of it. But if you wanted and the weather permitted, you could board a boat near Nyhavn harbour area and discover a whole new perspective of Copenhagen.

Christiana Freetown

Without a doubt, one of the most interesting parts of Copenhagen is Christiania and the most fascinating strolls of my travels so far. It’s a community for alternative thinking where anything goes. It’s a true independent anarchist community with their own set of rules. You can freely buy weed in former military barracks. There’s also small shops, food, and a skate park. Almost 1000 people live in Christiania, technically as squatters in a former military base. My favourite thing about the visit was the wall art and the different murals around the town.

Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli Gardens is one of the most well known places in Copenhagen. It is the world’s second oldest amusement park, and it’s amazing that it’s still thriving after all these years. This is Europe’s most famous theme park and it’s easy to stick around for a few hours for rides, to eat the diverse foods in the food courts or do what we did: just walked around. Every few hours they offer a free show but we didn’t get to see one as we wanted to head back in time for Nael’s bed time. It’s said that this quaint theme park inspired Disney Land!

Overall Copenhagen was just such a lovely break and we really enjoyed our slow, yet satisfying weekend there. On the third day we headed over to Malmo in Sweden as it is only 35 minutes on the train and why not?!

Additional info:

Hotel: Copenhagen Admiral hotel

Flights: easyJet

Spending money: At least £150 per day

Tunisia

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Let’s have some real talk. I had zero intentions of visiting this part of the world. I know a cousin of mine visited a few years ago and she didn’t speak very highly of it. That was about as much as i knew about the country…. UNTIL RECENTLY.

After following the very amazing “Expat Panda’ for some time, I followed her stories, posts and blogpost about Tunisia and I instantly knew that I wanted to visit. As it happened my maternity leave was coming to an end and I had hit a massive big wall of low moods and wanting an escape. I looked into whether it would be easy for Ahmed to apply for a visa and actually it was probably the easiest visas to apply for. We literally just sent the passport, a copy of his residence card and an application form to the embassy, and within a couple of weeks we got the visa. Alhamdulillah it all worked out quite well and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

We booked our first all inclusive holiday with TUI and stayed in an okay’ish hotel but the staff were absolutely amazing. We stayed in Hammamet and before even getting to Tunisia we agreed that this was going to be a fairly chilled out holiday as we needed to unwind and enjoy each others company as a family. Hammamet is a popular tourist destination with tonnes of hotels, beaches and particularly known for Jasmine (the flower).

Old Hammamet

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But of course as you know me, I can’t just chill! I want to see, feel and experience everything! So on our first day we decided to get the taxi into the Hammamet, Old Medina. As soon as we stepped out of the taxi we met someone who said he worked at our hotel in the kitchen & he would take us & show us around (clever people these guys, they read your wristband which has your hotel name on then try to befriend you). Of course, my advice would be not to fall for it and tell them you’re not interested!

The Old medina holds historic features but we didn’t see too much as we had the pram and it was particularly hot so we didn’t know how Nael would be as it was his first time in such a hot country. Locals there are not too pushy but you just have to be polite and refuse! Yes they will try and persuade you into every shop and try to get you to buy everything but we never felt unsafe or really ‘hassled’. If you said no and walked away they left you to it!

We then went to the new Hamammet, however, not much to report as everything was closed. We walked around aimlessly in the heat and didn’t really enjoy it as there was literally nothing to do. However, we heard that during peak season, there are lots of activities and rides for children!

Tunis

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We alternated the days and ended up chilling for a day… but of course that got a bit boring for me so I encouraged Ahmed to agree with me and we hired a taxi and drove to Tunis. Tunis is the Capital city of Tunisia and we LOVED Tunis! Although there were elections going on when we visited and most things were closed. It kind of worked in our favour as we wandered around aimlessly and got lost in the quiet souqs of Tunis.

We didn’t stay there for very long, but what limited time we did have there was positive. I do wish we had gone for longer and also spent more time exploring the local sites, such as Carthage and The National Bardo Museum. But perhaps you can check them out and let me know how they were?!

Sidi Bou Said

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The reason why we didn’t spend a full day in Tunis was because we also wanted to take the opportunity and visit the famous Sidi Bou Said. You could easily have mistaken this place for Santorini… I mean not that I have been to Santorini, but I would imagine it’s very comparable in terms of the white and blue buildings and structures.

As much as I did think Sidi Bou Said was gorgeous, I also thought it was SO BUSY, and when you’re pushing a pram uphill under the scorching heat, things aren’t always as pretty as they probably are!

We ate at a gorgeous cafe called, Cafe Des Delices where we ordered a pretty tasty pizza and fries…. but check this out… They didn’t serve COKE! I know??! We also discovered a gorgeous Museum called Dar El Annabi. If you do visit Sidi Bou Said, you must check it out as its so gorgeous! Another thing that you cannot miss is the Bambalouni; They are made with flour, hot water, yeast, and salt. After the dough has been prepared, it is fried in hot oil until golden brown, and the doughnuts are then sprinkled with sugar on top. DIVINE!!!

Monastir, El Kantaoui and Sousse

During our last couple of days at the hotel we decided to take a tour with the hotel tour guide and went on a three city tour which covered Monastir, Sousse and El Kantaoui. As I write about this trip, I am quite sad as it didn’t live up to the expectations. The entire tour was very rushed and we barely got to see anything.

Also believe it or not, it was absolutely chucking it down during our journey to Monastir. A lot of people decided to stay in the coach but we decided to brave it. We chucked Nael on a sling, put our coats on and ran to see The Bourguiba mausoleum This landmark is a monumental grave in Monastir, Tunisia, containing the remains of former president Habib Bourguiba, the father of Tunisian independence. Due to the rain, we didn’t see much else and drove straight to Sousse.

We went to Sousse straight after and luckily for us the rain finally stopped and we managed to have a very quick walk around the Souqs. The tour guide did suggest looking at the shops but we opted to check out the Madina of Sousse, a historic architecture with beautiful views of the city! I think there was probably so much more of Sousse that we didn’t get to see because our trip was guided by the tour guide.

We then headed off to El Kantanoiu, If you’re reading this, don’t bother. IT was a complete waste of time!

Relaxation!

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This was probably the first holiday that Ahmed and I actually managed to do quite a bit of relaxation. We just wanted to enjoy the nice weather and have some chilled out days with Nael. I’m so glad we did as we both came back refreshed for a change. Usually we go on holiday and need another holiday after! lol!

It’s amazing how much your holidays and wish lists change once you’ve had a baby. And that’s okay because we have to be flexible and willing to adapt accordingly!

If you want a holiday that is relaxed, nice beaches and amazing hospitality, then get booked on ASAP!

Turkey: Cappadocia

Oh hello bucket list destination….!

WhatsApp Image 2019-09-08 at 16.37.46In August 2014 I saw a photo of a cave hotel posted by a traveller called ‘fameisficklefood’ and all I remember thinking is how I had never seen anything quite like it! At that point I had barely travelled and therefore my knowledge and understanding of ‘what’s out there’ was limited. Since the day I saw that photo, I researched the hell out of Cappadocia. I spent ages reading about it, looking at hotels in the area and dreaming of visiting one day. At the time I wasn’t really convinced it would happen but I made a list of places I would like to see and experience.

Our hotel Museum Hotel was an experience on it’s own. It is located in the Uchisar region and feature a terrace with panoramic valley views with a heated outdoor pool.  

It is by far one of the most amazing places I have ever had the pleasure to stay (a close second after our hotel in Thailand)!

Looking back at all the photos from the hotel makes me feel extremely grateful that we were in a position to experience something like it. The hotel was absolutely impeccable. From their service, cleanliness, communication, everything was perfect!

Day 1

Hot Air Balloon Ride

Of course the first thing you think of when you hear the word Cappadocia is ‘hot air balloons’. We started the day off by taking a ride on the hot air balloon. We woke up at crazy o’ clock (around 4am to be precise) as we were going to be picked up around 4.30am. The hot air balloon company collected us from our hotel and took us to a tiny little restaurant for breakfast… which wasn’t anything special.

After rallying at the restaurant, we continued our journey and headed towards the location where we were set to take off from. The experience was amazing, but there weren’t as many hot air balloons around. I think the unstable political situation in Turkey (2016 coup incident in Istanbul and Ankara) definitely had a massive impact on Turkey’s tourism around that time. The locals all commented on how it was unusual for their to be hardly any tourists around.

Roaming around Uchisar

After coming back from the ride, we had the most amazing breakfast ever! As we were the only guests for breakfast that day (absolutely no reflection on the hotel), we took up the option to being served breakfast out on the balcony rather than the dining area. The breakfast spread was such that we had to be served food on two tables in order to accommodate all the crockery!

Ahmed and I have the curse of restiveness when it comes to being on holidays and off we went to explore the local ‘things to do’.

Quad bike tour

Jumping on the quad bikes was never in our plans and actually we were thinking of staying in the hotel and making the most of it. But since neither of us know how to ‘relax’, we both agreed to experience the quad bikes! I am sooo glad we did. I can honestly say that exploring Cappadocia on the quad bikes was a bit of a highlight for me. I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did. The adrenaline rush was so real!

Day 2

I woke up (and forced Ahmed to wake up) mega early to witness one of the most incredible sunrises covered by the hot air balloons. It felt magical being able to just sit there and take in the beautiful scenery. I think it would be fair to say that whoever visits Cappadocia wakes up early at least one morning to witness this?

Devrent Valley (Imagination Valley)

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We decided to hire the car and visit some local places throughout the day. Our first stop was Devrent Valley. For some reason we didn’t really stop here for too long as I think we may have got lost for a little while and ended up driving to our next destination. We it was worth a break and some photo opportunities!

Zelve Open Air Museum

The next stop was probably my favourite part of the day and one that I will definitely not forget any time soon. This cave town was home to one of the largest cave-dwelling communities in the region. Christians and Muslims lived here harmoniously until the 1920’s when the Greek-Orthodox Christians were driven out of Turkey. Muslims continued to live in their Zelve cave homes until 1952 when they were deemed too dangerous to inhabit for structural reasons.

What we liked most about the Zelve Open Air Museum is how freely we were able to explore the different abandoned homes and churches. There were also very few people visiting Zelve at the time, so we were able to roam freely and really imagine what it might have been like to live in this extraordinary homes only a short 65 years ago.

  Pasabag Valley (Monks Valley)

The only memory I have of this place is seeing that lady in the photo on the right. She gave me the most gorgeous smile and waved as I was getting excited about being there. I then waved back and asked her if I could take a photo and she gave me a thumbs up. She seemed so excited that I was taking a photo of her, so I did. I even had a lovely selfie with her that she seemed to be impressed by!

Goreme Open Air Museum

This was another open air museum that we went to. If memory serves me right, we didn’t end up getting the tickets to visit the museum, instead we walked around and enjoyed our surroundings!

Kaymakali Underground City

Derinkuyu Underground City

We ended up visiting two underground cities in Cappadocia during our visit. It was the underground cities that took us by surprise. Even though these were a bit out of the way from Cappadocia, it was worth the visit to see how people had carved out dwellings underground. The concept left us awestruck and we ended up taking a silly amount of pictures. The best thing that we did when visiting them was to book a tour guide who talked us through the history and told us stories about them!

Day 3

Time to say goodbye… to Turkey and to each other.. Until next time!

Thailand

When my dream became a reality
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Following my gorgeous wedding, which by the way exceeded all expectations and more, I did not for a second imagine or anticipate that my life could get any better.

But it did.

It was something that I did not expect or even think would happen to me. I knew that my husband was going to take me to a ‘surprise’ honeymoon destination, but I did not envisage that it would blow my mind.

Two days after my wedding it was time to leave my friends and family to go to my honeymoon (or ‘holiday’ as I like to call it) before starting a new life in Qatar. I was not sure what to feel or how to react to this change. But I was excited nevertheless.

My dad was anxious and paranoid to say the least. His little girl, his only girl was leaving his ‘patronage’ to be with another man. My husband tried to keep the location a secret until my dad became restless and asked him where it was that he was taking me. Ahmed, hesitantly told my mum and dad where we were going. My dad’s reaction to this was, excitement as well as nervousness. I could see it all over his face. At this moment in time, I still had no idea where we were going!
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I vividly remember being sat in the CIP lounge at Islamabad Airport; sitting next to the man I have known all my life on one side (my dad) and on the other was the man who I was going to spend the rest of my life (my husband). Sat there was also my beloved late uncle who I called ‘Daddy’. Little did I know that it was going to be the last time I was going to see him. Overwhelmed with emotions, I did not really think about the life ahead or even the next destination. My emotions were taken over by the fact that I was about to spend the rest of my life with someone I had seen a handful of times.

Yep, that’s right. I had an arranged marriage. Maybe that’s something for a separate blog post?

As we sat there, all I knew was that the plane was going to Abu Dhabi. Therefore, my only thoughts were that we were going to Dubai. To be honest, Dubai was never really a destination that I had desired to visit. Nonetheless, I was grateful to my husband for organising it and surprising me.

As we got to Abu Dhabi, Ahmed told me we were going to Thailand. At that point in my life, I hadn’t really travelled much so I still was unsure what to expect. Yes, you heard me right… I hadn’t yet explored the world of Instagram and travel bloggers.

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As we arrived in Thailand, I recall a young Pakistani couple getting on the plane. It was almost a reflection of me and my other half. The excitement on their faces seemed familiar. The henna on the newly wedded bride looked similar to my own hands.

The flight to Phuket was uneventful… other than the fact that nearer to the time of landing, the pilot made an announcement for us to peek out the air plane windows as the Phi-Phi Islands could be see. And God were they gorgeous.

Going through passport control at Phuket International Airport was uneventful as well. At least for me it was.

My British passport and I whizzed through passport control without realising that Ahmed had been stopped for further screening. Soon after walking past passport control, I heard someone yell ‘PAAAAKTAAAAAANI PAAAAKITAAANI’.

What was to come was my very own ritual of initiation of having married someone with a Pakistani passport. I don’t mean this as a particularly bad thing; but carrying a Pakistani passport has its own set of caveats and conditions when you travel around (which we will come to in a bit).

When I looked around rather alarmingly to figure out what the ruckus was all about, I realised that the immigration office dealing with Ahmed was waving his arms around, heading towards someone senior I imagine; with Ahmed’s passport in one hand and ushering Ahmed to follow him.

My first reaction was, well, logical: I burst out laughing! Only to realise this was the guy I had got married to!

My stomach did a good few turns and a million thoughts went around in my head. Panic had set in! I was in a foreign country, which a man I had married very recently, with no idea or information about where we were headed… not even carrying my own plane ticket! What if they keep him overnight? What if I have go to the hotel on my own? What I have to go back to Pakistan or back home to the UK? or Abu Dhabi which is where the flight had originated from?

As my mind was doing overtime, I noticed that the other couple were in a similar predicament. However, the guy seemed more aware of the situation and stood next to his new Missus as the immigration was double, triple checking her visa. I looked over at Ahmed who reassuringly smiled back as he had his passport (and other documents) inspected and reinspected. Could this treatment be commonplace?

Ahmed was eventually, maybe 20 mins later, allowed entry. YES! By this point I had already dragged all our luggage off the conveyor belt.

We headed out of the airport and a gush of humid, hot, ‘wet’ air hit me all over. It smelt quite unusual and my first impression was: this appears to be a deprived country!

Ahmed would remind me time and time again how I was acting like someone from the TV series ‘An idiot abroad’. How many of you have seen it?

Oh well, I didn’t care, did I? I was buzzin’!

I looked up and this gorgeous white Mercedes pulled up. I was definitely impressed I must admit. I don’t think if I had ever sat in a Merc before then. As we got on, the driver offered us wet towels to freshen up and then pulled out two cold bottles of water from a small cool box. This alone made me feel a million dollars as I had sweat dripping off my face.

The journey from the airport to the hotel was long. Or at least it felt long. So long that I went through a million emotions of feeling sad, happy, excited, tired, bored. You get the picture, don’t you?

We pulled up at the hotel and were quickly greeted by the most happy people on the face of this planet. Bowing down as they put their hands together welcoming us. The reception room was lavish, bright and charming. As we sat down to check in, they immediately offered us some unusual tea and these gorgeous Jasmine bands for our wrists.

As Ahmed checked in, I looked around the reception room and the TripAdvisor board caught my eye. It was rated as 5* by TripAvdisor and had won a number of awards for being THE BEST hotel in the Phuket area. Once we checked in and all, we were escorted to our very own buggy. I had never been in one of those either, so at this moment, I was completely thrilled.

We rode to our apartment and WOW. I guess the photos below will say it all.

I had tears in my eyes as my heart filled with joy. A tear rolling down my cheek and my stomach going absolutely wild. I genuinely had never expected anything like this in my life and it only got better after it.

Alhamdulillah (“Praise be to Allah”).

I thought I was dreaming. Hallucinating even. But it was real. All of it. As a little girl I grew up dreaming for something like this to happen to me and at that moment in time, my dreams really did become reality!

Day 1: Phi Phi Islands

I woke up to the most amazing breakfast, overlooking our private and gorgeous infinity pool. It was everything and more. The breakfast spread was absolutely mouth watering. The hotel even catered for us to have Halal meat! YUM. NOM.

After breakfast, our ride was waiting outside for us. We were quickly taken to a tiny boat and off we went exploring the Phi Phi Islands. The whole tour was arranged via the hotel, and I have no idea about the cost. However, we (Ahmed) opted for the fast speed boat and we spent the entire day island hopping.

By the way, at this stage, I had no intentions of blogging, or instagramming so the photo quality may be a little poor and I don’t recall all little details as I didn’t plan the itineraries or write down specific notes. Nowadays I try to have things written down as reminders to share with y’all.

Enjoy the pics anyways!

I am not going to lie, this day was very looooong. I was still a little jet lagged from all the travelling and the sea air just knocked me out! It was also really busy as there were tourists in every corner of the islands. Maybe that’s why I don’t even have many pictures from this trip.

I guess maybe that’s why in some ways this holiday was so special. I spent less time taking the most picture perfect photographs and actually enjoyed my time hearing, feeling and experiencing every moment of being there.

We went back to the hotel and luckily the sun hadn’t set yet. We quickly made the most of the infinity pool, sipped some tea, watched the sun go down, witnessed the sky change colour numerous times. It truly was blissful and a moment to remember forever. The kind of picture perfect honeymoon that one dreams of. Well done ‘A’. You did an excellent job. What’s gone wrong now? lol.

Day 2: Safari Tour and Boat trip

I woke up, still in awe of this gorgeous hotel. The sun was shining, the music was playing and as we opened our eyes, we heard a knock on the door. ROOM SERVICE. I laid in bed as Ahmed let them in and helped them lay out the breakfast by the pool. Yep, we had room service for breakfast the entire trip as we wanted to make the most of the infinity pool.

hotel view

We spent the first few hours just hanging around the pool as we waited for a second day of excursions. At this point, to be honest, I still didn’t want to know what we were doing on the day. I was quite enjoying being told on the day where we were going and just to go with it. So I sat back and enjoyed every moment. Quite opposite to how I am now: A CONTROL FREAK!

me before safari

Yep, this is me. Just sitting on the floor, drinking tea.

Anyways! The Safari Tour with the Boat Trip, Yey!

We arrived at this safari place, where we learnt a little about coffee and how they process it. We then continued to find out about what they do with the coconuts. How they grow them, how they make all sorts of things with it. To be honest, this kind of stuff is more something Ahmed enjoys, because I don’t really retain the information well. I mean don’t get me wrong it was good, but part of me was thinking ‘is this it’.

UNTIL…… We got to see some gorgeous elephants. AAAHHH. I have always loved elephants and found them to be so bloody adorable that my heart sank when I saw them for the first time. I’m surprised by this point I didn’t have a cardiac arrest with all the excitement and surprises. We even got to ride an elephant! We fed the elephants! We touched the elephants! It was such a surreal moment.

Dammit. The elephant behind me even picked up my sun screen and sun glasses that fell out of my bag and onto the ground. This is true. The elephant behind me stopped, used his gorgeous long trunk to pick up my belongings and passed them to me. A moment to remember indeed!

The day ended with a short boat trip. Yes, yes I love boat trips! We had our dinner on the boat and watched the world go by. It was romantic, relaxing and just a really nice way to end the day.

Day 3: Tiger Kingdom, Big Buddha & FANTA-SEA

Another day, another excursion. We decided to head to the ‘Tiger Kingdom’. I had seen lots of photos of people with tigers and thought to myself, wow, how amazing. So off we went. We got a taxi from our hotel to The Tiger Kingdom.

Although I don’t really want to share photos from this trip. I kind of feel obliged to share them as well as sharing my opinions and experiences from visiting this place. As we entered, it was really busy and chaotic. There were tourists everywhere, of all ages and from all over the world. The prices to see the tigers were rather expensive I thought, but went with it. Then we noticed that the prices vary depending on how big or little the tigers are. To get a photo taken with the bigger ones was more cheaper in comparison to the little ones. I guess the little ones look even more ‘grammable’ right? EUGH. I regret this, but I still went with it.

I mean, just look at these poor souls. I feel like I messed up. I shouldn’t have given into the hype and paid for these wild life animals to be tortured and drugged for my benefit. But I did. So did many other people. I remember leaving the cage-like rooms where the tigers were kept and feeling an overwhelming sadness taking over. All of a sudden it hit me. I had just paid towards this cruelty. NEVER AGAIN. I promised myself to tell anyone that I meet not to go to places like these. Because it is just awful. Seeing these beautiful creatures being held against their will and being treated so badly for human satisfaction is not okay.

PLEASE DO NOT DO IT. 

Soon after leaving The Tiger Kingdom, our next stop was to see the Big Buddha. I had never seen a Buddha statue that was this big. I had never been to anywhere like it. As we entered the area, the Big Buddha could be seen from miles away! This giant statue of the big Buddha really did overshadow its surroundings. It was a gorgeous place just to walk around and taking in a different culture, religion and belief to our own. Watching people being engrossed in worshipping and praying.

After feeling hot and tired, we headed back to the hotel, only to be told that we had another exciting place to visit called Fanta-Sea: The ultimate Thai Cultural Park. We were collected by a fancy looking van, with Fanta Sea written all over it. We arrived in a very loud, bright and colourful place. I kind of didn’t know what earth was going on!

As we entered, it looked so gorgeous. It was a huge theme park with a massive stage show, a large buffet restaurant and plenty of shops to tempt people into spending more than just the entry fee. Phuket Fanta-sea opened in 1998 and is certainly one of Phuket’s main tourist attractions.

There is also a popular show at Phuket Fantasea. The theater seats around 3,000 people. There are hundreds of performers in the show. I was not sure what to expect, tacky or impressive? Oh and by the way, you CANNOT take the camera into the show. They WILL take your camera/ phone away if they catch you snapping cool photos for the gram or the blog.

The show lasts over one hour with song and dance from different regions of Thailand woven into a tale of the “Kingdom of Kamala”. There are animals, acrobats, fireworks. I personally enjoyed it although I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea!

Day 4: RELAX

Although Ahmed had planned another excursion for day 4, we decided to cancel it. We were tired and exhausted and also wanted to make the most of the beautiful hotel. We spent the rest of the day relaxing by the pool, enjoying the views and just getting to know one another even more.

A bit of a disaster happened on the last day. As I was laying by the infinity pool taking selfies of myself to send to my friends, my phone slipped out of my hands and fell into the pool. Uh-Oh. My heart skipped a beat. I think I may have even cried. I screamed for Ahmed to come to my rescue. We called the reception and asked them to bring up some uncooked rice. Baffled, they replied ‘we can cook you Ma’am’. We explained it was a little more urgent than that. We were praying for a miracle and had heard that putting the phone in the uncooked rice will fix everything. With a heavy heart, I put my phone into the bag of rice and said a little prayer! MY ENTIRE LIFE WAS ON THERE!

Dramatic, I know.

But considering I wasn’t going to see my friends or family for the foreseeable future, it really did feel that the reaction was justified.  Or at least I think so!

Anyways, there were positives on that day. We realised that we had the entire beach to ourselves and that the mock-tails drinks were free every day! So we made the most of our time left at the hotel. We laughed, laughed some more.

final night

We stayed in the hotel for our last meal. It was absolutely gorgeous. The Thai Cakes and the Thai Green Curry was to die for. Despite the phone disaster I couldn’t help but smile at what a lovely start to our marriage we had had. It was beyond perfect. It was a dream come true.

Day 5: Flight to Qatar….

And this was it. For all I knew, I was going to be spending the rest of my life in Qatar. With a man I had only spent 7 days with.

The next blogpost will be about Qatar…..! Until then, enjoy, like & comment on this post 🙂 

 

Guest Interview – Tasha’s Tales

Natasha from Tasha's Tales

This week’s guest post comes from Natasha, travel blogger behind Tasha’s Tales. She explains ‘I’m an only child to two most incredible parents and a wife to an extremely supportive husband. Say Alhamdulillah! I am also a Social Worker by profession and a wanderlust at heart. A dreamer with an endless bucket list of things I have done and things I wish to do. I have lived and moved around in three countries so far; Azad Kashmir, England and Qatar and have loved every second of all three experiences. I’m not quite sure what the blog will look like as it goes on, but what I do know is that it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. So here I am. As you can tell, I love travelling so the main focus of the blog will be travel. But I will also do lifestyle, food and random rants and observations of the world as I travel through it, slowly but surely!”

1. What is your name and where do you come from?

I answer to pretty much anything, including, Nat, Tash, Tasha, Natty, but the name that is on the Birth Certificate is Natasha! But yes, you can call me anything you like  – within reason of course.

Where are you from?’

The most dreaded question! So, here it goes. I was born in England and at the tender age of 3 months I moved to Azad Kashmir with my parents (google it if you don’t know where that is- or even better, message me and I will tell you all about it)!

I then spent 13 wonderful years in Azad Kashmir, until my parents decided enough was enough and moved to the UK. Coming from a third world country meant that my options and independence was somewhat limited, so my parents decided to make some sacrifices in order for me to have as many opportunities as possible.

In my early 20’s, I crossed paths with my better half, my husband, Ahmed who was living in Qatar at the time. After getting married, I joined him in Qatar and spent 12 months of luxury and paradise!

2. What sort of traveller are you? Full time / part time / business / backpacker etc?

I am an annual leave/weekend traveller – if such a thing exists? I aim to plan my 21 days of annual leave according to my plans and I plan holidays around weekends.

As much as I would love to travel on a full-time basis, this is completely not possible as I love my luxuries too much and wouldn’t be able to do a backpacking holiday! Snob traveller is the term perhaps?

3. How do you fund your travelling?

I work, I save hard and I travel harder!

I have only recently – well for just over a year been working full time, so travel is a bit more affordable. Before I started working full time, travelling was impossible on my part-time wages! But right now, most of mine and my husband’s travels come from our wages and we tend to split the costs between us.

Although I once sold tonnes of items on eBay for my trip to Florida and managed to make £1000! woohoo!

4. Where is the best place you have ever been and why?

This question is SO hard! It’s like asking who your favourite child is, no? Maybe not. How would I know anyway, I am not even a mom, YET!

Okay, so my personal favourite country that I have ever been to has got to be Sri Lanka. Oh my, what a pleasant surprise Sri Lanka was. Sri Lanka is a country that I never had the desire to visit until my husband mentioned it one day in passing. After doing some research, I got myself majorly excited and asked my husband whether we could spend our first wedding anniversary there.  After some contemplation and persuading, my husband decided to book Sri Lanka and off we went. Sri Lanka gave off the most relaxed and positive vibes, similar to Ubud, but even better! My husband laughs at me, but the train journey in Sri Lanka alone made the trip worth while. I had only ever imagined and dreamt of riding on a romantic/therapeutic/scenic train journey. Our train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella consisted of all things beautiful, including the landscapes and the authenticity of the country. I genuinely feel that Sri Lanka is under rated and has the potential to be so much greater than what it is! Oh, and the tea was the tastiest tea EVER!

5. Where is the worst place you have ever been and why?

Erm, dare I say Belgium?

I spent less than 24 hours in Belgium, where i manage to squeeze in some sleep, took a tour bus ride, devoured many waffles and even got the infamous picture with Mr Pis. But I dunno, I wasn’t captivated by Brussels charm. Within my brief visit, I even experienced a stranger groping my butt as well as being chatted up by a stranger who I tried to tell that I was already taken.

so yeah, not my fav, although I would like to return to visit some other cities.

6. Do you have a Bucket List? If so where are the 3 top places on it?

Oh yes, I do have a bucket list, a very long, never ending bucket list.

The top three places that I would like to visit – in a chronological order:

  1. Croatia
  2. Santorini
  3. Italy

7. What 3 things (apart from the essentials – food/water etc) do you always travel with?

  1. Obviously my mobile phone, I get to take tonnes of photos, post on Instagram and spend time bragging about my cool holiday to my friends (mean, I know)!
  2. Okay, so don’t judge! But I have this odd habit, fascination, addiction, whatever you want to call it where I HAVE to travel with one box of Pringles and one pack of Peanut M&Ms on a plane journey. I have done it for years and now no journey is complete without them!
  3. Errrrrr, a Selfie stick. Guilty as they come. A selfie stick is a complete must at all times. Now the trouble is that when my husband and I are travelling around, I obviously want to have lots of pictures of both of us – together! So having a selfies stick is awesome to capture those special moments and you don’t even have to interrupt anyone else during the process!

8. What makes you happy and why?

Man, I am so easily pleased that everything makes me happy. But food, food always makes me happy!

But more than anything, travelling, planning to travel, reading travel blogs and hearing about peoples travels makes me really, genuinely happy. It’s almost like watching a film. It transports you to another dimension. You know what I mean?

9. How long have you been blogging and why did you start?

I have been blogging since… May 2017. I am still a newbie, trying to figure it all out.

So what led to the craze of blogging?

Prior to meeting my husband, I really had not travelled much at all. But since our marriage, we have both had the luxury to really make the most of our time (long-distance issues, but that’s a topic for another time).

so anyways, as we travelled around 10 countries together, we noticed that there was a re-emerging pattern. There were absolutely no other Muslim travellers that we came across during all our travels and adventure. It made me feel somewhat empty. A little raged and mostly confused.

So one thought led to another and I decided to start a blog, mostly to encourage other Muslims to travel more. Now you must be thinking, EXTREMIST! but no, it’s really quite the opposite. I want Muslims to travel more. To integrate more in order to diminish and end the negativity around the word ‘Muslim’. I want to be able to introduce myself to people as being a ‘Muslim’ without the fear of being judged. Y’know? I just want to spread positivity.

10. What makes your blog unique and why should people read it?

My blog is unique because I genuinely believe that I am the combination of east meets west and I feel that I am extremely lucky to have the best of both worlds. I have some interesting tales to share and some amazing photos to show off. I absolutely love interacting with other readers and bloggers so they will no doubt be able to approach me at any time.

This blog was first posted by Eat Sleep Love Travel’ dated 18 September 2017.

Travelling as a Muslim with a Pakistani passport

Hey! I’m Natasha, and here is a glimpse of my life across two continents and three countries. What follows is a little bit of flavor of what it is like #TravellingWhileMuslim.

Having been ferried from Europe to Pakistan and back during my early years, I never had a problem. My first shock to the system was going to the U S of A with two White British female friends. So here’s the thing. As rare as it is for Muslim girls to get up and go on holidays without any relations or ethnic friends, it actually happened. My friends and I went to Florida in 2011 for our “girly holiday.”

Traveling While Muslim-Disney Land
Disney World, Florida

What followed was a standard stereotypical tale of brown-Muslim-airport-random-selection. We got to Manchester Airport nice and early and were set to board. Now just imagine, the only brown face sitting in the gate and all of a sudden we hear an announcement, “Natasha Naveed, can you please come to the counter.” My heart skipped a beat and my friends’ faces lost all color that was left! As I went to the counter, I was asked to take my shoes off while the airline staff swabbed my feet and mouth for “toxic” items. Call me a cynic, but I’m not sure it was much of a coincidence!Anyway, we eventually managed to get through immigration without too much hassle; although the immigration officer did look somewhat puzzled as he evidently asked me more questions than my friends. As a Muslim, if you haven’t been randomly selected as yet, you know deep in your heart it is only a matter of time before you’ll be paraded through the routine.

Fast forward to recent times and the story just gets better!

Traveling WHile Muslim- Phuket
Phuket, Thailand

Most Muslims are aware of the narration from the Prophet which states, “when a person gets married, they have completed half of their religion.” So here is the person who completes mine: *drum roll* meet Ahmed, my husband!

Traveling While Muslim- Azad Kashmir
Mirpur, Azad Kashmir

It’s always nice to put words and a face together so this is a picture of me and my husband from our wedding. He not only completed half my religion, but opened up a parallel universe of the intrinsic details associated with visa applications.Okay, so firstly I think it’s important to mention that being a brown traveler is one thing, being Muslim is another, but being brown, Muslim, and from a third world country holding a Green Pakistani Passport – like my husbands, is a whole new challenge. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience! I didn’t believe it either until we went on our honeymoon.

Traveling While Muslim-Phuket
Phuket, Thailand

So my husband surprised me with a trip to Thailand for our honeymoon. It was an arranged marriage so it was still all new and exciting. As we got to the Thailand airport, I passed through immigration with my UK passport without any hiccups. However, my husband was told to wait as a member of staff waved his passport in the air screeching “pakeeeethani paaaakithani.” He was then asked a gazillion questions before he was allowed to pass through immigration. This was first of many.Since then, we have accepted that there will be issues at immigration for being Muslim and for having a Pakistani passport. This is despite having to apply, yes that’s right. His passport only allows us to travel to a handful of countries. For the rest we have to apply via embassies, which can be costly, timely, and inconvenient!

Traveling While Muslim-Turkey
Cappadocia, Turkey

It’s obviously not all doom and gloom of course. When my husband and I travelled to Turkey in 2016 and Morocco in 2017, the differences were incredible. Being in a Muslim country meant next to no interrogation at the immigration counter and no awkward looks!It had its perks in terms of being allowed to enter mosques and eating unlimited amount of Halal food. We also were able to get things for cheaper, “Muslim price,” according to the sellers! There were also lots of mosques all over when it was time for prayers.

In terms of meeting other Muslims whist being on holiday or traveling, we have had very little experience of this. The only time we have seen or met other Muslims has been in Muslim countries such as Turkey and Morocco. However it was interesting as they were only in the bigger and more popular cities like Marrakech and Istanbul as we did not come across any other Muslim travelers in Fes or Cappadocia.

img_1819
Towel for prayers in Thailand

With regards to praying, I really feel that if you’re wanting to pray, anywhere and everywhere is an opportunity. You see that little towel placed on the floor on the left? Well we used that to pray! So yes, I feel it’s about your intention and thus you can pray anywhere!

img_0441
Even a deserted beach!

Part of why I started blogging was to inspire and encourage other Muslims to travel more and to explore God’s creations, as there is so much to do and see! I hope this blog also gives non-Muslims a perspective of what it’s like to #TravelWhileMuslim.If you want to know more (I have lots of stories), then please contact me as I would love to share more with you guys!

Traveling While Muslim- fes
Fes, Morocco

This blog was first posted on How not to travel like a basic bitchdated 17 May 2017.

5 Reasons why Newcastle should be on your list when visiting England

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Facts & Figures: Newcastle Upon Tyne is located in the Northeast of England, within close proximity to the Scottish Borders. It is home to around 296,500 people and is the most populous city in the North East. Newcastle was part of the county of Northumberland until 1400, when it became a county of itself and its status retained until becoming part of Tyne and Wear in 1974. The regional dialect spoken by the locals and the surrounding areas is called ‘Geordie’.  Newcastle also houses Newcastle University, a member of the Russell Group, as well as Northumbria University.

The city grew as an important centre for the wool trade in the 14th century, and later became a major coal mining area. The port developed in the 16th century and, along with the shipyards on River Tyne, was amongst the world’s largest shipbuilding and ship-repairing centres. Among its icons are Newcastle United football club and the Tyne Bridge. Since 1981, the city has also hosted the Great North Run, a half marathon, which attracts over 57,000 runners each year. (Yes, I have completed the Great North Run!)

Newcastle is best known to have an amazing night life, however, I don’t feel this would be appealing to the majority of the readers. So, the first reason for visiting Newcastle is it’s friendly people. No matter where you go or who you speak to, the Geordies will ‘bend over backwards’ to help and guide you. Be it being lost on the streets or being served in a shop or restaurant, they will always have a smile on their faces when talking to you!

1. The Angel of the North

thumbnail_IMG_6444Firstly, the Angel of the North is believed to be the largest angel sculpture in the world!

The significance of an angel was three-fold: first, to signify that beneath the site of its construction, coal miners worked for two centuries; second, to grasp the transition from an industrial to an information age, and third, to serve as a focus for our evolving hopes and fears. It is one of the most viewed pieces of art in the world – seen by more than one person every second, 90,000 every day or 33 million every year!

2. An Architect’s dream

Newcastle is home to some of the most gorgeous buildings, bridges and alleyways, which are surrounded with welcoming restaurants and shops. This charming city attracts hundreds and thousands of eager students per year (42, 000 to be precise) to enrol at the two of the local Universities. Once those students arrive, it is very hard for them to leave because of Newcastle’s addictive charm.

Newcastle also has seven bridges within the space of half a mile, all visible from the world famous Quayside. The Tyne Bridge (top left in the picture) is an international icon and was the basis of architectural design for Australia’s Sydney Harbour Bridge, that was constructed three years later.

 3. Beautiful beaches

Although there isn’t a beach in Newcastle itself, there are gorgeous beaches across Tyneside, County Durham and Northumberland. All of which have their own charm and are oozing with character. Most of these beaches also have the most delicious Fish’N’Chip shops. My personal favourite is the one in South Shields, called Colman’s!

 

4. Great walking opportunities 

Newcastle’s surrounding areas also have the most beautiful landscapes and walking tracks. Sycamore Gap on Hadrian’s Wall and Simonside hills are two of the stunning places to name a few.

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The Sycamore Gap tree is one of most photographed in the country. It stands in a dramatic dip in Hadrian’s Wall in the Northumberland National Park. For around three centuries, Hadrian’s Wall was a vibrant, multi-cultured frontier sprawling almost 80 miles coast-to-coast. It was built by a force of 15,000 men in under six years, it’s as astounding today for its sheer vision as it is for its engineering.

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Simonside Hills, an hours drive away from Newcastle, are full of distinctive ridges and craggy profile. The breathtaking panorama from the top of mystical Simonside is one of the best in the whole of the North East of England. The Simonside Hills are a fabulous place for walkers with miles of footpaths taking you through woodland and moorland to wonderful viewpoints.

5. Castles and History

As well as all the above, there are at least TEN stunning castles you can visit within an hour’s drive of Newcastle. They are mostly located in Northumberland, which has more castles than ANY other county in England. I am going to share just a few of the ones that i have been to just this year!

  • Bamburgh Castle is a castle on the northeast coast of England, by the village of Bamburgh in Northumberland.

 

  • Raby Castle is near Staindrop in County Durham, England, among 200 acres of deer park.

 

  • Warkworth Castle is a ruined medieval building in the town of the same name in the English county of Northumberland.

 

  • Alnwick Castle is a castle and stately home in Alnwick in the English county of Northumberland. For those Harry Potter Fans- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone filmed on location at Alnwick Castle in autumn 2000!!

 

So folks, if you want to visit a truly amazing county while you are in the UK, look no further!

Next stop: Newcastle!

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