My Top 10 Favourite Countries Ever

“To land in foreign worlds, where everything is new and exciting and scary, where you communicate through smiles and hand gestures, where you taste amazing foods and discover new smells, where you make the most life-changing experiences and learn the biggest life lessons.”

As many of you know, I LOVE to travel. And by travelling, I mean backpacking, exploring, fully immersing yourself into new cultures, countries and experiences. Reminiscing through these adventures for this blog has made me feel super lucky and grateful for my life of travel. I’ve worked hard and am super proud of my travel accomplishments and experiences. This world is incredible. And people always ask, “what’s your favourite place?!” which is the most impossible question to answer ever! So, in no particular order, I have managed to roughly give you guys my top 10 favourite places (so far) in the world!

1. Philippines

The Philippines was a dream. The islands were some of the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen and there are hundreds of them! The people were super friendly and there was so much to see and do. I’d definitely consider going back soon as it’s probably in my top 5 and I feel like there’s much more to explore! One thing in particular that I loved was the lack of tourism and tourists, and because of this the Philippines had so much beauty and authenticity still. It was also pretty cheap!

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2. Mexico

Mexico holds some of my most personal and best memories. It’s full of beauty, colour and great food. People seem hesitant to visit certain areas but I would encourage everyone to visit the country. Every place has it’s dodgy areas but as long as you’re reasonably cautious and vigilant, you’ll probably be fine! Cancun was great if you like resorts and package holidays but because of this and the over-westernisation, it was my least favourite. Tulum was a gem but slightly overpriced, Playa Del Carmen was full of fun, Mexico City was incredible and I loved the city but of course, my favourite was Tapachula; the home to some of my favourite people and Misión México. If you’d like to volunteer, donate or have any enquiries about the refuge then please don’t hesitate to message me 🙂

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3. Italy

Italy will always remain one of my favourite European countries and I’ve loved every city and town that I’ve visited. The food and wine is obviously a winner in itself, but it’s the romantic vibes that make the country a winner. Some of my silliest memories with my fave gal are here, like the time we stayed in an old monk’s monastery, the time we nearly died because we accidentally hiked onto a ski slope, when we bought items rhyming with Pisa for our photo-shoot at the famous tower… I won’t go on.

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4. India

Obviously on my list because of my heritage but also because it’s an incredible and insane country. It has absolute manic and diverse city scopes along with some of the most extreme poverty that I’ve ever seen, alongside absolute beauty, beaches and tropical landscapes. The culture and religion here is deep and adds to all of the beauty. Plus the food is obvs amazing too, which seems to be a running theme here in my top ten!

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4. Malaysia

Malaysia had it all! Beautiful islands, clear waters, culture, great foods, jungles and big cities. It had an incredible vibe and mix of cultures which was just beautiful. I’d definitely recommend visiting Penang, trekking in the Taman Negara jungle, volunteering a couple of your days with these munchkins and visiting some of the islands too.

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6. Peru

Peru was a country like no other. One of the worst bus journeys I’d ever experienced but some of the most incredible adventures. Trekking Machu Picchu, the salt mines, alpacas, the colourful culture and the mega cities, me and B both fell in love with the place. And Cusco was just magical! Literally, it felt like there was just magic in the air at times. We also felt pretty safe here which I know is an important factor if you’re travelling as a girl or alone. You can read more about this trip here.

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7. Brazil

Full of colour, happiness and beauty, Brazil was fun from the get go. Me and B visited a good mixture of places and loved them all. The cities, the islands, it all just got better and better. And there are black beans on every corner! My fave. We went to Rio, Sao Paolo and the heavenly island of Ilha Grande. Safety here is obviously a slight issue, be sure to stay in the touristy areas and don’t just wander accidentally into a favela. Common sense really people…!

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8. Indonesia

Indonesia was a right little adventure. Me and the girls did the usual Bali, Gili T islands, got our diving certificates and did yoga in Ubud, but we also visited some of the non-tourist islands like Sulawesi. Me and Ana did a work exchange there for two weeks, where we stayed with a Muslim family in their traditional home and were really immersed into their ways of life. I learnt so much on this trip. There’s also a place nearby called Tana Toraja which still remains to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It felt like I was an extra in a movie, it was so surreal. You can read more about that trip here!

 

9. Vietnam and Cambodia

Okay, I know technically these are two countries but I feel very similar for both so I’ve grouped them. I also visited both very briefly and at the same time, we managed to get a cheap coach across the border and back! Both countries are beautiful with fascinating and very recent dark histories. The countries are both re-building themselves but you can feel the pain of the past like no other countries that I’ve been to. They both really moved me. And they’re both really beautiful! Cambodia has Angkor Wat and Vietnam is full of beaches, beautiful mountain scenes and pretty little towns. The culture and religion is deep and that’s one of my favourite things to see and feel.

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10. China

China holds a big place in my heart because it was my first solo adventure, and my first working/living experience abroad. As a travel destination, it compares to no other. It’s full of variety, full of unusual sights and a one-of-a-kind culture (which will always surprise you and also make you think wtf on a daily basis!).  There’s so much to see and do, with the North being completely different to the South, plus everything in between. The country is so huge, you could spend a while visiting even the main sights, and that’s on their sleeper/fast trains! Also, you know what else bangs? The food. And of course, I’m back here again, because it’s a great country to live and work too.

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Pretty tricky to come up with just 10 because there’s been so many places that I’ve loved and every place leaves you with a different feeling for different reasons. Travel is one of the only things that I’ve ever been truly sure about and there’s not one moment that I regret. It brings you highs, lows, the biggest life lessons, the best experiences and all sorts of people. Think you aren’t lucky enough to travel? Think again (read more here… ). I encourage anyone to jump on that plane, do not be afraid to leave your hotel room and truly travel and immerse yourself as much as you can! It’ll always be worth it. The world is incredible.

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Special thanks to every single person who has made every single moment in my journeys so special. You da best for crossing ma path.

 

Thanks for reading guys! Give me a shout if you have any questions! Go book that ticket, live ya life to the bestest.

V

x

And follow me and my adventures here on instagram! https://www.instagram.com/vanishamay/

Sunrise in Rio at Copacabana Beach

Backpacking South America. First stop: Rio.

Reading time: 5 minutes

Country #26

 

When did I go? 1st – 6th June 2017

Where did I stay? Secreto Hostel, Copacabana

How much money was spent? Too much (oops)

Highlights: The people, drinking caipirinhas in Lapa, being washed away in what seemed to be a tidal wave, watching the sunrise on Copacabana beach and the city views from the mountains.

Playlist: Rio – Netsky and obviously Copacabana – Barry Manilow 

 

Rio De Janeiro was a super exciting place for me and my best friend who I’m travelling South America with. We’ve just finished studying at a university in London and have been dreaming of cocktails, sun, sea and sand for months. Our first stop in Rio gave us all of this and more….

 

Is Rio safe?

Rio is a huge city with almost everything that you need. We stayed in a hostel in Copacabana called ‘Secreto’ which was in perfect walking distance of the busy streets, restaurants and the beach. It was a home away from home and although the city has a reputation for being dangerous, we felt quite safe and comfortable. This was probably down to the people. Everyone we met was extremely friendly and helpful regardless of the language barrier (not many people speak English and our Portuguese is horrendous!). We heard some horror stories even while we were there, but as long as you’re sensible and avoid walking through the favelas at midnight with your iPhone out and wallet hanging out your pocket, you’ll be more than fine. It’s expected in a city where so many live in poverty, don’t let it ruin your travels.

Me at Copacabana Beach, Rio, Brazil
Here I am, loving life in the sun on Copacabana beach in Rio De Janeiro.

Lapa, Salsa and Caipirinhas 

Staying in a hostel is great for meeting people and we even made friends with the staff. Our real taste of Brazilian life was a night out in the party area of ‘Lapa’ where we spent the night with our new friends drinking way too many caipirinhas and dancing to salsa music. The people are incredibly sexy and some of the best looking I’ve ever seen… and they’re amazing dancers. They’ve got it all!

 

Our partying days in Rio didn’t stop there. We also spent a night on a party boat which was just as fun and full of caipirinhas. The nightlife was wild and an experience, but for girls on a budget and considering this was our first stop; we were pretty naughty with our time and money.

Things to do

Luckily, Rio has lots more to offer. We spent one of our days doing classic tourist-y things that included a visit to Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, Selaron Steps, five other popular spots and an amazing lunch buffet. The views overlooking the city were amazing. We paid around £50 and the tour lasted nearly all day (8:30am-5pm). Similar tours cost more and lasted half the time. We got our package from a man selling from the beach so look around before you book for better deals. Unfortunately, we missed other sights like the favelas due to cancellations, bad planning and hangovers, but there’s lots to see and do around Rio. It’s easy to spend a long time there for sure.

Tourist day and Christ the Redeemer in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Tourist day and Christ the Redeemer in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Overall, our first taste of Brazil has been non-stop silliness and fun. Rio is amazing for beaches, chilling and partying. Do not let the dangerous reputation put you off, the city is full of history, culture and happy people. We can’t wait for our next stop!

 

Feel free to ask me any questions and share any stories or advice you may have!

 

Have a good day guys!

Vanisha

x

Follow my travels on my instagram @vanishamay

 

You can also find our hostel at this website: http://www.secretohostel.com.br