The Style Mermaid by Kisty Mea

The Style Mermaid | Kisty Mea • El Nido Travelogue
Every wanderlust has their own lifestyle and preference, so you either fall in love with El Nido or with Boracay. And in my opinion, both El Nido and Boracay offer a different kind of relaxation: Boracay is commercialized, while El Nido is more… provincial. 
Anyway, we only had two days to enjoy El Nido, so we did not waste any time and booked their two best-selling boat tours: Tour A and Tour C. Here are my thoughts about the tour:[[MORE]]
Tour A: Lagoons & Beaches
For Tour A, the hotel chose a pretty decent travel guide. There were eight of us, so they got us a big boat. The tour guide was also quite knowledgeable and considerate. 

Seven Commandos Beach is named after the 7 remaining Japanese commandos who lived in the island after World War II. This is honestly my favorite from the tours because of its pristine beach and waters. Perfect place to bask under the sun. 
Shimizu Island has this stunning limestone cliffs. This is where most of the tourists each their lunch. But since our boat was big, we had the chance to eat on board, and rest. 
Secret Lagoon was our least favorite from the tour because 1) the island was surrounded by rocks and corals (Better use a kayak to avoid injuries) and 2) the lagoon was muddy… reminds me of an uncleaned toilet. :( 
Small and Big Lagoon were simply breathtaking. In case you want to know, the second and third photo were taken inside the Small Lagoon. The fourth photo was the Big Lagoon, though the awful glare from the sun made it difficult to capture it’s wonderful beauty. Trust me, the Big Lagoon looks like a scene from Jurassic Park! 

Tour C: Hidden Beaches & Shrines
I’m not entirely sure we got our money’s worth with this tour. First, the current was really strong that day. Second, we were eight people (4 tourists and 2 guides) riding a small fisherman’s boat (see 8th photo). Overall, my experience with the Tour C guide was slightly traumatizing and less enjoyable. 

Matinloc Shrine is a sacred monument that was built in 1982 in honor of the blessed Virgin Mary. 
Tapiutan Island provides a wonderful opportunity for you to snorkel or scuba dive while your guide cooks your lunch. JP said that if I went further, I could’ve seen the colorful city of corals and fishes. Since this is where tourists have lunch, somebody should enforce CLAYGO. There were so much junk on the beach, it was impossible to walk barefooted. 
Hidden Beach is a 100-m white sand beach behind a huge limestone that separates its shallow waters from the ocean. A lot of hermit crabs live here.
Now, this is where the “fun” began. When it was time to leave, the guide told us to wear a life vest because a life buoy will pull us towards the boat. Sounds easy, right? NO IT WASN’T. The other guide (who was on the boat) was literally pulling us towards the deeper parts of the sea. Even if I was wearing a life jacket and holding real tight on the life buoy (and on my iPhone), I still felt like I had to fight for my life because the currents were really strong. 
After that, all I wanted to do was go home.

We only booked the tour through the hotel. The price includes a towel and lunch. We had to pay extra if we want to use the kayak and mask. I highly recommend you request for a big boat and rent a kayak for every tour, especially if you have kids with you. 
All of these are taken with an iPhone 5, edited with the fantastic VSCO Cam app. You can view the rest of the photos on my Instagram gallery or on my photo blog.
P.S. Don’t forget to read my quick guide to El Nido, Palawan!

El Nido Travelogue

Every wanderlust has their own lifestyle and preference, so you either fall in love with El Nido or with Boracay. And in my opinion, both El Nido and Boracay offer a different kind of relaxation: Boracay is commercialized, while El Nido is more… provincial. 

Anyway, we only had two days to enjoy El Nido, so we did not waste any time and booked their two best-selling boat tours: Tour A and Tour C. Here are my thoughts about the tour:

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The Style Mermaid | Kisty Mea • Guide to El Nido, Palawan
El Nido is considered to be one the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines, so it seems fitting for JP and I to celebrate our five wonderful years of being together here. But planning a trip to El Nido was no easy feat. In fact, if you don’t have the cash to burn, the trip can be such a hassle. But that’s okay because my JP and I had fun. :)
I’ll probably share my photos and personal thoughts on my next post. In the meantime, if you’re planning to go El Nido this summer, I hope this quick guide will help you out. Enjoy! :)
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Getting There
There are two ways to get to El Nido: a jet for PHP6750/person… ONE WAY trip only. So that’s roughly PHP13,500 for a two-way trip. Insane, right? But what are the benefits? The jet will land closer to El Nido and the travel time is just one hour from Manila.
The cheaper way is through a shuttle van from Puerto Princesa. It’ll take you 5 hours, with two stopovers, to get to El Nido but it’s 10x cheaper. One trip cost PHP600/person. A total of PHP1200/person for a two-way trip.  
What To Do?
There are four boat tours in El Nido to choose from. According to our hotel, Tour A and C are their best-selling tours. Other activities are motorbiking, diving, and trekking.
Expenses
El Nido doesn’t have any ATMs, and only a number of establishments accept credit cards. Here is the list of expenses during our 4-day stay (technically, it was just a 2-day vacation because we had to allot the other 2 days for land transfer): 
Airfare & Hotel

Hotel (Ipil Suites) - USD299.46 / PHP12000 Hotel includes breakfast and free wifi. Rooms are clean but there are no TV and hot water doesn’t always work. 
Airfare (PAL Express) - PHP2100/person 

Expenses (Per Person)

Shuttle (PPC-El Nido) - PHP600 
Lunch (Stopover) - PHP120
Eco-Tourism Development Fee (Valid for 10 days) -PHP200
Tour A - PHP1400 
Kayak (Tour A) - PHP700 
Mask and Fin Rental (Tour A) - PHP100
Tour C - PHP1400
Mask and Fin Rental (Tour C) - PHP100
Shuttle (El Nido-PPC) - PHP600
Lunch (Stopover) - PHP115
Accumulated Snacks + Water (4 Days) - PHP150
Domestic Terminal Fee - PHP100TOTAL: PHP 5485

Dinner Dates for Two 

Dinner @ Beachfront (Unknown Resto) - PHP510
Dinner @ Art Cafe - PHP1150 Although their food were tasty, the serving was really small and the side dish is billed separately. Expensive.
Dinner @ Sea Slug Resto (Beachfront) - PHP1000 Affordable with really big serving! The Sizzling Chicken w/ Rice cost PHP300 and Beef Steak Pinoy with French Fries was PHP250 only. If we did not order the Calamares and Choco Crepes, the total bill should’ve been PHP680 only.  TOTAL: PHP 2660

Things To Know
There are no ATMs in El Nido and only a few accept credit cards. If you need cash, ask someone to do a money transfer and remit them in pawnshops. 
Electricity is from 2:00PM until 6:00AM. Check with your hotel if they have a generator. 
There are health centers and private doctors but no hospitals. 
There’s a PHP200 Eco Development Fee (valid for 10 days) that you need to pay before you can do any of the boat tours.
Resources
The Internet made it very easy for me to plan and prepare the trip. Not to mention, most of their tours are guided and all you have to do is book it. For more information, I recommend you visit the following links:
http://www.elnidoboutiqueandartcafe.com/
http://goseasia.about.com/od/philippinestopattractions/tp/el_nido_palawan.htm
http://www.adaphobic.com/philippines/palawan/a-complete-travel-guide-to-el-nido-palawan/

Guide to El Nido, Palawan

El Nido is considered to be one the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines, so it seems fitting for JP and I to celebrate our five wonderful years of being together here. But planning a trip to El Nido was no easy feat. In fact, if you don’t have the cash to burn, the trip can be such a hassle. But that’s okay because my JP and I had fun. :)

I’ll probably share my photos and personal thoughts on my next post. In the meantime, if you’re planning to go El Nido this summer, I hope this quick guide will help you out. Enjoy! :)

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The Style Mermaid | Kisty Mea • Singapore: A Travel Guide
As requested, here’s a travel blog post/itinerary guide about the country I’ve considered home for the past two years. There are so many things to see and do in Singapore but this entry should be able to cover the basics and must-see. Please don’t forget to share appreciate this to your friends who are planning to visit the Garden City soon! x
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Where To Stay?
Pillows & Toast — My friend, Cariza, stayed here last November and she said it’s a nice place to stay. The hostel is located a few minutes away from Chinatown MRT. {website}
Fragrance Hotel Selegie — Stay here if you’re under a really tight budget. Don’t stay here if you’ll be in Singapore for more than 3 days. There are a lot of Fragrance Hotel in Singapore but I recommend the one in Selegie because it’s near Little India Station. {website} 
V Lavender Hotel — I absolutely love the location of this place. It’s right on top of Lavender MRT and there’s a 24-hour convenience store and Wendy’s on the ground floor. {website}
Marina Bay Sands — Going 5-star, huh? Lucky you! If you have the money to burn, then why not? Don’t forget to swim at the infinity pool! {website}

Where To Eat?
I’m not really a foodie person, but I’ll recommend two places: 
Hawker Centres — You’ll see this almost everywhere in Singapore but if you’re very particular with hygiene, eat at the Singapore Food Trail. 
Marché — I finally popped my Marché cherry last January and I’ve never been so proud. LOL! Eat here when you’re reaaaaally hungry, like starving to death kind of hungry.

What To Do/See?
Merlion Park - Visit Merlion Park and take a photo with Singapore’s iconic landmark or symbol. Marina Bay Sands, ArtScience Museum, Singapore Flyer and Esplanade Theatre are also within the area. 
Singapore Flyer - It’s currently the tallest ferris wheel in the whole world.
Gardens by the Bay - The latest attraction in Singapore. This is where you will discover why Singapore is known as the Garden City of Asia. 
Sentosa Island - Chill at Palawan Beach or go for the rides at Imbiah Lookout. You can also check out the attractions in Resort Word, including Universal Studios! If you have money to burn, try indoor sky diving with iFly (also in Sentosa). 

Museums - There are a lot of museums in Singapore, so take your pick. I’ve only been to the following:
Art: Singapore Art Museum (SAM). Free admission every Friday from 6PM-9PM. {website} 
Design: Red Dot Museum. Free admission during MAD week.  {website} 
Kids / Nostalgia: Mint Museum of Toys. {website} 
Science: Science Centre in Jurong East. It’s a bit far from the city, so allot one whole day. {website} 
Interesting Exhibits: ArtScience Museum. {website} 
If you can, you should also check out the National Museum of Singapore and Asian Civilizations Museum. 

Shopping - Oh wow. Where do I begin? I always feel like there’s a mall in every corner here in Singapore.
Orchard Road for high end brands like Louis Vuitton and Prada.
Bugis Village for that Divisoria-but-not-exactly kind of shopping experience aka (sort of) cheap stuff!
Haji Lane for independent brands, mostly managed by young people. If you’re watching ABS-CBN’s Got To Believe, I think this area was featured in their Singapore episode. 
Funan IT Mall for all of your gadget needs.
Mustafa Centre if you want to shop at 2 in the morning. I’ve never been here before.
There’s one more place that I’ve been meaning to go to and that’s called Thieves’ Market in Sungei Road. It’s a flea market and I heard some sellers sell their vintage cameras here.  

Nature & Wildlife - There are a lot of parks/zoos in Singapore, so please do your own research and decide which one you want to visit. But if you decide to go to the Chinese Garden, please don’t visit in the morning because IT IS SUPER DUPER HOT! Don’t worry, they are open until 11PM.
If you want to join the Night Safari, be there around 7PM. We went there around 9PM and did not appreciate the tour that much because we can barely see any of the animals. 
Party @ Night - You can go to 1-Altitude, Zouk or any bars in Clarke Quay. I’m sorry, I’m not much of a party person.
Lockdown.sg - A real-life escape the room game. Located in The Central at Clarke Quay. Reservation is required for 3 or more customers. {website}

When To Go?
Singapore is a tropical country with high humidity and abundant rainfall. And to be frank, I absolutely hate the rainfall when I’m outside the house. I’ve ruined 2-3 pair of shoes because of the rain. 
As much as possible, avoid going to Singapore during December (Christmas), January (New Year), February (Chinese New Year), September (F1 Season). If shopping is not your thing, you should also avoid June and July because of the Great Singapore Sale.

What Else?
It’s pricey in Singapore but if you spend more than a $100 in one store, make sure you ask for a tax rebate. Then claim this tax rebate at the GST counter at the airport. 
Buy a sim card if you need to access the Internet while outside. Just bring your passport. 
If you want to know the rates and directions on how to get from Point A to Point B, then you need to bookmark GoThere.sg. It’s a comprehensive and interactive map of Singapore.  
The budget per day depends on your lifestyle but I think you can survive with $300 cash for 3-4 days. Food cost $5-30, depends on where you eat. A $7 ez-link (the ordinary guard) will last for 2-3 days. But you should take advantage of the Singapore Tourist Pass because you get unlimited rides when you use the MRT, LRT or basic bus service for $20/3 days. 

You should also visit YourSingapore.com because they’ve pretty much written down all the sights and attractions that’s available in the country. They’ve also included the rates, the opening hours, and directions. 
{ Download: Singapore Sample Itinerary } 

Singapore: A Travel Guide

As requested, here’s a travel blog post/itinerary guide about the country I’ve considered home for the past two years. There are so many things to see and do in Singapore but this entry should be able to cover the basics and must-see. Please don’t forget to share appreciate this to your friends who are planning to visit the Garden City soon! x

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The Style Mermaid | Kisty Mea • YHA Boggle Hole
I think my favorite youth hostel in England deserves a post of its own. I absolutely love the other YHA hostels, but Boggle Hole was unique on its own. 
In my previous post, you’ve seen what Boggle Hole looks like and admit it, the house doesn’t look much. But that’s because the magic happens on the inside! So, let me give you a tour~[[MORE]]

When you enter Boggle Hole, you’ll see this counter filled with candies and sweets. Quite frankly, the counter looks more like a sweet shop than a hostel concierge. +1 for selling ice cream!!!!!!!! :3
Anyhoo, the hostel has this pirate theme going on. This is because the hostel was located right beside the sea and a couple of minutes away from Robin Hood’s Bay. The village was named after Robin Hood because there were legends that the famous outlaw encountered French pirates here. The pirates, of course, surrendered and Robin Hood returned the loot to the people of the village.  

The place is really ideal for kids because they get to do things that involves imagination and not technology. I believe this is the room where they held their puppet show.

"I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky."

This is the laundry room and I love that wooden hanger thing. 

The Poop Deck! Hehehe!

This is my room for the night. The room has a view of the sea, which I thought was really nice. Close the window when you go to sleep because it’s awfully cold in the morning.


This is the basement and where you’ll eat a scrumptious full English Breakfast. 


The mermaid and pirate mascot of the hostel

We also went to the woods to check their bonfire site. Check out those cute wooden seats for the kids. 
So what do you think? :) I know it’s a hostel but Peta, the manager of the place, and her staff did an amazing job because it is one of the unique YHA hostels I’ve visited. It feels so cozy to live stay here, too! I’m definitely adding this to my home inspiration for my future home. :) 
YHA Boggle HoleMill Beck, Fylingthorpe, Whitby, YO22 4UQ T: 0845 371 9504 { Book Online }

YHA Boggle Hole

I think my favorite youth hostel in England deserves a post of its own. I absolutely love the other YHA hostels, but Boggle Hole was unique on its own. 

In my previous post, you’ve seen what Boggle Hole looks like and admit it, the house doesn’t look much. But that’s because the magic happens on the inside! So, let me give you a tour~

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The Style Mermaid | Kisty Mea • Youth Hostels? What to Expect?
This is going to be a really long entry but I guarantee that it’s going to be helpful for you, my little wanderlust. 
If you have been following my Big Blog Exchange trip, then you’ll know that I only spent one day in each of the places I’ve visited. I slept in 9 different Youth Hostels or YHA (A stands for Association) in 10 days. I must admit that an overnight stay is way too short to provide a proper review for each hostels I’ve visited, but at least, I can provide an overall feedback! :)
But before I begin, let me just clarify that YHA gave me a private room throughout my sponsored stay. Occasionally, I would share rooms with Lucy but she was my companion throughout the trip so I don’t think that counts. The real hostel experience (sharing rooms with a stranger and the like) happened when I extended my trip.
Now, shall we begin with the review? I promise it’ll be really informative!
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Hostel Rooms


Top: My room in YHA London Central / Bottom: Our room in YHA Ambleside + my mess
At YHA, you’ll be sleeping in a bunk bed with white sheets and green blankets (YHA’s official color). Sometimes, they would cover the sheets for you. Sometimes, you’ll have to do it for yourself. In the room, you’ll have your own cabinet to store your valuables and a personal bed light with an electric plug/power point. I like the personal electric plug because I don’t have to worry about the other guests stealing my phone or something (just a precautionary measure) because it’s just within the vicinity of my bed. 
While the room looks pretty basic, all of them were clean and cozy. In fact, I didn’t have a hard time settling down in any of the hostels because they all look welcoming and presentable. 
Due to the architecture of the building, the layout of the rooms were different in each hostels. Some rooms have their own bathroom, some don’t, but rest assured that all of the rooms will have their own sink. I think the reason why there’s a sink in every room is so that you can still freshen up even if you can’t use the common bathroom yet. Anyway, hostels like the YHA Stratford and Manchester have rooms with an attached bathroom and toilets, but the latter was much smaller. Then the room they gave me at YHA Oxford has a small balcony and TV. While the Wilderhope Manor has a Bridal Suite because the hostel is often used as a wedding venue.
There’s no bar fridge, but you can deposit your food in their self-service kitchen. Just make sure you properly label your food.
Hostel (Self-)Service

YHA London Central’s Beauty Room
With the exception of the London hostels, most of them offer breakfast for five quid. I’m not going to lie but I absolutely love, love, love the ones with breakfast because they were always offering a full English breakfast and that means bacon and scrambled eggs for me! :3
One meal I loved the most was this poached chicken that I ordered from YHA Stratford’s chef. I forgot the name of the meal but I loved it to bits! Too bad the other hostels were not offering it. /sad 
Some of the hostels have computers and wi-fi (not for free unless you’re a YHA member), but I can’t remember which. I am certain London Central and Manchester has one. 
Oh! They’re also partnered with a lot of tours and sights. So if you’re interested in watching a show or joining a group tour, the front desk will be able to assist you and even offer you a discount! :) 
Questions Answered


My room in YHA Stratford and its bathroom
It’s my first time to stay at a hostel and I didn’t really know what to expect. I used to have so many questions about hostels. Are they safe? Are they clean? Will I share a room with the opposite sex? Those are just some of the questions that I was able to personally answer. 
Are the beds comfy? Yes, they were! I never had a hard time sleeping! But for better comfort, I highly recommend you sleep at the top bunk.
Are the bathrooms clean? Yes, but my least favorite bathroom was YHA Ambleside because it was a shared bathroom where 8-9 rooms (2-4 guest in each rooms) have access. But the bathrooms and rooms were still spic-and-span!
Do they offer free breakfast? No. Majority of them, except for the hostels at London, offer a full English breakfast for five quid. Personally, I wish YHA London Central would offer a English breakfast since they have a big kitchen (the self-catering kitchen).  
Is it safe to stay at a hostel? To be honest, I felt safe throughout my stay. They have CCTVs installed and most of the hostels use a key card system. 
Will people steal my stuff if I leave it at the hostel? I can’t vouch for every backpacker but I did leave my locker unlocked for most of my trip and no one stole anything (of course, there was nothing valuable in there). But don’t follow my footsteps! Remain vigilant, don’t leave valuables unattended. Get your own padlock! ;)
Will I share a room with the opposite sex? This depends on the hostel. I’m not sure if YHA offer such kind of set-up, but there are hostels that do. Be sure to check before you book.
What happens if someone’s snoring so loud? Use an ear plug. I’m glad that the girls I’ve shared rooms with were mindful with the noise they’re making, especially during the morning when some are still sleeping. 
What are the things you need to bring? Kindly research this because it’s different for each hostels, but with YHA, you can rent towels, padlocks, earplugs and umbrellas for one or two pounds. You can see the full list of amenities on their websites.
Why should I stay at the hostel? I get you. Who doesn’t want to stay at a hotel? I would, if I could! But given the expenses to travel, I just find it ridiculous to stay at a hotel for $200 per night (the average rate at Agoda for London).
If your definition of traveling is to spend the whole day outside, roaming around the city, then stay at a hostel. If you’re visiting for a special occasion, like honeymoon or something, then go for a hotel… but still check with the hostel if they offer private rooms. 
Hostel Demystified
Since each hostel is different, here’s a brief review + lots and lots of photos.  


YHA London Central Pros: It’s located in Central London (duh!). They have an elevator. Love the cozy mood in their common room. About three blocks away from the nearest Tube. Alternatively, you can ride Bus 453 and you’ll have your own tour of Oxford/Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and Big Ben! Oh, they also have a beauty room that I discovered on my last day of stay!Cons: No breakfast, but there’s a huge self-service kitchen.




YHA Stratford Pros: This place looks amazing! The room they gave me was pretty big and comes with its own bathroom and sink. +1 for that poached chicken I ordered! Cons: A bit far from the town central. I took a cab at 11PM because I was freezing to death and my jet lag was starting to kick in. It was a quick and safe ride though. 



YHA Wilderhope Manor Pros: You get to live in a really old manor. Hill-side view! The manor may look old on the inside, the Bridal Suite looks pretty new and modern. Definitely a perfect place to do weddings and digital detox. Oh, and I did not experience any paranormal activity during my stay. ;)Cons: In the middle of nowhere? No signal for Three mobile, my choice of network throughout my stay. 
YHA Manchester Pros: Very near MOSI! Manchester is somewhat a small city, so you won’t have a problem roaming around. Cons: I can’t think of any, but tall people might not like their small bathrooms? I’m petite, so that’s not really a problem for me! 

YHA Ambleside Pros: Overlooking Lake Windmere and is located beside Ambleside Pier. Place was full but quite peaceful. Cons: Rooms may be a little small for taller people, but that’s just what I think. Not enough shared bathrooms. 


YHA York Pros: They gave us a really spacious room with a big bathroom. The place looks really big! Cons: A 15/20-minute walk from the town central. It started to drizzle when I was on my way back to the hostel, and I’m not gonna lie, I was cursing because I didn’t have any brolly. The rain wasn’t that bad, it’s the cold wind that was literally killing me. I thought I’m going to get sick! But that’s not the hostel’s fault!  


YHA Boggle Hole Pros: My favorite hostel because of the quirky feel. Outside, the hostel may not look much, but visit inside and you’ll be taken to a different world. Maybe I’m exaggerating but I absolutely love this place. You’ll definitely be a kid at heart here. Cons: The hostel is a hidden gem, which is a good thing, but I absolutely have no idea how to get there by commute. May not be ideal for the disabled. 




YHA WhitbyPros: The place’s huge and has a small garden with an amazing view of the town and Whitby Abbey. Suitable for the disabled. Cons: I can’t think of any, since I did not stay here. The manager gave me a tour of the place, including here and there history of the house and the surroundings. :)  





YHA Oxford Pros: Located near the train and bus station. Cons: None.
YHA Oxford Street Pros: Very near Oxford Street Station. I really like the room they gave me because I can see the London Eye from afar.  Cons: No elevators for the rooms, no breakfast but there’s a small self-service kitchen. 
Overall Experience
You might think I’m just being biased because this trip was sponsored by Hostelling International, but I really had a fantastic time staying at their hostels. Most of the staff I met were very accommodating, including the team at YHA Whitby! And the guests I met were also really nice. :) 
For more information about the Youth Hostels in England and Wales, please visit their website at http://www.yha.org.uk/. And if you have any other questions, feel free to ask on the comment box below. 

Youth Hostels? What to Expect?

This is going to be a really long entry but I guarantee that it’s going to be helpful for you, my little wanderlust. 

If you have been following my Big Blog Exchange trip, then you’ll know that I only spent one day in each of the places I’ve visited. I slept in 9 different Youth Hostels or YHA (A stands for Association) in 10 days. I must admit that an overnight stay is way too short to provide a proper review for each hostels I’ve visited, but at least, I can provide an overall feedback! :)

But before I begin, let me just clarify that YHA gave me a private room throughout my sponsored stay. Occasionally, I would share rooms with Lucy but she was my companion throughout the trip so I don’t think that counts. The real hostel experience (sharing rooms with a stranger and the like) happened when I extended my trip.

Now, shall we begin with the review? I promise it’ll be really informative!

Read more