I’m ashamed to admit it, but, I loved Kuta

Have you ever been ashamed of loving a destination?

Travel has become a little bit of a status symbol: the more insta perfect a place, the better it is. The more remote a destination the cooler you become among the backpacking community. But recently we visited a tourist mecca, one of those places which have a reputation for being seedy, dirty and full of drunks. I expected to loathe it, but instead, I kind of liked it. And, do you know what? I am ashamed to admit I liked it there. Stupid, huh?

The place I’m talking about: Kuta, Bali. Whenever you talk to someone about Bali the first thing they say is “don’t go to Kuta” or “Kuta isn’t really Bali.” So, as I have travelled around Bali, I find myself agreeing that Kuta isn’t nice and it is worth avoiding. But, in reality, I had a couple of really good days there, and so, I am questioning: why? Why am I ashamed to admit I had a good time there?! Why should I have to follow the crowds’ opinions? I should say loud and proud: “I liked Kuta!”

Check out our pics of Kuta on instagram.

Image of a Kuta sunset, dashing all our preconceptions of Kuta being ugly
A gorgeous sunset on Kuta beach

Preconceptions of Kuta.

Don’t get me wrong, I had my preconceptions of what Kuta would be like. In fact, we originally only booked two nights to recover from a 17 hour layover in KL. The idea was we would spend a day hanging out around the pool to relax before exploring more off the beaten track locations. However, after a morning exploring we decided we wanted to extend by a night: Kuta was not what we were expecting.

Back in February, we spent a week in Phuket with my parents. While it was nice to see them, I hated Phuket. I specifically hated Patong. It was dirty, overpriced and the seediest place I’ve ever been. No one wants to have their boyfriend propositioned by a hooker while their dad is there! I expected Kuta to be Patong 2.0. Conversely, I had a great time in Kuta.

Why did I end up liking Kuta?

Kuta had some charm that Patong was severely lacking. In amongst the Starbucks’ and tourist tat shops, there was still local places. Yes, Kuta is overly commercialised but we still managed to find the nicest local run warung to eat at. It is still the best food I have had in Bali! It is small gems like this that made Kuta likeable.

Surfing is another reason we loved Kuta. Kuta is one of the best places to learn to surf. Small waves make the perfect conditions. So, James and I had our very first surf lesson in Kuta. It was a blast: I even managed to stand a few times! This experience is just another reason to love Kuta. Who doesn’t want to believe they are a cool surfer chick, even just for one day?

And finally, cheap spas. Spas are one of the reasons Bali is famous and I had a fabulous massage in Kuta. A lovely Balinese lady made my body feel like heaven and this treatment made me fall in love with Kuta even more. The chance to just relax and have a couple of days relaxing. Enjoying ourselves in a 3 star hotel, instead of a hostel, was bliss. The touristic side of Kuta means there are tonnes of great value accommodation options.

Image of emily by the hotel pool
Just chilling by the pool

Overall, I had an amazing time in Kuta. Did I expect to? No. But sometimes a place surprises you and for me, that place was Kuta. So, here I am saying proudly: I liked Kuta. And there is nothing wrong with that!

Have you ever visited a place you loved but you’re ashamed to admit you loved it? Leave a comment below.


I certainly had preconceptions of Kuta but in the end I really liked it there!

Know before you go: Taiwan

Is Taiwan easy to travel?

Heck, yes, Taiwan is one the easiest places to travel around. There is an abundance of public transport options and tourist information is in every city. You could not wish for an easy destination to get around. Imagine China but with the infrastructure and social customs of Japan: that’s Taiwan. Clean, efficient and brimming with culture. I loved Taiwan! However, there are some things I wish I had known before my arrival, so I have decided to impart my knowledge to you.

taipei 101 is the number one thing to do in Taipei
Taiwan is simply incredible!

Get Yourself an Easy Card.

The clue is in the name with this one. What does the easy card do? It makes travel in Taiwan easier, duh. The easy card works like London’s Oyster card, only it’s better. You can use it for so much more, a bit like the Octopus card in Hong Kong. It is accepted across Taiwan, not just in Taipei and you can use it in shops, as well as, transportation. It is convenient and you save 20% on all metro journeys: it is worth the 100 dollar (£2.50)  investment.

Accommodation is more expensive at the weekend.

Taiwan is a small country, you can get from one end to the other in a couple of hours on the bullet train. The outcome of this is that domestic tourism is big business. Many Taiwanese people go away for the weekend and as basic economics dictates, if demand goes up so does price. Expect to pay more for accommodation at the weekend. However, there is a perk to Taiwanese tourism, you get to meet some great locals in hostels at the weekends!

Outside Taipei English is not well spoken.

Once you leave the capital you may struggle to communicate if you don’t speak Mandarin. Some places will offer an English menu. If not, take a look at what the locals are eating and choose that option. They’ve picked it for a reason. We even found that hotels did not have English speaking staff. Google translate will become your best friend! However, before you panic read my next point.

The people in Taiwan are lovely.

Taiwanese people are not the most outgoing bunch. They are quite reserved and generally won’t come over to say hello. But don’t let this fool you into believing they aren’t friendly, if you make the effort people will chat to you for ages but you need to make the first step. In addition, if you need help the people in Taiwan will go above and beyond to help you out, even if they don’t speak a word of English. In Taichung, we only managed to find our guest through the kindness of a local lady who walked us all the way to the door. Her English was limited to ‘hello.’

Seriously, the people in Taiwan are just the nicest, don’t worry about language barriers or getting lost because someone will be along to help you out no matter what. You couldn’t wish to meet a more contentious nation.

Tourist Information

Taiwan has a great tourist infrastructure including tourist shuttles and every large town has a tourist information centre where a lovely (English speaking) member of staff can tell you everything you need to know about your current location, your next destination or even where to get a good meal!

Pack a rain coat!

The weather in Taiwan is unpredictable to say the least. One day its 34 degrees and brilliant sunshine. The next there is a torrential thunderstorm. Be prepared for every eventuality and if it looks like it might rain then expect it to pour! A rain coat and an umbrella are essentials. We invested in high quality North Face rain jackets and these have withstood even the most torrential rainstorm.

You’re going to love Taiwan.

Trust me on this one: you will fall in love with Taiwan. The food is delicious and plentiful. The people are kind and generous. The country is overflowing with stunning scenery. Taiwan is a gem of the Far East and anyone planning a trip there has so much to be excited about!

Is Taiwan easy to travel? Know before you go: Taiwan.








Want to know more about Taiwan’s awesome capital, Taipei?

Goodbye Asia, Hello Australia.

After nine months in Asia, it is time to say goodbye. the is going to be a heartfelt goodbye. This continent has stolen my heart in a way I never expected. There are wonders here that are beyond anything in my wildest dreams. From unforgettable sacred sun rises at Angkor Wat and Bagan, to world class diving in the Philippines and Bali this experience has been the best of my life.

While I don’t want to leave Asia, another place is calling my name. Australia. Australia, a destination that has always seemed so far from home and such an implausible destination for a holiday. I feel that the only way to fully explore such a diverse country is to live and work there. And so, James and I are leaving Asia to embark on our next big adventure. A working holiday visa in Oz. To be honest I am more apprehensive about going to Australia than I was when we left for Asia. So many worries cross my mind on a daily basis! Will we find work? What route should we take? Will I be eaten by a crocodile? Or a shark? And my biggest fear: if we can’t find work when do we book a ticket home? Despite these concerns, I am so excited to head to Australia.

In my mind, Australia invokes images of epic beaches, great expanses of the outback, dangerous animals and some of the most iconic tourist destinations in the world. Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Great Barrier Reef, Aires Rock and so much more. Just thinking about the endless possibilities excites. As you are reading this James and I will be on route to Darwin in the Northern Territory to begin the next step of our nomadic life.

So, thanks Asia for the best nine months EVER, but, Australia here we come!

Here is just some of the best moments from our first nine months on the road:

Image of Emily feeding an elephant at the elephant sanctuary
Visiting the Elephant Jungle sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Image of James scuba diving
Getting PADI certified in Malaysia

Find out about our PADI course, here.

image of a train crossing the nine arch bridge in ella
The incredible journey from Kandy to Ella

You can read more about Sri Lanka, here.

Image of the Marina Bay in SIngapore
Exploring wonderful Singapore
Image of the sunrise at Bagan with pagodas in the foreground and hot air balloons in the sky.
And, of course, the incredible sunrises in Bagan.

After nine months in Asia we are leaving to embark on our next big adventure a working holiday visa in Australia

What’s the one thing we can’t travel without?

Travelling long term means long flights and even longer bus journeys. As a backpacker, it is not uncommon for you to spend 24 hours on a bus or stuck in an airport during a layover. The monotony of simply sitting staring out a window, watching the world go by can become extremely tedious. During these times, there is one thing that keeps James and me sane: music. When you’ve spent 10 hours on a minibus, tearing around mountain roads then you need to stick some headphones in and listen to some tunes. Listening to music while travelling is essential for my mental well being while I am on the road.

I cannot even recall the number of times I’ve needed a reprieve from the constant beeping of Asian drivers. Or even worse, the inane comedy shows they play on the bus which includes canned laughter and awful sound effects. It is at these times that having a great playlist can see you through. Whether its old bangers or the latest hits, good music is medicine for the soul. It soothes me at times when my stress levels are through the roof or cheers me up in an occasional blue moment. Music is so important to us while we travel.

Listening to music while travelling is essential for us and this quote shows why

One of the downsides of travelling is that you become disconnected with the music world back home. In Asia, only the really big tunes make it onto the radio. Everywhere you go you can hear either Despacito or Ed Sheeran, those are the only choices. Therefore, all those other great songs you hear on the radio at home are lost to us. That’s why we use a music streaming service like Amazon Music Unlimited. With a choice of 40 million songs, you will never be lacking a good tune to listen to. With the ability to stream all the latest and greatest hits, ad free of course, this is the best way to stay up to date with all the best music while on the road!


The one thing we cannot travel with out is music.








Want to read about more about our travels then why not check out our posts on the Philippines, Taiwan or Malaysia.

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Cycling Around Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan.

“The 29km bike path encircling Sun Moon Lake affords uplifting views of the lake and the hill. The 5.7 km Shueishe to Xiangshan section of the route starts at Zhongxing Parking Lot and ends at Boji Mountain with vistas of Hanbi Peninsula and the Qinglong Mountain Range along the way. The section is suitable for all ages and offers abundant opportunities to rest.” This section from the Taiwan Lonely Planet Guide convinced me to embark on a 29km bike ride around the Sun Moon Lake. Unfortunately, what they fail to point out is that the other 23.3 kilometres are mountainous! My legs were jelly when I finally got back to town after the hardest bike ride of my life, and I used to embark on a form of torture called spin class before I went backpacking!

The flat 5.7 kilometres are bliss: perfectly paved paths, flat as a pancake and have vistas that will stun you into silence. There aren’t many bike rides that will beat this for ease and beauty. Would I recommend cycling this route? Yes, anyone can do it, your 90 year old Nan could probably cycle this route. Nevertheless, this perfect cycle path was the very last part of our bike ride, when we got to this incredible pathway we had already been cycling for 4 hours. Let me rewind to the beginning of our cycle.

When we rented a bike in town the lady in the shop asked us did we want the bike with 21 gears because we were doing the full loop. Naively we didn’t realise this was a clue as to how steep this route was going to be. Stupid, I know. Armed with our bikes and helmets off we went. Within ten minutes of leaving town, we hit the first hill. And that was how the route continued. Up, up, up. By the time we stopped for a drink at a café in the cable car ticket centre our legs were shaking from exertion. During our stop, I kept thinking well that must be all the up. Boy, was I wrong.

We continued ascending to the Cihen Pagoda. At this point, we were pushing the bikes up the really, really steep hills and cycling the less steep ones. The other cyclists on the route? Dressed in lycra, wearing cleats and on sleek bikes. Me? I was wearing Havaianas and denim shorts. To say we were unprepared for how strenuous this route is would be the understatement of the year.

Then a miracle happened. You know how people say: “what goes up must come down”? Well, it’s true. After the drudgery of cycling uphill for over an hour, we were soon whizzing down winding mountain roads. It was exhilarating. When you are flying around the bends you can appreciate the beauty of these roads. And the views? Simply breathtaking. Just look at the pictures:

Image of a view you get if you cycle around Sun Moon Lake
Just one of the many amazing views!

View you get if you cycle sun moon lake

Would I recommend cycling around the Sun and Moon Lake?

I’m of two minds on whether I should recommend this route to others. Despite my rant about how exhausting this was, I had a blast. The challenge was part of the fun and when we finally arrived back in town I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. Would I have felt this way if I had only cycled the ‘easy’ 5.7km? I honestly don’t think so. So, my recommendation would be this. If you like a challenge, if you are reasonably fit or if you are simply crazy like us then, yes, go for it. Cycle the full route around the lake and enjoy the feeling of the wind through your hair.

Conversely, if you just want a gentle bike ride then this isn’t for you. Take the easier option and enjoy the short route. There is an around the lake bus you can take which will shuttle you along the road we took and you can still experience the delights of the Sun Moon Lake.

Image of sun moon lake with James and Emily in the foreground
James and I consoling each other as we realised the end was near!

Visiting Sun Moon Lake.

To get to the Sun Moon Lake you need to take a bus from Taichung city (2 hours). Once you are in town there is a tourist information centre who will answer any questions you may have. DO NOT rent a bike from the company they recommend. We were quoted 500 dollars for the day and ended up paying 200 dollars for a better quality bike just down the road. If you are visiting at the weekend expect bigger crowds and more expensive accommodation. But if you are cycling the full loop you will avoid most other people as you are one of the only people crazy enough to do the entire circuit.

No matter how you choose to explore the Sun Moon Lake, you are sure to be overwhelmed by its beauty.

Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan

What to know more about beautiful places in Taiwan, check out our post about Taroko Gorge.

My love-hate relationship with Lonely Planet.

Times are changing. Twenty years ago, a backpacker embarked on a trip armed only with his Lonely Planet Guide and no other knowledge. Now days it is much easier to find information, the internet has revolutionised travel and travel planning. A simple google will bring up hundreds of results on any given topics. You don’t have to flick through the latest edition of ‘South-East Asia on a Shoestring’ to find recommendations, you can consult TripAdvisor or any number of blogs. So, is the Lonely Planet Guide outdated?

Image of travel map to demonstrate is the lonely planet guide outdated
Travel planning is never easy.

Let me start by saying I have downloaded the kindle edition of the Lonely Planet Guide for every destination we have visited so far. (If having an ebook version isn’t sticking with the times then I don’t know what is). In part, this is only because it is included on Kindle Unlimited and I don’t have to pay £15 a pop. So, it follows that I have found them useful to some extent. I love the fact they are downloadable because having to carry around 14 separate paperbacks would become tiresome and a huge waste of resources. Downloads are more environmentally friendly and that’s always a pro. Having that guide on my phone as a go-to guide is always useful, especially when you don’t have wifi to get online and check TripAdvisor.

Even if you are not an ebook lover then I still believe Lonely Planet has a place in planning your trip. If you are on a short break you don’t want it to be ruined by not knowning where to eat or what to visit. So, a trusty guidebook is always useful. And, if you are on an extended trip then there are opportunities to swap guides on the road. Whether you find a fellow traveller willing to trade or a hostel with a book swap. Lonely Planet Guides take some of the stress out of travelling.

However, on some occasions I have despaired at my loyal Lonely Planet Guide. The questions “why on earth has it recommended this?” and “Why isn’t this in the Lonely Planet Guide?” are regular questions I ask myself. Do I find Lonely Planet to be the definitive bible on all things travel? No. Sometimes, I find their descriptions to be downright ludicrous. If ever there was a company that only saw half full cups then Lonely Planet is it. It is okay to say somewhere is a bit boring or ugly. Travellers are looking for honesty and that’s why blogs are great because they offer that.

Considering these pet peeves I have with Lonely Planet, I still find that little guide book to be an incredibly useful resource. On a number of occasions it has saved my butt. Sitting on a plane and realising you have no idea how to get to the city center, with no wifi you are a bit stuck. So, in these instances Lonely Plant becomes a life saver. And no online resource can replicate that.

Lonely Planet will live to see another day. Blogs aren’t going to replace Lonely Planet Guides instead they are an accompaniment. I will often use both methods when researching a trip or destination. I’ve already downloaded the Bali and Lombok edition in preparation. Will I read it cover to cover? No. Is it still useful? Hell, yes. After all, proper preparation prevents poor performance. No one wants a bad trip and a trusty Lonely Planet Guide will stop any unwanted troubles during your next adventure!

Planning your next trip?

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The Four Worst Rooms Mates in Hostels

Hostels are great. They are the very best way to meet people on the road. Throw a group of strangers into a room together and the result is a new group of friends. As a couple people rarely come and sit with you because they assume you do not want company. After all, you already have a friend and people don’t want to interrupt. Let me tell you solo travellers something: we are with each other 24/7 sometimes we want company to relieve the boredom of spending all our time together! Part of the reason we like hostels is that the assumption you are more than friends is not always made so we find this the best way to meet other travellers.

Image of a person in bed
Hostels aren’t always the best for getting a good nights sleep.

However, we have a bit of a love-hate relationship with hostels. While they are great for making new friends, they aren’t always the best for getting a proper nights’ sleep. As backpackers, we have all been the person who has to leave at 4 A.M. whether for a flight, to catch the sunrise or another equally exciting reason. This simply cannot be helped and so, when I talk about the worst roommates these are not the people I am complaining about. There are some people out there who just make terrible roommates and they fall into the following four categories:

The worst room mates in hostels.

The guy who makes Skype calls at 3 A.M.

We all have families spread across the world and we all want to keep in contact with them despite sometimes outrageous time differences. However, if you feel the overwhelming need to make a skype call at three in the morning: DON’T DO IT IN YOUR ROOM! Most backpackers have had this experience, you’re fast asleep then all of a sudden “hello, mum? Hello…. Yeah, I can hear you.” Well, so can the other seven people in the room trying to get some sleep.  I’m sure if the wifi works in the room, it will work in the hallway too. Go out there and let the rest of us sleep!

Image of a phone to illustrate one of the worst room mates in the hostel
Do you really need make that call at 3 A.M.?

The snorer.

Okay, so I fell kinda bad adding this category to the list because snoring cannot be helped. However, of all the annoying habits: this is the worst. *heavy breathing…. Snort….. heavy breathing….. grunt* on loop the whole night. It’s annoying, it keeps you awake at night and you know there is nothing you can do about it!

People across the world complain about their partners snoring in bed and how it keeps them up. The difference between this snoring and the kind in a dorm is that you don’t love the person in question.  The best advice I can offer is buy yourself a good pair of ear plugs! They can be invaluable.

The slob.

Are you a teenage boy? No, so clean up after yourself!

You are sharing a room with sometimes 10 other people so leaving your stuff strewn across every available space of floor just isn’t cool. I know how annoying it can be to live out of a backpack but do you really need to empty all your belongings onto the floor and leave them there for a week! Come on people I’m not your mother I shouldn’t be nagging you (through a blog) to clear up after yourselves.

The horny couple.

Let me rewind a few months to my worst dorm room experience. It was two A.M. and I was deep into dreamland when I was rudely awoken by a rocking sensation. As a blearily woke up I realised I could hear two people moaning. At the time (I was still half asleep!), I thought ‘just go back to sleep, they’ll be finished soon.’ Even with my trusty earplugs in I could still feel the bed moving. Seriously, what were these people doing!? When I had just about had enough and was about to say something, another roommate came into the room and said: “excuse me, you’re in my bed!” They weren’t even getting freaky in their own bed!

Ladies and gentleman, the worse roommates: those that think it’s okay to have sex in a dorm. It’s not okay and never will be. Go, do it somewhere else, the secluded beach the hostel was located on, for example.

So, there you have it the four worst roommates. These terrible roommates are a minority bunch (I almost typed one in a million, but they are more common than that!). I love staying in hostels and it is worth putting up with the bad to meet some great people. If you have never stayed in a hostel then book yourself into one! They are fantastic and enable you to swap travel tips, tidbits and tales with your fellow travellers.

Looking for great places to stay? We always use Agoda to search for great, cheap accommodation.

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Want to hear more about our travels then click here.

The World’s First Cat Café, Taipei

Image of the exterior of the worlds first cat cafe

Taipei has many claims to fame. The world’s best collection of Chinese antiquities. Taipei 101 was formerly the tallest building in the world and featured the world’s fastest lift. However, in my opinion, Taipei’s true claim to fame is having the world’s first cat café. Neat, huh? This trend began in Taipei and has taken off around the world. It is not hard to see why this concept is so popular. Combine two of the greatest things in the world: cats and coffee. The result is one amazing experience.

Cafe Cats and Dogs 1998.

Despite several rebranding’s this cute café holds the fame for beginning this craze, so when we read about it we decided to pop there for a quick cuppa. In the Shilin district of Taipei, Cafe Cats and Dogs 1998 is a small establishment with an occupancy of about 30 people. We were expecting it to be really busy as we were visiting on a public holiday. However, there were only a couple of locals and us here. This meant we had as many furry friends as our hearts could ever desire!

And, so, that quick cuppa ended up lasting two hours. Every table has a cat basket and our basket contained a tiny kitten. When we asked them where the kitten comes from they told us they found him on the street. This little fellow’s name is Qiángdá (strong) and he was too cute for words. I spent a good hour ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘ahh-ing’ at him. Much to James’ delight, as well as, featuring an assortment of feline friends this café also has two dogs.

An added bonus was that this shop isn’t a one trick pony, their coffee is good as well. With a cute cat pattern on top of the foam, my latte rivalled any commercialised coffee shop chain. The only thing I questioned about this cool café was the art on the walls. They’ve stuck to the cat theme but some of the pictures were borderline frightening!

Image of a latte and a kitten at the worlds first cat cafe
Coffee and a kitten, can life get any better?
Image of a cat at the worlds first cat cafe
Worried they aren’t treated right? Don’t, this cutie weighs a whopping 7 kilograms. He is definitely not underfed!
Image of a kitten
Make sure you protect your drinks!

Image of a cat at the worlds first cat cafe

Image of James with a dog at the worlds first cat cafe
Not a cat person? Don’t worry, they have dogs too.

If you are looking for an off the beaten track experience in Taipei, why not stop by the worlds very first cat café. If these kitties don’t melt your heart then your chest must be filled with stone! Not in the area to visit this cat café? Don’t worry there are plenty more in Taipei. Check out this comprehensive list by Lonely Planet.

Want to know what else there is to do in Taipei.

Image that links post to pinterest

Taroko Gorge National Park.

Taroko Gorge National Park on the east coast of Taiwan is one of the most awe inspiring places I have ever had the fortune to visit. The marble cliffs are simply incredible. The marble has formed one of the most unique geological formations in the world. Not only is its size phenomenal, its beauty is equally outstanding. I don’t think my chin left my chest the entire time I was there. At 92,000 hectares and featuring multiple peaks over 3,000 meters tall you begin to feel very small and insignificant compared to mother earth. The sheer size of this place overwhelmed me and left me thinking “is this how insects feel all the time?” What is shocking is that this place is still growing. The gorges are growing at a rate of 0.5 cm per year!

Despite the incredibility of this place not many people have even heard of it. And even fewer have visited this natural wonder. So, I’ve decided to inspire you to travel to this unknown corner of the world. However, instead of waxing lyrical for another 1,000 words I’ve got 10 pictures that will inspire you to visit Taroko Gorge. And one image that might put you off.

Taroko Gorge National Park.

Image of Emily infont of a marble cliff at Taroko Gorge National Park
Feeling insignificant compared to the scale of Taroko.

Image of the bridge at Taroko Gorge National Park

Image of a suspension bridge at taroko gorge national park

Image of a dragon statue looking over the gorge at taroko national park

Image of a trail at taroko gorge national park
This trail isn’t for those with a fear of heights!

Image of the gorge

Image of the gorge at taroko gorge national park

Image of an entrance to a tunnel
Here be dragons! A pitch black tunnel through the mountain was part of one trail.

Image of taroko gorge

Image of blue water in the river running through the gorge
The colour of the water only adds to the beauty!

So, there you have it. Ten photos that will inspire you to add Taroko Gorge to your bucket list. However, now that I have convinced you that you NEED to go here, I did promise one picture which might change your mind:

Image of a spider on the trail in Taroko Gorge National Park
We had to share the trail with this guy!! Yes, he really is as big as he looks (and he had friends!)

Looking for great accommodation around Taroko Gorge. Be sure to check out Agoda.

Image that links to pinterest








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World Blood Donor Day- Donating Blood in Phnom Penh

Happy World Blood Donor Day! That’s a bit of a mouthful! Nevertheless, in recognition of this event, I thought I would publish a blog post about the time James and I donated blood in Cambodia. Not your conventional tourist activity I know, but I’m all about doing a good deed. When I read about the shortage of blood donations in the Cambodia Lonely Planet Guide and how you could donate a pint in Phnom Penh, I automatically decided that this was something we HAD to do! James was a bit more dubious but I soon persuaded him.

Donating Blood in Phnom Penh

I am an avid supporter of blood donation. I regularly donate back home in the U.K., after all, you never know when you might need a pint. Just before we left I received a pin in recognition of my tenth pint of blood donated. Not bad considering I’m only 22! When I return home I hope to be able to continue donating. Hopefully, I will still be eligible. But despite my commitment in the U.K., it doesn’t explain why, or how, I donated blood in Cambodia. When I learnt about the dire situation in Cambodia my decision was made, I had to do this.

Why is there a shortage of blood in Cambodia?

Lack of education in Cambodia means that people do not understand that the blood taken from them is replenished in a matter of hours. There is a strong belief that blood donation will permanently weaken you. In a country where physical labor is your lifeline, this is a hugely damaging belief. Therefore, only 30% of donations come from regular donors. In the rest of cases the donor is a family member who donates while their relative is hemorrhaging or in surgery. In times like this, every moment is precious, donations and testing of the blood often cannot be done in time. Furthermore, much blood (9 percent in 2012) fails inspections because of the prevalence of HIV, hepatitis C and B.

Our experience donating blood.

As I stated before, we discovered the blood drive through the Lonely Planet Guide. So, after an emotional morning at the Killing Fields, we headed to the National Blood Transfusion Centre in Phnom Penh to donate blood. At this point James was still unsure whether or not he would donate, unlike me, he has never donated blood in the U.K. However, when we arrived and saw the modern building he was convinced that there was no physical risk involved.


Image of the NTBC where we went about donating blood in Phnom Penh
Super swanky building where we gave blood.


First off you are instructed to fill in a form. Don’t worry they have copies in English as well as Khmer. After that, you consult a doctor who approves you for donation. To demonstrate the lack of education in Cambodia many people at the clinic were not signing the forms, instead, they had to use their thumbprint as they were illiterate.

Next up, you see a nurse who pricks your finger and tests your blood type. I have to say this was intriguing to watch as you don’t get to see this in the U.K. I’m O+, in case you are wondering. As an aside, if anyone is wondering about needles and the cleanliness. I watched to make sure it was a sterile needle being used, I don’t want to get hepatitis or HIV, they were all taken from a sterile packet and then disposed of into a sharps bin. This was a perfectly safe procedure.

Image of James and the nurse after he donated blood in Phnom Penh
Our lovely nurse who did not speak a word of English!

The donation.

After you have been cleared for donation, you are moved to the beds. As we were guided over to a donation bed you could see the sweat beading on James’ head. His fear was palpable. Ultimately, he had nothing to worry about: the nurse was a pro. I didn’t even end up with a bruise and I bruise like a peach. I won’t go into too much detail about the donation in case there are any squeamish readers out there. However, I will add that the donation was so painless it convinced James to become a donor when we return home!

Following the donation.

After you have donated it’s time for a little treat courtesy of the Cambodian blood drive. We were given a box filled with fresh pastries and a carton of juice. However, the biggest perk for donating (aside from doing a good deed) is a free t-shirt. If you do give blood in Cambodia, wear this t-shirt with pride and spread the message. Unfortunately, when we donated they only had XM (extra medium?) which was way too small for James. I could only wear it as a pyjama top, Asian clothes sizes are tiny. However, a free t-shirt is not the reason to donate. Those pints of blood we left in Cambodia will go on to save a life. As travellers, that’s the best legacy we could have left in Cambodia.

Not going to Cambodia anytime soon?

If you won’t be in Cambodia anytime soon, then donate in your home country. While the situation in the West may not be quite as dire, there is always a need for blood donations.

Do a good deed, sign up to donate blood today. As I said before, you never know when you might need a pint.

Image for pinterest about donating blood in Phnom Penh