A Complete Guide to Grutas Tolantango Hot Springs, Mexico

water hot springs holiday Mexico

If you search for ‘Mexican Paradise’ on any social media platform, chances are you’ll come across at least one picture taken in Grutas Tolantongo. The elusive geothermal pools are quickly becoming a hotspot for insta-models on vacation in Mexico, although many are quite reluctant to tag and give away the location!

I must admit, I stumbled upon these pools in the same way as most do. After seeing a picture of the iconic pools on Instagram with no geotag, I was determined to find out more. I’ve done the research and digging so you don’t have to. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about visiting Grutas Tolantongo!

hot spring Grutas Tolantongo Mexico City

How to get to Grutas Tolantongo

The Grutas Tolantongo hot spring complex is nestled in the Hidalgo region of Mexico. Only four hours away from Mexico City, I was excited to put Grutas Tolantongo on my Mexico itinerary to break up the hustle and bustle of CDMX.

I found a few bits of information online about hiring a car and self-driving or taking the public bus to Grutas Tolantongo, but since I was a non-Spanish speaker travelling solo, I decided against these options. I ultimately chose to take a full-day private tour with Nómada Tours to the hot springs (5am-7pm). My guide took care of everything throughout the day, and I would highly recommend Nómada Tours if you’re interested in a stress-free trip to the pools.

The drive from Mexico City to Grutas Tolantongo takes around 4 hours (traffic-dependant, of course). I did find the trip to be a little bit longer on the way back. The hot springs are pretty remote, and the drive will take you through the Mexican desert countryside. There’s very little phone reception and no big towns nearby. You are truly in a secluded oasis by the time you arrive to the pools.

swimming pool Grutas Tolantongo

Entrance fees for Grutas Tolantongo

Entrance to the Grutas Tolantongo area is 150 pesos, which includes entry to all the water attractions, and use of the amenities (toilets, showers etc.). Parking is an extra 20 pesos. 

hotel in Mexican country side

Things to do in Grutas Tolantongo

While the pozas termales (man-made thermal pools) here are the iconic sight you’ll be coming for, the Grutas Tolantongo area actually has many attractions. Along with the man-made pools, there is a geothermal river, a thermal cave/waterfall system, zip line (an extra 100-200 pesos depending on the course), swimming pools and waterslides. You can also go hiking in the area if you wish. Here’s breakdown of the main activities.

Pozas termales

What’s not to love about cascading pools with sweeping valley views! These hot spring pools perched on the mountain are paradise. Don’t be fooled by the quiet pictures though, expect these pools to be busy with couples and big local families. If you arrive early on a weekday though, you’ll probably be able to score a pool for yourself. It’s tempting to soak in these bubbling baths all day but there’s more to see around the resort, so don’t spend the whole day here. The best place to take a panoramic shot of all the pools is at the entrance next to the security guard. 

swimming hot spring Grutas Tolantongo

Geothermal river

The river runs fairly slowly so it’s perfect to sit on the rocks in the stream and relax. The water is lukewarm due to the geothermal activity, and have a bit of a sulfur smell, so be warned. It’s a great place at the bottom of the valley to camp or have a picnic.

thermal river Grutas Tolantongo Mexico City

Caves, tunnels and waterfalls

I actually found the caves, tunnels and waterfalls to be the most exciting attractions in the complex. You’ll need to take a short walk up to the waterfall area, which is tucked away in the mountains. Once you wade through the large cold waterfall outside, you’ll find yourself in a large cave. Despite the freezing cold waterfall at the entrance, the water inside is toasty warm thanks to the geothermal waterfalls in the cave. It’s really cool to wade in the area where the two temperatures combine.

geothermal waterfall Mexico adventure

The geothermal waterfalls inside the cave are powerful enough to give a nice back massage – if you stand underneath, it’s like a natural hydrotherapy spa. There are tunnels leading off from the main cave which you can explore if you’ve got a torch. Just be aware of the strong currents if you’re not a strong swimmer. These warm waterfalls are a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else!

warm waterfall inside Mexico cave
inside cave Grutas Tolantongo

Be aware that the pozas termales pools, river and caves are all in different areas of the valley, so be prepared to drive between them or trek a substantial way. If you don’t have a car, the local hotels run a shuttle between different areas for 60-80 pesos per trip.

camping Mexico holiday

Accomodation in Grutas Tolantango

The are four small hotels in Grutas Tolantango which are run by the Hidalgo locals. They are Paraíso Escondido (closest to the man-made pools and zip line) La Gruta (closest to the waterfall/caves) La Huerta (closest to the river) and Molanguito (at the top of the valley).

These hotels don’t accept reservations in advance, so you must turn up on the day and hope they have space. If there’s no space at the hotels, or you’d prefer a more outdoorsy adventure, you can rent equipment (or BYO) and camp down by the river. Hotel rooms are between 600-1200 pesos, and tents are 120-250 pesos. The whole area is cash only, so make sure you have more than enough for your stay since the closest ATM is an hour away. Some of the Paraíso Escondido bungalows did look like they would be very comfortable from the outside. If I was to go again, I’d probably consider staying the night!

hotel in mountains Mexico

Facilities at Grutas Tolantongo

Since the infrastructure isn’t exactly designed for big buses of Western tourists, don’t expect 5-star resort amenities. The hotels are relatively simple places with half-finished buildings, basic restaurants and lots of overall charm. There is no wifi or TVs in the hotels. There are 8 restaurants in the area with simple Mexican dishes available and a some shops for convenience items (but these are by no means well-stocked). That being said, there are plenty of communal change rooms/showers/toilets in each hotel complex, which are included in your ticket price and were very clean.

enchiladas mexico city

Is Grutas Tolantongo worth visiting?

Truth be told, Grutas Tolantongo is an authentic Mexican paradise. Since I’d seen so many instaworthy pictures online, I was expecting at least a few people with big cameras and tourists lining up for the perfect shot in the pools. But I didn’t meet any other Western tourists on the day I was there – literally none! It was truly a picture-perfect Mexican getaway. I would recommend to anyone who has time to visit.

beautiful pools Grutas Tolantongo

Poppy xoxo

You can find out more about Grutas Tolantongo on the offical website here.

Want to read more about Mexico? Check out my guide to the 10 best places in Mexico City for tacos!

a complete guide to Grutas Tolantongo

The Truth About Tulum: What You Won’t See On Social Media

You won’t need to look very far to find someone who’s been to Tulum, or thinking about visiting. It’s a hotspot for travellers wanting to enjoy the relaxed bohemian vibes of Mexico. 

But Tulum isn’t all it seems on social media – I found out the hard way when I visited this up-and-coming destination for myself. Here’s a few things people don’t tell you about Tulum, so you can be prepared before you go.

tulum ruins things you should know Mexico

There’s a big divide between Tulum’s town and beach

Tulum is separated into two main areas – the pueblo, or township where the majority of locals live, and the playa, the built-up strip along the beach. The pueblo and playa are connected by a big main road, and it’s possible to drive or bike between the two.

While the geographical divide between the two areas isn’t that big, there’s definitely a metaphorical divide that’s only getting larger as more and more people flock to Tulum to live out their influencer fantasies. 

Even though it’s a huge tourist destination, Tulum’s pueblo has largely maintained the atmosphere of a small Mexican town. There’s essentially one main road with touristy restaurants and shops. Once you step off this road it’s like any other small town in Mexico, with locals going about their daily life. There’s a few glitzy accomodation options tucked away in the jungle, but the majority of hotels have modest Mexican hospitality.

Tulum’s playa however is almost the complete opposite of this. The beach is lined with wellness retreats, exclusive beach sanctuaries and reservation-only restaurants. Most of these venues aren’t particularly Mexican, but instead have been manufactured to have that rustic tropical vibe that tourists enjoy. The playa is the side of Tulum that you’ll generally see on social media, and is definitely full of places to see and be seen.

Tulum town pueblo, holiday guide

The weather in Tulum is pretty unpleasant  

Tulum is situated in the jungle, and during the day the weather in is extremely hot and humid. And I’m talking unpleasantly humid, to the point where you’ll be lucky to stand outside for 5 minutes without wanting to jump into an ice bath. The sun is absolutely relentless, and there’s minimal breeze, so you’re left to basically boil. Some of my days in Tulum were truly worse than being stuck Southeast Asia or Delhi in the middle of summer. 

Aside from a refreshing dip in one of the nearby cenotes, the only place where you can get a little bit of relief from this heat is along the beach where there’s an ocean breeze, but keep reading to see why this isn’t exactly practical.

relaxing in tulum Mexico cenote holiday vacation

Anything beachfront in Tulum is going to be expensive 

Beachfront accommodation in Tulum is eye-wateringly expensive. You’ll be spending at least a few hundred dollars per person each night for even the modest hotels along the beach. For those dreamy luxury options you see all over social media, you could easily be spending over $1000USD per night in peak season due to their popularity.

It’s totally possible to skip the expensive beach hotels – instead, you could just visit a few insta-worthy restaurants and hotels and take a few snaps while you’re there. If you plan on doing this though, be aware that you’ll be paying for the pleasure, and you’ll most likely need a reservation to do so.

Almost all venues along the beach have a minimum spend per person, and it’s usually pretty substantial. To make matters worse, most of these establishment prefer to charge in US dollars if they can, which adds a bit more to the bill once the currency conversion is done. You’re also expected to tip and pay for things like valet parking, so a quick bite to eat can really start to add up! And after all that, you might not even have the chance to take that perfect photo you were chasing, especially if it’s busy.

Most of the beach in Tulum is privately owned 

If you’re not willing to pay for beach access, you might have a tough time enjoying the sun and sand in Tulum. 

There are a few spots along the Tulum shoreline which have public access, so technically if you enter through these areas you’ll be able to walk along the beach. But most resorts won’t let you use their facilities or walk through their premises to get back to the road unless you’re staying there, so you’ll be stuck in limbo if you stray too far from the overcrowded public beaches.

The seaweed on the beach in Tulum is out of control 

Another thing to consider if you’re heading to the beach in Tulum is the infamous seaweed problem. 

Despite government efforts to keep algae offshore, it’s still washing up on the beaches of Tulum by the tonne-load. The only stretches of the beach where this isn’t a problem is in front of luxury hotels, where groundskeepers are constantly sweeping the beach. 

The result is giant piles of decaying seaweed along the beach, with pretty pungent smells and swarms of bugs. Not exactly what you’d plan for when going on a beach holiday! 

So there you have it, a few things to keep in mind about Tulum, so you don’t have an unexpected reality check when you arrive! Don’t let these things stop you from visiting this awesome beach town though – there are plenty of awesome things to do around Tulum that makes visiting totally worthwhile.

Poppy xoxo

Want to read more about Tulum? Check out my solo travel guide.

13 Souvenirs To Buy In Morocco: A Shopping Guide

Man in sweet shop, Marrakech Morocco

If you’re like me and love anything remotely bohemian, Morocco will be your dream destination for souvenirs. The souks (markets) are packed with colours and chaos, filled to the brim with things that are both decorative and practical. While Morocco can be overwhelming with so many shops and souvenirs, there are a few things that really stood out to me as must-buy mementos of my trip. Here’s a list of 13 things souvenirs that you should pick up in Morocco, so you can budget accordingly!

spice shop in Marrakech Morocco

1. Rugs
Everywhere you go in Morocco, you’ll come across shops selling beautiful handmade rugs. There are so many different styles, sizes and colours to choose from, so you’re sure to find the perfect rug for your home. Have fun at the carpet shops, as staff lay rug upon rug out on the floor for you to admire – and don’t forget to bargain hard when you find the one you love! I’ve written a whole post about buying rugs in Morocco, which you can read here.

beautiful rug shop in Morocco

2. Lanterns
There are many places in Morocco that sell gorgeous lanterns, with intricate patterns carved into metal lampshades. Look for massive pendant lights, small tea-light holders and everything in between inside insta-worthy lantern shops around the country.

Lantern souvenir shop

3. Tajines
Tajines are iconic to Moroccan cuisine – you’re guaranteed to have a few amazing tajine dishes on your trip! While you can buy these cooking vessels from fancy homeware stores at home, why not pick up one of these bad boys straight from the source? You’ll find tiny decorative tajines designed to serve olives and dips, all the way up to the heavy-duty clay styles used for everyday cooking. I absolutely love my tajine and I use it all the time at home to cook delicious meals. The conical shape of the lid traps moisture, making your food juicy and flavourful every time.

Decorative tajines for olives and dips

4. Leather Goods
Morocco is known for its leather industry, especially in the city of Fez. Expect leather jackets, bags, belts, poufes and shoes being sold in the souks, all at reasonable prices. As you’ll find out when you visit the tanneries, authentic leather in Morocco is cured in vats of pigeon poop – yes, you read that right, pigeon poop. Shopkeepers will give you sprigs of mint to help you cope with the smell, but be prepared for it to linger slightly on your leather goods!

Open courtyard with leather shop in Marrakech Morocco

5. Shoes
Moroccan shoes come in all the colours of the rainbow, adorned with intricate bohemian patterns. Shoe stores in the souks mostly sell sandals or slip-on shoes, but if you like the idea of babouches (the pointy elf-looking shoes), you’ll also find those too. You can even pick up a furry pair if you’re after something a bit different!

sandals and shoes in the moroccan market

Fluffy slippers for markets in Morocco
6. Textiles

The Moroccan souks will be your one-stop shop for incredible textiles – look out for pillow cases, blankets, floor cushions and throws in vibrant patterns and textures. Moroccan textiles are known for their beautiful colours and are great souvenirs – you’ll be itching to get home and proudly put them on display!

Rugs and textiles in an alleyway, Essaouira Morocco

7. Ceramics
Moroccan ceramics come in all shapes and sizes, and you’ll find them everywhere on your travels. Their designs are influenced by both Islamic and Mediterranean culture, which makes for distinctive geometric patterns. Ceramic bowls are great souvenirs for friends and family – they’re useful little storage dishes for around the house.

Ceramic shop in Fez, Morocco shopping

8. Spices
Spices are integral to Moroccan cuisine, and are a practical souvenir to remind you of your travels. The spices I brought home from Morocco turned my cooking from basic to brilliant in an instant. You can’t miss the spice shops out in the souks – you’ll smell the pointy pyramids of powered spices before you see them. There are spices for everything – meat, chicken, fish, vegetables, stews, barbecue and even sweets mixes, which are all very affordable. The vendors will let you take a whiff of all their options, and will mix a special blend for you if you ask!

Vibrant spice shop in a market square Marrakech Morocco

9. Dates
Like spices, dates are really popular in Moroccan cuisine – you’ll find these dried fruits in tajines, couscous, or in small bowls accompanying your meals. There are so many different varieties of dates, with varying qualities and prices to match. Moroccan date shops have boxes and boxes of the fruit all neatly on display, and they normally let you have samples before you buy!

Boxes of dates in the Markets Morocco

10. Kaftans
If you love picking up clothing as a reminder of your travels, a Moroccan kaftan will make a great souvenir. You’ll find loads of everyday styles hanging up in the souks, as well as luxuriously beaded pieces in specialty shops. When deciding on a kaftan, I’d recommend picking something you can see yourself wearing in your regular life. The fancy or traditional styles may catch your eye, but it’d be a waste to get something that’ll just sit in your wardrobe when you get home.

Colourful covered markets in Marrakech Morocco

11. Tea Glasses
Morocco is famous for its delicious mint tea, which is usually served in delicate little glasses with gold finishes. Even if you don’t drink tea at home, a set of these glasses make great ornaments for around the house (or oversized shot glasses if you like to drink!).

Pouring mint tea at a Moroccan market restaurant

12. Argan oil
Argan oil has taken the beauty industry by storm, popping up in skincare as a miracle moisturiser. But many people don’t know that the oil is produced solely in Morocco. Authentic argan oil is milled from the nuts of argan trees, which are native to the country – because the process is quite laborious, pure argan oil is expensive. Beware of people selling fake argan oil at cheap prices, as it’s usually a blend of vegetable oils and doesn’t have the nutty aroma that pure argan oil has. There are different grades of argan oil (mostly for cooking or cosmetics), so make sure you don’t buy cooking quality for moisturising your face and vice versa.

Moroccan Lady making traditional argan oil

13. Woven Baskets
One thing that always caught my eye when travelling in Morocco was the woven baskets stalls. These baskets are made with straw and brightly coloured wool, woven into beautiful geometric patterns. The most common style is a conical shape with a removable lid, which is awesome as a display piece (and doubles as a sneaky storage solution too).

Woven baskets in outdoor market Morocco

So there you have it – my top 13 picks for souvenirs in Morocco. Keep lots of empty space in your suitcase when you leave home – you’re going to need it!

Poppy xoxo

Want to know more about shopping in Morocco? Check out this post I’ve written with tips and tricks for buying rugs in Morocco.

13 Souvenirs to buy in Morocco

20 Awesome Things To Do in Hong Kong

busy markets in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has always been one of my favourite places in Asia to explore, because there are so many things to do, eat and experience. Here’s my top 20 things to do when you visit Hong Kong!

1. Enjoy the hustle and bustle of Mong Kok:
You’ll find a bit of everything in Mong Kok – browse the fresh kicks along Sneaker Street (yes, there’s a dedicated street for sneakers), try some street food (like the waffles slathered in condensed milk and peanut butter), peek inside Chinese medicine shops, and enjoy the neon lights at night. You’ll never be short of things to do in Mong Kok.

Mong Kok busy streets
Streets of Mong Kok

2. Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car and Tian Tan Buddha:
Riding the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car up to Tian Tan Buddha is a fun half-day activity. Take the train to Tung Chung MTR station and choose whether to go for the normal cable car ($235HKD) or the upgraded glass bottom ($315HKD). As you glide along the cableway, you’ll be treated to amazing views of Lantau Island and China in the distance if it’s a clear day. Once you reach the top, there are shops and restaurants lining the road up to the base of the Tian Tan Buddha, one of Hong Kong’s iconic sights (and one of the biggest Buddha’s in the world). You can climb all the way up to the top, and go inside the Buddha. On your way down, be sure to stop in at the Citygate outlet mall if you’re interested in picking up some discounted designer goods.

Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car
Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car
Tian Tan Buddha big statue
Tian Tan Buddha up close 

3. Lamma Island:
Take a ferry from Central over to Lamma Island ($16-28HKD, depending on day of the week and specific ferry route) for some incredible hikes and a chilled-out hipster vibe. If you prefer shopping over hiking (me in a nutshell), there are plenty of boutique shops and cafes to explore along the main street of the island. Seafood lovers should definitely stop at one of the restaurants along the shore with fresh seafood cooked to order!

4. Street Markets:
Hong Kong wouldn’t be Hong Kong without its street market culture. There are different markets all across Hong Kong, catering for tourists and locals alike. Visit the Jade Market in Tsim Sha Tsui if you’re looking for some jewellery, or try the fresh fruit and vegetable market along the steep Graham Street in Central. If you’re looking to browse at night, head to Temple Street Night Market in Jordan or the Ladies Market in Mong Kok.

Mong Kok ladies market souvenirs
Ladies Market in Mong Kok
fresh fruit market in Hong Kong
Graham Street Fresh Food Market

5. Soho and Midlevels Escalators:
The Midlevels outdoor escalators help commuters make their way up the steep mountainside in the Central area of Hong Kong. They aren’t any different from regular escalators, but for visitors it’s a novel experience riding up the street in this way. There’s plenty of hipster shops, bars and cafes in the Soho area, so it’s a perfect place to explore when you’re hungry. Just be aware that once you step off the escalator route, walking up the steep roads will leave you out of breath! And the escalators only go one way, so you’ll have to walk back down the hills by feet.

View along the Midlevels escalator
View along the Midlevels escalator
Back streets of Central Hong Kong
Back streets of Central Hong Kong

6. Temples:
There are plenty of beautiful temples in Hong Kong. Some worth visiting include Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple (known for its hanging lanterns and water features), Man Mo Temple (known for its incense), Po Lin Monastery (next to the Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau island) and Chi Lin Nunnery (known for beautifully manicured gardens).

Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tao Sin Temple
Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tao Sin Temple
Man Mo Temple Hong Kong
Man Mo Temple

7. Lan Kwai Fong:
If you’re looking for a night out, Lan Kwai Fong is the place to go. It’s a small area close to Soho known for its buzzing nightlife and open-air bars. You can find plenty of tourists and locals here enjoying drinks and getting rowdy any night of the week. Even if you’re not a big drinker, it’s worth walking past if you’re in the Central area to see what all the fuss is about.

Lan Kwai Fong Party Hong Kong
Lan Kwai Fong

8. Eat BBQ meats:
You can’t leave Hong Kong without having some barbecued meats (sorry to the vegans out there, you’ll probably want to sit this one out). You’ll see huge sides of pork, chickens and ducks hanging on display in shop fronts, ready to be freshly chopped and served with rice. Look for a place which is busy with locals, and get a double or triple combo so you can try all the meats!

BBQ meats out on display in Hong Kong
BBQ meats out on display in a shop front

9. Victoria Harbour:
Hong Kong’s iconic Victoria Harbour is a must-see when you visit. The Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui is the perfect vantage point for unobstructed views of the Hong Kong Skyline. There’s plenty of concrete seating so you can sit and relax while you watch the world go by. You can also take a ferry ride across the harbour, or even book an cruise on a traditional ‘junk boat’ to take in the scenery from the water. Victoria Harbour is lit up by a laser light show each night at 8pm, which is worth a watch if the weather is nice!

Victoria Harbour light show Hong Kong
Victoria Harbour light show
A traditional junk boat crossing Victoria Harbour
A traditional junk boat crossing Victoria Harbour

10. Chungking Mansions:
The Chungking Mansion building in central Tsim Sha Tsui is known for its eclectic character. It houses lots of electronic stores, currency exchanges and eateries on the lower floors and is known for its interesting accommodation options on the higher levels. If you’re researching accomodation and come across very cheap rooms in Tsim Sha Tsui, they’re more than likely situated in Chungking Mansions. Go inside and embrace the chaos, but be aware – everything’s can be a little ‘too good to be true’, so think twice before dropping cash on a new camera (which could be counterfeit) or booking a hotel (which probably has bed bugs).

Electronics store in Chungking Mansions
Electronics store in Chungking Mansions

11. Hong Kong Disneyland:
Hong Kong Disneyland isn’t as big as the parks in America, but it has all the Disney highlights with the right amount of local flair. The park mostly caters for adults rather than children, so it’s a fun day out if you need a break from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong city. It’s really easy to catch the train from the city out to Disneyland.

Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong Disneyland

12. Gold Fish Market:
In Prince Edward, you’ll come across an area called the Goldfish Market, which is known for its weird and whacky fish trade. The streets here are lined with fish hanging in individual plastic bags ready for sale. Lots of shopkeepers don’t like you taking photos, but you can usually snap some good shots from the opposite side of the street or in a busy shop where they’re occupied with customers.

Goldfish Market, Prince Edward
Goldfish Market, Prince Edward
Goldfish Market, Prince Edward Hong Kong
Goldfish Market, Prince Edward

13. Yick Fat Housing Estate:
You’ve probably come across pictures of the instaworthy Yick Fat building all over the internet. It’s a short walk from Quarry Bay MTR station, and is well worth the trip out of downtown if you are into photography or Hong Kong’s architecture. The Yick Fat building is a public housing estate, so technically you aren’t allowed inside, but you can sneak through the shopping arcade off the Main Street to reach the centre. Since people live and work there, make sure you’re respectful don’t take photos of the locals unless they give you permission.

Yick Fat Housing Estate Hong Kong
Yick Fat Housing Estate

14. Visit a wet market:
Wet markets are places where locals go to pick up fruits, vegetables, meat and other fresh ingredients for cooking. Most neighbourhoods in Hong Kong will have a wet market somewhere. If seeing raw meat makes you squirm, sit this one out. Otherwise, wander though the alleys and snap some great pictures – but try not to get in anyone’s way, or you might end up getting splashed with raw chicken juice!

Fresh fish at a wet market
Fresh fish at a wet market

15. Kowloon Park:
If you’re trying to get from Tsim Sha Tsui up to Jordan, why not take the scenic route and walk through Kowloon Park. It’s the biggest bit of greenery in Hong Kong city and is great to stroll through for a bit of fresh air. There’s a lake with flamingos in the middle of the park, as well as playgrounds and sports facilities.

16. Shop for fancy outfits in Causeway Bay:
There’s plenty of shopping malls and designer stores in Causeway Bay if you’re after a bit of retail therapy. Check out SOGO department store, Hong Kong’s Times Square and stop on Houston Street for a bite of street food.

17. Stop along Fa Yuen Street overpass:
If you like people watching, stop along the walkway above Fa Yuen Street Market in Mong Kok. It’s an amazing photo spot to capture local life in Hong Kong.

Fa Yuen Street Hong Kong
Fa Yuen Street

18. Have dim sum and a local tea house:
Hong Kong is famous for Dim Sum, so you’ll definitely want to try some while you’re in town. Don’t be intimidated by the busy and dingy nature of local tea houses, these are the best places to sample some traditional Cantonese dishes. You’ll be able to get your favourites from home (BBQ pork buns, shu mai, prawn dumpling etc.) plus all the weird and wonderful local delicacies. Try Lin Heung Tea House in Central for an authentic dim sum experience.

Lin Heung Tea House
Lin Heung Tea House

19. Take the tram to The Peak:
An iconic activity to do in Hong Kong is ride the tram up the steep tracks to the top of The Peak, where you’ll have sweeping panoramic views of Hong Kong from above. The best time to go is just before sunset, so you’ll get stunning views of Hong Kong in the twilight. If the line to take the tram is particularly long, you can also take a bus up to the top as well.

20. Stanley:
If you take a bus over to the other side of Hong Kong’s Kowloon Island, you’ll experience a totally different vibe that could easily be mistaken for a cosy European beachside town. Relax on the beach, have lunch at one of the seaside restaurants along the Stanley Promenade and browse the sunny Stanley markets.

Hope you enjoyed these 20 things to do in Hong Kong, and you’ll add some of them to your list for when you visit!

Poppy xoxo

If you liked this post, check out my Foodie Guide to Hong Kong: Top Places to Eat for Every Occasion.

20 awesome things to do in Hong Kong

Going Inside the Pyramids of Giza: What’s Inside and What to Expect 

3 pyramids of giza

Climbing inside the pyramids should be on every Egyptian itinerary in my opinion – it’s an experience unlike anything else in the world. As impressive as it is to see the great pyramids of Giza from the outside, it’s completely different to see them from within!

Giza pyramids

Do you need a ticket to go inside the Pyramids of Giza?

Climbing inside the pyramids isn’t included in the general admission ticket. The Great Pyramid of Khufu costs 400 EGP and the Pyramid of Khafre is 100EGP. I opted to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Make sure to buy your extra tickets from the ticket booth when you enter, or you’ll have to walk all the way back down the hill to get them later.

How do you get inside the Pyramids?

Now, for the experience going inside. In the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the tunnel at the entrance is wide and well carved out. Once you get to the main tunnel though, it’s a complete different story. You’ll need to climb crouched over for around 40 metres, up a steep ramp. The ramp is in a very small tunnel – the width can really only accommodate one person comfortably, but it’s a two-way street so you’ll inevitably have to clamber over or under people coming from the opposite direction.

climbing inside pyramid Egypt Giza

Once you’re through this section, you’ll walk up another steep ramp, although this one has high ceilings. You’ll duck under some large rocks and then enter the main chamber – at this point, you’ll have reached the top!

inside the great pyramid

What does it look like inside the Pyramids of Giza?

The main chamber at the top is a small room with high ceilings. It’s completely bare apart from a large stone structure, which resembles the remains of a sarcophagus. The Pyramids of Giza were built before hieroglyphs became popular, so the walls inside are have no carvings or decorations. Since they all look relatively the same from the inside, it is recommended that you only need to go inside one pyramid for the experience.

room inside pyramids Egypt Cairo

After you’re done here in the main chamber, it’s back out the pyramid the same way you came in. You can expect the total time to go up and come back down to be about 30 minutes. Be aware that the further inside you climb, the warmer it gets. Even in winter, I was sweating heavily once I got up to the top. Bring a bottle of water as you’ll get thirsty!

If you have joint problems or suffer from claustrophobia, it’s probably best not to venture inside the pyramids, as you don’t want to injure yourself in the small tunnel.

camels outside the pyramids of giza,

Is it worth going inside the Pyramids of Giza?

All in all, paying for the extra ticket to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I would highly recommend. Going inside the pyramids gives you a completely different perspective to the one you’ll get from seeing them on the outside. Seeing the size of the stones and thickness of the walls from the inside makes you appreciate how difficult it would have been to build these pyramids with ancient technology. It really gives you a true sense of how great an architectural feat these ancient structures are.

Poppy xoxo

If you liked this post, check out my post on How To See The Pyramids of Giza Without a Tour or Guide.


How To Visit The Pyramids of Giza, Without a Tour or Guide

sphinx in cairo Egypt

Before I went to Egypt, I knew I wanted to visit the Great Pyramids of Giza without organising a guide or tour. I really wanted to spend a full morning roaming around the pyramids at my own pace, without having the pressure of other people waiting on me. I did a lot of research but there wasn’t much information online, so I went and hoped for the best.

The good news is visiting the pyramids without a guide is totally doable. Here are all the tips and tricks I learnt from my experience so you can do it yourself when you visit Egypt.

Man with camel in front of Great pyramids of Giza

How do I get to the pyramids?

The easiest way to get to the pyramids is by Uber. It’s best to put your drop off location as the ticket booth, as this is where you’ll need to enter. If you search on google maps for ‘Giza Pyramids Ticket Office’ you will find the location of the ticket booth. It’s directly in front of the Pizza Hut. You’ll buy your admission tickets (200 EGP) and enter through the metal detector at the ticket office into the Giza complex. If you want to go inside any of the pyramids, you’ll need to buy seperate tickets at this point before entering the complex (more info about going inside further down).

Map for visiting Pyramids of Giza

When should I arrive at the pyramids?

I’d recommend arriving at the pyramids in the morning when the complex opens at 8am, or as close to 8am as you can. If you go in the morning, you’ll almost have the place to yourself, which makes for a special experience. It also means you’ll have done the majority of your walking before the midday sun starts beating down. Nobody likes a sweaty selfie.

Where should I start exploring from?

Most organised tours drive further up the road and start exploring the site near the base of the Pyramids, but by entering down at the ticket booth you’ll be treated to a panoramic view of the 3 main pyramids and the Sphinx as soon as you walk in. This view is what you came to Egypt for!

How do I get to the Sphinx?

To get down closer to the Sphinx, turn left to walk past the bathrooms and through the open gate (as if you’re exiting the complex from the side). Straight after the gate, take a right and follow the path where you can see the row of souvenir vendors set up. From this path you can go right (straight into the dirt) and walk around to get an iconic picture of the Sphinx head-on. Alternatively, you can jump the barriers to the left of the bathroom entrance and get to the same position. The security situation is hit and miss, and it really depends on the time of day and if the guards are bothered to punish you or not!

sphinx and pyramids in cairo Egypt

To the left of the Sphinx is the stone mummification temple with two entrance doorways. Go through the entrance on the right to go inside the mummification temple. This the only place where you might need to show your ticket to the guard, as they do have guards here most of the time (usually in civilian clothing which can be confusing). Once you go in, you’ll go around the corner and head up a ramp into the section where you can take the typical pictures kissing the Sphinx from the side!

kissing the sphinx

How do I get to the base of the pyramids?

Once you’re done here, exit through the gate and head up the pathway towards the middle pyramid of Khafre. If you look to your left you’ll see ruins of priests’ tombs. If you look back toward the entrance, you’ll start to see a great view of Giza city.

When you reach the top of the path, you’ll be at the base of the pyramid of Khafre. From here, you can step over the barriers and go right up to the pyramids and touch the stones!

exploring in Giza

Where is the best view of all 3 pyramids?

If you walk around the base of the pyramid of Khafre towards the smaller pyramid of Menkaure, you’ll start to get some amazing vantage points of the pyramids without many tourists in the way. You can keep going through the dirt all the way over to the pyramid of Menkaure for a great view of all three great pyramids. This area is probably the best place for pictures. You’ll get some unique angles that most people won’t get to due to time constraints of a regular tour.

When you’re ready, you can head back through the dirt towards the great pyramid of Khufu.

Can I go inside the pyramids?

It’s possible to go inside the pyramid of Khafre for 100EGP and the great pyramid of Khufu for 400EGP – just remember to buy your seperate ticket down the bottom when you start, otherwise you’ll have to walk all the way back down to the entrance ticket booth. Many people say it’s not worth going inside the pyramids since there’s nothing inside, but I really enjoyed going inside the great pyramid of Khufu! You can read more about going inside the pyramids and what to expect here. You’ll only need to go inside one pyramid, since they’re all very similar from the inside.

inside the great pyramids of Egypt

Can I climb up the pyramids?

By law you aren’t allowed to climb the pyramids, although since the security is minimal many people do (or at least try to). I witnessed a man blatantly ignoring the guards screaming at him to get down. There are plenty of stories of people going to jail for climbing the pyramids, so climb at your own risk. At the end of the day, I think being respectful of these amazing structures and their history is more important than a few pictures for your socials. If you really want to get a picture of you climbing, it can be done around back side of the Great Pyramid of Khufu on your way inside the pyramid.

Is it safe to visit the pyramids solo?

The biggest problem you’ll have going to the pyramids without a guide is being touted by the local vendors. While it can be annoying and difficult to deal with, it’s important to understand that Egypt is a developing country where these people are trying to make ends meet through tourism. They will be very persistent, so make sure you are well prepared so it doesn’t rattle you and spoil your experience.

Beware of anyone who asks for your ticket and says they’re there from the Ministry of Tourism to help you. Their famous lines are “I’m not a camel or a horse man, you don’t need to worry, I don’t want money”. They can be extremely pushy trying to guide you around and even tell you that you can’t visit certain areas without a guide (which isn’t true). Be firm with declining their help and they’ll eventually leave you alone.

The men with camels and horses will ride up to you offering a cheap price for a trip to the top of the complex or out to the panoramic view – again, be polite but firm in saying no and they’ll continue on their way. If you come in the morning they’re more likely to target you since the complex is quiet and there are not many people to hustle. If you do happen to find a friendly guide or camel man and wish to have them help you, make sure you negotiate a good price before setting off.

You’ll be able to snap a few pictures of camels around the complex as there are plenty around, but if you want to pose with a camel be prepared to pay a tip for doing so. Although if you’re nice and the camel handler likes you, he might let you take them for free – that’s what happened to me!

camel tour in giza

What should I do once I’m finished exploring?

Once you’re finished exploring the site, you can walk down the sealed road back to the front entrance where you entered.

It’s easy to order and catch an Uber from here back into downtown Cairo. If all the walking has made you hungry, you can grab a pizza from Pizza Hut, or walk around the corner to have some traditional Koshary from a local restaurant called Koshary Hekaya (64 ش ابو الهول السياحى، Nazlet El-Semman, الجيزة، Giza Governorate, Egypt).

Hopefully this guide helps you to enjoy the Great Pyramids of Giza solo!!

Poppy xoxo

Need more pyramid inspiration? Check out my post on going inside the pyramids: what’s inside and what to expect.

Fluffy Japanese Pancakes In Tokyo: A Happy Pancake Review

fluffy banana pancakes in Japan

Fluffy pancakes are a Japanese dessert craze which I can always get behind! One of my favourite places in Tokyo for these pancakes is A Happy Pancake cafe in Ginza. Hidden on the 7th floor of a tucked away building, you won’t stumble upon this dessert experience unless you’re looking for it!

Seating at A Happy Pancake, Tokyo

Since the cafe is relatively small with just 32 seats, it can get extremely busy. On weekends and public holidays, you can expect to wait for over an hour for a table. I’d recommend coming on a weekday after the lunch rush if your schedule allows it. I usually come at this time and find there’s no wait for a table. If Ginza isn’t on your itinerary, A Happy Pancake has cafes in Omotesando (the original cafe), Shibuya, Ikebukero and Kichijoji.

Cooking station at A Happy Pancake, Ginza

If you’re curious as to how they get the pancakes so fluffy, you can see the whole process through the glass window into the kitchen. In true Japanese fashion, they are very methodical with the whole process. It’s really interesting to watch them whip the eggs, measure the batter and slice the toppings with such precision. I really like how they check the temperature of the pancakes and hot plates constantly to ensure the pancakes are cooked perfectly every time. They are totally fine with you taking pictures (I’m fairly sure that was the idea behind the glass window into the kitchen), so snap away!

cooking dessert

A Happy Pancake only uses high quality ingredients in their dishes – Manuka honey from New Zealand, organic eggs from Nara and fresh Hokkaido cream. They don’t use any baking soda or raising agents, and their food is completely free of preservatives. Expect your meal to take at least 20 minutes, since they cook the pancakes to order.

Banana Chocolate fluffy Pancakes

Now for the pancakes – they are truly like golden yellow pillows of fluffiness in your mouth! They aren’t too sweet, letting the flavour of the egg meringue and toppings shine through. Light and airy, yet filling at the same time, you’ll definitely walk out with a full stomach after a plate of these. You can really tell that they use those premium-quality ingredients in their food. They also have an extensive drinks menu full of hot and cold options to pair with your meal.

I will say though, I have ordered the “happy pancake” which comes with whipped butter and syrup, and while I found it delicious it definitely has a strong egg-y undertone, so I would stick to some of the other items on the menu if you have more of a sweet tooth. I love the chocolate banana or tiramisu flavours, and they also have savoury pancakes if you’d prefer those. They have an English menu for non-Japanese speakers.

Delicious dessert fluffy pancakes in Ginza, Tokyo

All in all, if you’ve never had a “fluffy” pancake before, A Happy Pancake is a place you should pop on your Tokyo food bucket list. It’s the perfect spot for a filling afternoon tea during a day of shopping or sightseeing. Expect to spend around 2000 yen per person for pancakes and a drink. Enjoy!

Poppy xoxo

Love reading foodie content? Check out this post on the 10 best places for tacos in Mexico City!

fluffy pancakes review Tokyo

Chatuchak Market Guide, Bangkok: Best Shop Locations 

stall at Bangkok Chatuchak market

What is Chatuchak Market?

Chatuchak Market is the largest covered outdoor market in Thailand, and is a must-see if you’re visiting Bangkok. With over 15,000 stalls, you’ll be able to find anything your heart desires – souvenirs, clothing, homewares, pets and antiques, plus lots of food stalls and massage parlours.

Where is Chatuchak Market?

It’s a short walk from Mo Chit BTS station, and open to the public every Saturday and Sunday between 9am – 6pm. During the week, you’ll find the plant section and wholesale parts open at different times.

How to find shops at Chatuchak Market

Since the market is so big, it’s divided into sections and sois (rows) to make finding particular stalls a little easier. You’ll definitely get lost at some point or another, but that’s part of the fun! Here are some of my favourite stalls – and their locations in the market – to get you started in Chatuchak. The section/soi listings will make more sense once you’re in the market and can follow the signs hanging in the alleyways.

fresh coconut dessert at Chatuchak market, Bangkok


Section 23, Soi 32/7: T Shirt Shop
Vintage-looking T shirts printed with pop culture references with Asian twists.

Section 21, Soi 28/3: Tie Dye Clothes and Boxer Shorts
The big shop on the corner has tie dyed clothes in tonnes of different styles and colours. There’s also a stall opposite that sells quirky patterned boxer shorts.

Section 4, Soi 50/2: Old Skull T Shirt Shop
Streetwear-style graphic T Shirts in colourful designs.

Section 4, Soi 47-49/2 and Section 4, Soi 51/1-2: Designer Boutiques
Rows with boutique clothing stalls selling local Thai designs.

rattan bags at Chatuchak market Bangkok


Section 4 Soi 50/1: Tote Bags
Canvas tote bags printed with bold graphic patterns.

Section 7, Soi 63/3: Boho Bags
Plenty of tote and shoulder bags woven with straw, rope etc. There are several of these shops around the market, with varying bag qualities.


Section 17, Soi 9-8-7/1: Blue Ceramics
Lots of stalls with beautiful ceramic bowls, plates, cups and kitchen items with blue finishes.

Section 15, Soi 9/1: Thai Ceramics
Traditional Thai scenes (dancing, rice fields, elephants etc.) painted in bright colours on bowls, teapots, plates and other utensils.

Section 19, Soi 6/1: Wooden Homewares
All sorts of wooden homewares and trinkets.

Section 8, Soi 14/1: Straw Items
Baskets and other boho household items woven from straw.

Section 7, Soi 63/3: Art
Large canvases painted by local artists in lots of different styles. Most of the stalls are manned by the artists themselves.

Section 17, Soi 8/7: Hem Aroma Perfume Shop
Stall with a huge variety of essential oils, perfume blends and aromatherapy diffusers.

spice shop at Chatuchak market Bangkok


Section 20, Soi 5/1 and Section 11, Soi 12/1: Boom spices
A stall with all sorts of local spices. They have different Asian spice blends prepackaged and ready to take home.

Section 4, Soi 48/3: Cafes
Lots of little boutique cafes with covered seating – great for a coffee and break from the shopping chaos.

Section 9, Soi 18/1: Tik Cafe
Great spot for fresh mango sticky rice and fresh drinks.

cafe stalls, Bangkok
outdoor stalls, Bangkok

Self Care

Section 21, Soi 28/6: Massage Place
Just one of the many massage places inside the market. It’s air-conditioned inside and very well priced – perfect for a quick foot massage in between browsing the alleys.

Chatuchak market stalls, Bangkok

Use these stalls as starting points to explore different parts of the market. Have fun and enjoy this crazy Chatuchak experience!

Poppy xoxo

Chatuchak market guid Bangkok Thailand shopping

10 Best Places For Tacos In Mexico City

Tacos are synonymous with Mexican culture and are truly the lifeblood of Mexico City. They’re perfect for any occasion – breakfast food, lunchtime meal, social snack or a filling dinner. Here are some of my favourite taquerias in CDMX for every budget and taste.

Los Cocuyos

1. Los Cocuyos

This small taco stand in Zocalo is a popular with locals and tourists alike. It became a tourist hotspot after Anthony Bourdain visited with his ‘No Reservations’ TV series, but it was already a popular local taqueria years before that. Los Cocuyos is open 24 hours a day, and the menu here has all sort of offals on offer – tongue, brains and gizzard etc. The tortillas here are the BEST I’ve ever tasted – they have an amazingly soft and buttery flavour/texture. My favourite filling here would be the campecheno (mixture of chorizo and beef). Since Los Cocuyos is literally just a hole in wall, you’ll watch the cooks prepare the fresh tacos and tend to the bubbling pots of meat while you stand and munch on your tacos. It doesn’t get any more authentic than this!

Calle de Bolívar 57, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

2. Los Especiales

Famous in Zocalo for their cheap and tasty basket tacos. There’s always a line of locals snaking outside the shop, so you know it must be good. Each taco is 7 pesos, which is very affordable by locals standards!

Av Francisco I. Madero 71, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

El Huequito

3. El Huequito

El Huequito has many franchises around México City, but this is no ordinary taco chain! You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think these are some of the best tacos al pastor in CDMX (me included). El Huequito is known for their flavourful meat marinade, crispy tacos al pastor and onions soaked in the dripping juices from the trompo. Be sure to order the pastor especial con queso – you’ll be treated to a mountain of freshly sliced al pastor meat covered in cheese, and around 10 tortillas to wrap into your own tacos. The sopa azteca here is also delicious. Come hungry.

Calle de Bolívar 58, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico (various other locations)

4. Orinoco

The decor at Orinoco gives me serious In-N-Out burger joint vibes, as does the simple but well-executed menu. You can except a long (but quick) line for this restaurant in Roma Norte. People go crazy for their chicharron tacos, and they have vegetarian options as well.

Av. Insurgentes Sur 253, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

El Tizoncito

5. El Tizoncito

A busy casual indoor-outdoor restaurant in La Condesa. El Tizoncito say they are the original creators of tacos al pastor… not sure how true this is but their tacos al pastor are definitely delicious! They have the trompo out in the centre of the restaurant, and great little condiment stands on each table with salsas, corn chips and beans. There are English menus and semi-English speaking staff for us non-Spanish speakers, which really helps the experience. They are open until 3:30am everyday, and have a full menu of soups, huaraches etc. as well as their tacos.

Av. Tamaulipas 122, Colonia Condesa, Cuauhtémoc, 06140 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

6. El Vilsito

Mechanic shop by day, popular taqueria by night, El Vilsito is a casual nighttime dining spot out in the suburbs. The place was recently featured on the Netflix show ‘Taco Chronicles’, which has only added to the late night crowds visiting for a feast.

Av. Universidad, Narvarte Poniente, Benito Juárez, 03020 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

El Pescadito

7. El Pescadito

Seafood tacos are hard to come by in CDMX, but El Pescadito have great options and are known for their fish tacos. Their self-serve condiment bar has all the sauces and salsas you could ever want. You’ll only need a maximum of 3 tacos to fill you up – they’re large and filling, especially after adding your salads and pickles! I found the fried fish tacos here delicious.

Independencia 57, Colonia Centro, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06050 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico (various other locations)

Rico’s Tacos de Guisado

8. Rico’s Tacos de Guisado

This local taco stand specialises in a variety of stewed meat and vegetable tacos. The vendors travel hours from the Mexican countryside everyday to man their stand. There are lots of street stands around town with questionable hygiene, but this one is known to be fairly clean. Their chile relleno tacos are unique and flavourful.

Av. Morelos 1, Colonia Centro, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

Taqueria Gonzalez

9. Taquería González

A local standing-room-only shop serving large tacos full of hearty toppings. You can get fillings like slow-cooked potatoes and cactus on your tacos here, which makes them very substantial. Despite being a hole-in-the-wall shop, Taqueria Gonzalez is known for salsas full of complex flavours. Definitely something different from the usual tacos you see around CDMX.

Calle López 100, Colonia Centro, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

10. Taqueria El Greco

A hole-in-the-wall taqueria in La Condesa. It’s right around the corner from Parque México, so if it’s busy and you can’t get a table (which is fairly common) you can always order takeaway and have a picnic in the park. Doneraky is the most popular order here (meat with corn tortilla)

Av Michoacán 54, Hipódromo, Cuauhtémoc, 06100 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

Poppy xoxo

Want more Mexico City inspiration? Read my Complete Guide to Grutas Tolantango Hot Springs, Mexico.