The Best Hostel in Cairns - Mad Monkey Backpackers Village!


Mad Monkey is a hostel chain that have been on my 'must stay here' list for the last 4 months now since I started researching our Australia trip. I was a little apprehensive it wouldn't live up to what I was expecting it to be, but it did not disappoint! After a few rainy nights in our van 'Betty' we wanted something a little more comfortable so headed to Mad Monkey Backpackers Village in Cairns.

We arrived around 2pm and were pleasantly surprised that we were able to park our van in Mad Monkey's personal car park rather than on the busy street outside. Headed into reception where we were greeted by smiley staff at the tour guide desk and the manager at the main reception. From the moment we arrived we felt welcomed into the Mad Monkey family!  

We were given the ground rules, told about all the facilities within the complex, given some local advise on where to go and what to see and then shown to our room.

The Room 



I loved our room! We stayed in a private double room with our own en-suite. The room was located on the bottom floor  and had a window that looked out into the garden. Although it rained ALOT, the window mean't natural light could fill our room which made it feel airy and homely. The hostel has been fully renovated in 2017, meaning our room had a new subtle minimalist colour scheme of neutral grey running throughout. Clean side table and unique bedside light bulb lamp to decorate.
I don't know about you, but I can't get comfortable in a dirty hostel - but I felt right at home here! The room was spotless! Literally not a single thing I could find wrong with our rooms, I felt like I was inside a show home. All rooms now come with new Samsung Air Conditioning units which worked a treat when it's 32 degrees and 96% humidity! 


The bathrooms look like they've just been installed, perfect white tiles, a decent shower head with constant hot water and a large mirror which makes getting ready a breeze. The room even came with a strong hair drier and straighteners! (truely amazing, we were going to a gig on the most humid day I've ever experienced and it helped tame my mane!) 

The Atmosphere



After making our way to the hostel, checking in and cleaning ourselves up, I thought we decided to have a well deserved beer. At the end of our corridor, in the communal area is the hostels bar. The bar serves draft and bottled beers/larger and ciders. They also sell spirits and mixers. We opted for the jugs, a steal at only $12! We were super lucky to be there while the Backpacker Village was celebrating their 1st birthday party so lots of games and fun to be had.

Within seconds of sitting down the hosts were rounding up contestants for the weekly quiz where you could also win yourself a jug of drink and some snacks! All v All! Just one of the events they hold every week - others include pub crawls, beer pong tournaments and movie nights. There's something on every night which makes it easy to chat to other back packers and experience Cairns the Mad Monkey way. 



The hostel offer free breakfast in the clean, modern kitchens every morning including fresh fruit, cereal and even fluffy pancakes with all different sauces, tuck in and eat them on the long tables with the rest of your new pals. Then head off for a dip in their outdoor pool. Although it literally every second of our stay, it was still pretty warm so jumping in the pool was the perfect way to cool off in the crazy Cairns humidity. 



If your a bit hungover from your night at Woolshed and don't fancy socialising, not a problem either! The hostel has a TV room, loaded with a large Samsung flat screen TV, Netflix and even a Playstation 4 with FIFA and Crash Bandicoot!

For those who can't stay away from the gym, you're in luck because Mad Monkey are partnered with a local gym so you can still get your work out FOR FREE! 

The Staff

From the moment we arrived the staff were nothing but polite, friendly and outgoing. After chatting to the lady on front desk about where we'd been, what our plans were and getting some insider insight into Cairns - I was super impressed when she remembered my name two days later when we wanted to book for for another night! Our original room was unfortunately booked but we were conveniently moved to another freshly cleaned room on the floor above with a view of our van out front. This room didn't include an en-suite but the shared bathrooms were just down the hall and again spotless! The staff on cleaning duties had the most attention to detail when cleaning the place I've ever seen. Better than some of the top hotels I've stayed in!

Another great thing about the staff here is that they are/were travelers themselves, so they were able to give us advise on the MUST see places during our trip around Australia, and you can even book your trips in the reception area at the tour guide desk!

The Location

I personally thought Mad Monkey Backpackers Village was in an ideal location. There are plenty of trendy bars and cafes a stones throw away from the hostel. You can visit the best bars and clubs Cairns has to offer within a 15 minute stroll (or a 5 minute Uber if you're like us!) You can walk to Cairns Central shopping center in just over 10 minutes also. 


How to book

To make sure you are getting the best price possible you should always book though the Mad Monkey website. www.madmonkey.com.au - This way you know you're not getting ripped off and it's booked directly through Mad Monkey. The website is easy to navigate through, simply click bookings in the menu navigation bar, choose your arrival dates, room preference and your all set to book.

Stephanie xoxo
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* DISCLAIMER - This was a complimentary stay provided as part of an agreement between myself and Mad Monkey Backpackers. Although I received free accommodation the review itself is honest. I will only include Hostels that I would personally recommend on Blonde Daisy Chains.

TRAVEL - Castaways Backpackers Hostel, Cairns City - Review.

Castaways Backpackers is a homely, family run hostel based in the heart of Cairns City. The hostel has been running for 26 years which ensures that they know how to create a perfect home away from home for all their guests. We stayed for three complimentary days while working with the hostel - but loved it so much we came back and paid for another two nights!


Although the premises is small, it is of high quality and has plenty to offer for a variety of different backpackers. When you arrive through the main entrance just off Sheridan Street you'll find the reception to the right. Here is where you'll be checked in, we were greeted by the lovely Helen. The check in procedure is really straight forward - we gave our passports to be scanned, talked about our booking and paid our key deposit and were then shown around the venue to ensure we knew where everything we could possible need would be.


Our room was located on the second floor on the other side of the car park. We had a private room with the shared bathroom being located downstairs. The room had a double bed in one corner under the window and a single bed for any additional guests. I loved our room, it was cosy, quiet and had everything we needed. The double rooms all include a ceiling fan, desk space for those nomads that need to get some work done (highly useful for us!), large storage spaces build into shelving units so we had plenty of room to put our belongings and my personal favourite - we also had our own fridge to store our food. This is perfect as it means noone was able to help themselves to our goods! In addition, the room is also fitted with A/C, but it'll cost you 1 AUD for 3 hours (hardly breaks the bank) The super fast Wifi also reached our room without a problem.



The hostel has two kitchens, one outside that is open 24/7, with two hobs, microwaves and a toastie machine to make cooking a breeze no matter the time. There are fridges outside for those who are staying in their own van in the car park and also a 'help yourself' area where backpackers leave food they no longer need for someone else to use. A second kitchen is found inside, again with two hobs but also an oven so you can cook more variety of food. The areas are always clean - although we're all adults now and should know how to clean up after ourselves, the girls working at the hostel would give it a thorough clean twice a day to ensure it was hygienic, including mopping the floors so the place was always clean every time we wanted to use it.



Other facilities the hostel offered included a laundry room downstairs with washers/driers and irons. A comfortable TV room upstairs with free Netflix so you can enjoy your favourite shows. The room had big sofas, bean bags and fluffy blankets to make it feel just like home. Across the landing and outside took you to another TV area. With a large flat screen television and a Nintendo Wii to keep you occupied before heading out to the town.




The hostel runs hourly buses into the city centre until 6pm everyday for those who need it, but it's only a 20 minute walk to the main street so not the end of the world. You can pick up your wrist bands for VIP enter to the main clubs in Cairns City and also sign up for local pub crawls directly for those who want to party. There are posters in the pool table area that showcase what events are on for the night. On the days when the sun is actually shining you'll also find the guests enjoying themselves in the hostels private pool.



There are shared bathroom and toilets at every corner of the hostel, we never had to wait for a shower and always used the two located outside of the main building. Again, they were always clean, had shampoo and conditioner inside, good strong power shower heads and hot water (we all love when a hostel has hot water!)

Due to the wet season hitting Cairns heavily this year the number of backpackers in the city is relatively low, but everyone we met, including the staff staying at the hostel were friendly and gave us some tips on what to do in the area during the torrential rain.

Overall, we would highly recommend Castaways Backpackers Hostel, it had everything we needed and more. Located in a quiet location but still close enough to the party for those who want to go out and enjoy themselves. A nice atmosphere with polite guests and staff and I knew every night I would have a decent sleep!

You can book your stay Castaways via their website - or feel free to use my BOOKING.COM link to receive 10% off your stay :)

Stephanie xoxo

TRAVEL - WHAT TO DO IN HANOI, VIETNAM?


After saying goodbye to our beloved Japan, we flew from Osaka into the thriving capitol city,  Hanoi. Being our first stop on our month long adventure through Vietnam we were excited but anxious at the same time. I almost had a melt down and wanted to book a flight out of there after 5 minutes, I couldn't cross the road our hear my own thoughts but I'm glad I stuck it out because it only became better and better!

Hanoi is an truely amazing place to experience great culture, tasty food and amazing nightlife. I'll be assuming that you're heading to Vietnam soon and that's what has lead you to this page - and I am eternally grateful you're here!

To make your stay in Hanoi a little bit easier I've put together a list of fun things to do in Hanoi suitable for everyone and won't break the bank.

Image from - https://www.thewanderblogger.com/temple-of-literature-hanoi/


Visit the temple of literature

This stunning temple complex was only a 1 minute walk away from our Air BNB during our stay in Hanoi. The temple was built to serve as a centre of learning for the Chinese age. Over the last 1000 years, more structures have been added and it's now home to pavilions, koi carp, shrines and the lushest of greenery. Located around a 20 minute walk away from the old town it's the perfect escape from the chaos of Hanoi.



Check out a Water Puppet Theatre Show

We headed to the Thang Long Puppet Theatre one evening to check out their water puppet show. The show consists of puppets that dance and slide around the liquid stage. The performance is based around the tale of Hoan Kiem Lake and the giant tortoise. It includes live traditional Vietnamese music played by the band, light shows and a bit of humor thrown in too. Although it was all in Vietnamese, you kinda understood what was going on and we really enjoyed it!



Take a stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake.

Now that you've been inspired by the story portrayed in the Puppet Theatre, you too can explore the lake and hunt for the tortoise. Located directly across the street from Thang Long Puppet Theatre . A stroll around the lake would take approximately 30 minutes and is real relaxing compared to the rest of old town. You can also walk over the gorgeous red bridge and head to Jade Island. Which is a small island within the lake and home to an 18th-century Buddist temple. It's great to see at night too as the bridge is lit up with different colours and really stands out!



Discover the horrors of the Vietnam war at the Military Museum.

Easy to spot in central Hanoi with a giant flag at the top of the flag tower is the Vietnam Military Museum. It offers a perspective into the wars that raged through Vietnam from 1955 to 1975. I ignorantly didn't know much at all about the Vietnam War and I'm still shocked we aren't taught more throughout school. I was a horrendous pieces of history that needs to be remembered and is showcased very well here. Including war relics, photographs, official uniforms, propaganda posters and documents from nations all around the world on the event.  It is also home to a number of military places and tanks seized from the USAF.



Watch the streets from Legend Beer 

Legend Beer is the perfect place to have a few beers and watch the manic streets below. Located in the Old Quatre but on a 3rd Floor rooftop terrace you are in for a serious treat. Beer is a bit more expensive here but totally worth it. They brew their own beer, the service is great and you get an amazing view.



Drink some 16p beer!

A must visit for anybody who loves a beer! Bia Hoi Juncition is widely-regarded the drinking heaven of South East Asia. You park up on your little plastic chair in the middle of a street junction in the Old Quater. There will be literally hundreds of people sat with a pint of Bia Hoi in the hand, and who can blame them when it only costs 16p! It's a great place to party into the night and meet other backpackers. They also serve street food to your little tables if your a bit peckish. If Bia Hoi isn't your jam don't worry, they have a few other drinks like Tiger, Heineken and soft drinks too - but they'll cost you around £1 instead.


Stephanie xoxo

TRAVEL - POKEMON CAFE, TOKYO - HOW TO BOOK AND WHAT TO EXPECT!

Tokyo, Japan

In this post, I'm going to tell you everything you need to know in advance, from how to book, what we bought and what to expect during your visit to the Pokemon Cafe.


HOW TO BOOK
So first things first, head to the English reservation website - https://reserve.pokemon-cafe.jp/reserve/step1
You can book your space for up to eight guests one month in advance, and I would suggest booking it as soon as possible because the spaces do fill up real quickly. Your reservation lasts for 90 minutes from your arrival and it is timed so you won't be able to stay any longer so ensure you book the best time for you and arrive ten/fifteen minutes early if possible. While you made your time reservation you will see numbers above the time slot, these represent your seating position. There is a long shared table located in the middle of the floor which is best if you'd like to have the best view of the live show that happens every 90 minutes - but the act comes to each table individually so it's not a necessity. We stayed in area A with a window view and still managed to get some great shots.





HOW IT WORKS
It's very straight forward, you arrive at the Pokemon Center DX on the 5th floor of Takashimaya shopping store. Feel free to have a look around the store - it includes plenty of toys, teddies, tshirts and even includes limited edition items you can't get anywhere else in the world! It's also a Pokemon Go opportunity for those who play the mobile game.

Once you've finished shopping, head to the cafe door where a member of staff will meet you, take your name and then guide you to your designated seating area. The staff hand you a electronic tablet that you will then use to order your food. It also has a timer at the top so you know how much time you have left at the cafe. 

It's easy to navigate through the tablet, it's split into drinks, mains and deserts - just tick what you want, press complete and it'll send the order to the kitchen for you! Really straight forward and you don't have to move from your seat.



WHAT WE ORDERED
I looked at the menu online before leaving so I already knew what I was going to order, and it was a big step for me. I had been vegetarian for 14 years but decided to order the Eevee Chicken Burger! Michael also bought the same. Our cute little burger came with french fries and soup.
I ordered a Jolteon Float drink, which I think was a passion fruit juice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and it also had fruit flavoured chewy spheres at the bottom. Michael had a Pikachu Latte also.





Japan was the first stop on our year long journey so we didn't want to spend much money so this is all we ordered, but if we were to go back I would most definitely tuck into a Jiggalypuff strawberry cheesecake or Pikachu banana and chocolate pancakes!

LITTLE EXTRA
I loved the little Pokemon touches that came with our experience at the Pokemon Cafe. My place mat was upside down in front of me, when flipped it had a Starmu design, and we also received a lucky dip drinks coaster. One of the waitresses came around with an Ipad, you had to press the button and it'd let the lady know what coaster you received. I landed on Vaporeon, and Michael landed on Eevee - which got a BIG cheer from the staff, Eevee was the main attraction because the new Pokemon Go game was soon to be released.



LIVE ENTERTAINMENT
I actually almost cried at this part of our expereince. I had seen images online of chef Pikachu online so was a bit shocked when Eevee came out (Specially because it's my second favourite Pokemon so I was hyperventilating basically.)
The show is in Japanese, so we didn't understand a word that was being said but Eevee did some cute little dances, gave everybody a high five and even gave some people hugs. Once the show was complete Eevee and the waitress would say 'Bye-Bye' so all the guests and we carried on eating.



PAYMENT
At the end of your 90 minute session your bill is brought to your table, on the way out you pay personally at the cash register, where you can also pick up so gifts like Pokemon Cafe edition teddies, Pokemon Cookies, food plate sets and other bits and bobs.





Overall, we both really enjoyed our time at the Pokemon Cafe and would highly recommend it to everyone regardless of age. Michael's not a huge Pokemon fan but still managed to have a good time. It was by far the best birthday present I've ever had (on par with getting my Yellow Pokemon Edition Gameboy Colour for my 8th birthday)



Hope this makes your trip a little bit easier and I really do wish you have a fantastic time in Tokyo!

Stephanie xoxo

VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT GUIDE FOR YOUR TRAVEL LOVER



Trying to find the perfect gift for your travel hungry other half can sometimes be difficult, but not to worry. I've got you covered, from cheap and cheerful to spurge worthy you can find the perfect gift here in my Valentine's Day gift guide!
Wither you are heading off on a big adventure and need something travel friendly, or just having a romantic night in you'll more than likely want to offer a gift they'll love. No matter how big or small these items are meaningful and useful. There's something on this list for everyone, be it for a budget backpacker for a luxury travel enthusiast. 





Rechareable Oral Irrigator - Panasonic


If you're away for a long time, like myself, you'll find yourself away from your standard dental hygienist and will still need to keep those pearly whites as clean as possible before heading home. I found the Rechargeable Oral Irrigator from Panasonic to be a game changer.  It helps to remove food from in between your teeth even the best toothbrush can't reach - Bonus, it's better for the environment compared to the plastic dental floss others take away.



Travel Bag Set 


These travel bag dividers are perfect for any trip. I have this exact set from Romwe and it makes my packing a breeze. It helps keep my clothes organised, it's easy to find what item I want from each bag and also helps when it comes to the game of Tetris I have to play every time I pack my bag. They come in a variety of different sizes and designs which makes it easy to find something best suited for your other half.


Personalised Passport Cover


A personalised passport cover is the perfect touch for a frequent flyer. There are so many varieties to choose from you'll find the perfect one to gift. Try and find one that relates to your other half so it becomes personal to them. They'll love it!



Drink Safe Travel Tap

http://www.drinksafe-systems.co.uk/products.php

We're very fortunate here in the UK that we often take for granted the fact that we can drink water straight out of a tap. After 4 months in Asia, I've learnt the hard way it's not the same here - even a little bit! So I was pleasantly surprised when I found out about Drinksafe Travel Tap. The Travel Tap can purify up to 1600 litres of water per filter - if you do the math thats two litres a day for over 2 years from one filter! Perfect for those on the go, all you need is to find ANY water source and you're ready to go.


GoPro


This one seems like a no brainer for me. I've had a GoPro from the moment it was released and used it for a number of surfing/snowboarding holidays and have loved every second of it. It can be used for any occasion while travelling and also at home! There's a number of different options depending on what your looking on getting out of your video footage. I use mine for small videos to share with family and friends so the Hero4 Session is enough for me. All the stats are on the GoPro website for each model so do make sure you choose well! The GoPro is pretty much impossible to break (but can be lost so ensure to buy some accessories such as the floaty for water sports!. I've still got the original HD Hero and it works perfectly fine.



Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones


I actually bought these for my other half at Christmas for the gym, but ended up pinching them for our trip around the world because I find them amazing! I find it hard to relax in noisy places so these headphones were ideal. I use them on every plane, bus and train I've popped on in the last 4 months and they're still just as good as when I bought them. The sound is very clear and not at all tinny, even when I have it on the highest volume (which is all the item) 



Surface Pro 6


While your away you take some amazing photos and videos of your memories, and would love to back them up, edit them, show your friends and just generally cherish them. Having something to do all of this on that doesn't take up much room in your bag is hard (I take my HP Laptop with me and it's super heavy!) 
This is why we love the Surface Pro 6. It's light weight but versatile. Strong enough to up to 1TB of memory - can run Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom easily and has built in SD card slots to make exporting your images fast and easy it's no wonder people choose to take this guy along with them.




Personalised Night Sky Map


These personalized Night Sky Map prints are perfect for capturing those special moments. The day you met in the location you met, where you went on your first holiday, where you were when you got engaged - the options are unlimited! You can even customise the text under the image to showcase whatever you'd like. The ideal romantic present for this Valentine's Day.



I hope this guide helps you find the perfect gift for your perfect person! (or even just to treat yourself)
What's the best gift you've ever received? 

What are you hoping to receive this year?

Stephanie xoxo