TRAVEL - MELBOURNE CITY BACKPACKERS REVIEW


After spending two and half weeks stranded in Cairns due to record rainfall; we were sick to death of the sight of grey clouds and muddy puddles. We scanned the internet for the cheapest and quickest flights out of Cairns – and choose a holiday (within a holiday) to Melbourne for the following morning.
We arrived just after 10pm in Melbourne and hopped on our Sky Bus towards Southern Cross Station before finishing our short walk to Melbourne City Backpackers for the weekend. Melbourne City Backpackers hostel offers quality and affordable accommodation right in the centre of Melbourne CBD.



The Location
Literally a 2-minute walk from the convenient free tram system and the Southern Cross Station where you can jump on trains and buses that’ll take you ANYWHERE in the city. The hostel is a stone throw away from several cafes, restaurants, bars and a few convenience stores such as 7eleven.


How to book
You can book your stay either directly through the Melbourne City Backpackers Website, or through the various accommodation websites such as Booking/Hostel world. They have 8-4 bed dorms and private rooms to suit everybody’s preference and budget. If you do want to book via Booking.com, Use THIS LINK to get 10% off your stay – and help me keep this blog running in the same transaction, with no added fees for you.



The Room
During our stay, we were placed in a 4 bed dorm with two other guests. The others had A LOT of stuff piled on the floor, but the rooms are so big and spacious it didn’t really make an issue for us. Just an eyesore – but that’s just down to bad luck! The beds consisted of two bunk beds, we both choose the top bunks. With the rooms being located on the top floor, there is next to none noise pollution from the street outside. We didn’t even notice the fire department battling a blaze down the road on the first night because it was so quiet!



The Atmosphere
A very chilled out hostel, no one was loud or drunk within the hostel. The common areas are open plan and very large. This meant we were all able to relax with everyone in the hostel having their own personal space. The guests were all still very social though, settling down for group dinners and talking about their next travel destinations. The hostel helped guests interact by offering movie nights, sausage nights and quiz nights!
This hostel is perfect for those who want to get the most out of their stay in Melbourne. It’s clean, conveniently placed and has so much to offer. The hostel offers free breakfast every morning, jobs boards for those looking to stick around a bit longer and can also help arrange any tours you fancy.


Stephanie xoxo

* DISCLAIMER - This was a complimentary stay provided as part of an agreement between myself and Melbourne City 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.




The best FREE things to do in Melbourne!



So, you're thinking of visiting Melbourne? Well, let me make it easier for you.

DO IT!

We were stranded in Cairns for two and a half weeks due to floods and after 72 hours of non-stop rain we booked a flight for the next morning to Melbourne to get our dose of Vitamin D! Our holiday within our holiday only lasted eight days - and I'm already counting down the days until we return at the end of April/start of May.

We spent every moment in Melbourne exploring the city and covered a lot of ground. Without spending a penny on entrance fees, no booking in advance and pennies on public transport to reach place to.

Here's a list of just SOME of the amazing things you can do in Melbourne without damaging your bank account. 

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Wander through the world famous lane ways

Any blog you read will tell you to walk around the lane ways and it's for a very good reason. They're covered in some of the most unique artworks you'll ever see and add real personality to every lane. We specifically loved the AC/DC lane. These lanes are more than just that, they each hold hidden treasure troves of secret bars, galleries and plenty of little surprises along the way.


Rock out at Cherry Bar

While speaking of said lane way surprises, on AC/DC lane you can find a rock music venue called Cherry Bar (well, it's actually moving in a few weeks, so you'll need to google it's new location, soz.) Cherry Bar is Melbourne's first authentic rock bar. They have a wide range of local and imported drinks, play FREE gigs 3 nights a week (and some decent bands for $10 too) We had an amazing night of dancing to rock and roll and listening to two of our new favourite bands.


Visit the State Victoria Library

Even if you're not into reading, you'll wan to go and see this absolute gem. The architecture made me feel like I was entering a Harry Potter movie. Start up to the very top to get a birds eye view of the whole place. There are individual exhibitions on each floor for you to enjoy while exploring to.


Take a stroll around the Royal Botanic Gardens

Every day locals flock to these stunning botanical gardens. It's the perfect picnic destination on a nice day. You can easily take a whole afternoon to walk around the gardens and chill by the lake. There's also a green house to explore if you can find it.



Educate yourself at the Statue of Remembrance

This was probably my favourite thing we did during our time in Melbourne. Just across the road from the Royal Botanic Gardens is a memorial building that was originally built to honour those who served during WWI. Once in the main building, climb the stair case to reach the roof top where you can get a panoramic view of the city.
Then, head downstairs and around the back to the war museum that is built underneath - It's an eyeopener to how Australia was effect by the wars.


View some art at the National Gallery of Victoria

wither you love art, or just need to kill some time in the city with some AC the National Gallery of Victoria is the place to be. It's completely free and holds modern and traditional pieces of art from around the globe.



Learn about your favourite Aussie music stars at the Australian Music Vault

Located right next to the NGV, a brand new venue has opened it's doors to showcase Australian music talent. It's completely free and is home to a permanent exhibition which celebrates homegrown music, and also has new objects changed regularly so there's always something new to see. My favourite item was the famous AC/DC school uniform. I just wish they had more Kylie outfits!


Check out the best of Australian Screen Content

The ACMI offers a variety of multimedia work that showcases both Australian and international content. It's home to everything from popular video games such as Minecraft and Super Mario to original aboriginal films and Hollywood blockbusters. It's nice to get an insiders look into the technology and skills that went into making probably the biggest entertainment systems in the world.


Catch the latest sporting event at Fed Square

Federation Square is located across the street from Flinder's Station. It's home to many restaurants, the ACMI and so much more. There's a large screen on the side of a building that shows live sporting events. We were able to watch our first big NFL game while tucking into our picnic. (We're in the UK, so the football is always on at like 3am)


Find a festival

There is always something happening in Melbourne, be it a small band in a local park or the famous St Kilda festival make sure you check it out. We were fortunate enough to be in Melbourne while the St Kilda festival was on. A completely free music festival on the beach in the summer.


I hope this guide has been useful for you. Let me know if you're heading to Melbourne and need anymore information - or if I've missed anything you think I should know about please let me know. I'll be heading back in May so will need more things to see!

Stephanie xoxo




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