5 Reasons To Visit Marrakech

A £50 return to magical-Marrakech was too tempting an offer to refuse. So in January I packed my bags for a chilled weekend of yoga, good food and culture, and here’s why you should do the same…

1. The Maze That Is The Medina

Despite being a short 3 hour flight from home (in my case, the UK), Marrakesh could not feel further away from my familiar: A pastel-washed labyrinth of markets, Mosques and mayhem. With recognizable landmarks far and few between within the walls of the city, enjoy getting lost where the hustle and bustle is incessant, the Mosque’s cry for prayer will enchant you and the treasures for sale in the Souq are irresistible for shopaholics and collectors alike.  Rooftop cafes are oasis’s from the chaos of the Medina, with breath-taking views of the Atlas Mountains, and late night strolls around El Falma could lead to a monkey or snake being plonked on your shoulders… it’s impossible not to be seduced by the shabby-opulence of deeply-traditional Morocco.

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2. The Food

As a life-long lover of North African spices and aroma, I was in my absolute element indulging in tagines, cous-cous platters and sweet-‘n’-sticky Baklava. The best of which being the food in the ‘locals market’ on the north-west side of the city, just beyond the walls of the Medina; serving the locals the finest sausages, stews and suppers at local prices. Not to mention the refreshing peppermint tea served at every opportunity –  make sure they go easy on the sugar though!


3. The Markets

Marrakesh seriously tested my self-restrain. The textiles are vibrant, the spices are aromatic, the leather is supple and the silver is cheap. Taking an empty suitcase comes highly-advised for fellow shopaholics, and my top tip is to haggle on just about everything – it’s all part of the fun!






4. The Mountains

A short hour-long drive out of Marrakech will guide you to the dramatic, snow-capped Atlas mountains. It’s hard to believe the snow is real when looking from the scorchingly-hot, claustrophobic capital, but the rural landscapes of Berban Morocco is otherworldly. A day trip will set you back about £15 and is well-worth the trip.

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5. The People

There had never been a more controversial time to travel to a Muslim country than when I visited Morocco in January, following Trump’s travel ban. What I experienced couldn’t be further from the fear-mongering garbage the tabloids would have you believe: the Moroccan people are warm, hospitable and funny, not to mention eager for visitors to experience the magic their home offers. It was fascinating immersing myself in a totally different culture and observing the Moroccan people’s customs, one of which being the Hammam experience (which is well worth the read if you want to hear how I found myself naked with a bunch of lovely Muslim women throwing water on me)…



Cycling Around Prague

One of the absolute highlights from my birthday weekend in Prague was cycling around
the Old Town.


17455009_10158499439890193_1912580703_oMost of the bicycle rental places we found on Trip Advisor charged a fairly pricey £10 for just two hours. We managed to track down Okolo in the Old Town, which is by far the cheapest place around (only £5 for 2 hours) who lent good quality bikes.

Make sure you cycle all the way up to the castle. It’s a thigh burner but definitely worth it for the stunning views across the bohemian city.

Here are some highlights of our adventures around Prague (including a close encounter with a tram)…



Experiencing a local Hammam


Traditionally, a Hammam is a Middle-Eastern bathing chamber where people go to cleanse, bathe and exfoliate. Overtime this communal experience has become loved by tourists seeking an alternative spa experience during their stay in Morocco.

Inevitably the Hammam has evolved from the traditional (and rather basic) experience into something somewhat lavish to pander to the Western ideals of relaxation and well-being. Google ‘best hammams in Marrakech’ and you’ll be inundated by recommendations from Vogue, Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor – all of which have cherry picked the finest and most luxurious Hammams in this city, costing anywhere upwards of £25.


A Westernized Hammam – definitely more on the luxurious end of the scale!

If, like me, you’d prefer to experience the real deal then you need to scratch beneath the surface. There are hammam’s on virtually every street in Marrakech but you’ll need a local to point them out, blink and you’d miss them. I asked in my hostel where I might find a local hammam, and was surprised to learn it was literally round the corner, and further amused by the map I was drawn. “Go past the man selling meat opposite the tobacco shop, five paces past the man selling fish on the left-hand side and it’s the first door on the left”.  My friend in hostel wrote down exactly how much I should pay for the experience, a grand total of 60 Dirham/ £6 (and this was for the full body scrub, should you wish to go and wash yourself it’s a mere 10 Dirham/ £1).

The limited instructions were amusingly accurate and lead me to hole in the wall, which gave no indication of the secret inside. To the untrained eye the “door” looked more like the entrance to a slightly dodgy, alley…


My local Hammam – not quite on par as the one above I’m sure you’ll agree! Sadly no photos are taken inside, but I think the entrance paints a pretty good picture…

Two women wrapped in Hijabs sat inside the small, dimly lit chamber/reception. In my best French (the extent of which, I should add, could just about order me a croissant) and a lot of sign language, we managed to articulate that I wanted to come in and experience the Hammam. It was difficult to work out whether they were confused by my limited French or why the hell we wanted to come in at all. After a baffling exchange of money and quick game of shirades to explain what I wanted I parted with 10 dirham for the entrance fee, and 50 dirham for the body scrub. We were handed a squishy, newspaper-wrapped pouch containing our “savoire noir”, a sticky black paste locals use for cleaning with.

I was led into the first chamber with three other Moroccan women, one of which must have been a similar age to me, the others easily in their 50’s. I did as they did: strip. Dubiously removing layers as they did until we found ourselves in just our pants. It was a slightly strange experience seeing women who at all other times are so modestly covered suddenly in nothing by their pants: their dark, curly hair in tussles around their shoulders and their enviably curvaceous figures strutting around unphased by communal nudity. We were ushered out of the changing chamber, through a second chamber into a third where the air was dense with humidity and steam. There was certainly nothing glamorous or lavish about the chamber: in fact, if you had seen a photograph of me in that room without knowing we were in a hammam, you might have thought I’d been abducted and held hostage in some sort of dank prison.

The women filled four huge plastic buckets with warm water. Rather than delicately pouring the water over our skin, the buckets were chucked at me as if we were being punished. I couldn’t stop giggling, it was so hilariously ironic and utterly unsensual I couldn’t contain myself. The practice couldn’t have been further from the therapeutic experience the luxury spas promise, this said, this was exactly what I wanted to experience.

After the soap came the exfoliator. A rather unappealing coloured paste was scrubbed into my skin with a course mitt, leaving my skin feeling baby-soft and radiant. After a final rinse off we scuttled back through the various chambers to the changing room and put back on dearly missed clothes/ modesty.

If you’re travelling to Morocco, you really must try this authentic and bizarre experience. There was something really comforting and unifying about being in the buff around total strangers, especially the Moroccan women who are always covered from head to toe. You won’t find these places advertised on Trip Advisor, so make sure you ask in your riad where’s good to go!

Marrakech: My first experience in a Muslim country

I’m currently sitting on a rooftop terrace cafe in the heart of Marrakech’s Medina, with a fresh Moroccan mint tea warming my hands on this chilly evening; oil lanterns glowing around me and the chaos of the night markets hustling and bustling below…

It’s my first day in Morocco, first time in northern Africa and, most significantly, my first time in a predominantly Muslim country. There doesn’t seem to be more of a controversial or fitting time to immerse myself in the Muslim culture following President Trump’s bigoted and outrageous decision to persecute Muslims this week. Whilst I’m reluctant to share my political views on my travel blog, it’s important for me to share my positive experiences and encounters with a community who appear to be endlessly persecuted.

I fear that Donald Trump would gladly have us believe places like Morocco are treacherous breading grounds for extremists. So far, it couldn’t be further from the opposite. The Moroccan people I’ve encountered so far are welcoming, inquisitive, humorous and friendly people who are eager for visitors to learn about their fascinating traditions, try their exotic cuisine and learn about their customs.

I met an adorable woman this afternoon called Leyla. We sat opposite one other in a cafe: my brown hair hanging in curls, hers neatly disguised by her hijab. I struck up conversation, and before long we were talking about anything and everything – also discovering a mutual love for makeup. She guided me through the Souk to the heart of the Medina to show me her favorite cosmetic seller who sells natural spices, oils and pigments. She told me that men and women use amber and other natural incenses as perfumes as typical perfumes/ aftershaves contain alcohol which the Muslim community are not allowed to wear to the mosque. It was a fascinating afternoon , with no expectation or assumption that money was to be exchanged for her company.  It was just a brief encounter of two people from different worlds who had two hours to burn together.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the next 4 days have in store for me and look forward to sharing my adventures in this mad little city. Now, back to my tea…


10 Lessons We Should All Learn From The Vietnamese

1. An Emphasis On Learning A Second Language

I am eternally embarrassed of us Brits waltzing around the world using our mother tongue, expecting everyone to bow to us. I am as guilty of this, with barely passable French and absolutely no retention ability of a second language (one day though!)
It amazed me how vigilant Vietnamese parents are at ensuring their children excel at learning a second language. In fact, in remote parts of Vietnam local dialects are still found, so children learn Vietnamese as their second language!

Two of my favorite students – aged 2!

2. Strong Family Values & Ties

While I’m not sure if I’d want to live under the same roof as my grandparents and parents, there’s something really lovely about being so connected to your extended family. When I was working as a private tutor in people’s homes I really got to see what family life is like in Vietnam: the responsibilities of each family member, where they sleep, what they cook… the list goes on. But family doesn’t just stop when you leave a home, there is such a strong sense of community in little neighborhoods which I guess is kind of what Britain and American used to be like back in the 1950’s. Everyone knows everyone, everyone helps everyone, it’s safe for kids to play out on the street, you buy your food from the ladies selling on your street, there’s no need to travel far for anything and people just seem content. There’s definitely something to be learnt from that.
Children of Vietnam

3. Willingness to say hello or to greet strangers (especially foreigners)

I’m working in London, and not once as anyone I’ve passed said ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ to me. I know that in Vietnam Westerns are somewhat of a novelty, but I loved how bold children were shouting ‘hello!’ from the back of their parent’s motorbike. The same goes for adults. It’s something I really miss.


4. That life is much easier when there’s less emphasis on health and safety

Everyone comments on how chaotic Hanoi seems: the traffic, the beeping, the motorbikes swarming around pedestrians… But returning to a society where health and safety has gone bonkers (where your aunt who cooks for the homeless is accused of contamination for tasting her food with the spoon shes stirring it with)  it was refreshing to be in a place where there was less red tape and things were a little more lax. I mean don’t get me wrong, there are preventable fatalities and accidents all the time, but you never feel like you’re in a dangerous place.

5. You don’t need to drink alcohol to have a good time

In the Old Quarter at night you’ll see predominantly white faces guzzling the 5p Bia Hoi on yellow plastic chairs (like me, see below). Walk a few streets away and you’ll see the coffee shops full of Vietnamese teens drinking their bubble tea/coffee, taking selfies and catching up. While you do see Vietnamese people drinking, it’s no where near to the same extent us Brits binge.

Us pesky white faces drinking cheap beer

6.  Buying you food from a market is the way forward

The journey from field to plate is far less in Vietnam. Turn down a side alley and the street will be teaming with market sellers, offering their fresh produce (sometimes a little too fresh, with fish in buckets half hacked up). Supermarkets are slowly being introduced to Vietnam as it slowly becomes more westernized, but having the option to shop from road-side sellers was always a plus.

 7. Bum Guns

Enough said.

8.  Respect for the elderly

I wouldn’t say our culture is disrespectful towards the elderly, but there is great pride in the elders in Vietnam. Perhaps because they lived through, or maybe even fought in the American war, or because there are visibly stronger family ties, but the elders definitely get looked after well. The pronoun structure in Vietnam reflects this – instead of I/He/She/We/They, the Vietnamese use a pronoun structure to reflects gender and age. Essentially as you get older your pronoun changes – but always ensure you’re not under estimating someone’s age as this denies them of the status they deserve!

9. The sentiment of giving spontaneous gifts

The Vietnamese are so forthright in offering gifts. Regardless of the occasion, you’ll always find a bunch of lychees thrust in your hand, or something like a little bracelet, a handmade card, flowers, the list goes on. It’s something us westerns only think to give to those closest to us, but it the sentiment really does touch.


10. Napping: without a care in the world where

God damn capitalism forcing us to work all day with no time to sleep in the middle of the afternoon. How my mood would be better if I could have a kip like the Vietnamese do!



The Travelling Tapir’s Annual Roundup 2016

2016 was full of adventures, hurdles and progression: a year I’ll remember for forcing me to make crucial life decisions, some of which were for the best and some out of necessity. Despite blessing me with some beautiful memories, it’s been a year I’ve been looking forward to finishing, putting behind me, and learning from. Here’s my roundup…

2016 began in Vietnam: raising a glass of Bia Hoi to a new year that, for once, I had no intentions or plans for.


My sweet ride around Hanoi

It was a transitional time for me: adapting to a city I thought I knew well, but my memories felt somewhat distorted upon my return. It was probably because  when I left Hanoi it was was suffocatingly hot and freezing cold when I returned. I’d made a few changes the second time round, like swapping my moped for a bicycle, moving in with the awesome Rebecca and was trying to play catch up on all that I’d missed out on in the four months I’d spent back home.

What eased me back into expat-life in ‘Nam was my rusty old bicycle. Cycling around the chaos was unbelievably invigorating: I would look forward to whipping around West Lake every day on my way to work, and got to know Hanoi on much more of an intimate level. Even now, 8 months after leaving Hanoi, if I need to take my mind to somewhere tranquil it’s to the moments spent alone cruising around that smoggy lake that I found my place of calm.


In February the Vietnamese celebrate Tet holiday (their equivalent of Christmas), which was the perfect opportunity to take two week’s leave to travel around Myanmar: a trip which stands as the most magical and memorable adventure of my life to date. Everything from the fusion cuisine, adorable children, surreal landscapes to the mind-boggling script mesmerized me, the pinnacle being sunrise over Old Baganwhich ought to be on every traveler’s bucket list.


Sunrise over Old Bagan

Sadly, personal circumstances as well as a readiness to move on from teaching meant that it was time to say goodbye to Hanoi back in May. The decision wasn’t an easy one to come to, as I had had high hopes for Hanoi and a lot of love for the city. But in reality the progression I want to make throughout my twenties would only been stunted by years of TEFL teaching, which I’d realized wasn’t really for me (I mean don’t get me wrong I love running riot with adorable Vietnamese babies, but there’s only so much you can teach during “Worm Week” without wanting to jump). Naturally I had to squeeze in a month of travelling around Vietnam before I left to explore the long list of islands, hill-top towns and both urban and traditional cities I’d been dying to see.

After the novelty of cheese, family, friends, convenience, safe transport and being reunited with my wardrobe wore off (which took all of 1 week) I began to question whether returning home was for the best. England’s pretty rubbish (and extortionate!) at the best of times, but the Brexit referendum really was the nail in the coffin for any sense of pride for Britain. But a little bit of soul searching confirmed that being in the UK near to my family and sinking my teeth into a  career was what I was really craving – something to help me feel I was actually progressing in life rather than coasting. Some dusting off of those corporate skills I’d buried helped me land a job at Hills Balfour, one of London’s most reputable destination marketing & PR agencies.


Joining as an Account Executive working on the Mauritius account, I began a new chapter as a city girl: commuting on the world’s most abysmal train line, looking forward to my monthly pay cheque and restraining my travel bug in a straight jacket…

A quick holiday to Portugal back in September was just enough to sooth my itchy feet, and was a week filled of mischievous holiday hedonism.

Don’t get me wrong, working at HB was and still is the right path for me – I love the team I work with, and am passionate enough about the industry to wake up early every morning and contend with a railway who strike more often than not – anyone who knows me best knowns getting me out of bed for anything is impressive! And after all, who wouldn’t love a all-expenses paid for trip to one of the world’s most idyllic destinations?!

Spending a week in Mauritius was the ultimate work perk, and introduced me to a new side of travel: luxury. The dangerous thing is, once you’ve had a taste of the high-life it’s difficult to get excited about bed bugs and dorm rooms again. I’m sure I’ll manage!


In terms of the blog I’m dumbfounded that I have nearly 4,000 subscribers, with 150 receiving email notifications when I post, and an increasing social media presence. Please don’t forget to Like me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram for more of my travelling scribbles, giggles and quibbles!

Overall, 2016 has been a mixed bag: it was as liberating as it was limiting, as freeing as it was confining. The greatest lesson I’ve learnt (and am still adapting to) is to trust my inner-teacher who is infinitely wise and knows best what’s right for me. So often I regard the opinions of others with much higher regard than trusting my own intuition – it’s time to have a little more faith in my own path as so far it’s taken me to some pretty amazing places.

Let’s just say I’m pleased it’s over so I can start 2017 feeling fresh, armed with the lessons I’ve learnt and excited by the adventures to store…

Happy New Year!


The Tapir x



Mauritius, Indian Ocean

In the heart of the Indian Ocean lies one of the world’s most treasured and esteemed island-edens: Mauritius. A palm-fringed, volcanic island full of humble charm and luxury resorts; idyllic Mauritius both inspired and intrigued me…


Why? Well, having spent some of my teenage years living in Antigua (Caribbean) where there are visible tensions between local people and (comparatively) wealthy holiday-makers, I was was both humbled and surprised by the genuine geniality of the Mauritian people. Despite the average Mauritian living in rustic ramshackle houses and living off of modest salaries, you would expect the 60% of the island’s inhabitants who work in travel and tourism industry (serving predominantly wealthy, white people people) to have a bit of a chip on their shoulders. This couldn’t be further from the truth – there is such a sincere curiosity and friendliness about the Mauritian community, both in and outside of the resorts which is as magnetic as it is inspiring.

Mauritius has the reputation of exclusivity and luxury – both of which the island certainly delivers. However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there are accommodation classifications to suit budgets of all sizes. If, like me, you’re not likely to want to fork out thousands for an opulent beachfront villa there are plenty of gorgeous and rustic hotels like Attitude’s Emeraude Beach, which in May can accommodate a couple for £400 (per person) all-inclusive. Not bad if you’re looking for some pre-summer sun! Outside of the resorts and hotels you’re paying next to nothing for food, drink, petrol, and excursions. I highly recommend hiring a car/moped and exploring the abundance of pristine beaches and tropical jungles, indulging on the delicious local street food and cold Pheonix beers!


Considering you’re in the Indian Ocean, which has a patch-work of nationalities influencing the heritage and culture, there were more moments the island reminded me more of the Caribbean than it’s African/Indian influencers. There’s something about whiter than white sand; crystal bays stretching to turquoise reefs; trees overloaded tropical fruits; tumultuous driving on bumpy roads; mini marts selling merchandise from bygone decades; street food sellers whipping up an absolute treat in seconds and the most mesmerizing sunsets which plasters a permanent smile on my face.

There’s something in Mauritius for everyone: whether you’re an adventure enthusiast, windsurfing lover, culture vulture, rum drinker, adventurous foodie or unashamedly a fly and flop kind of person, Mauritius is barefoot bliss waiting to be explored.



Ravenala: a gateway to authentic Mauritius 

The amount I’ve learnt this week about the importance of the ‘personal experience‘ hotels and their intuitive marketing teams, nurture and weave into their rooms is phenomenal. What Attitude (the island’s most populated chain, with 9 unique and rustic resorts) have mastered is showcasing the rich fabric of Mauritanian culture and urging guests to experience Mauritius.

It’s both an effective and popular marketing strategy as guests have the opportunity to indulge in authentic experiences such as visiting a Mauritanian family for an evening meal; master the local language Creole on the beach; explore the island’s forests, mountains and beaches using their intuitive app; meet local craftsmen at the Attitude Bazarre where the hotel invites tradesmen to sell local produce in pop up markets; as well as the embellishment of local art, music and flavour seen across the suites, restaurants and facilities.
Ravenala is a spacious and colonial-feeling hotel with stunning west-facing coastal views – perfect for sunset spotting. The “Otentik” experience is embodied here, offering guests much more than luxury accommodation: it’s an invitation to leave Mauritius having learned about the warm and beautiful culture this wonderful island boasts.

Sintra, Portugal

The hilltop town of Sintra is what fairy tales are made of. A series of mosaicked, vibrant castles – fit for royalty- looking down over Lisbon and the Atlantic coastline of Portugal.


Getting there

As a popular excursion for tourists visiting Lisbon, Sintra is quick and easy to get to/from. The journey to the castle requires a train from Lisbon to Sintra town, followed by a bus up the steep, pine-covered hills to the castles. We took the train from Rossio station, Lisbon’s central station, where a return ticket cost €5. The 40 minute train chugs through Lisbon’s suburban districts terminating at Sintra town. I would recommend spending some time strolling through the quaint little town full of cute cafes and boutique shops, or alternatively you can take the bus upon arrival from outside of the station to the hill’s summit. The buses are frequent, and will set you back a further €5.

The Castles

Contained within the small town of Sintra are 10 castles, the most impressive being Pena Palace. Entry to the grounds is relatively costly, or at least far more than we were expecting. We opted to pay for entry to the gardens and the grounds of Pena Palace which left us enough for a sandwich and a coffee after.

The castle is magnificent: the blood-red and mustard-yellow walls radiate in the sun, which casts enchanting shadows and shapes through the delicate arches and patterns of the building. The ground are perfectly manicured and unspoilt by the volumes of tourists. We were enjoying the fresh air and views so much we decided to walk the 3 km walk back down the cobbled stairways to the station, which was a little adventure within itself

Sintra was one of the highlights of my travels to Portugal, and an absolute must for anyone travelling to Lisbon.



Sintra castle price list




Lagos, Portugal

Lagos offers the very best of Portuguese vistas, beaches, authenticity and charm. With a  crumbling coastline, white-wash town and hippy vibe, it is really deserves credit for being the best destination along the Algarve.


Getting to Lagos


We opted to take the rusty old tank of a train to Lagos which was ideal. The views along the coast are stunning – you’ll pass through rolling hills with earthy shades of soil and thirsty shrubs as well as traditional hamlets off the beaten track. The train set us back all of €5 (if you are 25 and younger make sure to show the ticket officer your passport/ID so you get a young persons discount!), and took approximately 1.5 hours.



Let’s talk about the beach…

I’d love to tell you that we did loads when we in Lagos. It would be lying. We had an absolute ball soaking up the sun, gorging on delicious Portuguese dishes (make sure you try the sardines and swordfish, and make a point of visiting Bar Inna for traditional meals costing only 5 euros!) and drinking lots of wine and sangria.

The beaches are out of this world. The azure Atlantic contrasts the golden coast which has crumbled away leaving behind giant rocks and secret tunnels to explore. It’s said these are best viewed from one of the excursions which takes you along the coast by kayak or catamaran, but we were happy exploring different beaches by foot each day. Personally, my favourite beach was Praia dos Estudantes – though all of them are unique and worth checking out.


Lagos Town



I’m the world’s biggest fan of Air BnB. Seriously. There’s nothing I enjoy more than living like a local. We found a steal of a deal with this gorgeous, homely apartment just outside of the town centre. It was brilliant to have our access to private facilities like a sun terrace and really enriched our holiday with the sense of uniqueness. If you’re heading to Lagos, make sure you drop Claudio a message to stay in his wonderful home: www.airbnb.co.uk/lagos-apartment