Cheap Eats in Bruges

I love Bruges, this idyllic town captivates me, but with hostels an average of €18 a night and meals ranging from €7-25 it’s not the cheapest city to spend your time in.

Imagine my delight when stumbling upon Brasserie Medard; an inconspicuous, hole in the wall, family run type of joint that’s full of locals and cheap eats! I arrived maybe 40 minutes before closing time and was greeted by a young man. Despite all tables having a reserved sign on them, he sat me down and handed me a menu. The atmosphere seemed fairly nonchalant and homey, with a group of older locals chatting together while occasionally yelling into the kitchen to chat with the chef as well; clearly they were regulars and everyone knew each other, which reinforced my belief that this place was a good decision.

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It’s a little bit difficult to order as the menu is only partially translated into English and the server couldn’t speak English, but I managed quite well anyway. 🙂 I ordered a glass of red wine and a small spaghetti from the snack menu. I don’t know if snack 20161017_193237translates the same from English to Dutch, but if that was their idea of a snack sized spaghetti portion then they have serving sizes big enough to rival America. The spaghetti rang in at only €4 and the glass of wine just €2.50. While tucking into my super sized meal one of the women from the table next to me asked me something in Dutch, and after seeing my blank face she repeated, “delicious?” I smiled and nodded enthusiastically, making her laugh. She even made a point to say goodbye to me before she left (she may have been a couple glasses of wine in by that point but she was still lovely).

I wandered home having made barely a dent in my wallet and stomach close to bursting, not even tempted by the sweet aroma of fresh waffles drifting through the air.

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Quick facts:

Located just off Grote Markt on Sint-Amandsstraat (maybe 30 meters down the road from the square).

Snack menu certainly delivers…”small” saucy, cheesy, spaghetti is €4 and is more than enough

Do not expect much English

NOTE: After looking up reviews of Brasserie Medard, I was startled by the reviews on trip advisor and feel like I must include a bit of a warning. I may have just been lucky as I was seated served without a problem, but apparently this might not be a very tourist friendly place. Many people complain that the owner is a very rude man who has a strong dislike of anyone who isn’t Belgian and they were often denied service and essentially pushed out the door. I did not see the owner while I was there, just a woman in the kitchen and I assume her son or other family member serving. I had a pleasant experience, but I suppose if you do find yourself in Bruges and craving some spaghetti, proceed at your own risk… and good luck!

 

Belgium’s Best Hot Chocolate

Belgium, undeniably, absolutely nails it when it comes to all things chocolate. When I was in Brussels I sampled some mouth watering waffles but Bruges introduced me to a whole new delight: Belgian hot chocolate. 

I don’t mean to say I’ve never had hot chocolate, I’ve had more than my fair share (as a child I literally required a mug of hot chocolate in the mornings before I could talk, function or be in any way remotely pleasant. This was obviously pre coffee years). However, I had never had hot chocolate made with Belgian chocolate. So once I settled into my hostel I set out to find that hot mug of heaven.

Out of an the tea rooms in Bruges, I walked into De Proeverie.

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De Proeverie sits just across the cobblestoned street from it’s sister chocolate shop, Sukerbuyc, inconspicuously nestled up next to the canal on Katelijnestraat. De Proeverie sells a tasty selection of cakes, pastries, scones, ice cream, tea, coffee, and (most importantly) hot chocolate.

Not only do they use Belgian chocolate from across the street, all ingredients are arranged on a tray and you allowed to concoct your own perfect cup of cocoa! It’s a delectable DIY treat.

20161017_155110At €4.50 this is arguably a bit of a ‘treat yourself’ if you are budget traveling, but it is definitely worth it. You will be given a tray with a cup of steamed milk, sugar cubes, a chocolate20161017_155142 stick to melt into the milk, whipped cream, and 4 extra pieces of chocolate. So not only do you get hot chocolate but you can also sample a bit of dark, milk, and white 20161017_155300chocolate as well as a chocolate truffle. You know, in case you wanted to pop across the street later after having a taste of what they offer. 😉

 

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One Night in Brussels

I decided to make my great escape from the UK and wander over to Belgium. (Also deciding to write about Belgium while it’s still fresh.) After an exhausting overnight bus/ferry trip from London I finally made it to Brussels! A quick search on hostel world revealed, surprisingly, a hotel as one of the cheapest accommodations.

There were very clear directions on how to get to the hotel via public transport from the central bus station, and the underground was very eat to navigate dispite the language barriers. I finally made it to Meininger Hotel late morning. Unfortunately check in is quite late at 3 pm, but the time if no surprise they clearly stated such online. While I couldn’t check in early I was able drop off my bags and was then free to wander the city.

A word about Meininger Hotel: it is absolutely amazing. The dorm rooms run at €15 per night and can sleep up to 6 people. The beds are comfortable, come with linen and blanket (and bath towel), and each bed has a personal reading lamp and an outlet. The toilet and shower are separate, which is convenient, and both are located in the room. The shower gets nice and hot and there is excellent water pressure! You even have a hair dryer. It is like having a nice hotel room at a quarter of the cost! I would definitely recommend this hotel/hostel to anyone going through Brussels.

Brussels itself was a little bit underwhelming for me. It is a nice enough city with plenty to see but it lacked personality and felt a bit like “just another city”. However, it is worth spending at least a day wandering around and checking out. I got a kick out of the mannekin pis (little pissing boy), which is a famous landmark for both tourists and locals alike. There is also a pissing dog and a 20161016_111035pissing girl somewhere in town, but I didn’t find them (a bit of a scavenger hunt for you when you choose to visit!).

On the road just near mannekin pis you can find shop after shop of chocolate and waffles. Thank you Belgium for being you and providing such wonderful treats. 🙂 After fully engorging myself on a chocolatey waffle I wandered over to Grand Place.

 

During the day Grand Place is, well, grand. It’s very pretty and you can admire the architecture and whatnot but if you do nothing else in Brussels….go to Grand Place at night!

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I promise you it will be worth it. Standing in Grand Place at night feels just like you are standing in a fairy tale. I now know where 20161016_190708Disney got the inspiration for the castle. I was amazed at the transformation from day to night of this place, it was stunning! Don’t miss this.

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How to Fail at Budget Travel

When I went to SE Asia, I had absolutely no plan. I thought I was going to Cambodia to teach English and about 3 months later found myself living in Thailand instead. I did zero planning for that trip and felt absolutely stress free-my bank account was doing just fine and I was thoroughly enjoying myself (re: indulging in the finer things in life such as as much beer and food I could possibly digest daily).

Now Europe…. Europe require a level of actual planning I was most certainly not prepared for. There are just so many places to go to and so many options. I tried to plan but felt slightly overwhelmed and figured I would book the ticket and just kind of wing it, per usual. However, everyone else seemed to see trouble on the horizons with my all to cavalier attitude. Even my mom asked if I was sure I actually wanted to do this trip. Throwing caution to the wind I brashly booked a flight and didn’t plan a damn thing until the week before boarding my flight to London (this consisted almost exclusively of emailing everyone I know in Europe and telling them to prepare their couches). I only did this because I started reading blog posts titled “How I only spent $700 in three weeks in Europe!” and mild panic settled in because I’m gone for 3 months.

You guys, you NEED TO BUDGET for Europe!! I hate saying that, I feel like it going against my travel code, but you seriously do. And, even more importantly, you NEED TO LEAVE THE UK!! Or at least have a game plan. Because believe me I say it is not a cheap place to be in.

Most of my friends that are in this part of the world reside in the UK and it was without a doubt totally worth it for me to spend over a month there…but this is a post of how to fail at budget travel, and so I will say I had a damn good time blowing my budget 🙂

If you want to fail at budget traveling: 

1. Stay in the UK

2. Travel around by bus in the Scottish Highlands

3. Have a night/multiple nights out in London

4. Spend any significant amount of time London

5. Go to Snowdonia national park in Wales without an exit strategy/plan

6. Change your mind on where to go next and backtrack a bit

7. Take a train anywhere in the UK

8. Do any touristy thing such as castles or museums

9. Eat out more than you eat in (unlike Thailand, eating out is not the cheaper option!)

10. Forget to pre book a hostel and be surprised by a big event that leaves all budget accommodation fully booked

Don’t worry, more to come on how I (mostly) enjoyed breaking the bank!

Starbeach Bungalows: Where I SHOULD Have Stayed on Koh Chang

So when Nick and I parted ways I went to Apple Resort for 4 nights, which was a mistake. I wanted to stay one more night after getting certified and so I moved farther on down White Sand Beach to Starbeach BungalowsThis is where I should have stayed for those 4 nights before! This was truly a backpacker bungalow, but it was a much better value for your money.


(My selfie game was apparently much stronger than my desire to actually document anything at this point so, embarrassingly enough, don’t have any face on pictures of the bungalows. Instead here are some photos of the beach and resorts to both the right and the left of the actual place!)

Starbeach Bungalows is nestled in with other hideaways such as Pens Bungalows and Independent Bos. If you want a real flash place I would probably not recommend these, but if you want a down to earth, relaxed, part of the environment feel I 100% recommend this place!! I have, at the end of the day, a little backpacker heart and soul and I felt right at home here. I could have stayed for weeks.12998351_10206181581115204_8867459039639281662_o

I don’t th12998445_10206181593195506_8167913864806739835_oink you can reserve a room, and it’s better to just walk up anyway! I got a room no problem. After paying for a night I followed the receptionist
and we climbed just a few short steps up to what seemed like a little tree house jutting out over the tops of the lower bungalows, but it was just so quaint and cute! No, it did not have air con, but for only 500 baht I had my own room with a balcony (including a bench, table and 13041353_10206181588355385_345206040725795785_oline to hang wet clothes), a sea view, a fan and mosquito net, as well has hot water showers. It was not the same ca13055663_10206181584395286_4639822596716989949_oliber as
the room at Apple but any stretch but I felt like it was very nice for only 500 baht and overall a much better deal. There were even less people down on this side of the beach and the water was just as calm and clear. The food in the restaurant was cheaper and the meals, both foreign and Thai, looked like much better quality food based on my sneaky glances around at other peoples’ tables. 😛

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I ordered a cheeseburger earlier that day from a restaurant just a short walk down the beach called 15 Palms for maybe 230 baht, but it was huge and came with plenty of chips, a fresh salad, and sauces. I DID manage to get a picture of that! (Food, apparently higher priority than most things on my “I should take a picture of this” list)

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Look at it. It’s beautiful.

The bar and restaurant did not stay open too late at Starbeach but the bar next door was open until 1am and I joined some of the guests for a nice little party there for my final night on Koh Chang. I absolutely loved this place. I want to go back, I wanted to go back the second I left! If you are a backpacker, this is definitely your scene (and at a very affordable price).

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Waiting for sunset on a hidden rock at the ocean’s edge. Not a bad way to spend the evening!

Name: Starbeach Bungalows
Location: north end of White Sands Beach, Koh Chang
Price: 500 baht/night
Pros: price, sea view, hot water showers, mosquito net, large balcony with table and bench, fan
Cons: no air con, bathroom in a little bit of dis-repair, you share the room (namely bathroom) with some ants, no direct access to the main road – you must walk down the beach a little bit (pro or con, depending on how you feel about it!)
Would I stay here again?: Absolutely!

Treat Yo Self Fail: Apple Resort Review

While in Koh Chang I decided to get myself SCUBA certified, and since my friend Nick was gone and it was my last week and a half in Thailand I decided to (try and) treat myself to a nice beachfront resort. I am, as I have come to find out, not very good at treating myself.

I hopped onto Agoda and found a resort called Apple Resort. It looked nice, had decent reviews…and was just over 2,000 baht a night. Ouch. But, after looking at some other places for slightly more, I decided this was a pretty good option. The room I wanted to book for 4 nights claimed to have free breakfast included (which I was pretty excited about because free food…) so I booked it and made my way over. I checked in around 12 and they said they had to clean the room and I could wait in the bar/restaurant area. Fair enough.  Check in was at 2pm but they did say there were going to get it cleaned for me when I checked in. Maybe there was a misunderstanding on my part when I thought they were going to clean it right away when the receptionist ran off to talk to someone, but I waited in the bar for over an hour.

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I finally got into the room and I was happy enough with it, it was spacious, had a big comfy bed, hot water shower, fridge, very efficient air con, and a little balcony overlooking the pool. I was happy with it and went down to the restaurant after showering to order some lunch. I ordered fried vermicelli noodles with chicken ( a Thai dish) and it was quite good! Decently priced (70 baht) considering the location. I got to eat right on the beach with a beautiful sea view.

It was a good place to stay and I am not complaining about the room, it was clean and had all the amenities. BUT, there were some things I found problematic. The receipt they gave me when checking in said breakfast was not included. I meant to ask them about this and double check, but I got distracted and then just kept forgetting and so that problem maybe could have been cleared up but I dropped the ball.

Another problem was the complete lack of room service. I stayed there for 4 days and not once was my room serviced. No one ever came to take out the trash or replace the towels. Even the place I stayed at before for literally a quarter of the price came in every other day and replaced the towels, waters, and shampoo/soaps.

I ordered fish and chips my final night at the resort for about 220 baht and it was dismal. I received a plate with a greasy looking hunk of deep fried fish no bigger than my fist and a handful of fries that looked to be haphazardly thrown together on a plate.  There was no lemon, tartar sauce, or any sort of sauce at all for the fish. I was quite disappointed with this meal.

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Overall, the room was pleasant and the Thai food was quite good from the restaurant. The beach was clean and not too busy, the water clear and calm. As a definite bonus the beach was beautiful! But all of White Sands Beach is beautiful no matter where you stay. However, the lack of room servicing and incredibly overpriced meals for small portioned and poorly prepared foreign food was a huge disappointment.  If the room was priced at half of the price I would be much happier, but for over 2,000 baht a night I feel like I was incredibly ripped off.

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My treat yo’ self endeavor failed; love the beach but I was disappointed with this resort. If you find yourself on Koh Chang’s White Sand Beach avoid this resort, there are many better places to stay!!

Name: Apple Resort
Location: White Sands Beach, Koh Chang
Price: Just over 2,000 baht from agoda.com for a pool view room
Pros: Thai food was good from the restaurant, rooms were clean and in good condition, all promised amenities in the room were included, efficient air con, balcony big enough to sit on with a pool view as stated
Cons: Room was not serviced once over 4 days, overpriced foreign food, website was completely in Thai so you don’t know what the walk in prices are, booked for free breakfast but in reality it was not included
Would I go back?: No.

 

Buengkan Passport

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Price: $$

Amenities: fans, free wi-fi, free water

Location: Just like WaWa, it is outside of town a little bit on Buengkan Road. Walkable, but bicycle recommended (especially when its hot!). On the way to the small lake and park, you will find Buengkan Passport on the left hand side of the road.

Taste: Good, strong coffee taste. I was warned before ordering that it was bitter, but I think that’s because I usually order a hazelnut latte from here which is decidedly sweeter than an espresso. The espresso was not too sweet (or bitter) and had a good flavor.Nice kick to it too.

Menu and Ease or Ordering: This coffee shop is run by a lovely couple and they can both 13055716_10206195017091095_3532891433425169286_ospeak English enough for you to order with ease. The menu is written in both English and Thai languages. The only downfall is they serve only coffee and no sort of desserts or snacks, but as long as you remember to grab a bite to eat before you get there you should be ok!

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Special Menu: For only 25 baht you get an anchan drink. Anchan is the blue/purple flower that we call butterfly pea. This drink is made with sweet milk so it is very sweet, but delicious! And pretty, too. 🙂

Environment:  I am going to be honest this review miiight be a bit biased because this is my favorite coffee shop in Buengkan, but it’s my favorite for a reason!! P’Ee runs the coffee shop and P’Bas is a photographer. Their shop is large and very open feeling. They do not have air con but only fans, so in the summer it can12973462_1695307094091021_3639034225257940752_o get a bit toasty but they have a lot of fans so you will always have one pointed in your direction. There are usually photography students that come and go to learn with P’Bas, so there is always something going on. That being said, it still has a quiet atmosphere where you can feel comfortable working, reading, or chatting with friends. The shop used to look out onto the little lake but due to recent constructio12973572_1695307027424361_6437332491007846626_on on the river there is a significantly large sand a rock pile outside. No worries though, the view it is still good and on Tuesday and Friday mornings you can sit back and watch the hustle and bustle of the Thai-Laos market. There is sometimes music, sometimes not.

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The Coffee Project