Budapest – in one day

Although I’m living in Vienna for a couple of years now, and the connection between the hungarian capital and the austrian one is pretty amazing (there is plenty of busses and trains, that take you there for under 20 Euros), I haven’t been to Budapest for more than a stop-over. When friends told me a couple of weeks ago, that they will be stopping there on their backpacking trip, I was totally up for joining.

So last week I took the Flixbus from Vienna and three short hours later, ended up in a city that looks so similar to Vienna, but it SO TOTALLY different.

Since we only had a couple days to explore, me and my friends just dropped our bags at the hostel and started into the bustling city.

Since no great day ever started without breakfast, this was exactly where we were heading first. Thanks to my favorite travel inspiration (Instagram 😉 ) I found this very cute and stylish breakfast place named “Szimply”. It was kind of hard to find at first, since it is located in a patio, but totally worth looking for. We actually ended up there twice; this is how good it was! 😉

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The café itself is tiny and for coffee you have to cross over to the other side of the patio to get it from a different place, but the breakfast there was amazing. Great quality of food perfectly seasoned and gorgeously arranged. And most important – they have an amazing variety vegetarian and vegan breakfast options. Being a vegetarian myself and traveling with a vegan, finding veggie friendly places to eat wasn’t actually as hard as we feared. At the Szimply we opted for a sweet quinoa bowl with fruits and flowers,  pan fried eggs with lots of salmon and been purée and the best avocado bread I’ve ever had.

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Summer quinoa bowl
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Pan fried eggs
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Best avocado toast ever ❤

After breakfast we started our Budapest exploration, we walked all over Pest, passing impressive monuments, street artists, Baumkuchen stands and a loooot of fellow traveler. One of the most memorable place we came across was the holocaust memorial. The „Shoes on the Danube“ memorial is one of the most moving memorials I’ve ever seen.

Gyula Pauer and Can Togay , two sculptors, created this touching memorial in memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944 and 1945.

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Shoes on the Danuba

Next we crossed the bridge over to Buda.

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Chain Bridge

Buda and Pest have been united into one city only in 1873 and from what I’ve seen there is still a huge difference between the two sides of the city.
Buda with its hills, the Castle Quarter, the museums and the cobblestone streets makes you feel like you just went back into imperial times. Besides of a couple of tourist groups we didn’t meet any other people and the whole area felt like it is just there for being looked at and admired. Over at the Buda side of the City, we also had quite a hard time finding a place to stop for coffee. Since we tried to avoid “touristy” places, we wandered around Buda for quite a while till we found a café.

One thing I really liked about Buda is the view from the castle hill. There is a couple of famous viewpoints, like the Fisherman’s Bastion and the Citadella fortress, where you’ll have a splendid look over Pest, the Danube and the gorgeous Chain Bridge. To get up to the castle, you can either walk through the gardens underneath the castle, wander through the part of town underneath the hill and find the steps that take you up the hill, or you take the more comfortable way and ride up the hill with the Funicular.

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Easiest way up – Ride the Funicular

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On top of the hill – Buda Castle

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Matthias Church

Pest on the other hand is full of life and you wouldn’t have to walk more than 2 minutes to find a coffee place. Pest is also where all the nightlife is happening. From the famous ruin bars ( there is more than 30 of them)  to hundreds of pubs and clubs, there is a chance to party in Pest every night of the year. But Pest has more to offer than just party; it is great for shopping, eating out and there is lots of historic sights on this side of the Danube as well.

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St. Stephens Basilica in Pest
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Art is all over Budapest

One of my favorite places in Pest was definitely the market hall. It is full of fresh fruits, great variety of typical hungarian food and all sorts of souvenirs. Also, the hall itself is pretty spectacular.

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Central Market Hall

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The Jewish Quarter in Pest is known for the ruin bars and its young, hip vibe. I loved everything about it. There is pop up food festivals, affordable restaurants and unique shops, something to discover around every corner.

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Foodtruck market in the Jewish Quarter

At night, Pest is definitely the better place to be, not only because of all the entertainment, also because the view from the esplanade at night is top. Strolling along the Danube at night, looking at the brightly lit castle on the Buda side is breathtaking.

For dinner we found another great vegan friendly place close to our Hostel. It was called Napfényes Étterem and I pretty much fell in love with their rague.

More about my trip to Budapest, including a review on a visit to one of Budapests famous Spas in a follow up post!

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Travel quotes that give me serious wanderlust

I can hardly remember a time in my life when I wouldn’t have been up for packing my bags instantly, board a plane and travel the world. But unfortunately… to travel you need money  and therefor, like most people, I have to spend an awful amount of time working and doing „serious“ life things.
BUT , this doesn’t prevent me from constantly dreaming, planning and looking forward to my next trip to ANYWHERE. ❤

At times when my heart is especially restless, I love reading travel quotes, I have at least 200 of them screenshotted on my phone and a whole lot more in all of my notebooks.

So here are some of my favorites travel quotes! ❤

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Picture taken in New Zealand, close to Tauranga.
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Picture taken in New Zealand on a biking tour to Little River , South Island.
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Picture taken in Budapest.
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Picture taken in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.
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Picture – Parque Tayrona, Colombia.
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Picture taken on a hike through Parque Tayrona.
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Picture taken in Guatapé, Colombia.
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Picture – Valle Cocora, Salento, Colombia.
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Picture taken in Prague.

 

Salento, the place to be for coffee lovers

I spent the first time of my stay in Colombia in the Caribbean region, I loved it,  but there was one thing that was a true disappointment  to me. The coffee tasted awful.

This might not be a valid reason to be disappointed for some people, but I am an official coffee addict and worshiper through and through. So, I almost gave up on the coffee-heaven Image of Colombia I had for so many years, but then… I got to Salento.

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Streetlife in Salento

Salento itself is a gorgeous little town. It’s center is easily walked within one hour and the main plaza is always full of life. Be it school kids on their lunch break, backpackers waiting for the trucks to take them to the Cocora Valley  (Post on the Cocora Valley here ) or locals drinking their coffee and chatting for hours.

Right from the main plaza starts the busiest street in town  (which isn’t actually that busy at all… another thing I loved about Salento), there is a lot of shops, restaurants and bars lined up, so if you can’t decide what to do with your day , start off there and you will be entertained for hours.  This street ends at a staircase which leads you up to a Punto de Vista, where you’ll have an amazing view over the famous eje-cafetera region and of course beautiful Salento.

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Coffee, coffee , coffee … wherever you look.

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I truly loved everything about Salento, the fact that there is almost as many Colombian weekend tourist as gringo backpackers, the friendly people, who actually greeted us from day one and knew our names by day 3, the tours you can go on from there, horse riding to hidden waterfalls, biking, hiking the Cocora Valley, visit traditional Coffee farms and many more, the fact that I stayed in the most beautiful hostel I’ve ever seen, the amazing coffee everywhere and the millions of different shades of green.

Accomodation

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La Serrana

The Hostel we stayed in is called “La Serrana” and it is located about 20-25 minutes of walking distance outside of town. It is surrounded by literally NOTHING but green hills full of coffee plantations and in the morning, when the fog is still lingering around the hills, you feel like you are the only person in the world. So peaceful . ❤

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Waking up to THIS!

They also have great common rooms, which are always full of guitar playing and storytelling fellow traveler and they serve amazing breakfast and dinner.

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I loved everything about La Serrana, even the entrance hall! 😉

 

Coffee farm highlight

For me, a passionate coffee lover, going to the coffee plantations was a MUST DO. My friends and I decided to go see a traditional, organic one named Sacha Mama.

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This little fellow walked all the way to the Coffee farm with us.

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It took us about an hour to get there . We started at our hostel and the path  lead  us mostly downhill through the core of the Coffee zone.

Sacha Mama is a special kind of Coffee farm, with a lot of history and run by the same family since ages.

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Us, learning ALL ABOUT COFFEE! 😉
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This is how coffee beans look like before being plucked and peeled.
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Coffee blossoms
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Coffee drying corner

The lady  there went on a tour through her families coffee plantation with us, we learned so much about the traditional coffee making process and in the end we were even rewarded with a cup of amazing self-made Colombian Coffee, cookies and cakes.

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Before being roasted.
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Finally they started looking like coffee beans.
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Traditional Coffee grinder
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For a trip to the Coffee Farm, you definitely need a whole day, since you are walking quite a bit to get there and even more going back (since it is ALL UPHILL ;P  ) and you should definitely take the chance to talk to the people who run the farm, they will answer all your questions and are really happy to meet people who are truly interested in coffee.

They also sell their organic, self-made coffee at the farm, which is SO MUCH better than the one you get in the stores… obviously! 😉

 

 

One day in Battambang

 

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Ta Dumbang statue in the middle of Battambang, people come here to pray.

Battambang was one of the cutest cities I’ve been to in Cambodia. We arrived late in the afternoon with the Angkor Express Boat , that I already told you about in one of my previous articles. Since we were really tired we just grabbed something to eat, went for a short walk and then right into bed.

The next day we got up very early looking for a Tuktuk driver to show us the best of Battambang, since we just had this one day. A few minutes later we found one and hit the road to the Bamboo Train.

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Let the journey begin 😀

 

Bamboo Train

The Bamboo Train is one of the most famous attractions in Battambang that is why we had to go there and check it out! With this train you don’t actually get somewhere, it is just for the experience – you drive 15 to 20 minutes in one direction and then the same way back for around $5. It wasn’t very comfortable, very bumpy and the train gets really fast – it was fun though and you get to take some really nice pictures.

 

 

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I really enjoyed those views

 

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Getting the train off the tracks

Since the way there and back is the same, they have to get the train off the tracks to let the other trains pass. After an hour and a half we were finished and went to the next stop on our list.

 

Wat Banan Temple

This is a really small but beautiful temple a little outside of Battambang and it is definitely worth going there. You have to go up a very steep staircase but once you are on the top you get a really nice view.

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It’s a long way up there, but definitely worth the effort.
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Nice temple at the end of the staircase.

Killing Caves and Phnom Sampeau Temple

Our Tuktuk driver told us a lot about Cambodias history and the victims of the Khmer Rouge who came to death at those killing caves. It is unbelievable what happened at this place not that long ago.

From the Killing Caves it is a nice walk up to Phnom Sampeau, which is also a really beautiful temple around Battambang, it is more modern than Wat Banan though.

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Phnom Sampeau temple
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Be aware of those cheky little monkeys up there ;P

 

 

Last stop Battambang Bat Caves

After walking down from Phnom Sampeau our last stop were the Bat Caves, this was just amazing – at 6 p.m. millions – and I really mean millions – of bats come bursting out of this hole in the mountain and fly towards the countryside, where they spend the night.

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Bats looking for food

 

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Bats come bursting out of the mountain

 

 

After that our Tuktuk driver brought us back to our hotel and his friend drove us to Phnom Penh the next morning, which he arranged for us! What a lovely day 🙂

 

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Valle de Cocora , Salento Colombia

Salento is a typical paisa village located about 20 kilometers away from Armenia in Colombia, it is located in the famous eje cafetero ( the Colombian Coffee region). Besides of being a truly beautiful place itself, Salento is the perfect starting point for a hike trough the Valle de Cocora, which , for me, is a definite MUST SEE in Colombia.

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Surreal landscapes in the Cocora valley.

The Cocora Valley is famous for it’s huge wax palm trees, which are actually a national symbol of Colombia and to be honest… one of the most spectacular things I’ve seen so far.

When staying in Salento, it is pretty easy to get to the Valley, you simply wait at the main plaza, where there will be a couple of old pick up trucks lining up at several times of the day. (Leaving hours start from 6.10 in the morning)  I’ll recommend you to start in the early morning hours, since there is always a high risk of rain in the mountains of the valley during the afternoon.

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The cars will stop right in front of the entrance of the valley and you’ll have two options to start from there.
You can take the short way (the one on the left) , which will lead you straight to the wax palm fields. This way doesn’t take more than 90 minutes to walk and you’ll have a great view on the wax palm trees without much effort. But, obviously you’ll miss out on all the other highlights of the walk.

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The view from the top of the mountain is breathtaking.
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Crossing rivers on wobbly brides is one of many adventures.
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The weather changes really fast up there, so be prepared for any kind of weather.

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So anybody who is in decent physical shape… DO TAKE THE LONG WAY! 🙂

The long way will take you about 5-6 hours, you’ll cross wild rivers on dangerous looking rope bridges, you’ll climb steep hillsides, you’ll walk through ankle deep mud paths and you’ll also come across a hummingbird sanctuary. It will be an experience you’ll never forget, I’ll promise you that.

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Another important thing is to ALWAYS be prepared for changes in weather!  When me and my friends went on the hike, we were lucky enough to be close to a lodge, which is located halfway of the way on top of the mountain, when it started to rain heavily. I don’t want to imagine how our walk would have turned out otherwise, because we definitely didn’t bring appropriate gear.

So… pack the rain jackets and make sure you wear proper footwear! 😉

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The lodge I mentioned is called Finca la montana and it’s the best place to rest a little while drinking the famous hot chocolate with cheese

 

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You get your hot chocolate with a piece of cheese on the side.

When you finished all of the walk, you’ll end up exactly where you started. Unless you get there really late, there will also be trucks to take you back to Salento.

 

Welcome to the jungle (Koh Kong Cambodia)

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Riding the long tail boat through the mangrove forest of Koh Kong

Koh Kong was our last destination in Cambodia, since it’s located right on the border to Thailand. They offer lots and lots of tours and activities there like island tours, kayaking, fishing, hiking and so on.

We decided to do the Cardamom Mountains Trekking for one day which was around $20 per person plus a little tip for the guides. This tour included pick up from our home stay, drinks and lunch (we got some fried noodles with shrimp and fresh fruit).

The Tuk Tuk driver picked us up at 8:30 in the morning and brought us to the boat, it was just my friend and me and those two really nice guides. It took us around one hour and a half up the river until we got off the boat and directly into the jungle with which I fell in love with immediately.

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One of the guides walking in front of us clearing the way with his machete

 

After a while we stopped to take some pictures, I have no clue what time it was by now, I was so amazed by all of those gorgeous views that I didn’t check my watch even once. The hike itself wasn’t very exhausting or hard, it was pretty hot though which made it a little challenging but one oft he guides always reminded me to drink something 🙂 and once my water was finished I got a new one within a second.

 

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Short stop to take pictures at this amazing viewing point

 

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After this short break we went deeper and deeper into the jungle.

Around noon they took us to a really nice place where we had lunch, got to take a swim and explored the jungle and the amazing waterfalls by our-selves.

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This is where we had lunch. We didn’t see any other people during our trek at all.
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Our guide , showing us around.

After lunch break we hiked back to the boat and arrived at the city around 4.30 p.m.

What an amazing day 🙂  so if you’re planing on a short stop in Koh Kong traveling from or to Thailand you should definitely consider staying the night and trekking the jungle!

If you’re more into relaxing and beaches another tip is the Koh Kong Island Tour which I really enjoyed too, I’ve never seen such a beautiful and quiet beach before! Koh Kong Island is just a really tiny island where you can spend the night in some cute little huts, if you want to.

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The beach looked like a postcard ❤

 

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Crystal clear water and white beaches.

 

Posted by Kerstin

5 things I love about staying in Hostels

I love traveling, I always did and from the moment I was able to make my own decisions on travel plans, I never booked into a normal hotel or a club again. I mean, don’t get me wrong, for a few occasions, let’s say , a honeymoon or a romantic weekend getaway, I would really love spending a few days in a luxurious hotel room with a bathtub, room service and most of all PRIVACY. But for the rest of my travels, I would always prefer staying in hostels.

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Picture taken in Minka, Colombia.

For those of you who haven’t stayed in hostels yet , this might come shocking ,  because hostels are usually associated with noisy, drunk bunk neighbors and tiny, packed and often unhygienic bathrooms , also for a lot of people, it’s just the LAST option (in case of lack of money) they’d take when traveling.

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Casa Loma, Minca, Colombia.

But for those of you who have some hostel experiences already, you might understand me. Because, there is no way you could ever meet so many open minded and fun people in a hotel. Not only because, there is no way so many people would spend time in a hotel lobby instead of their cozy, awesome and pricey hotel rooms.
This is different in a hostel. In the evening, hardly anybody stays in their room ( or being more accurate) in their bunk.  Everybody is eager to be somewhere nicer and also, hearing all the guitar sounds, singing and chatting from the common room , hardly anybody would want to stay alone all night.

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Paradiso Hostel in Nelson, New Zealand.

I’ve been staying in quite a lot of hostels by now and I have to admit, not all of those nights I love to look back at. There was some pretty nasty things happening sometimes and there was a lot of awkward moments as well.  But for me, that’s part of traveling, because in the end you’ll def. have more stories to tell and learn more about yourself and also your fellow travelers  when staying in a hostel, rather than a hotel.

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Dinner at the Paradiso, New Zealand.

 

So here are my top 5 things I love about hostels:

  1. When you travel solo for a while, there will be times when you feel lonely and sometimes even kind of lost. So, when staying in a hostel, you can be sure, that there is always going to be somebody who is up for cooking together, drinking (cheap) alcohol with you or at least there will be somebody who plays the guitar all day long.
  2. You always find out new things about the place you’ve been traveling to when talking to fellow travelers in hostels. There is always the obligatory long-term backpacker , who already knows all the tricks to get the most out of everything at the lowest cost. Then there is usually somebody who read all the travel guides there is, so you can ask that person anything. There is at least one who made friends with a bunch of locals already, who of course know the best and most beautiful things to do and see anyway. And best of all, there is a lot of other travelers who are as eager to explore as you are.
  3. There is always somebody who bakes bread or brownies for everybody to share. ( but you know… beware of the brownies)
  4. Hostels are by faaaar cheaper than hotels and the times where there are only shappy and disgusting hostels to choose from are OVER. With a little research you’ll be able to find gorgeous hostels all over the world, which come with all the benefits listed above and even comfort.
  5. If you are up for party, you don’t need to go far. Almost all the hostels I’ve stayed in did have a hostel bar ( or at least they sold alcohol and put on music) So , If you are tired from exploring all day long, but still want to have a few drinks, music and social interaction, check out the hostel bar.
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Gorgeous Hostel in Cancun, Mexico.

Posted by Lisa