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Top 16 best places I stayed in 2016

2016. The year Emir and I gave up our apartment in Istanbul and started to travel the world full-time. The year where we learned so much, both about ourselves, the countries we visited, their cultures and the people we met along the way.

It was also the year where we hopped from one city to the next (island). In 2016 we stayed in 42 different hotels, resorts, serviced apartments and Airbnb’s. Here comes my TOP 16 in terms of places we’ve stayed at in 2016.

Bear with me, this is going to be a long post!

16. CHIANG MAI, Thailand – Palm Springs Nimman 9 serviced apartment

It’s not the prettiest apartment we stayed in 2016, nor the biggest. At 35m2 it was too small to live with 2 people for a month. The shower was running cold most of the time, and the bed was too hard. However – I wanted to add Palm Springs to the list because this is where our digital nomad adventure really started. Just around the corner used to be a cafe called Kaweh, which happened to be the perfect spot to get some good work done. We would work all day and walk back home every now and then to take a quick dip between. This apartment will always hold a special place in my heart because I so remember that exciting feeling I had ALL THE TIME. The butterflies. We really did it. Man, we really did it. What if it doesn’t work? We gave up our apartment. We sold all our belongings! Newbie digital nomads. So cute.

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15. SAIGON (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam – Yess serviced apartment D3

This is the last apartment we stayed in in 2016. We found this serviced apartment super last minute because we had to extend our stay in Saigon as tickets to Bangkok were way too expensive during new year’s. I am glad things played out this way because the owners of the serviced apartment (especially the security guard!) were among the sweetest and most humble people I ever met.

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14. BRUGES, Belgium – uncle’s apartment

When I went to Holland for my check-ups in December, my mom invited me to come a few days to Bruges with her. She actually grew up in Bruges and wanted to show me around. My uncle was so nice to let us stay in his apartment as he was on holidays. My mom and I spent an amazing few days together, and the fact that I only see her twice a year made it extra memorable.

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13. Bodrum, TURKEY – Emir’s dad’s house

This is one of my favorite places in the world. Emir and I go to Bodrum every summer, and this year was actually our 10th summer in Bodrum! Before Emir’s dad moved there, we always stayed in hotels and apartments, but now there’s no need for that anymore. We basically have our own floor; a big studio with living space and 2 bathrooms (this comes in handy when I am taking too long ;)). Plus: from the rooftop terrace you get to see the most stunning sunsets. Every night, guaranteed. You can even sleep outside if you want to, but it does get a bit chilly at night.

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12. MANILA, The Philippines – Dusit Thani hotel

The Dusit Thani is located in the heart of Makati, the business district of Manila. The rooms are classic and luxurious, with lots of decoration. The pool is large and has lots of open space with beanbags and chaise longues to lounge on. My favorite part of the hotel is the Dusit Club; the executive lounge on the top floor.

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11. KOH TAO, Thailand – Aminjirah Resort

Koh Tao is a tiny island situated in the gulf of Thailand. It was also the last island we visited while island hopping in Thailand. We picked Aminjirah Resort as our final beach resort in Thailand as it had stunning views over the sea. If you plan a trip in Southern Thailand, you’ll naturally be guaranteed beautiful sunsets, but the ones here were nothing like we’d ever witnessed before. This is also why guests would usually rush back from the beach to catch the sunset on Aminjirah’s infinity pool.

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10. BUDAPEST, Hungary – Airbnb Jewish District

In September, following 2 months spent in Holland and Turkey, we knew wanted to distance ourselves from familiar sights. At the time we wanted to pick a destination where we could “settle down” for 2 months straight and focus on work.
Since Emir and I love spending time at home (I know it’s very contradictory to our lifestyle), we thought it was more important to choose an accommodation that would make us feel at home. So instead of choosing a destination, we shortlisted 10 cities in Europe and started scouting Airbnb apartments that would fit our needs. We had many good contenders. We almost booked a ticket to Seville, then to Sarajevo, and finally, we opted for Budapest. This apartment was by far one of the most comfortable and spacious apartments we’ve stayed in, in 2016.

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9. BORACAY, The Philippines – Hangin Kite Resort

The Philippines is an archipelago that consists of 7107 islands. Yet Boracay is the busiest and most touristy one. It’s also where the party happens. In a way, it’s more like Ibiza of the Philippines. For our month-long stay on the island, we chose to stay on Bulabog Beach, also known as the kitesurfing beach. Most hotels and resorts are located on the other side of the island. The island being so little, the “other side”, White Beach is really only at a mere 500-meter distance. Living on the beach was a beautiful experience. Unless I went to explore other beaches, I hardly wore any flip-flops. The sand did end up getting everywhere in our room, but we were more than happy to put out with it as the splendid view made up for it. Boracay The Philippines Hanging Kite Celine Elsa

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8. KOH SAMUI, Thailand – Samui Family Hotel

We’ve spent a total of 5 weeks in Koh Samui. Looking back at it, I don’t think we would have ever spent that much time on the island if it wasn’t for the comfortable stay we were having at Samui Family. As we no longer live anywhere, it feels very important to find accommodations that make us feel at “home”. Whenever we find a place that we love, we always end up extending our stay. And this what happened here too. The hotel only had 8 rooms, but interestingly enough, it also had 3 pools which made us feel like we had a pool to ourselves most of the time. This year, even though we haven’t planned on returning to Koh Samui, we’re thinking about changing our plans just to enjoy a few days in Samui family again.Samui Family Koh Samui Celine Elsa Samui Family Koh Samui Celine Elsa

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7. BANGKOK, Thailand – Airbnb Royal Castle Sukhumvit S39

We planned a 2nd visit to Bangkok in March to attend DNX (Digital Nomad Conference). Our friend Fleur visited us in Chiang Mai and together we flew to Bangkok and rented this super spacious 2BR Airbnb. This one was probably the most spacious Airbnb we stayed in all year. The apartment had good working air cons in all rooms, a Japanese tatami room, a washing machine, multiple bathrooms and a comfortable couch that would turn a hyperactive person into a couch potato. Among the downsides, the condo happened to be quite deep in the soi (road) which meant walking 15 minutes from the closest BTS stop. In the heat! Also, the pool was not the best. Some condos in Bangkok have stunning infinity pools on high floors. This one was not as impressive.

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6. AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands – Airbnb Vondelpark

In July, Emir and I stayed 2 weeks in Amsterdam. Emir’s mom visited us during that as well. We stayed in a 3BR Airbnb close to Vondelpark, on Overtoom. The apartment was quite stylish and spacious. This was the only Airbnb we’ve stayed in where people actually lived full-time in it but were just gone on holidays. The place was very well situated. The supermarket and the tram stop were also just around the corner which made it extremely convenient. The only downside was that the bedrooms were in the basement and it felt a little damp at times. Every day we went for beautiful walks in the park. The weather was beautiful throughout our stay, which made it even more enjoyable. Amsterdam The Netherlands Airbnb Celine Elsa Amsterdam The Netherlands Airbnb Celine Elsa Amsterdam The Netherlands Airbnb Celine Elsa Amsterdam The Netherlands Airbnb Celine Elsa Amsterdam The Netherlands Airbnb Celine Elsa

5. ISTANBUL, Turkey – Our apartment where we lived for 4 years

This is a special mention! In January 2016 we still lived in our apartment in Istanbul where we spent the last 4 years. The whole month of January was filled with stress. Stress of selling our belongings, sleeping on airbeds, planning our nomadic journey etc. During our time in Istanbul, we lived very comfortably.  Our complex had both in indoor and outdoor swimming pool, saunas, a gym, steam rooms, 24/7 security etc. In the beginning, we wished we could just transport our condo to the places we would visit. We now changed our minds because we have stayed in beautiful places this year and got to experience new and local living spaces that we were not familiar with.

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4. BUDAPEST, Hungary – Airbnb Penthouse City Park

This Airbnb is one of the most stylish Airbnb’s we’ve ever stayed in. So much so actually, that it was featured multiple times on home design magazines and websites in Hungary. It was even nominated for “Building of the Year 2017” on Archdaily. I especially loved the artwork, the lamps, the heating system and the beautiful view over City park. The apartment was on the top floor of an old building. The owner had renovated the whole place, working with an interior designer. The huge windows in the living room gave the apartment a beautiful loft-like atmosphere which we fell in love with.Budapest City Park Airbnb Celine ElsaBudapest City Park Airbnb Celine Elsa

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3. BANGKOK, Thailand – SO Sofitel 

Our stay at So Sofitel was unforgettable. Yet the first thing that comes to mind is the mind blowing breakfast buffet that was available every morning. This hotel was by far #1 of the year in terms of breakfast experience. The same goes for the infinity pool. It had a stunning view over Lumphini park. The resident DJ would play deep house music while you’d sip on your cocktail, lounging on the comfy seats. The hotel had multiple themes which they called elements. Each element would boost a completely different style in terms of interior decor. We stayed on the 39th floor, in the water element. Our room had a beautiful view over Lumphini park. The bathtub has the best view too! Finally, the bed was extremely comfortable and I also loved the little makeup room they had behind the bed.

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2. SAIGON (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam – Airbnb District 1

This is the best Airbnb we stayed in 2016. The loft was situated right across Vincom Center in District 1. The building was quite ancient, but the owner had done an amazing job refurbishing the space and turning it into a modern and stylish loft. The bedroom was right above the bathroom. I loved the fact that we had to climb some stairs to reach our bed. In fact, the bed was just a mattress on the floor. But they made it look very cozy. The loft had a superb view over Vincom Center and the little park right next to it. It also had a comfortable 7-person couch in the living room, with a dining table made out of a motorcycle engine.

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1. KOH PHANGAN, Thailand – Chantaramas Resort

Here comes our favorite spot of the year! Chantaramas resort was simply the best in terms of comfort, luxury, sense of seclusion and privacy. We visited the resort in the month of April, which was not during peak season. At the time of our stay, there were only a handful of guests staying over, which made it feel like we had a private resort all to ourselves. The pool was quite literally on the beach. The resort being almost secluded, felt like it had it its own private beach. The tide was also very low, which meant you could walk for half a kilometer without having the water going deeper than your knees. The breakfast buffet was delicious, and each evening they would have an outdoor “cinema” right on the beach where they would screen blockbuster films. The room service was always on point and a SPA was also available in case you needed to have your back rubbed and slip into a dream state. This is really what heaven must feel like. We can’t wait to go back!

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This post contains sponsored content. As always, all opinions are my own.

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