I Have Something To Confess.

One thing I was hoping to get out of travelling – or rather, get rid of – was my fear of flying.

I know. Why travel the world when you are absolutely petrified of flying?

Why put yourself through multiple flights on average, every 5 days, if you hate it?

Well, honestly – because I think my passion for travel out-weighs my fear for flying. But that doesn’t make it any less real. 

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I honestly thought that eventually, by travelling, my fear would gradually fade into the background. That it would simmer down and that perhaps I’d be able to finally relax into a flight and the idea of flying instead of dreading it the entire day prior.

But that hasn’t really happened.

I had a bit of a breakdown on our last night in Bangkok, because I’m so sick of feeling paralysed by this fear. And I think it’s important to talk about it – because unlike what many people may believe, travelling isn’t fun 100% of the time. For me, it’s incredible the entire time we’re on solid ground. But the day when we’re due to fly? And the flight itself? You’ll find me clutching my boyfriends hand, a bag of nerves, wishing I was anywhere else but there.

So maybe it’s important to be honest about these things. 

And maybe, if you’re someone who also has a fear of flying, and you’re reading this. Maybe you’ll feel encouraged by the fact that even though I hate flying and it fills me with pure dread, I still board that flight and I cope with it the best I can. Because I know travel is worth it all.

But I’m trying so hard to overcome it, despite a few hiccups along the way.

Over new year, we had a terrible flight into Queenstown, NZ where our plane had a missed approach on landing and we had to surge up the engines again metres from the runway and take-off again. I was an absolute wreck during those few minutes, and I think it erased any progress I’d made previously. Before that, I’d never really hated the landing part (because, hey – it means you’re nearly there) but now my nerves are so on edge during landing I find myself glancing around the cabin frantically every 30 seconds. Pad compared me to a Meerkat – if that helps you imagine it. A super panicked Meerkat. Having a bad day.

Ever since then I’ve felt myself getting worse and it’s become a bit of a downward spiral. In Thailand on a couple of internal flights we had to fly on smaller planes with propellers instead of engines. This was almost a breaking point for me. I literally felt overwhelmed by the fear. I even contemplated having us drive across Thailand and hiring a taxi to take us to our next destination (making a 45 minute plane journey a 7 hour drive). But Pad being the ever supportive boyfriend he is, assured me that I’d be OK – and we were. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t spend the entire flight gripping his hand and cutting off his circulation.

Why am I writing this?

Well, after I had my Bangkok-Breakdown, Pad asked me what I was actually scared of. And I put it down to a mixture of things.

I hate not having control.

I don’t understand how it works.

I hate the sensation of flying.

I dread the turbulence. And I hate the dreading.

It goes on.

So Pad told me to start researching how a plane works. To help me understand. So I could understand exactly what all the sounds were that scared me so much. So I could change my outlook of flying, to a positive one instead of a negative one.

I don’t know why I’d never thought of it before honestly. I feel a bit foolish for never typing into Google “How does a plane stay in the air” or “tips for fearful flyers” but I never had before that night. Which is stupid. Because there are so many people out there with the same fear (1 in 6 apparently) and they are all there, online offering advice.

So now, I know how a plane stays up. It’s something to do with lift, and the way the air glides over the wings of the plane – which creates different pressure levels. And that makes me feel a bit better.

I also know that whilst turbulence is a discomfort – it isn’t dangerous, and the planes are designed to with-stand it and they are designed to be strong and safe in turbulence.

I found this website…. www.askcaptainlim.com and I read through the FAQs and the forums and I can’t thank the guy who wrote it enough.

I read tips like, watching children’s television helps – because they distract you easily and are designed for short attention spans. I read that it helps to imagine turbulence as bumps in the road or like waves on a boat. I read that it helps to imagine the captain doing day-to-day things like brushing his teeth and driving to work. And then imaging him going home after the flight to his family and having tea. Because, although it isn’t to you – this flight is completely routine to him.

It’s helping now, just typing all this stuff out. 

So, last night when we boarded our plane to Hong Kong I was feeling OK. Not confident, not happy or excited – but OK. Which was enough for me at that moment in time. I told Pad, that during this flight I was going to be brave, and that I was going to cope. Which I did.

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Turns out, it was a blessing I found all that advice, and especially the website which I mentioned earlier – because this flight to Hong Kong was a particularly bad one. We actually descended into Hong Kong at night time through a Thunder Storm, probably the biggest thunder storm I’ve ever seen. My heart is beating harder in my chest just describing it. We could see lightening out of the window, bright and white. The turbulence was bad – very bad. At one point we dropped a considerable distance, and many people on board screamed.

But the entire time, I kept my head down, I kept my hands in Pad’s and I closed my eyes. I kept telling myself all the information I’d read the night before. I kept recounting it in my head over and over. I even said a few of the things out loud, as if that might make it more true and convincing.

But I didn’t cry. And I didn’t panic.

In fact, when we touched down, I had dry eyes and I even managed to smile. And then minutes later, I managed to laugh. I had trusted the captain, I had trusted the plane and I was OK. Yes it had been horrible and frightening – and even now I’m trying not to think about it – but I had been so brave.

I don’t think I’ve ever said this, but I was really proud of myself. I’d actually surprised myself with how brave I’d been.

So, I probably can do this. 

And because the World has a sense of humour (and maybe as a reminder to me to have one too in situations like this), after the flight had taxied to the airport I started to pack up my stuff from the little pocket in front of me where I keep my tablet and headphones, etc during the flight. I reached in, and I saw something small, red and yellow, stuffed in the bottom of the pocket and pulled it out. It had clearly been forgotten by the last person who sat there.

It was a super hero mask.

Maybe that’s all I needed all along. 

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Photos and Observations, The Grand Palace, Bangkok

Whilst our day out to The Grand Palace was undoubtedly the most hot and bothered I’ve ever been (seriously…. just look at the clothing regulations, and then consider wearing that in 38 degree heat and humidity) it’s also one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

I love temples, and as a photographer it’s a dream walking around places like this, because there is just so much to see. For me it’s the colour and the patterns, and I can’t think of anywhere else in the world that offers so many colours, shapes and beautiful buildings all within such a small space.

So here are a few of my photos….

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It’s funny – because in the photos it doesn’t look all too hot at all. In fact, from this distance we all look pretty comfortable in our jeans, cardigans and long dresses and proper shoes. The truth? We had to stop every 10 minutes or so just to take a breather. When we finally discovered a free water station top-up, we sat there for 20 minutes in the shade just refilling our bottles again and again and downing all the water we could manage.

We joked that you could ever come here with close friends or family. Because trying to make a good first impression here, would be near impossible. What with the whole “drenched in sweat – desperate for water and shade” thing going on. Not really what you’re after on, say, a first date!

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The shot above is one of my favourites of the day – as is the one at the very top of this post too.

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A few more things to note about this place, is how busy it gets and to be careful when entering. We were warned by our hotel (luckily) about the various scams and cons people try to pull around the Grand Palace, so thought we were pretty prepared. A few things they highlighted were; people trying to sell you overly expensive tours inside the palace grounds (a ticket should only cost 500BHT – no more), people sending you off to different entrances, so they can sell you higher priced tickets, taxi drivers telling you the palace is closed (which it never is) – so they can drive you to another one further away…. the list goes on.

It’s something to look out for and just be wary of, because you don’t want your day ruined because you had your gullible hat on. 

Did you enjoy this post or find it helpful? If so I’d love if you could spare a second to vote for me in The Cosmopolitan Blog Awards 2014. Just click here to get to the voting site. Thanks a million!

Restrictions, Rules and Dress Codes at The Grand Palace, Bangkok

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When we visited the Grand Palace in Bangkok, the number one thing we were looking for was detailed information on the official rules, regulations and dress-codes…. The kind of things you need to know before getting there! If you’re reading this, you’re probably sat in your hotel or hostel researching just what exactly you should be wearing tomorrow – and hopefully I can help out!

The Palace is quite far across town from our hotel, so we didn’t want to turn up wearing the wrong thing, and then be turned away on the door, and frustratingly, I couldn’t find anything official online, but read enough on forums and blog posts to have a general understanding of what is and what isn’t OK before turning up.

Hopefully this blog post can help out anyone in the same shoes as us. I’ve included the official sign posting from the Palace, which can hopefully be of help too!

If you’re looking for a tour to the grand palace, I recommend this one: click here. It makes the experience super easy, and makes navigation easier too. You’ll also learn loads as they have an English tour guide. 

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The general gist of things are:

NO VEST TOPS or TANK TOPS (FOR MALE or FEMALES)

NO SHORT SLEEVES THAT SHOW SHOULDERS

NO MIDRIFF ON SHOW

NO BACKLESS CLOTHING

NO LOW-CUT CLOTHING ON FEMALES

NO PANTS OR SKIRTS THAT SHOW ANKLES (basically no mini skirts, shorts, 3/4 length pants, etc)

NO FLIP-FLOPS

NO BARE CHESTS (obviously this mainly applies to men)

Your ideal outfit would be some nice light cotton trousers or a maxi dress/ skirt (if you’re a girl) and a light t-shirt. As a girl you’ll need a proper cardigan to cover your shoulders – a wrap around shawl won’t cut it.

There is a changing room too – so you can always pack your palace-outfit in your bag and get changed there – which is a decent idea if you plan on doing something before or after during the day. Because trust me – long sleeves and trousers can feel pretty heated in the Bangkok temperature and once you leave the palace grounds you’ll probably want to get changed into something a bit lighter!

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In certain parts of the temples and palace there will be further rules enforced too, such as no shoes, etc. For this reason, don’t wear your most expensive, designer pair of shoes…. because believe it or not, sometimes shoes get stolen outside temples. Also, in a lot of the rooms, you won’t be able to take water in – so it’s best to have a bag you can store yours in whilst you enter. Water is something you’ll need by the way (whilst we’re on that subject!) as there is no air-conditioning in the palace grounds, and it can get really hot.

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Hope this helps!

If you’re booking your trip soon, I’d recommend the following tours in Bangkok too!

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market & Maeklong Train Market Tour: Click here. 

Bangkok: 2-Hour Dinner Cruise on the Chao Phraya Princess: Click here.

Muaythai Lumpinee Boxing Stadium – VIP Entrance Ticket: Click here.

Bangkok: 2-Hour Songkran Water Fight on Private Tuk Tuk: Click here. 

 

Escape the Day-Job With Some Gorgeous Thai Beaches!

 

It’s no secret that Thailand is home to a plethora of beautiful beaches. So, just a quick blog post today – to distract you from those pesky day-jobs and offices. Here are some gorgeous beaches we’ve found in Thailand so far. Enjoy!

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Let’s talk about Patong, Phuket.

I’ll admit, when I booked our time in Thailand for this RTW trip – I did it a little blindly. I don’t know a whole lot about Thailand – having never really travelled here properly before (I did do a few family holidays here when I was little though) and Pad has never been either so we just kind of booked and chose the places which seemed to crop up.

One of these places was Patong in Phuket.

Now, I’m well aware that to experience a country you have to see the good and the bad – but Patong has really been a shock to the system for us, and our friends who we’re here with. Especially after arriving here from Koh Samui – and the quietist little boutique beach resort ever. I’ll do my best to describe it here – but even then – I doubt you’ll have a proper picture of what this place is really like.

First of all – I’m not saying don’t visit. It just depends on what you’re after in a holiday. Maybe if this is your cup of tea, you’d come here and have an incredible time – but honestly, it’s not my cup of tea and I doubt many friends of mine would enjoy it here either. The one saving grace for us though has been our beautiful hotel – which seems a world away from the hustle and bustle of the nightlife and shops.

Let's start with the good. This is our beautiful hotel.

Starting with the good. This is our beautiful hotel.

So. Let’s try and get this place onto paper.

The Shops. 

The shopping in Patong is everywhere. Every single street is lined with little shops selling (more or less) the same kind of thing. You’ll find fake-designer purses and bags, beach clothes, souvenirs, shoes and those other touristy kind of shops. Now, I’m all up for shopping, and we did have a wonder round the many retail outlets here on our first day and spot some awesome finds and bargains. But – it’s very hard to enjoy the shopping when you have shop owners peering over your shoulders, pressuring you to buy, shouting at you from the street, offering you products and just generally getting all up in your face. Add onto that the blazing heat and un-airconditioned shops – and suddenly the shopping becomes a bit of a chore – rather than an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon.

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A relatively quiet street of shopping.

The Nightlife

The nightlife is probably what Patong is most famous for – and the four us did try our best to give it a go last night. But we all admitted this morning – it just wasn’t our kind of thing. There are a few main streets where the bars are all situated – and one of them is probably the most notorious. It’s very busy – very bustling and you can’t move two metres without some guy thrusting a poster of naked women infront of your nose, asking “You want to see Ping Pong show?”. If you’ve seen The Hangover 2 you know what that is, and why that’s kind of gross. If you’ve not seen The Hangover and are wondering why I’m so offended at Ping Pong, just do a quick Google (Not safe for work, by the way)… you’ll soon understand. Sure, at first it’s kind of funny and you laugh it off. But when these guys start following you down the street and you’ve already been asked upwards of twenty times – it kind of starts to grate on your nerves.

In fact, that kind of sums up Patong. It’s kind of OK at first, it’s a bit of a novelty. Then you loose your patience with it.

Those famous "lady-boys" you hear so much about.

Those famous “lady-boys” you hear so much about.

Random crazy bar with giant tigers.

Random crazy bar with giant tigers.

But that’s not the worst bit. Once you’ve hurdled your way through the Ping Pong guys, you have to get past the children selling flowers. They kind of come up to you (no more than 12 years old) and poke you, or pretend to punch you playfully, and then throw a ring of flowers over your neck hoping you’l buy them. Now, I love kids – but these children made me really uncomfortable. One of the little girls clutched onto my wrist really hard and wouldn’t let go – meaning I couldn’t walk down the street and couldn’t get past her. I’ll be honest here – she was hurting me and if it had been an adult man doing that I would’ve kicked him or shoved him as it would’ve been classed as physical abuse.

Another time, a little boy came up to me and threw some over my neck again. I kindly said no, but he wouldn’t take the flowers back – which meant he was trying to force me to give him the cash. By this point we were all pretty fed up, and just wanted to get into a bar (two other friends at this point were also being harassed by another child right behind us). So I took the flowers off my neck and placed them infront of his feet, smiled and said I was OK, and sorry I didn’t want to buy them. I didn’t really have any other choice, seen as he was refusing to take them back from me. The boy then kind of charged at me aggressively – as if he was about to punch me or shove me. He didn’t (thank goodness) but it was a bit un-nerving all the same. Just not nice. I know that they were children, so you can of course be much more forgiving and try and be more understanding – but when they are physically hurting you, or intimidating you it doesn’t make the situation any better. It just makes it a whole lot worse, because you feel a bit helpless.

Aside from the people on the street trying to sell us stuff, the bar staff in the bars were actually quite friendly and accommodating  Which you really appreciate after being shoved and bombarded with all sorts out in the main road. And, once you’re safe inside a bar away from the sellers, we had a great time and the atmosphere was fun and lively. Still, prices in Patong are expensive compared to all other places we’ve been in Asia, so you don’t get that perk. Buckets will cost minimum of 300 BHT, and a cocktail is probably going to cost you 250 BHT on the main street (maybe more).

Making the most of the lively nightlife. And looking very tanned I might add!

Making the most of the lively nightlife. And looking very tanned I might add!

Our 300 BHT buckets.

Our 300 BHT buckets.

The Beach

We haven’t spent much time on the beach, but we ventured onto there briefly this afternoon to see what it was like. As far as beaches go – it’s nice, clean and big – with a lovely coloured ocean. But it’s kind of rammed full with sun loungers and sellers trying to get you to have a massage or a taxi ride, or use their jet-ski, etc. That’s fine I guess – and people need to make a living – but on the beach you just want to relax, and I guess you can’t really do that if people keep trying to sell you stuff, and you keep having to turn them down. But on the bright side  there are lots of sun beds to choose from, lots of space, and lots of activities to do if you did fancy it.

Actually, in the evening though – the beach is a bit nicer. The sun-loungers get packed up leaving much more space to walk around, and you get less people trying to sell you stuff. One guy did come up and sell us the Thai lanterns… but I didn’t mind that so much as it was on my bucket list anyway. So that was kind of nice, definitely a must-do if you do decide to visit Patong.

The empty beach at sunset.

The empty beach at sunset.

Our lovely lantern.

Our lovely lantern.

Overall? 

I don’t know. It’s probably my least favourite place we’ve been, and that’s hard to admit – because I like to try and be positive about places in general. I don’t like feeling harassed, and I know Pad and my friends we’ve with don’t like that either. It’s hard to enjoy somewhere when you’re always being shouted at on the street, or being sold something, or being called over.

But I also know that this place is so popular for a reason. Clearly there is a target audience and clearly there are people who love it here and keep coming back. For me – I’ve loved our hotel and relaxing in the beautiful weather, but I could’ve done that in another Thai town too. I feel like, if you’re looking for a beautiful Thailand experience – you’re not going to find it here. You’ll find it in one of the many other destinations Thailand has to offer. As other bloggers have also said on various sites I’ve come across.

My enjoyment (and I have enjoyed it) has only been because I’ve been with great friends and because of the lovely hotel – not because of Patong itself. The place itself has kind of worn me out. It’s too much hard work.

Would I come again? No.

Definitely not.

Day Trip: Angthong National Park, Koh Samui

Angthong National Park Thailand

Angthong National Park was one of the things I wanted to do in Thailand from the moment we decided we were going to stop off there on our RTW trip. I’d heard all sorts of great reviews about the place, both online and from friends too – who’d been in the past – speaking of these incredible turquoise waters, sandy beaches and gorgeous desert islands. Well, the place delivered on all three, and it was absolutely beautiful.

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The Marine Park is made up of 42 islands (I think….. around that amount anyway) spotted across the ocean. Some are big, some are small, some have beaches – some have this huge sheer cliff faces. It’s quite a beautiful experience as you zoom through them in whatever boat you’ve hired to take you around them.

We went with a small tour group on a speedboat, which made the whole experience a lot more exciting too, it’s awesome zooming through the islands at super speed, I actually spent half the time stood up at the back of the boat pretending I was Kate Winslet in titanic. Or 007 from James Bond. It tended to vary depending on my mood throughout the day. Fun none the less though!

I think there are lots of tours you can get around the area – and there seems to be a big variation in price too. But I’m guess – as with most things in Thailand – you pay for what you get. The cheaper tours had much slower boats and much bigger groups, which wouldn’t have been so great in the heat. The speedboat was a blessing in disguise in more ways than one – the main plus point being the constant breeze you have whooshing through the boat whenever you’re on the move. Definitely a welcome breeze when it’s sunny and 34 degrees.

Our tour cost us 2200 THB each – which I think was actually way too expensive and we might have fallen into a bit of tourist trap there. Saying that, I booked it in advance online a few months ago – so I didn’t really begrudge paying extra because it wasn’t coming out of our current travel budget on the day. I think, if we did it again though, we’d have waited until we arrived and just booked it through a local tour company. It probably would’ve been half the price.

Angthong National Park Thailand

Angthong National Park Thailand

Angthong National Park Thailand

The day consisted of lots of zooming around in the speedboat (fun fun fun) and a few stop offs along the way. We did an hour of snorkelling in a little cove which was lovely and so much calmer than when we snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef – and we both came away from that first activity with big smiles on our faces too – as the water they dropped us off in was absolutely teaming with fish.

Next stop was a little desert island, for kayaking and lunch. Kayaking was a disaster. Not anyone’s fault but my own. I couldn’t get comfy, my back hurt (a whole lot) because the kayaks were funny shaped, and I made Pad do all the hard work whilst I sobbed silently in the front seat trying to shake off the big red biting ants that were also sharing the boat with us. So not the most fun time we’ve ever had I guess. But Pad came through for me as kayaking super-hero of the decade (big cheer) and paddled us all the way back to shore in one piece. Where he didn’t even hold a grudge. It is at times like these (granted – we don’t often have kayaking disasters day to day, but still) that I feel very lucky and loved.

I felt a bit betrayed by the kayaks to be honest. As I’d enjoyed it so so much in New Zealand. Where did it all go wrong!?

Smiles returned after lunch though (hurray) and we set off around the corner to the green lagoon.

Angthong National Park Thailand

Angthong National Park Thailand

The Green Lagoon (above) is a lagoon nestled at the top of a huge mountain. It has the most incredible views (below) but it takes some dedication and physical strength to get up there. It’s basically a trail of about 15 vertical ladders (very steep too, I might add – especially when you’re only 5ft2!) and by the time you reach the top you’re so hot and sweaty you need a minute on your in the shade before you even realise there is a view to be had.

But there is, and it was definitely worth the climb up. And you can see – the lagoon and the outlook onto the national park is just breathtaking. It actually reminded me a little of Bay of Islands in New Zealand the way all the islands were sotted about the ocean, and the clarity and colour of it all too. They are really very similar.

Don’t look at the photo below for too long – otherwise you’ll notice how we are literally glistening with sweat. It was such hard work getting to the top!

Angthong National Park Thailand

Angthong National Park Thailand

Angthong National Park Thailand

Angthong National Park Thailand

Oh, one last thing, on the way back to the mainland we saw some dolphins! So if you ever go, keep an eye out for them in the water. Always lovely to see wild animals out like that.

A Little Bit of Luxury: Review of Traders Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

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For our two nights in Kuala Lumpur, we wanted to book something with an incredible view of the Petronas Towers, and something that was a bit of a treat. We were only going to be there a couple of nights, so wanted to make the most of it by stopping somewhere close to the towers (KL’s main attraction) and pretty nice to spend some down-time in. I’d seen reviews for the Traders Hotel, Kuala Lumpur on Asia Rooms as a friend of ours recommended it to us, and they all seemed glowing – so that’s what we went for.

I can honestly say, right now (if you can’t be bothered to read the rest of this review) that this is one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in. Full stop. 

We opted for a Club Room, meaning that for the 3 days we were there, we got Breakfast, Afternoon Tea, Evening Cocktails, and all-day drinks included in the price. A price (which, in case you were wondering) wasn’t at all ridiculously high. In fact, after coming from expensive Australia and Singapore – the price seemed cheap in comparison. But I guess everything in context. Still, if you’re looking for bang for your buck – this place doesn’t disappoint. It absolutely delivers.

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The room was spacious, modern and had everything you could possibly need. Including a lollypop on the bathroom towels. For when you get hungry in the shower (it happens apparently, Joey from Friends kept a meatball sub in his).

The biggest wow-factor though was the view. The photo at the top of the page was taken from our room, as was the one below. It’s funny – we did go up to their roof-top bar to enjoy drinks one night (coincidentally, the bar was really nice, no surprise there) but the view was better from our room, as we had such big windows in the room, and didn’t have to look over people’s heads to see it. Which is saying something. Basically the views are good everywhere in this hotel.

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All the food we had was great, both as part of our club-deal and the hotel restaurants in general. And the service was incredible too. Such friendly staff and such high standards of service – we couldn’t have asked for much more.

And that’s about all I have to say. Really – when a hotel goes above and beyond this much, it’s actually hard to write about it. We had no negatives. None. At all. Which I hope speaks for itself and means I don’t have to waffle on needlessly, because there really isn’t anything else I need to say other than that! Perfect in everyway. Kuala Lumpur’s hotel version of Mary Poppins. 🙂

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My “Tourist” Photos From Singapore

I like being a tourist – and when you’re in a huge city like Singapore (with so much to do and see) you end up taking a few touristy snaps just like everyone else. I like these kinds of photos though, they are the kind I’ll frame when I get home. Here are a few of our favourites from Singapore….

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The two photos above were taken from the bar at the top of The Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Very beautiful view – if you can manage to get to it. Expect loads of crowds (especially at the weekend) and you’ll need to get there early if you want a table near the edge of the terrace. Otherwise, you’ll have to enjoy the view over the tops of people’s heads… not ideal, but still absolutely stunning.

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These two shots (above) are taken in Singapore’s newest attraction – Gardens by The Bay. It was just gorgeous and looked like some kind of fairytale. I’d go just before sunset, so you can watch the sun go down around the giant trees and then enjoy the night-time view later on. Either way – it’s worth making the effort to go here. You can grab a taxi there, or the MRT (Singapore’s subway system) and get off at the stop called Bayfront.

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Another must-see for anyone is obviously the Marina Bay Sands (above). We actually spent a night exploring the area opposite the hotel (called The Esplanade) which is where you can get great shots like this from – kind of iconic now in relation to Singapore. But also – if you have time, make time to go inside the hotel too as it’s pretty spectacular. We headed up to their rooftop bar, and also had a go in the casino too…. which won us $200. Not bad!

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Lastly – Raffles Hotel is another place to check off your list whilst in Singapore. It’s their most luxury hotel (some would argue) and you can go walk around it’s ground for free. There are even a few bars and restaurants you can try (if you have the cash for it) but a strict dress-code applies – so don’t go wandering in there in your flip-flops because you’ll get turned away at the door.

What would you recommend to do in Singapore?

The Wanderlust Hotel Singapore – Review

We were asked by the Wanderlust Hotel to come and stay a night with them whilst we were in Singapore – to review the hotel and let people know what we thought of the place. Well, let’s start by saying – this isn’t exactly your average hotel. This is like a hotel out of someone wildest dreams. The bedrooms are like the kind of rooms your 10 year old self would have wanted – and trust me – that still kind of appeals even in your twenties. My inner child was gloriously happy the entire time we were there. Everything is just so fun and fairy-tale like. It made such a difference to the normal hotel rooms, where each one is the same. In Wanderlust – not one room resembles another and each floor has it’s own “theme”. Ours was Creature Comforts.

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We were put in a Whimsical King Room – one on the top floor that has been made treehouse-style. It literally was like sleeping in our own little treehouse for the night. Like I said – my inner child was screaming with delight. I always wanted a treehouse – and my youth was spent in the local woods with my little sister trying (and usually failing) to make one of our very own. Of course, being a proper, luxury little boutique hotel though – this wasn’t just any old treehouse. Ours was “pimped” out with 2 TVs, a bathroom, coffe makers, dressing gowns, a step-ladder up to our bed and even a canopy of leaves hanging above the bed. I kid you not. There was even a Narnia-style street lamp.

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It was the little leaves above the entire room that really sold it for me. They looked so real – and even rustled in the breeze the AC made. Also – the wallpaper is designed like a forrest too. These guys have literally thought of everything.

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The room was cozy – one of the hotel’s smallest in fact – but it had so much character and it was so much fun to be in – that the size (or lack of it) rarely even crossed our mind. To be honest – we think they used the space incredibly – and would happily have stopped there longer if we had been staying on in Singapore for more time. We did take a peep at some other rooms too – and the wow factor was just as high. I don’t think you could be disappointed coming here. I mean when else do you get to sleep in a treehouse with a 50 inch TV hanging above your bed?!

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The reception area and staff were lovely too – which I expected. You can’t have such an incredible concept hotel and not have the staff to back it up. Everyone we encountered on staff was top notch. There is a little French restaurant in the lobby (which we wanted to try but couldn’t, as they were fully booked!) and a seating area, bar and eclectic little entertainment area too. With a football table….!

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Overall verdict? Loved it. Everything about it. Whilst I love big hotels with sweeping space – I also love finding amazing little places like this. I’d stay there again in a heartbeat and I’m secretly hoping they’re going to open one in London so I can move there and live in a treehouse all the time. Forever.

Singapore Zoo – Worth the Hype?

In a word – Yes. It definitely is.

I’ve been to the zoo on previous visits to Singapore – when I was little and loved it. But on this trip with Pad I hadn’t really ear-marked time for it – because we’d already been to plenty of zoos in Oz and NZ, and really, one zoo is the same as the next. Except that’s where I’m wrong – Singapore Zoo isn’t the same as others – far from. It is miles better – so I’m glad we did actually make time for it and head down there for the morning to look around.

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What’s the main difference between Singapore Zoo and other ones? Probably the fact that Singapore doesn’t feel like a “zoo”. The animals aren’t kept in cages or behind a big glass wall – you’re pretty much as close to them as you’ll ever be able to be – and there’s usually nothing but a cleverly placed moat or lake between you. Whilst sometimes visiting a zoo can make me feel a bit sad for the animals – in Singapore I don’t feel that way. They look to have nice environments, big enclosures and plenty of space (and it’s really nicely done-up space) to roam around in.

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The biggest example of that is actually the monkeys who literally are free to just swing up around you. There is a part of zoo when you’re just walking around, and suddenly you realise there are about 9/10 big monkeys swinging about 6ft above your head. It’s lovely. It feels natural. It’s nice to see the animals moving around instead of just being cooped up inside some glass cage.

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Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 09.27.00So is it worth the hype? Yes.

Worth the money? Yes (the zoo is actually pretty cheap compared to other zoos in the UK and US).

The only negative is the temperature. Singapore is a very hot place (at the best of times) and walking around outside all day in that kind of heat and humidity can be very tiring and hard work. Take a portable fan if you have one – and don’t be ashamed to pay for the little shuttle service they have in the zoo. It means you can hop on and off and save yourself the job of walking. The zoo is an awfully big place – so we found it a blessing in the heat.

 

 

Hawker Food in Singapore – Reason Enough to Visit.

I’m not implying by the title of this blog post that it’s the only reason – but it sure could justify a trip to Singapore – if you were looking for one (you’re welcome). The food here is awesome – and after arriving from the terribly (mind-blowingly) expensive Australia, food here is delicious and cheaper than what you’d pay for a can of Coke down under.

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That’s right. An ENTIRE MEAL (food, drinks, maybe even a side of Satay Chicken if you’re feeling it) costs the same at a Singapore Hawker Food Court, as one can of Coke in Australia. Singapore isn’t exactly known for being a cheap city either – so these food courts (you’ll find them scattered all across the city) are great for keeping the budget down even more than planned. But don’t just go for the cheapness – go for the awesome food and local cuisine. You’ll be dining with locals, eating the local food and paying the local prices. Winning all round then? Yep.

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The photo above shows the famous Singapore Chicken Rice – a decent (and safe) food choice if you’re a bit unsure of what to get. The chicken was pretty good – but the rice was actually the star of the show. It was all garlicky and sweet – and probably the nicest rice I’ve ever had. In my whole life. Which is a pretty big deal.

Other yummy options?

DimSum

Anything with duck (we are huge duck converts after Singapore)

Anything on a hot sizzle plate

Sweet and Sour Pork

Satay Chicken or Beef

Singapore Noodles

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Don’t expect 5* dining in the food courts though – it’s usually a bit hot and sticky (temperature-wise) and you’ll probably have to have hawk eyes to grab your own table. Sharing is fine though – most locals don’t mind sitting with us tourists – they might even take a photo for you 😉

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Our favourite food court was Maxwell in Chinatown, but we also found a lovely outdoor-style one in the Gardens by The Bay too, which had a lovely little seating area near the lake and lots of choices. And the best Satay Chicken ever. Good for a stop-off if you’re in the gardens, and probably worth a taxi down even if you’re not.

If you like the whole AirCon situation (and who doesn’t when it’s 35 degrees outside?) then a lot of the shopping malls have little food courts in them too which serve up similar (if not the same) options as the more traditional hawker street markets. You’ll pay a bit more to eat in these indoor ones with AC, but not by much. You’d be looking at around $8-10 singapore dollars instead of $3.50 for a main meal. We found this website pretty useful when tracking down other options, so take a look for more suggestions.

Oh – also. Try the fresh fruit juices too that they serve up in the food courts. They squeeze them right infront of you into these big plastic take-away cups and cost the equivalent of about 50p. Biggest bargain of the trip!

Living the High-Life on The Singapore Flyer

As far as experiences go… our “flight” on the Singapore Flyer was just incredible. Not only were we greeted by delicious Singapore Sling Cocktails upon arrival (we opted for the Singapore Sling ride option – now my new favourite cocktail) we had an entire cabin to ourselves. Which – needless to say – was mindblowingly awesome and such a memorable experience. Already one of our favourite moments from Asia – and we’re not even halfway through our time here.

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Singapore Sling Recipe… (for my own future reference!)

1 1/2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce cherry heering
1/4 ounce Cointreau liqueur
1/4 ounce benedictine
4 ounces pineapple juice
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/3 ounce grenadine
1 dash bitters
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The private cabins for the VIP packages are a little bit more special than the average cabin which you can see above – and if you have the budget for it (saying that, the packages are actually really affordable for such an expensive city) it’s worth the extra money to have an extra special experience. I think the special packages start at $69 (Singpore Dollars) per person – which is about £35. Not bad for a go on the wheel, and a free cocktail alongside it.

There is plenty to see from the Flyer too, so you’ll have plenty of views to get lost in during the 30 minute ride. Personally I loved seeing the new Gardens By The Bay (below) which is a pretty new attraction. We had a walk around it on foot the night before – so it was awesome to see it from the air too. There are also (as you’d expect) some pretty phenomenal views over the marina too. Our flight was timed for sunset (beautiful) but I can imagine the views being just stunning in the evening too…. shame we couldn’t go round twice!

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Even Pad got on board with the cocktails…

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Another advantage of having the private cabin was having free space to take photos too. A few times in Singapore I’ve had to give up on getting nice shots because of the crowds of tourists – or the unbearable heat – so it was nice to have the chance to get a few good ones under the blessing of AC and with no pushy tourists to fight through.

The night after the flyer, we actually went to the top of the Marina Bay Sands to enjoy a drink at their rooftop bar, after hearing awesome things about the views of offer. Sure, the views were stunning from there too – but impossible to enjoy because of the crowds. You’ve struck gold if you manage to get a seat (or even ground space) by the edge of the deck. Otherwise you find yourself just peering over people’s heads hopefully getting a glance of the city. So – if it’s drinks with a view you’re after…. do this instead. It’s more peaceful – more fun, and you’ll actually get to see the view.

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We left very happy! It’s even inspired us to take a trip on The London Eye when we get back home – which Pad hasn’t done yet. So only good things about this Singapore attraction!

Australia Is Over – Here Are My Favourite Photographs

I took just over 3000 photos in Australia… But here are a few of my absolute favourites from the month we spent there. Enjoy!

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Melbourne Street Art: For me the photo above just sums up the colours and vibrancy of the street-art scene in Melbourne. It’s probably the most colour photo I’ve ever taken and would look incredible printed on a canvas when I get home! 

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Caught Out Selfie: When we headed down the Great Ocean Road we had a kind of windy day weather-wise. This photo was meant to be a standard smiley-shot but the wind caught us out. I love it. It makes me smile every time I look at it. 

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The Great Ocean Road: The 12 Apostles was one of the most awesome and powerful views we saw during Oz, and this was my favourite shot I took that day. It looks magical and almost like the very edge of the earth. 

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Paddy: Because it wouldn’t have been half as awesome without him there beside me. And I like his smile.  

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Sydney Opera House: Our favourite spot in Sydney – and what a stunning place to spend an evening. I love this shot and I’m already counting down the days until we get to return to where it was taken. 

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Jon Quinton: I’m afraid you really had to be there to appreciate this one. 

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Sea Turtle: Because moments after I took this it swum right up infront of us and I got to touch it’s shell. It’s was a magic moment – and this photo sums it up perfectly. Plus, this whole day I was pleasantly surprised my cheapy $30 underwater camera actually worked. Bonus. 

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Stinger Suits and Snorkels: For me this photo is my favourite from our day snorkelling the great barrier reef. It was an incredible day and this photo is the one that’ll being back all the amazing memories. 

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Birds on the balcony: I loved these little birds on our balcony (at one point we had about 15!) and it really helped brighten up what could’ve been a miserable few days as we had tropical storms. So perfect timing from these little guys!

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Bird selfie: Because it’s so cute!

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Whitsundays Rain: It basically rained non-stop on us our entire time on Hamilton Island – but we got on with it and actually had a really fun time. We broke 2 umbrellas in total. Oops. 

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Noosa Sunshine Beach: I love the sea in Noosa and it was the first bit of proper Australian sunshine we had! Pad also got taken out by a massive wave shortly after this which we both found funny, and this photo reminds me of that. 

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Noosa waves: Again this just sums up Australian beaches for me. Golden, sandy perfectness. 

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Tanned at last: I only chose this one because LOOK HOW TANNED WE ARE FINALLY. It might have taken a month to get there – but we finally look like we’re travellers. Yes sun tan!

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Hammock Success: After our epic failure trying to hang our own hammock in Queenstown, we finally found a hammock to call our own! And it worked! 

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Rocks on Byron Bay: This just sums up the peacefulness and beauty of Australian beaches for me. This is another shot I’d love to get blown up on canvas when we get home. 

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Surfers on Byron Bay: Another lovely shot of surf life in Australia. We’ve really embrace the lifestyle and Pad has a new found love for the surf – and this photo sums it up perfectly. 

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Surfers Paradise Beach: One of our favourite beaches of the whole trip. Gorgeous to sit on, swim in – you name it. 

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SkyPoint View: The view at the top of the SkyPoint tower was incredible, so this shot just brings back that moment of awe when we first saw it. Just beautiful.

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Balcony Sunset: Our lovely apartment in Surfers Paradise had a beautiful view and a balcony to enjoy it from – which we definitely took advantage of! I love this photo I took at sunset – it’s just magical. 

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Brisbane: The unexpectedness of Brisbane was lovely – and this photo reminds me of how nice it was and how much of a surprise it was too. Also I’m a sucker for city-scape photography, especially night shots.  

 

Things I’ll Miss About Australia (And Things I Won’t)

As far as travelling destinations go – Australia is like the ultimate one. It’s one of those places that you daydream about when you’re from the UK (especially with programmes like Home and Away romanticising the place every night at 5pm). It’s not hard to see why so many of us Brits want to travel Australia – and the more you see the more you fall in love with this beautiful country.

I can hardly believe actually that we’ve been here a month now. It’s gone so fast, and we’ve seen so much – it’s going to be bizarre saying goodbye and heading off our next destination – Asia. But as a fond farewell, here are a few things I’ll miss about this beautiful place…

1. The beaches

Never before have I ever seen such beautiful beaches as I have whilst in Australia. The beaches are huge, and some span for miles up the coastline making for the most incredibly humbling views. Pad and I loved driving the Great Ocean Road down in Melbourne and seeing the huge beaches and waves as we drove by them, but we also love the tropical beaches of The Whitsundays (even though we had rain!) and the gorgeous golden sands of Noosa, Surfers Paradise and Byron Bay. It’s also amazing to be able to swim in the sea properly – and not have to worry about freezing your toes off if you stay in too long. The sea here is clean, warm and perfectly turquoise in most places we visited. Paradise!

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2. The atmosphere

It’s no coincidence that people stereotype Aussies and Kiwis as laid back and relaxed. It’s a stereotype that is completely accurate. We love that about Australia – we love being able to walk around bare foot, not having to rush anywhere and just generally having a sunny attitude. I’ve felt safe in almost all the places we’ve visited both during the daytime and during the night-time. We’re both pretty laid back anyway in life – but here it’s just the norm and nothing is too much hassle and people are friendly from the get go. In a way it reminded me of being back home in North of England – where everyone is your friend even if you don’t know them – something which I missed a lot moving down to London. But yeah, the atmosphere is nice and puts a smile on your face. We also love the outdoor facilities they have over here – especially the public BBQs!

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3. Sydney

We loved Sydney and we’ll miss it. If it wasn’t so far away – I think we’d definitely be considered moving there and maybe setting up sticks. It’s an awesome city with just about everything you could want. London is pretty awesome (granted) but it doesn’t have any perfect golden beaches nearby. Unless you count Brighton Beach – which I don’t.

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4. The TV schedule

This is a silly one and I probably shouldn’t even admit to it – being a world traveller and all that. But the TV in Australia is SO good. They have all the best US shows (including Friends, brand new Big Bang Theory AND How I Met Your Mother AND Amazing Race) old and new, as well as British and Australian shows. Pad and I are pretty hooked on this show they’ve been airing here called Hannibal – a new US series, and now we’re going to have to wait like 5 years to finish the series. Because that’s probably how long it’ll take to come to the UK. Not that I’m bitter or anything… 😉

5. The weather

Because it’s amazing when the sun shines and makes me want to do this every morning as we walk to the beach.

And the things I won’t miss…. 

1. The Prices

Australia is SO expensive. The most expensive place I’ve ever been and Pad agrees. When we budgeted for Australia we had to budget much more than we usually would – simply because we knew it would end up being more than we expected. For those of you from the UK – these are the kind of prices you end up paying for stuff in £s for various things over here in Oz…

Bottle of Brand Shampoo (for example Loreal): £6.50 (normal price in UK? About £2.50) 

Bottle of Batiste Dry Shampoo: £8/9 (normal UK price? About £1.50) 

Cocktail in Restaurant: £14-20 (normal UK price? About £5-10)

Mars Bar: £3 (normal UK price? About £1, maybe less)

Robinsons Fruit Squash: £8 (normal UK price? About £1) 

You get the picture. If you’re coming to Australia make sure you’ve saved up your pennies because it’s very unforgiving financially.

2. The long drives

Australia is huge and we’ve covered a lot of miles in a short amount of time. One thing I’m not going to miss are the huge drives we’ve done from place to place. 13 hours on a coach isn’t fun. It is cheap though and a great way to see the country – so I guess that equals itself out somewhat.

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3. The insects

In Australia I have had (approximately) 15 insect bites. If not more. You forget that Australia is a tropical country the further North you go and I seemed to be getting eaten alive in Cairns, by ants, spiders, mozzies, sand flies… you name it. My worst bites were ant bites in Cairns, which were actually painful (rather than just irritating) but you learn to live with it. It’s a small price to pay for such a gorgeous location.

4. The threat of Sharks

It’s no secret that Australia has sharks, and it does cross your mind occasionally when you’re in the sea (however beautiful the beach is that you’re on) that there coule be a few lurking around. Luckily we didn’t encounter any, but it sure will be nice to swim in the sea and not have to worry about a jaws style fin emerging above the waves.

Glorious Gold Coast – Surfers Paradise

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I’d been told mixed things about Surfers Paradise (on the Gold Coast), with various people along the way telling me it was either:

– Weird

– Busy

– Bizarre

– Noisy

The list goes on. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I’d seen photos of the place and it looked stunning – so I knew we had to go and make our minds up for ourselves. I’m glad we did.

Sure Surfers Paradise isn’t exactly your tranquil, small, surfery, backpacker town (like Byron Bay or Noosa) but it has it’s own charm and both Pad and I really enjoyed it. Yes – it’s not the “authentic” Australian beach town that many people spend their Oz travels seeking – but part of travelling is seeing all a place has to offer – and I thought Surfers Paradise had loads, and would recommend it to others in a heartbeat. It’s a big, busy city with lots of things to do (theme parks, water parks, amusement centres, mini golf, beaches, more beaches, observations decks, adrenaline activities…) and lots of lovely restaurants and places to eat as well.

For awesome views of the city head up to the 77th floor of the SkyPoint. It’s not too expensive to head up to their observation deck – and there is even a reasonably priced restaurant up there to grab lunch too. We really enjoyed it – and (more precisely) the incredible Caesar salad they served up.

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You can see for miles up there, so it’s worth the money you pay for the ticket – especially if you’re a keen photographer. It’s every photographers dream! It’s also the perfect way to soak in the beauty and the scale of the city, I love how far the beaches stretch – it’s just breath-taking.

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And of course… A photo of the Caesar Salad!

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To be honest we could have done a lot more whilst we were staying in Surfers Paradise (such as the attractions I mentioned above) but we had such amazing weather (and such a lovely hotel/apartment) that we spent our 3 days just relaxing by the pool, sitting on the beach and playing in the sea. The sea (as ever in Australia) is warm, clean and just gorgeous. No surprise there! We loved just taking advantage of our surroundings and soaking it all in, sometimes you don’t need day trips and tours – you just need some good sunshine and a sandy beach.

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Our hotel also had it’s own BBQ facilities outside by the pool too , so we even dabbled in a bit of BBQ-ing. You have to experience local culture after all! 😉 When in Rome….

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Learning to Surf in Noosa, Australia

We stopped off in Noosa for a few days on our East-Coast roadtrip after family recommended it to us (and you always listen to your family)! It definitely didn’t disappoint though – Noosa is a peaceful, beautiful seaside town and glimmers with all you expect Australia to be. Compared to other East Coast towns and cities like Cairns and Hervey Bay, Noosa is just miles above it’s competition. We loved it.

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We weren’t originally planning to surf in Noosa, but we noticed the surf school on the beach one morning, and had it recommended to us by a girl we met at our hostel – so we decided to go for it. Neither of us have really surfed before – but the instructor at Noosa Surf School is a past world champion so we figured we’d be in good hands. And if not – it’d be worth a few laughs at least!

Our lesson started at 9am and on the gorgeous sandy beach. Our instructor (handsome, French, need I say more) was lovely and talked us through some theory first – which I think we were all a bit relieved about. There were six of us in the group, all around the same age so it was really nice and easy going and everyone was really supportive of everyone else.

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I don’t have many photos from the morning, because you lock up all your valuables when you set off onto the beach. Which is great actually – because it means you get to really experience the surfing, and you’re not half worried about your camera on the beach or whatever. The surfing was great though – Pad was adamant before starting that he’d be awful at it, but he discovered he actually had a natural talent for it. He was stood up on his board before most in the group and by the end of the lesson he was staying up on there for a decent amount of time! I was so impressed! I know ever since he’s been yearning to give it another shot – so I’m hoping there’s a surf school in Byron Bay we can burdon ourselves on.

Unfortunately I discovered no such natural talent. But it didn’t stop me having fun. It was lovely just to be out there giving it a shot on such a beautiful beach in the stunning weather.

So, yes, Noosa was lovely. And so much fun. We loved the little lakes and water-ways and exploring the town and other beaches (Sunshine beach is beautiful across the other side of town) and everyone was super friendly. Sure it’s expensive (what’s new – we are in Australia) but there seemed to be a good variety of hostels around for travellers and backpackers to opt for and we loved the one we chose which was called FlashPackers. We booked a private ensuite double – and it even had a private patio, a king-size bed and a gorgeous rainfall shower!

Here are a couple more snaps of beautiful Noosa….

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I Heart Brisbane

 

Before travelling Australia I’d read up on the various places we were headed – asked around… all the usual. There were a few places that kept being highly recommended…. Noosa, Byron Bay being two of the most popular choices in Oz. Brisbane however, people kept just looking at me and saying “meh”. From the people I asked, and most people I’ve talked to, nobody seemed overly excited by Brisbane – so to be honest I wasn’t expecting much from this little city – and I was kind of glad we’d only scheduled 2 nights there.

But I loved it.

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Sure, it’s no Sydney – and there isn’t anything iconic or instantly memorable about this place – but it has a great vibe and a lovely lifestyle and I really enjoyed spending time there. I much preferred it to Melbourne  – and Melbourne was somewhere people recommended to me loads. But with Melbourne I just didn’t feel safe, and I didn’t really click with the city because of that reason.

But Brisbane I liked.

It doesn’t have a beach (which is weird for a big Australian city) but in their defence they have the Southbank area – which is a man-made beach and a swimming area that is always open to the public and free too. It was clean, friendly, safe and had a great atmosphere – and in all honesty I enjoyed it more than some of the overcrowded but average “real beaches” we’d seen elsewhere. Because , hey, you don’t have to worry about getting salt in your eyes, and there are city views right across the water. Which is pretty awesome. We both loved it.

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We spent a fair bit of our time on the Southbank, found some lovely restaurants (one of them serving nothing but chocolate related meals – amazing) and had a wander round, just enjoying the views. The views didn’t really remind me of anywhere else, they were just kind of a stock-image for a nice cityscape (if that makes sense?) – nothing recognisable or striking but still very beautiful and gorgeous to look at and get lost in.

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So yeah. It was the shortest stop on our Australian road-trip – but undeservedly. Maybe Brisbane deserved a few more nights from us – as it was a lovely city and somewhere we both really liked exploring and experiencing. But it just goes to show you never really know what to expect until you’re actually there seeing it for yourself.

We’re heading to Byron Bay next which has been highly recommended by literally everyone we’ve talked to before and during our month in Australia. I’m pretty much expecting it to be the nicest place on earth (based on the things people have told me) so let’s hope it can live up to expectations! But for now… a few more photos of beautiful Brisbane….

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Screen Shot 2013-04-23 at 09.54.15I don’t know who these people are – but they spent like half an hour talking photos like this and Pad and I spent half and hour watching them (and suppressing laughter) as they did so. So I thought I would share the love. Still makes me smile just looking at it!

 

Bumps and Bruises on Fraser Island

Fraser Island was one of the typical “backpacker” things we wanted to do whilst we were exploring the East coast, so when Hostel Bookers offered to put us up in The Friendly Hostel for free, we took the opportunity to see Fraser Island from Hervey Bay on one of the day tours that head out there.

Our day started with a coach and a ferry out to the Island, which takes about an hour in total. We got so lucky with weather – because up until this point in our trip, we’d pretty much only had rain and storms. Australia wasn’t playing fair with the weather it had been offering us – but it decided to be nice for us on our Fraser Island day trip – thank goodness!

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

Fraser Island is basically the biggest the sand island in the world – that’s why it’s a big attraction and that’s why you go. There is a huge beach you can drive down at 80 miles an hour in 4×4 vehicles, and there are some fresh water lakes int he middle of the island too – which are great for swimming. Our day tour showed us around Central Station (where they used to do logging), Eli Creek, The Pinnacles, Moheno Shipwreck (above) Lake Mackenzie, and (of course) the 75 mile beach.

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

The day was a fun day – but being honest we were both left a little under-whelmed. Maybe it’s because we’ve just come from New Zealand where the natural beauty is just breath-taking everywhere you turn? I just felt like Fraser Island was a bit average looking. Sure, the beaches are nice and very expansive – but you can’t really relax on them because you have coaches and 4×4’s zooming up and down them at high speed every few minutes. Before the trip I’d been hugely excited for Lake Mackenzie too – and yet I was a bit disappointed with it. I could fully see that it was a great lake, but it didn’t compare to the lake in Queenstown (or any in NZ for that matter) and it certainly wasn’t the “paradise” the tour brochures had advertised it as. So much so – I didn’t even take a photo of it – that’s how uninspired I was.

But maybe we’d just visited at the wrong time? I keep hearing tales of people who had an awesome time on Fraser – so maybe we just came on the wrong day and the island wasn’t looking it’s best. Would I go again? Probably not. But I’d still recommend people to go and make up their own minds.

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

There were a few parts of the day we loved though. We loved hearing about the history of the island for one – it has such an interesting back story and there are so many little tales that make up everything you see. The other highlight for me was actually being thrown around in the back of the 4×4 vehicle we saw the island in. On our drive back (especially) our driver really put his foot down and the eight of us that were sat above the back wheels could really feel every bump and jolt. We were being thrown around so much, it was actually like being on a roller coaster – and everyone in the back of the vehicle was wetting themselves with laughter every time we hit another bump of dip in the road. So that was definitely an experience we won’t forget!

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

 

There’s also a lot of wildlife on the island – most of which you’re encouraged not to interact with. It’s nice spotting them from a distance though! I loved seeing this Dingo stroll around near us!

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

When you head back to the mainland, you head back on the ferry you came in on, and (if you timed it well) you get to watch the sunset. Perfect way to end the day 🙂

Fraser Island reveiw blogger photos

 

 

 

Rainy days on Hamilton Island – The Whitsundays

On our way down the East Coast of Australia, we decided to treat ourselves and spend a couple of days in The Reef View Hotel on Hamilton island. The idea was to spend a few days in glorious sunshine on a tropical island – but unfortunately the few days we booked happened to fall during a big tropical storm. Bummer.

We made the most of it though and although we didn’t really get to do what we wanted (our seaplane trip to Whitehaven Beach got cancelled… which made me a bit sad as it was one of the things I was most excited for during the whole trip) at least we were stuck somewhere beautiful. I mean if you’re going to be stuck inside – may as well do it in a gorgeous hotel right, with a killer view?

Speaking of which… This was our balcony view, and a quick snap of our lovely hotel room.

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

We had about 2 and a half full days on Hamilton Island – and we did absolutely love the place. We’ve both agreed that the bad weather is just an excuse to back again one day. After all, if we loved it in torrential rain and storms…. chances are we’d fall head over heels for the place in the sunshine. We made the best of it though. On our first day we went swimming in the rain, and then proceeded to get even more drenched walking back to the hotel. We broke one of the hotels umbrellas and we had about 15 local tropical parrots come visit us on our room’s balcony. We then went down and sampled our hotel’s buffet in the evening (we were planning on going to this place on the marina side of the island – about a 10 minute walk) but we would’ve ended up looking like two drowned rats sat in a posh restaurant, the rain was like stepping into an actual shower. But the buffet was good… they had jelly and ice-cream for dessert which is a total win.

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

In all honesty – the parrots were actually one of my main highlights from the few days. They’d come and sit with you on the balcony and they’re gorgeous little birds. I’ve never really been a bird person but I could’ve watched these ones all day – they are just beautiful! Plus it’s like having a little free zoo on your balcony!

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

My other highlight was hiring a golf buggy to see the island. That seems to be the main way to get around on the island and the golf buggies are everywhere you look. It’s kind of nice actually – the island is so small that having cars would just clutter it up – so little golf buggies are the perfect solution. We rented ours for the day and it cost us $70 – which was much cheaper than we were expecting! We basically spent the day zooming up and down the islands hills and little roads, enjoying the very beautiful views and getting absolutely drenched whilst we did it.

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

We’ve actually just arrived in Hervey Bay (we do Fraser Island tomorrow) and we’ve managed to catch our first bit of sunshine since Sydney (YAY!) so I’m hoping the storms might have finished and we can finally catch some luck where the weather is concerned. We’re both so lucky to be here and be experiencing all these incredible places, and we’re definitely not the kind of people to let a bit of rain get in our way of having fun (as we proved on Hamilton Island the past few days) but it can get a bit tiring and frustrating after more than a week especially when so many of the things you have planned are weather dependant.

It just goes to show though, you can never plan for this kind of stuff and you just have to get on with it. I was gutted about the sea-plane being cancelled, but if it hadn’t been we wouldn’t have had time to ride around on the golf buggies – which was awesome. So things tend to work out 🙂

Saying that though…. any sunshine will be welcomed with open arms!

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

 

 

5 Reasons I Love Sydney

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When we first visited Sydney over New Year, whilst we both loved Sydney neither of us fell in love with it, not as much as we have with other cities like NYC. This time however, when we stopped in Sydney for a few days – we both realised just how much we adore it here.

Sydney is fantastic. 

I’ve heard people say that Sydney doesn’t have soul, and that it’s quite a plastic city – simply putting on a show for tourists and the like. And yes – whilst there are some places that the travellers and tourists seem to flock towards – for me this doesn’t detract from the magic and the the beauty of this city. I’m now looking at Sydney as somewhere I would seriously consider living, I love the atmosphere, the people and just everything really. I’m sold on Sydney!

So why do I love it?

1. It feels safe

As a female, it’s nice to be able to walk around a city during daytime and night-time and feel safe and relaxed. In Sydney I’ve never felt unsafe. First we were in Kings Cross (which is notoriously a bit of a dodgy area) and yet I never felt threatened or uneasy. Our second time we stayed in the centre of town (near Chinatown) and I felt exactly the same. Whilst I’m sure there are probably some areas of Sydney I would want to avoid, as it’s usually the case with all cities, so far I haven’t felt unsafe in Sydney and that’s a big plus point for me. In Melbourne (where we were before Sydney) I didn’t feel this safety at all, in fact several times in Melbourne I found myself clutching on Pad’s hand a bit tighter because there were some questionable characters nearby. I mean, I’ve lived in London for 3 years – so it’s not like I’m not used to a few odd people on the street either, it’s just in Melbourne I felt a little more uncomfortable with it than I have in other cities. I just didn’t feel as safe or protected there.

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2. The people

People in Sydney are friendly and nice. Sure, they’re not “New Zealand” or “Canadian” friendly (seriously, two of the nicest, friendliest nationalities I’ve come across) but for city folk they sure are welcoming and lovely. In London you feel a bit shunned and shoved a lot of the time, and whilst Sydney is busy and it’s a big city full of people living a city life – it’s not a push and shove culture. People are busy but they’re still nice. I like that.

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3. The culture

We found some lovely bars and restaurants whilst in Sydney – and unfortunately left with a few we hand’t managed to get too. Mamak – we are coming for you next time. I love the bars in the Harbours (Darling Harbour was a lovely place to sit with a glass of wine as the sunset) and I love the quirky nightlife and pubs in the outer suburbs too. Another great plus point? Even though the prices can be ridiculously high in Sydney, if you can catch Happy Hour you can grab a major bargain usually. Also – the city is just gorgeous to walk around – if that’s all you feel like doing. Some of my favourite moments were just sitting around on a bench near the Harbour Bridge people watching.

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4. The Beaches

There are loads nearby, and I love the idea that you can live in a big cosmopolitan city – but escape to the beaches at the weekends. And it’s not like in London when you’re escaping to Brighton Beach (a pebble beach, which is usually rainy) – you’re escaping to gorgeous big sandy beaches with surfers and shops and trendy bars. All within 15-30 minutes of the city on public transport. My favourite was Bondi Beach as I love the grassy slope and how absolutely huge it is. But Manly and Shelly Beach are always a safe bet too.

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5. It’s FUN!

There is so much to do here and it’s a fun place to be! We loved Luna Park, we loved the iMax (we saw Jurassic Park there!) we loved bar hopping, we loved beach hopping – we loved the food and everything else. Sydney is in no way a dull city – it’s the kind of place that always has some event going on and something to take part in. Plus, if you ever did get bored there is a huge domestic and international airport (with hundreds of destinations) waiting to take you somewhere for the weekend.

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Exploring The Great Barrier Reef With Tusa Dive

Tusa Dive Great Barrier Reef

We knew that one of the main things we wanted to do whilst in Australia was go and explore The Great Barrier Reef. It’s one of those bucket-list items that pretty much everyone has, and we are no different. The company we chose were Tusa Dive, and we couldn’t have been more happy with the day we had. Granted, the weather wasn’t perfect, and we had to tackle some pretty strong waves and currents when we got out the the reef – but the crew on board literally made it as enjoyable and as easygoing as they could – which made everything so much more memorable for us.

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Great Barrier Reef

“Happy Pills” are crucial if you’re prone to motion sickness, because that’s basically what they prevent. Tusa gave these out for free when everyone got onboard – which was very nice of them and something we were very thankful for later on in the day! Not all boats do that though – so make sure you have some with you and you take some before setting off, especially if you’re sailing on a rough day like we were. Even if you’re not prone to sea sickness – take one anyway. 

For those photographers reading this (or photography enthusiasts) you can actually hire digital cameras that are waterproof onboard the Tusa boat – which is totally awesome, and I wish I’d known. The photos in this post were taken with a super cheap waterproof camera I found in NZ for like $40 – and whilst the quality isn’t terrible, it certainly isn’t the standard of imagery I usually work with! But I love all the photos I took, and I kind of like the fact they’re a bit blurry – we were under the sea after all!

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

We opted for snorkelling on our Tusa Dive, although they do have diving options too – if you want to dive. We’ve never dived before though – and the sea was quite rough, so we thought snorkelling would be a good way to see the reef – and it totally was. The reef is pretty shallow in most places – between about 5 ft and 15 ft in deeper parts, so for those who are nervous about swimming in the vast deep ocean – dont let any fear like that put you off doing something like this. I have always had an irrational fear of sharks (sometimes I even get it in the deep end of a swimming pool… wait, did I just admit to that?) and not once did any kind of fear or doubt cross my mind whilst we were snorkelling the reef. Sure, there are little sharks out there, but the crew are pretty vigilant in spotting them and also pretty convincing when they tell you not to be worried. Apparently the sharks are actually really shy, and if you spot one, you’re very lucky. 
Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

The highlight for me was spotting a turtle. There were two things I wanted to see whilst we were out there; a turtle and a Nemo fish. We saw both! The Nemo fish we found pretty early on (yes, we found Nemo…. haha) and the turtle we spotted a little later in the day. It was just incredible, and had been gliding around the bottom of the reef for a while as we eagerly watched it at a distance, but then without warning it came up for air about half a foot away from my face. It was just breath-taking to be that close to a wild animal – I even got to stroke it’s shell!

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Stinger suits (you can see how fetching we looked in them above) were provided for all, and fitted well and were actually pretty comfortable. They had all sorts of sizes for everyone on board and the whole “handing out” process was easy and fuss free. You even get little booties to wear too. Your snorkel and suit are then yours for the whole day – so there is no mixing and matching which is handy as it makes the whole process miles easier when you’re getting in and out of the sea.

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

I think the conditions we were snorkelling in were quite rough at times, as there was some powerful wind and waves coming at us (especially in the beginning). I’ll have to be honest here, it did frighten me a little when I first got in the sea and I panicked slightly because I just didn’t have the physical strength to be wading through the waves with my flippers on, fighting the current which was pulling me in the opposite direction I wanted to be going. I think I was a bit surprised at this – because I’ve always been a really strong swimmer (my Mum taught me to swim when I was about 2 years old) so it’s always come naturally. But I gather that the wind like we had would be an exception in the summertime – and during peak season the water would be much calmer.

Saying that – the crew were fantastic though – and within minutes one of the lovely snorkelling blonde girls from the crew had swam over and offered to tour us around (I wish I had grabbed her name, because she was brilliant and really made the experience), meaning there were three of us all swimming together against the current and the waves. This made it so much easier to navigate, and it meant she could point out some of the interesting fish and coral for us to see – she is the one who found us our Nemo fishy!

Tusa Dive Cairns Great Barrier Reef

Overall, we just had the best day. We’ve been building it up in our minds and it didn’t disappoint at all. The reef is beautiful and it’s something that will stick with me forever. It’s such a funny feeling being somewhere you’ve always imagined – and seeing all these incredibly coloured fish and coral right there inches away from you. Pad and I said once were were back on dry land, that it’s already one of our highlights – and we still have 2 months to go.

The Great Ocean Road, Road Trip

If you’re in Melbourne, the one thing I’d definitely say you have to see (and do) is The Great Ocean Road. Whilst Melbourne is a lovely city – it’s very similar to lots of other cities – so for me it was our day driving The Great Ocean Road that will stick with me most when I remember our time in Melbourne.

It’s unlike any road I’ve ever been down before. I mean, yes, I’ve been on coastal roads before – but nothing quite as spectacular and breath-taking as this. It’s the kind of road which bends and winds, and as you turn each new corner there is something more beautiful to look at. We’d had it recommended to us by so many people before visiting Melbourne, that it had this promise of greatness before we’d even got on it. Luckily – it didn’t disappoint.

As with any road trip – remember – always have a local engineer, tyre shop or car firm saved in your phone. You never know when you might need a helping hand!

The Great Ocean Road Melbourne Victoria Australia

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The road stretched pretty far (like 600km or something!?) we didn’t see the whole thing though – as we were limited with time, but we saw enough in about 12 hours of driving to feel like we’d seen all the gorgeous beautiful places on offer on this stretch of road. There are loads of stop-off places along the way too – like Koala Cove (where you can see wild Koalas) and various little sea-side towns and villages. We liked the look of Lorne as we drove through it – but wanted to get to the main show (in other words… the 12 apostles) so we didn’t stop.

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The Great Ocean Road Melbourne Victoria Australia

On your way up to the 12 Apostles, there are some phenomenal beaches and rain-forests to drive through and explore too – which you can see above. We did a little walk through some of the forest and it was stunning – trees that are bigger than any I’ve ever seen, that you can actually go and stand inside them. At first this hugely excited me…. there were a few which I could’ve set up camp in and it probably would’ve been bigger than some hotel rooms I’ve slept in, in the past! But then, I remembered “This is Australia, and a jungle and there are snakes and spiders” and it didn’t take long for me to jump out again.

The Great Ocean Road Melbourne Victoria Australia

The Great Ocean Road Melbourne Victoria Australia

The Great Ocean Road Melbourne Victoria Australia

This beach was one of my favourite spots, when we arrived there it was pretty desserted, so it felt like it was just ours, you even had to walk down these tiny stone step carved into the cliff face to get down there. It reminded me a little of the scene in Inception where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character gets washed up at the beach at the start. That’s kind of how steep the cliffs were and how rough and epic the waves and weather was too, it felt like the edge of the world. Which it kind of was, as there is no land between this beach and Antartica. So if you dived in and kept swimming (of course I’m talking hypothetically here…. No one would actually be able to do that) you’d eventually reach the south pole.

The Great Ocean Road Melbourne Victoria Australia

This is the site everyone comes to The Great Ocean Road for. And you can see why once you’re there, it’s pretty breath-taking. I think we were really lucky to get there on a windy day as the waves and mist made everything a little bit more epic and powerful.

The Great Ocean Road Melbourne Victoria Australia

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The Great Ocean Road Melbourne Victoria Australia

The Great Ocean Road Melbourne Victoria Australia

The Great Ocean Road Melbourne Victoria Australia

 

These two rocks are the same as the ones taken from the beach above, but this time viewed from above at road level. You can really see the scale of them here and just how powerful the waves were that day. I love the photo above – it really sums up the whole view and the whole Ocean Road experience as you drive down it.

The Great Ocean Road Melbourne Victoria Australia

The Great Ocean Road Melbourne Victoria Australia

The Great Ocean Road Melbourne Victoria Australia

It was a really long day, and I can totally see why people set aside 2/3 days for doing this – but we just didn’t have time. Even as I’m writing this up, we’re in our next destination of Sydney, so we’re moving through the country pretty quickly. I felt like we saw everything we wanted to though, and I got all the photographs I wanted too – which was a bonus.

Melbourne Graffiti and Street Art – Pure Awesome

Today we stumbled across some amazing street art in Melbourne – something which the city is well known for. For those who don’t like the graffiti thing – don’t worry, the city buildings aren’t covered in the stuff – it’s actually hidden away down lanes and alleyways. Personally I love it – it’s colourful, artistic, unique and an awesome way for people to express themselves in their city and their space.

Street art graffiti melbourne

Street art graffiti melbourne

Street art graffiti melbourne

It’s also a dream when you’re a photographer – all the gorgeous colours and designs is literally a photographer’s paradise. I think I was going a bit shutter crazy and poor Pad was left lingering at the end of the alleyway waiting to move onto the next street. I love stuff like this though – and always have done. It’s great that these artists (and amateurs  have a dedicated space for stuff like this – and I love that something this simple is just as much of a tourist attraction as the other paid attractions in the city.

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Street art graffiti melbourne

This is one of my favourite shots, I love the colours and the text above too. It was interesting to see people working and it seems like the walls would be forever changing on a weekly basis as new people come and spray over old designs. In some ways I guess that’s kind of a shame, but it’s also a way of keeping things fresh and keeping it fair too.

Street art graffiti melbourne

Street art graffiti melbourne

Street art graffiti melbourne

Street art graffiti melbourne

Street art graffiti melbourne

We’re big comic fans… so this was one of our favourites!

Street art graffiti melbourne

Street art graffiti melbourne

Have you seen any street art in Melbourne? These were only taken down a few lanes and alley ways – so anymore recommendations where we can find spots like this would be welcome!

That Night We Slept in Jail.

Not a real Jail. 

So if you came here looking for some hilarious travel story about me getting arrested – sorry to disappoint. This was the night we spent in Christchurch (NZ). We had to quickly snap up somewhere to sleep for the night very last minute – and our friend Hannah managed to grab us a room at the Jailhouse Accommodation – which is a hostel converted from a big jail building.

It’s pretty impressive, and even with the (very un-romantic) twin beds, it was a hilarious and very amusing way to spend the night.

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

The rooms have huge metal doors (we think they were the original prison doors) that were super heavy and add to the whole authentic feel of the place. Although saying that, everything else in the room is new. New bed, flooring, and all of that – and nice curtains and blankets to make it seem a little less prison-ish. Saying that though – when you’re lying in the bunk beds during the night and you hear people walking up and down the corridors outside, it’s a whole different story! The hostel even provide you with fitting attire… if you fancy it.

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The hostel has a lovely little sun lounge at the front with board games, books and magazines, etc. They even do coffee and have a movie and pool (as in snooker, not swimming) room upstairs.

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

It took all our self-restraint to not push this button. WHAT IS THE CELL ALARM!? I kind of regret not giving it a try now.

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

The above photo is one of the un-converted original cells. It’s only there to show you what once was (you don’t have to sleep in that one – thank goodness!) but it’s awesome to see what the place once was like. Not keen on the ensuite though… bit awkward.

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZScreen Shot 2013-03-30 at 15.49.49

Jailhouse Accomodation Hostel Christchurch NZ

Overall we actually really loved staying here. It was something different, and a great experience and we can now say we’ve slept in a jail! It’s an awesome choice if you’re in Christchurch and you want somewhere fun and central to stay in, that is a little more unusual and unique than the average YHA. I think they do offer double rooms as well as twins (we had to opt for the twin because we were booking so last minute) so it might be a good option for couples too if you can grab one of the doubles up.

Here’s the website! Jail.co.nz

 

A few words about this beautiful place. Queenstown.

When Pad and I first started talking about New Zealand – we were also talking about moving to New York. New York is my ultimate destination – the city I’m probably most in love with – and Queenstown was Pad’s equivalent of that.

Moving to New York seemed a stretch for us at the time (all I need to say is Green Cards and you’ll get the picture) but New Zealand seemed much more in reach – so that’s the destination where our plans settled.

And I’m so glad they did. 

Queenstown has completely won me over, and I didn’t think I’d be this sad leaving it behind. 

Queenstown is this phenomenally beautiful (devastatingly so – someone tweeted me yesterday) town.

It has these incredible sweeping vistas that surprise you at every corner you turn. I’ve never woken up and not been amazed at our view. There has never been a day when I haven’t been stopped or taken aback by it’s beauty, even on foggy days when all I can see is whiteness – I can feel the mountain air on my face and that’s enough. When somewhere is this overwhelming it demands your attention and you give it willingly, in whatever way you can.

I love the way the clouds cling to mountains and cut off the pinnacles on stormy days, tricking you into thinking there are no mountains there at all. I love it when the sun is so bright you have to shade your eyes and the sunset casts such long deep shows on even the smallest pebbles. I love the colour of the lake and how it’s the bluest water and cleanest water I’ve ever seen. I love it in the distance on windy days, when it looks like dolphins are jumping from the waves. I loved the snow and waking up to a white mountain top, that was green and brown only hours before. And falling asleep on the balcony with thunder and lightening happening right around me.

I cannot count the times when Pad has caught me just staring out of our living room windows. Sometimes if a TV show is boring – I’ll just stare out of the window instead – because the view is forever changing and much more interesting. There is a spot on the window with my hand prints where I just stand and look. No where has ever quietened me like Queenstown before.

Queenstown has this purity about it, and there is this peacefulness and beauty that swallows you up just being here. 

But saying that – the adventure and adrenaline that Queenstown serves up is something special too. Whilst it’s views and landscapes may stun you into silences – it doesn’t require you stay that way. Scream, and do it loudly. You’ll have no other option as you throw yourself from a plane, or down a zipline, or across a canyon. You’re spoilt for choice here and everyone knows it. There is no other place in the world that so magnificently caters to everyone.

Hopefully a few of these photos and this video can do it justice….

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Round The World Packing and Planning Essentials

It’s officially less than two weeks until we set off on the second half of our round the world adventure. The first half has been amazing, but couldn’t be much more different to what we have planned for the following months if it tried.

For those first 6 months – we’ve been based in New Zealand (Queenstown to be precise) and having a base, and a beautiful apartment to keep all our goodies in meant we didn’t need to overly worry or fuss about packing. It’s not like we’ve been living out of our suitcases in New Zealand, we’ve had our own apartment, and even a spare bedroom for friends and family to sleepover in when they visited. Even when we’ve jetted off around Oz and NZ, we’ve been able to pack only what we needed – because anything we didn’t need was safe back in Queenstown waiting for our return.

The next half of our journey is going to be miles different though. What makes it different?

Firstly, it’s going to be non-stop, we’re literally heading from one place to another and never spending more than 10 days in the same location.

Secondly, we’re having to pack for all eventualities and climates – there is no base we can store our stuff in until we need it. It all has to come, all the time.

And thirdly, we only have 20kgs for the entire trip.

Which makes packing for this leg of the adventure a whole new ball game. 

I actually started packing a few days ago – a whole 2 weeks in advance. Packing doesn’t excite me (although I do enjoy it in a “oooh rolling my socks” kind of way) it’s more the fact I was so aware how unprepared I was for this leg of the trip. Coming out to NZ from London at the very beginning, I managed to get away with 32 kgs of luggage which all fit in my monster sized suitcase…. and 2/3 airlines didn’t even charge me for it (bonus) so I really scored there. And got super lucky.

But all our flights for this second leg have strict 20kg allowances (so through some miracle) I knew I was going to have to cut down my suitcase by at least a third. Which, as any dress (and shoe) loving female will tell you – is not going to equal a smiling happy girl.

I did get lucky though, as I’ve actually dropped just over a stone in weight since moving to NZ, so a lot of clothes I brought with me had to be chucked simply because they were too big. So a few things have been left behind by default. Which is OK. I figure I can deal with that if they don’t even fit me anymore. So that has helped a little bit with the whole process. Pad has also lost a lot of weight – and half of his shorts and trousers now hang off him, especially his jeans – which I was insistent we throw out because they were literally like 70’s flares they were so big on him.

So here is my packing list of essentials.

Note: there is obviously other stuff not on this list, that is coming too – I’m no packing ninja. Even when I cut down it’s still more than the average person takes. I guess I just like variety. And dresses. Lots of dresses. And shoes. And my teddy bear. 

I wasnt’ kidding…. 

round the world packing essentials teddy bear

 

1. Sunglasses (prescription) 

I only just got my first pair of prescription sunglasses last year – and they’ve literally changed my life. I used to be even more blind in sunglasses than in regular light with my normal glasses – because you have the darkness added into the mix… so I pretty much avoided sunglasses full stop. Anyway – point is I’d never go anywhere now without these. If you wear glasses and you haven’t yet got yourself some prescription sunglasses – do it! Especially before travelling.

round the world packing essentials

2. A decent backpack

I won’t be using my backpack during the day when we’re sight-seeing (I have a nice lady-like bag for then) but I do use it when we fly, as my hand luggage – because you really get your money’s worth with a backpack. I can fit pretty much everything in mine, including; my kindle, laptop, headphones, tablet, passports, travel journal, water bottle, camera, hoody, neck cushion and bear. A decent backpack lasts for years, so it’s totally worth the investment.

round the world packing essentials

3. My Cameras

For this round the world trip I have two cameras with me. One is my (pride and joy – non-human child) compact mirrorless SLR by Sony. The other is a cheap waterproof compact I found in New Zealand. It cost about £30, and will mean I can take a few photos and videos underwater when we visit places like The Great Barrier Reef…. Fun! Not sure what the quality will be – but for £30 I can’t complain – I’m sure they’ll be good enough!

round the world packing essentials

4. Plug Adapters

The things you always forget and then have to buy super expensively at the airport: thought I’d be ahead of the game for our RTW trip and stock up on adapters before leaving. We managed quite well actually – as a few of the countries we’re visiting double up adapter wise.

round the world packing essentials

5. Medical Stuff

I’m super clumsy, so this was a no-brainer. And to be honest – it should be even if you aren’t clumsy. We have a stomach-bug kit with antibiotics, painkillers, plasters, bandages and an inhaler. Of course we have insurance and stuff too – which will keep any medical bills down (if the worst does happen) but having a quick fix in our luggage might be all we need. So it’s good to have these basics on hand.

round the world packing essentials

6. This Book

Because I promised someone I would take it with me. And I keep promises. Are you impressed I still have it Eve? 😉

oh the places you'll go book

7. A neck cushion

We have about 11 flights, and 6 coach journeys scheduled during our RTW trip – so this is beyond a necessity. If you struggle to sleep in uncomfortable places (like the afore mentioned transportation methods) then a neck cushion is quite literally going to become your new best friend. I’ve had this one ages because it’s the perfect combination of firm, squishy and snuggly. Worth every penny I paid for it. Tens times over. If you don’t like neck cushions (or can’t find one you like) a good, thick hoody will often do too, because you can roll it up.

round the world packing essentials neck cushion

8. Trainers

A decent pair of trainers is so important – which I discovered early on in the trip when we first arrived in New Zealand. If you’re planning on doing lots of hiking, walking or even adventure activities (like bungee jumping, etc) then you’ll need a good, stable pairs of shoes like this.


round the world packing essentials trainers

9. Light Clothing

I’ve already mentioned my love of dresses…. but another important thing to remember is to pack light clothing. We’re lucky because most of the countries we’re visiting will be hot and humid (or at least sunny) so we’re only really packing for one weather type. Basically I’m trying to pack clothes that are made of light, floaty materials – not only because they’re less weight in my luggage – but also because they’re quicker to dry too (when washing clothes) and they’re more comfortable to wear in hot climates. Remember to pack at least one long sleeved and long-legged outfit too though – for when you’re visiting temples. As anything too short or revealing will be disrespectful.

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10. Magazines

I love my Kindle – but I also love magazines. I figure magazines are like the equivalent of “trashy TV” if reading a proper book is the equivalent of watching good oscar winning movie. But sometimes your brain wants the trashy stuff, and sometimes I’m not patient enough to sit down and read properly – because I just don’t have the concentration on some flights. So you’ll never find me without a couple of magazines.

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11. Travel Socks

On my way to New Zealand 6 months ago I got the worst swollen feet ever. I’ve never actually experienced swollen feet before – and I’m not keen on repeating the experience. So I bought these long circulation socks. Hopefully they’ll work? Fingers (and toes) are crossed.

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12. Insect Repellant

I seem to be a magnet for insects and mozzies, so I’ve well and truly stocked up on repellant for the next leg of our trip. I’ve got regular repellant, DEET repellant (praise the lord, they actually sell it in NZ) and also bite soother. DEET isn’t too great to have on your skin (it’s a bit greasy and icky, and it takes my nail varnish off) but it works a miracle at keeping the bugs away – so it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. We’ll be in some pretty buggy places (such as Fraser Island in Oz) so this wasn’t something we could skip.  

round the world packing essentials insect repellant

13. Lip Balm

I always seem to get dry lips after long-haul flights, so this is one of my absolute essentials. Carmex is the best I’ve ever come across.

round the world packing essentials lip balm carmex

14. Beach Towel

We’ll be staying in a mix of accommodation on our RTW trip – and one thing you never usually get included (unless you’re in a 5* resort, and sometimes not even then) is a beach towel. Sure you get bath towels, but beach towels have to be a little bigger and little more snugglier. We managed to grab a couple in a sale last month – so now we both have lovely beach towels.

beach towel round the world packing essentials

15. Waterproof vanity case

If you’ve ever had a Ross from friends moment (where his shampoo explodes in his bag) then you’ll know how important waterproof vanity cases are. Last thing you want is a sticky suitcase because something leaked or popped in there during a flight. At least this keeps the mess contained.

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16. Noise Cancelling Headphones

This is more one of Pad’s items, than mine. He is obsessed with these Bose headphones. But I totally get it – they are awesome. They block out all engine noise when you’re on a plane, and they’re so comfortable too. Definitely the best headphones either of us have ever used.

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17. Travel Journal

This has been an ongoing project since new year – and I’ve been writing and documenting everything we’ve been doing since we arrived in New Zealand. It has notes, planning (for future destinations) memories, photos, maps – basically everything we need for our trip – and then everything we’ll want to remember. It’s probably one of my most treasured possessions now, and definitely the one thing I’d hate to loose!

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18. Photos

I love taking photos when I travel with my digital camera – but I’ve also been collecting instant photos too – which I’ll keep doing when we set of around the world. My plan is to have an instant photobooth print from every country we visit.

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There are a few other things you’ll want to remember – which might make the whole journey more comfortable. For example – even if you’re only visiting hot countries – you’ll still want a hoody or big jumper for when you’re on a flight. Those cabin crew like using their AC so make sure you’ve got something other than the airline blanket to keep you warm. Talking of airlines, if you’re jetting around the world on multiple flights – why not start collecting air miles or join a frequent flyer program. If not that, then join an air lounge club to make all that time in the airport more enjoyable instead. Another option alongside this is to join as a member of an accommodation booking website, where you can collect rewards or points every time you book with them. I wish I’d done this when we were booking our accommodation, we’d have so many free nights if I’d claimed on them!

 

What did you take around the world? Have I left anything important off this list? 

Night-Time City-Scape Photography

My favourite time to take photos is during the evening when the sun goes down – because for most cities this is when they look the prettiest and the definitely the most photogenic! This will only be a short post – just a few of my own favourite snapshots from previous trips taken during my favourite time of day.

One of the things I’m most excited for when we set off on our RTW trip is taking even more of these night time photos. So expect another blog post very similar to this in a few months, with some very different locations though!

Sydney harbour night time landscape

Sydney – Darling Harbour

Sydney harbour night time landscape

Sydney – Darling Harbour

Sydney harbour night time landscape

Sydney – Darling Harbour

Sydney harbour night time landscape

Sydney – Taken from The Botanical Gardens

Sydney harbour night time landscape

Sydney – Taken from The Botanical Gardens

Wellington harbour night time landscape

Wellington Harbour

Wellington harbour night time landscape

Wellington Harbour

Dubai Marina night time landscape

Dubai Marina

New York City night time sky scrapers

Times Square, NYC

New York City night time sky scrapers

Manhattan, NYC (taken from the Pulaski Bridge)

Dubai Marina night time landscape

Dubai – Burj al Arab Hotel

London City night time sky scrapers

London Embankment

The Oman UAE Night time

The Oman

London night time landscape

Trafalgar Square, London