Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Time for a Staycation?

With my challenge of 12 in 12 on track, this bank holiday I decided to save my money and make the most of the British weather (notice I didn't say great there...).  The weather for a bank holiday was surprisingly good, with the odd bit of rain.

So on the Friday, my sister, my nephew and myself all set out for Kent to visit Leeds Castle for the day.

We got stuck in a little bit of traffic on the Dartford crossing, which resembled something more like a car park - but once over the bridge we had a clean run all the way there.

I would recommend booking your tickets before you go though, as the que is pretty big to pay and if you already have them then you can walk straight in.  If you don't manage to book first though, not to worry we only had around a 15 minute wait.

Once we had bought our tickets we were welcomed to the grounds by this beautiful Peacock, which although Teddie wasn't sure of him at fist, loved them by the end of the day.  You can even buy bird seed for £1 when you buy your tickets too.

Peacock
At the entrance you have the choice to walk or wait for a small train, which is designed for children to jump on and take you to the castle.  We decided to walk up to the castle though and were really glad we did - as we had lots of fun exploring on the way.

Leeds Castle
Teddie watching the ducks
Teddie feeding the ducks with mummy
The Bird show
Watching the show on mummy's shoulders
Castle up close
The Maze
We found the middle

Having a break after running around lots
Overall I would say this is the perfect place for a family day out.  Lots of things to do and see to keep mummy, daddy, aunts, uncles and children amused. 

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Saturday, 19 April 2014

P*ssing off the fashion industry? Who cares...

Cameron Russel certainly doesn't.

Today, I saw a talk shared by one of my friends on Facebook.  This friend happens to be an underwear model.  There was no comment with the post she shared, but I am glad that she shared it - because it is amazing.

Cameron Russel not only highlights so many important issues that are happening in this world right now, but she is honest and about something that she has done for over ten years.  She also acknowledges the fact that if it wasn't for this industry she wouldn't be at college now.


As a 26 year old, I can honestly say that I am still as insecure about my body as I was as a teenager.  If not more so now.  So her comparisons between the model work she has done and her real life were what inspired me the most.

When I am travelling, the thing that always bothers me or should I say bothered me the most was the fact that I always looked like I had been dragged through a bush backwards.  On my latest trip to Thailand though, I realised that looking good is no substitute for having a good time.

I love fashion as much as the next girl, but I also love getting grubby and having fun (even if sometimes this terrifies me).
 
Terrified but loving every minute of my sky dive in Taupo

Anyway, here are some photos of me during my time travelling or being casual at home, next to some of me at evening events - see if you can spot the difference...

wedding vs full moon party

nights out in Sydney vs elephant trekking in Thailand

nights out in TOWIE land vs coastal walks in Sydney

new make up #SELFIE vs no make up photo booth at work
 Don't get me wrong, I love getting dressed up and going out to nice places, but if I had the choice between a work suit or bikini and shorts - the bikini and shorts would win hands down. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Thailand - round two

After my travels so far this year, I have been obsessed with going back again.  So much so that on my lunch break today I made a list of all the things in Thailand that I didn't get to do and see the first time around.

So far I have managed to bag myself quiet a list and this time I really want to get off the tourist trail a little bit and find some places that aren't over crowed with 100's of tourists like Maya Bay (which I find ironic considering the film was about conserving the secret of the place).  My new map looks something like this...

https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zNZGpqhyqhd4.kj_QuMQbPvgk

Looking at the map though, South East Asia is shouting at me to be explored and it is somewhere that I have wanted to see for around 7 years now.   So country by country I am going to plan a route like this and make a list of all the places that I want to see and then what kind of things I plan to do when I get there.

So here is my Thailand list:

Bangkok
  • Climb Wat Arun
  • See the Grand Palace
  • Visit the Koh San Road (again and replace the ring that I lost)
  • Floating Market
source: bit.ly/1hFKBA3

Chaing Mai

This will be a flying visit, as I have been here before and Chaing Mai is only a small place. But my list is a mixture of things that I have done before and others that I didn't get to do the first time around.
  • Bamboo Rafting 
  • Wat Phra That Doi Suthep 
  • Bo Sang Handicraft Centre (I think this is the umbrella market I heard about the last time I was there)
One of many temples we visited in Chaing Mai

Pai

When travelling to Chaing Mai the first time, we were told about Pai and how amazing it was.  Unfortunately we didn't have enough time.
  • Elephant Sanctuary
  • Cooking lesson (because I am dying to eat some Paid Thai)
  • Watch the sun set at Pai Canyon
So far the route will have taken me from Bangkok by train to Chaing Mai and from here I would move onto Pai via flight (although you can get there via bus or motorbike).  However, after my little car crash (which saw our car wrote off) in Surat Thani I am a little more dubious about travelling by road in Thailand).  If you are going to travel by road, make sure you aren't going on a private bus.  The government run buses are a much safer and luxurious option.

Once leaving Pai, you would need to make your way back to Chaing Mai, where you are able to buy another flight to Surat Thani.  This is a place, that I don't relish the thought of seeing again purely because it was so horrific the last time we were here.  However, this time I will make sure I get on the bus (which takes around an hour and a half from the airport to the ferry terminal) ready to make my way to Koh Tao.

This time in the Thai Gulf, I think I will miss out Koh Samui and Koh Phanang - as they are very much the party islands.  This time going striaght to the one Island in the Gulf that I haven't yet seen.

On my way there I do want to go to Ang Thong National Marine Park though.  This is made up of "40 islands, spread over approximately 97 square miles in the Gulf of Thailand, are characterized by hundreds of limestone monoliths, carved into fantastic shapes by years of erosion".  This will mean staying on Koh Samui, so I think I will stick with Chewang this time and make the most of being closer to all the 'action' in a hostel this time.

source: http://bit.ly/1iSKoVt


Koh Tao
  • Padi course (this is something that I have wanted to do for a very long time, however, I manged to get myself slightly worked up and claustrophobic about.  Even if it's only a snorkel).
  • Koh Nang Yaun which is a smaller island just off of Koh Tao
  • Hire a quad bike and explore making my way up to the lookout point
  • Visit Koh Nangyuan
  • Snorkel
  • Sairee Beach to watch the sun set
After spending some time in what everyone describes as paradise, I will then make my way back to the mainland, where I would imagine I will catch a coach to Khao Sok National Park.

source: http://bit.ly/Q9kUMy

Khao Sok National Park
  • Stay in the floating bungalows
  • Explore (see where the national park takes me)
source: http://bit.ly/1l1xhDS

Phuket

No doubt after spending time in the National Park I will be grubby, smelly and shattered.  But when has this ever stopped me in Thailand before?  I am sure I will be making my way straight to Phuket to get my head down for some sleep and seeing what the city has to offer me while I am there.  Here I am planning to see:
  • The Old Town
  • The Sun set from Promthep Cape
  • Stay in Rawai
source: http://bit.ly/1gZeEwB

Similan Islands

Here I am hoping to put the Padi course I will have completed in Koh Toa to practice.
  • Diving
  • Snorkeling
  • Trekking
source: http://bit.ly/1m73Bql

Ko Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai

These are two islands off the tourist trail, or so I have been told - so they are less 'spoiled' than some other islands like Phi Phi or in the Gulf.  I don't want to look up what there is to do here, I have read a little, but sometimes it's nice to just go and discover.

source: http://bit.ly/1gykZ2J

Krabi

Krabi is just a pit stop for me, where I will be staying in the Bungalows we stayed in before.

Krabi is definitely a point where you get your head down for one night and if you don't fancy staying in the same place as I did, make sure you find somewhere in Ao Nang to stay or you will spend a lot of money on Taxi's and spend a lot of time travelling.

While I am stopping here, I think I will go and explore a few more of the islands that surround it and chill for a few days.  The islands near and around here include Railay, which is known for its rock climbing and rambling around the island.  The islands here aren't as big as some of the others, so there aren't many roads and no motors on the islands at all.  All the travel that you will do here will be by foot, bike or boat.

Railay Beach

PhiPhi Islands are another great place to stop off while you are here.  I'm not sure if I want to visit the island again or not though.  I had a great time while I was there before, however, after doing a tour of the islands I feel like I might be done here.  It is definitely worth the trip though and seeing places like Maya Bay where The Beach was filmed.  Talking of films, if you haven't seen it yet watch a film called The Impossible, which will give you an idea of the devastation that happened on the island when the Tsunami hit in 2004.  The island is pretty much re-built now, but is branding itself as a mini Koh Phanang.  Which if you are a backpacker is great however, if you are a family I would aim to stay on Long beach. 

Koh Lanta
  • Visit the lighthouse in the national park
  • Yoga
  • Kayaking at Koh Ngai
  • Four islands boat tour
  • Visit the Emerald Cave
  • Dive at Koh Haa
It takes around 2-3 hours to get here, but on route you can stop off at another island called Koh Jum.

source: http://bit.ly/1l1zjE7

Ko Li Pe
  • Jungle hike to see Pirate Falls
  • Sailing
source: http://bit.ly/1p6yqAb

Before I leave, I want to try our SUP again, as I loved it when I was in Australia and managed to stand up for most of the lesson.  Some places that I have found online that are able to offer this are: Koh Samui - Lanai Beach, Rawai and Koh Lanta.  I think if I manage to squeeze two of these places in I will be happy.

After the last few islands, we need to make our way across the Malaysian border.  To do this you have a few different options.  You can go by boat, plane, bus, train or car.  My priority here though, is getting a stamp in my passport.  You can visit Malaysia for 3 months without a passport if you are from the UK - for all other countries here is a link you may find useful.

In terms of a visa for Thailand, as I understand it, as long as you aren't entering the country via one of its boarders you are allowed to stay there for 30 days.  If you are planning on staying longer you need to apply for a Visa or if you are entering via one of the boarders you are only allowed a total of 15 days.

Over the next week or so, I will be planning my trip across South East Asia further - so pop back and take a look where my trip will be taking me next.

Don't forget to follow me here too...

Monday, 14 April 2014

Could you live below the line?

In  my line of work, if something is below the line it means it is digital.  As you may have guessed I work in Advertising.  The campaign that I am talking about though, is a brilliant one and one that will hopefully help if not end, but make people realise what it is like to live in poverty.

As a child I never thought of my family as poor, I was happy and we never really needed for anything - however, we definitely weren't rich.  I had my mum, brother and sister and we all spent time together during the school holidays, either at the park or in the garden with a paddling pool - mostly anything that was free.

However, children in other countries don't even have this kind of water to drink - let alone fill a pool and play in all day during the mildly hot weather we have in England, compared to the scorching hot weather people have in countries where sanitary water isn't even available.

As westerners we take things for granted and expect that it is our right to a lot of things.  However, it isn't just our right to have the basics like clean water and clothes on our backs - it is the whole worlds right.

Explaining things that I have seen in other countries to my family is hard, but this photo is a prime example of how my family thinks compared to the reality of what is happening around the world that we live in.

Here is a photo of my time in India in 2012.


After uploading this photo to Facebook, my mum commented "Ahh look at those poor little girls in rags...".  Well I can honestly say that these little girls were pretty rich by Indian standards.  They may not live in a palace, but their parents can afford to send them all to school.

This is in a place, where I was able to buy a pearl ring for £2 and a set of pearl earrings for £1.  This is enough to feed a family for around 2 or 3 weeks.

On one of my first trips to a poverty stricken country, I found myself crying a lot at what I saw there.  The one conversation that I remember having there though, was with a ten year old boy.  I was staying in his home with his mum and we were sharing his room with him.  One day he asked me to help him with his English homework.  So I did and we were having a conversation afterwards about school and he told me, when he grows up he wants to be a doctor, so he can visit England and live in my house like I have in his now.  This way he will be able to make his dad better too.

After further conversation he told me that his mum lets people stay so that she can afford to send him to school, this is because in his words, his dad is in a 'mad hospital'.  This, I could only presume, meant that his dad had some form of mental health problems.  We were talking for a while and when we got up to leave I noticed that he was limping and had no shoes on.  So I asked him to show me.  When I looked, I saw a huge and rather worryingly deep cut on the bottom of his foot from some coral he had stood on.  The kind of cut your mum would have hysterically rushed you to the hospital over.

As the hospital was a few hours away by boat, I knew that I would never be able to get him there or ask his mum to take him.  So I did the only thing I could think of at the time and pulled out my first aid kit.  I used the steri strips to try and pull the wound back together, then bandaged and pulled a verruca sock over it - to hopefully avoid any infection.  I then handed this kit over to his mum, so she was able to change the dressings.

For these reasons, I have thought of my life in England as a pretty shallow one and have wondered how I might be able to use it to do some good (I've even thought about joining the Army to train as a nurse).  But I am yet to come up with an answer to that question, which is a little more logical/practical, but I hope I find one soon. 

For now, I am going to take the challenge to Live Below the Line - but not for just 5 days.  I hope I am able to go a bit longer and a bit further with this challenge than the initial one set.


The cause is such a good one, how could I not take up the challenge?  My aim is to raise £200, but if I can raise more then I will be more than happy.  For now, I am going to need a lot of will power and support though.  So come on guys get those donations rolling and CLICK HERE NOW TO DONATE.

I'm Living Below the Line for Oxfam
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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

My favourite city in the world

People always ask me why Sydney is my most favourite city in the world and I can never find the words to tell people why. 

This video on the other hand does a lot to explain how I feel, when I think about this place that I made my home when I was 18 and why some day I will hopefully live there again.

Tiny Sydney from Filippo Rivetti on Vimeo.