Weeks 3 & 4 in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Weeks 3 & 4 in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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We came, we saw, and for 4 wonderful months, we lived.

To say that the 4 months we have spent travelling through Southeast Asia has gone fast would be a lie. To say that we have spent it in the way that most travellers do would also be a lie. We haven’t. We have spent our time travelling in exactly the way that we like to travel, at the pace we like to travel at, no more and no less. So ultimately for us it hasn’t gone quickly – it’s gone just as quick as we expected in the time that we have had, but we have had lots of amazing experiences (and challenges) along the way and many a fond memory of specific places and situations both good and bad that will keep us smiling for a long time to come!

It was never our intention to be backpackers. The backpacker lifestyle (though there’s certainly nothing wrong with it) is not the lifestyle for us, but it seems that from some  people’s perspectives, if your not “roughing it” then you haven’t had the full travel experience. Well I disagree.

Travel doesn’t have to be done on the cheap or spent at the lowliest of places. Travel can and should be luxurious! Afterall, travelling isn’t about how many places you can cram into your time, or about collating meaningless bucketlist locations to brag about on Instagram, it’s about experiencing different places, fully immersing yourself in the country, culture and customs you visit and seeing the world anew. And what better way to do that then by spending an extended amount of time in each destination?

In our 4 chosen locations (Ubud in Bali, Canggu in Bali, Koh Samui in Thailand and Chiang Mai in Thailand), we got to live alongside the locals whilst not foregoing the luxury’s that are important to us such as staying in a decent standard of accomodation, and going to nice restaurants and spa’s. We also did not want to have to keep packing and repacking all the time and as I do not travel light it was out of the question to move anymore frequently then we did.

All in all, when you factor in the 2 shambolic places we stayed at in Bali (Uncle Tom’s Rotten Cabin and the Akmani) where we left both promptly, we stayed in 6 different locations overall in our travels. Travelling to 6 places in 4 months meant packing and unpacking 12 times! 12 times! There is no way that I would want to pack and unpack anymore times then that.

 I think that what was most refreshing about our time spent away was that we were operating from our own clock. There was no alarms to be set or anywhere in particular to be. We arose each day to decide what we wanted to do and where we wanted to be  and found that mostly, even though we had the luxury of spending every waking hour on the beach topping up our tans, we didn’t necessarily want to. We found that even though we could have spent our time experiencing every possible thing that Indonesia and Thailand had to offer, we did not want to. The touristy things that we did do we considered carefully before doing them, weighing up whether these experiences were unique to that country or not.

So overall we have had a pretty varied experience in each place – we spent some days lazing about on the beach, some days at home, some days travelling, some days in cafe’s, some days shopping, some days getting pampered. Spending so much time in each location afforded us the luxury of doing things at our own pace and it was a very delicious indulgence indeed.

Songthaew Life

Getting a Songthaew here is easy. And since we live very centrally it’s even easier – you just wave them down as you would a black taxi on the street. Granted, you do sometimes have to negotiate the price with the driver as occasionally (especially late at night), they try to charge you more then 80 p a ride, and even though you know that what they’re charging is bloody cheap you still don’t want to pay more when you know that 80 p is the standard rate. But these Songthaews are surprisingly endearing as each one is unique. The drivers “pimp them up” to reflect their individual style so sometimes you will get ones that are decorated with Thai ribbons hanging from the roof, sometimes you will get decorative patterned seats to sit on, some have an interesting interior colour scheme and some even have flashing disco lights installed in them to get the party started!

But the Songthaews have competition on the road, as there are also Tuk Tuks, which are basically converted scooters that have the added capacity to take passengers in the back. I call the Tuk Tuks the “Pimp Mobiles”. They each only take two passengers so you never have to share your ride. All of them are decorated so that they are noticed wherever they go, whether that’s with a kick ass sound system, flashing lights, bells and whistles, blankets and furr interiors – you name it, they have it. And with their flamboyance they have the driver to match.

Unlike the Songthaews, which are mostly driven by the older generation, the Tuk Tuks are mostly driven by younger guys, who have better English, know more of the up and coming hangouts and are far more cheeky. The Tuk Tuks also go faster then the Songthaews so if you’re going somewhere in a hurry then they are perfect, but both of the sides are open and the temperature in Chiang Mai drops at night so it can get quite chilly when you’re driving through the city at pimp mobile speed. Also, they are more expensive then the Songthaews so most people try to avoid using them. This makes the drivers of the Tuk Tuks naturally a little more aggressive as they have to fight to get people to pay the measly 40 p more to ride with them!

There are hardly any pavements here and no traffic signals for pedestrians whatsoever. It is becoming a bit of a challenge trying to cross a 6 way junction with no green man for pedestrians and tbh I’m very surprised that I haven’t witnessed a fatal accident in the time that we have been here. It is bloody dangerous and also extremely polluted in Chiang Mai. Never mind Indonesia and volcanic ash, these people are suffering from petrol fumes! I’m sure that my lungs have noticed the difference since arriving here.

Home Alone 

Josh’s friend is also in Chiang Mai at a Kung Fu Training Retreat in the mountains. If it sounds ideal then perhaps you need know that as part of his training which incorporates not just the practical side of Kung Fu but also the philosophical side too, he wakes up at 4:00 am each day to begin his training. There is of course no drinking or smoking allowed (and he does both with regularity when he’s back home), instead, he is required to meditate daily. The Kung Fu Master is originally from England but has been living in Thailand for over 30 years and has won various Kung Fu Awards and was chosen by the previous master for his skills so clearly this is no joke business. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard that Josh’s friend had planned to attend the retreat for a month as I knew that he partied pretty hard. He contacted Josh and said that he was going to be staying in Nimman for a night before he went onto Phuket to meet his girlfriend who was flying out from the Isle of Man (where they both live) to join him, and then he was going onwards alone to Japan and China (now THAT I was envious of!).

Josh organised to meet him one night for dinner and I didn’t particularly fancy being a third wheel so the plan was for me to eat early and then stay at home for the rest of the evening whilst he met up with his mate. Staying home was my preference as we usually went out for dinner each night so I figured it would be a welcome change, but it was also a necessity as we only had one key fob to get into our apartment and indeed our whole building as for some strange reason, the woman who rented us the apartment didn’t think it necessary to give us 2 key fobs despite her knowing that there was two of us staying there. And she didn’t even live in the country! Ridiculous.

The security in our apartment block was intense as it was one of the nicest developments in one of the nicest areas: Nimmanhaemin. This meant that we needed the one key fob we had between us to access the lifts, to get up to the floors and to get into our apartment. In reverse, this meant that you couldn’t enter or even leave the apartment without it, therefore I was essentially “banged up abroad” whilst Josh was out socialising.

Before Josh went out to meet his friend I went to a local pizzeria which I had never tried before to pick up a pizza to take home with me. The pizzeria we had been to before in Chiang Mai, which had come so highly rated, turned out to be average and after having such exceptional pizza in both Bali (Spaccanopoli) and Koh Samui (Coco Tam’s) respectively, I did not wish to eat an average pizza. So I thought I’d try this other place out. The pizza, as with everything else in Chiang Mai, was cheap beyond belief. £3 for a pizza! Just unbelievable. And even though it wasn’t as good as the others I’d had – it was at least better then the other pizza I had had in Chiang Mai and for £3 I really could not complain. I didn’t really understand how these people (the owner was Italian) could be operating a business – a bricks and mortar retail store selling their pizza’s at just £3 a piece but this was the reality living in a place such as this!  

After Josh left to go and meet his friend (and I told him to film his friend doing his newly learned Kung Fu moves!), I chilled at home watching Netflix. Yes, Netflix and Chilling, lol, but alone. About an hour later my phone started ringing – it was Josh saying that he had just got to the hotel where his friend was staying but that when he text his friend to tell him that he was waiting downstairs in reception he text him back saying that he had the wrong day. They were supposed to be meeting up tomorrow! Well he couldn’t believe it and neither could I. How could he have got the day wrong for goodness sake?

Anyway there was nothing that could be done about it now. But it dawned on me that him getting the wrong day also meant that I would have to do the home alone thing again the following night because I didn’t have a key fob to get in or out!

What kind of foolishness is this??

The next day came and I went back to the same pizzeria (because I really couldn’t be arsed to find anywhere else) and the Italian man there was very happy to see me (likely because he assumed that I must like the pizza so much to be back the following day!) so I had to lie to him and tell him that the pizza was really good. He had no idea that I went there out of necessity because I knew that I was soon going to be “banged up abroad!”

When Josh left I done the same thing that I done the night before – Netflix and Chilled and thankfully he didn’t call me an hour later telling me that he had the wrong day. But it did occur to me as I was sitting there in the comfort of my cosy little home that due to this ridiculous policy of needing a key fob to get in and out of the building and not seeing any fire escape on our floor (though I’m sure there must have been one), had there been an actual fire in the block, I would have been burnt to a frazzle because I couldn’t actually get out!!

Not a Chiang Mai Grenfell

I didn’t want to perish in our glamorous but bijou apartment in Chiang Mai. And I most certainly could not read any of the fire documents which were all written in Chinese. I hadn’t seen any fire escape notifications and was completely unaware of what to do in the event of a fire or indeed how to exit the building at all. I was essentially a sitting duck.

When I had heard about the Grenfell fire in London a few months before I had been utterly horrified and angry. I seriously could not believe that something as horrendous as this could have happened and I was furious to think of it possibly being premeditated by anyone, let alone a government conspiracy. Do I think anyone would do such a thing? you ask. The answer is yes, though please do not ask me who done it or why because I’m not a detective but where there is motive, there is a criminal and what better one then one who can make money out of tragedy? Afterall, most of the poor people who lost their lives in that fire were not valued members of society. They were just poor people. Tis sad but true. 

Anyway, I do not wish to dwell on such painful things, it’s just that it did occur to me, whilst I was “banged up abroad” looking out to the mountains ahead and the mist filled sky, that if the building were to go up in flames then perhaps I would too, because there was nothing in this small apartment to throw out of it in order to break my fall if I jumped from the balcony, nothing apart from our mattress that was, and we all know about my mattress don’t we..

Hard as a Rock

I have never in all my days slept on a mattress so hard. It takes my breath away, both literally and figuratively to believe that such a hard mattress exists. Because this thing is so hard that we wake up every morning winded from almost having our ribcages crushed under the magnetic weight of it. Aching from the pain of how hard it is and with a backache because it is so very uncomfortable. So when I think about throwing out the mattress in the event of a Grenfell fire in Chiang Mai not only am I sceptical that I will even have the strength to lift this 50 tonne mattress out of the apartment onto the ground but I also very much doubt that I would survive the jump as mattresses are supposed to be firm but soft but this one was firm and hard. VERY HARD. I think that if I jumped onto this mattress it would literally break my legs. A terrible thought indeed.

Birkenstock Awe

I’m so glad that Josh managed to convince me to buy a pair of Birkenstocks. They have been absolute lifesavers during my travels. I never thought that I would wear a pair of shoes so frequently but he was right when he said that once I got into them, I would never want to come out of them! They are unbelievably comfortable and have got even more comfortable as time has gone on. German Engineering has allowed me to walk the streets of Bali and Thailand without my feet aching at any point in time which I think is incredible. Unfortunately for me, the luxury of wearing such comfortable shoes does not extend to England as it’s far too cold to wear them there but if it wasn’t, or they had a closed toe version that actually looked good (they don’t), then believe me I would be wearing them there too. Highly recommended if you go travelling and want your feet intact!

The Miserable Pork Balls seller

They are crazy for Pork Balls over here. Pork Balls are round bits of Pork (like sausage meat), on a stick that they fry for you on the roadside by the boat load. I don’t know what it is about Asians and pork but they absolutely love it. I guess the same could be said for Caribbeans and chicken and Africans and fish but Pork is the number 1 seller here and Pork Balls are King. You can get them for 30 baht (around 70 p) from the street sellers and they seem to do very good business (especially with the Chinese). We saw this Pork Balls seller outside Dom’s, getting prepared for his Pork Balls debut that evening, and he looked bloody miserable. I couldn’t work out what had happened to this guy for him to be so miserable looking but as people walked by glancing occasionally over at his balls he seemed to get angrier and angrier and by the time I dared to look over at him he was positively furious. I was unsure as to who would DARE to buy a Pork Ball from him when he was glaring at everyone in his line of vision. The man looked so vex it was as if he wanted to chop everyone in their neck back. He was bloody terrifying.

Thankfully for us, we weren’t in the market for Pork Balls, whether they were being sold on the roadside or elsewhere, so we didn’t have to go anywhere near him.

Favola

We went to Favola for dinner which is an Italian restaurant inside the Le Meridian hotel in the centre of the Old Town. I was desperate to find somewhere, an actual restaurant, where we could have a nice meal. I was fed up of this casual eating thing. I was seeking some glamour!

Unlike Bali and Koh Samui, which had glamour in abundance, Chiang Mai seems decidedly lacking where fine dining restaurants were concerned. People seem to like crowding the streets, sitting outside decidedly average looking restaurants or eating from sellers dishing out sticks of meat from food vans on the extremely polluted roadside. But that was not my thing at all. All I wanted was to find a restaurant, with nice decor, good service and tasty food in Chiang Mai. Favola looked to me to fit the bill, though from the pictures I’d seen of it online, it still didn’t look as nice as some of the other places we’d been to. But the food was rated highly which was promising.

When we arrived at Le Meredian I immediately saw a cockroach scurrying past the entrance and I hoped and prayed that this wasn’t a sign of things to come.  

The cockroach turned out to be just an unfortunate reality of living in a hot country. It thankfully wasn’t a reflection of the shoddiness that lied within because Le Meredian was actually rather glamorous inside. A typical large chain hotel, but a nice one nonetheless, the smell that was wafting out of the vents and into my nose was a delight. The staff, who were very friendly, escorted us personally up to the restaurant, which we had made a reservation for, but when we arrived we could clearly see that we needn’t have bothered, for it was almost completely empty, aside from a couple sitting in the corner and a big table of Chinese people who as time went on, and they got drunker,  became increasingly louder.

Clearly, street food is all the rage here and all the fancy restaurants stay empty! But the restaurant itself was lovely. The decor was suitably glam, with neutral tones, an open kitchen where you could watch the chefs preparing your food, beautiful lighting, tasteful furniture and a huge wine cabinet behind the Chinese contingency who were getting so loud I could scarcely hear our waiter repeat back our orders.

The food however turned out to be a success. We both ordered a risotto to share as our starter which was delicious, and then I had an artichoke ravioli dish in a tomato sauce and Josh had seabass, both of which were richly flavoured and well cooked.  

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“Marble” chocolates at Favola 

I was determined to get gifts for people to commemorate this once in a lifetime experience travelling around southeast Asia and we were best placed to get some after dinner as the Old Town Night Market was on every evening from around 16:00 until 23:00 and they sold everything under the sun. After traipsing around for a couple of hours we returned home knackered but had managed to buy a gift for almost everyone in our families plus a few extra treats for ourselves. Josh really liked the look of the “Karen Hilltribe” trousers, and judging by the amount of sellers who were selling them it look like it was a very popular choice. Even more popular then those though, were the baggy elephant pants and almost every tourist in Northern Thailand had picked up a pair of those alas even though we liked elephants we did not like the trousers with them on them. They looked like pajama’s. 

But I got myself a few pairs of these roomy, culotte looking trousers and Josh got about 3 pairs of the Hilltribe versions which really suited him. They are too odd looking and too summery to wear in England but if we have a good summer then perhaps they will make an apperance afterall!

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Josh and I wearing our Hilltribe trousers

We went back to Fern Forest for one last time before we left Chiang Mai to attend their Sunday Jazz event. Every Sunday, they have a live jazz band playing in the gardens and since Fern Forest had become our favourite place in Chiang Mai we decided that we just had to check it out. When we got there we were immediately greeted by our favourite waitress, who always remembered us and made sure she reserved us the best seats and was always very sweet and kind to us. Since alot of the time we went there to work she always asked us if the wifi was okay and if it was a little iffy then she would disappear to go and fix it for us. She was very attentive to us. When we arrived as we suspected it was packed but we managed to find some good seats, close to the area where the band would be playing. The only problem was that it was very very hot that day and eventually, once I could feel the energy draining from my body, and recalling the time when I fainted in a restaurant in Kingston from heat stroke, we decided to ask our waitress if we could move upstairs instead.

By then the band had already started playing, and they were pretty good but not even they could keep me there any longer. We went upstairs to a large, bright and airy dining room with french doors that overlooked the garden and the jazz band below. Utterly stunning in typical colonial style, the dining room was decorated in white and had marble tables, huge windows letting the light stream through from all angles, a big flower centrepiece, huge chandelier and floor length curtains. It was both glamorous and tranquil, and the beauty was that similarly to Clear Cafe in Bali, they didn’t allow anyone to wear shoes in that part of the restaurant so it felt very much like you were in someone’s elegant home. From there we could both see and hear the band very well but we had protection from the intense sun. It was a glorious day.

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Fern Forest Cafe 

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A day with the Monks

We visited some buddhist temples and it was great. Temples can be found all around the city so even if you haven’t been into one it’s quite easy to appreciate their glamour and opulence without having to actually venture into one. But when we came across this collection of temples in the middle of Chiang Mai city we couldn’t resist. Turns out that like in Bali, they do not take kindly to women being in their temples whilst menstruating (like as if that’s a carnal sin!), but rather then them asking women to refrain from entering the temple whilst their in their time of the month they don’t allow women to enter at all! Like, ever.

I must say, I would have expected better from the Buddhists. Alas, it would seem that sexism is alive and well even in the humblest of places. The temples and statues were amazing to see up close and we even got to watch a ceremony performed by the monks in the temple, which was impressive in both size and sight.

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Me outside a buddhist temple in Chiang Mai

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One Nimman

The new boutique shopping centre complex near our apartment, One Nimman, is still not fully open but as the Chinese New Year is approaching it is looking more and more ready to receive visitors and it really is an impressive sight. Comparible to the most elegant of shopping centres in London, Paris or New York, One Nimman is punching well above it’s weight. With it’s huge courtyard with twinkling fairy lights suspended between the buildings, beautiful stone used to build the clocktower centrepiece and all of the shops surrounding it, lots of stunning boutique shops, none of which I’d ever heard of before (and a Pan Puri fragrance shop opening up soon), it is enviably gorgeous. We walked through there and found a brand new coffee shop called Graph, selling really fancy coffee’s, a perfume shop which I was too afraid to go into as it looked so lovely and I knew if I ventured in there I would have had no choice but to buy some, a huge canteen area selling lots of different types of food, a creperie, and a brand new restaurant called Ginger Farm Kitchen.

This Ginger Farm Kitchen must have only been open a couple of days as we had never noticed it before. Decorated with a theme of an abundant summer garden (a theme I like very much), the place definitely had the wow factor. Plants and flowers were everywhere. Sitting on shelves, hanging from the ceiling, on the walls, tables and even in our food! Colourful and thoughtfully done, the Ginger Kitchen had clearly been put together from someone with a very good eye and an attention to detail.

Painted a pea green with enormous windows looking out onto the courtyard and the busy Nimmanaheim Road, the restaurant was light filled and sunny, with colourful cushions on the chairs and a colourful menu featuring mainly vegetables and flowers. They had some meat dishes too, but this was not the main feature here – beauty and colour was.

Both the drinks and the food was a winner. They are going to do really well I think and should we return we will definitely go back.

As we were leaving to go home and pack (boo hoo), we past another new business at One Nimman, it had no name and looked as if it wasn’t even properly open yet but the place looked amazing. It was perhaps a cafe of some kind as we could see a coffee machine on the counter as we walked by, but it also featured a huge variety of stone busts on tables, shelves and on the floor, along with comfy sofas and chairs amongst lively green plants. The place was like a living, breathing art studio/cafe. I was dying to go in there, I KNOW that it would have been right up my street alas it is not open yet and we are leaving Chiang Mai tomorrow. 

It is Valentines Day today and as I write this we are on our way to Singapore where we will be spending the day before going onwards home.

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The stunning garden like interiors at Ginger Farm Kitchen

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Deeelicious!

Singapore, the city of modern architecture

 When we arrived at Singapore Airport we found out that we could do a free tour around the city. We were on our way home but we had an 8 hour stopover in Singapore so we thought that it would be fun to do the tour in a city whose airport had been voted the best in the world for 5 years in a row and was STILL expanding. This airport was a monster! – with a cinema, swimming pool, spa, free massage chairs, sleeping cabins, shops and restaurants galore, flower gardens and even a butterfly museum.

We joined the tour group and after taking an age to get through customs we finally arrived on the streets of Singapore where we were bustled onto an awaiting bus. My first impression of Singapore was that it was clean. Like, spotlessly clean. When we started driving through the city, and listening to the guide tell us the history of the city, I was reminded again of how empty the place was – there were quite a few cars on the road but hardly anyone was on foot. It was another sprawling city, but unlike cities like New York and Bangkok, it was green, clean and almost devoid of people. And the architecture was impressive.

Undoubtedly, when it comes to modern architecture, Singapore is king. Almost all buildings there have been designed to reflect the forward thinking, ambitious modernity of the city. And rather then it just be all concrete tower blocks, they have invested heavily in landscaping so that all around the city there are an abundance of trees, plants and flowers. They even have parks dedicated to flowers that are free for tourists and residents to visit, such as the famous Flower Dome and Gardens by the Bay.

When we got closer to the Flower Dome where in a few days time they were going to be holding a celebration for Chinese New Year, the city suddenly got busier. I was surprised when the bus stopped and we were allowed to walk around the marina as technically we were just on a tour and didn’t have a permit to enter the country, but I was eager to see what it was all about. We strolled around the marina, which showcased the legendary “boat hotel” which was a hotel that looked like a skyscraper with a boat shaped top and was absolutely packed with tourists and residents alike, and then we were taken to the gardens, a stunning feat of architecture, botany and artistry with some truly amazing sculptures made from flowers.

We were in awe of the originality of some of these centrepieces, which were clearly designed to wow, but what we were not in awe of in Singapore was the distinct lack of vibe. It appeared to us that this city was a manufactured one, lacking in soul or energy which comes from the people who live within in. It was clear to me judging by the fancy hotels and restaurants I could see, that money had clearly been spent here and people were living well here (materially anyway), but that even that wasn’t enough to provide the sense of life and vibrancy that a good world city needs. In the end, I was happy to have seen it, to see what money buys you, how good it can make your city look. But ultimately, a place without vibe is no place at all.

So we have come to the end of our travels, and naturally the feeling is bitter sweet. We did not wish to leave, well not to go home anyway as we could have easily have gone on for another 2 months, alas it is what it is. We take home our memories, our stories and our pictures of which we took a few, but of course not nearly enough.

But what it has done for us, is to cement what we’ve always known: That we love to travel and we will making plans to do it again!

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Josh in Singapore

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The famous “Boat Hotel” in Singapore 

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The Good, the Bad, The Ugly, and the Busted

The Good

Particularly in Chiang Mai, things are so cheap that it is hard to believe that people are actually making a living out of selling things at this price. When you pay your 80 p to be taken to the other side of town, it makes you think of London and what an absolute scam it is to live here. And when you think about what is going on with the rise of Uber, and the determination of the black taxi drivers to drive them out of town because they are more competitively priced then them it makes you even more angry. Because Uber drivers aren’t even cheap, they are just cheaper then the alternative. But I can tell you this: I have never, ever paid a mere 80 p to be taken on any journey in London. Whether that’s by cab, train or bus. I think it costs something like £2 at the moment to go just one stop. AND you are sharing that journey with hundreds of other people with their germs and questionable habits. So the affordability of living in Chiang Mai is definitely a plus.

That goes for transportation, food, clothing, accommodation and entertainment, alot of which is free. The food in Thailand is unbeatable, and though it did get occasionally boring, as anything does if you have it too often, it was still fresh and tasty with bags of flavour though it was far more challenging finding vegetarian or vegan meals here and they haven’t even heard of gluten free!

The Night Markets in Thailand are great. Nightmarkets are such a distinctively Thai tradition and are so much fun to see even if you’re not buying anything (which I don’t think anyone could possibly do as they have a little something for everyone).

The weather, particularly in Chiang Mai was incredible. The best weather we have ever had anywhere. It never went much below 25 degrees but it was slightly chilly night which gave us a respite from the heat. There were no mosquitoes in Chiang Mai but plenty in Koh Samui so it’s pretty much even where that’s concerned, and again with the gecko’s and the tookay’s, which were terrorising us whilst we were in Koh Samui, but who we hardly ever saw in Chiang Mai.

The beaches in Koh Samui are some of the best of the world, and I found my favourite beach of all in Haad Thong Reng on the island of Koh Phangan, which was just magical.

Our day spent with elephants was something that I doubt either of us will ever forget in a hurry. Thailand remains a number 1 travel destination because it really does offer something for everyone and the Thai culture is so rich and colourful.

The Bad

The gecko situation in Koh Samui was unbearable and unacceptable. In the month that we were living there I was literally EXHAUSTED from trying to think up ways to get rid of these beasts and I couldn’t sleep at night for the noise of them. Bloody awful.

The perves – unfortunately I have come to realise that these Western perves are probably all over Thailand. After visiting Koh Samui again I found that they had increased in number but they are also in Chiang Mai too so I think it’s safe to say that these reject Westerners are all over Asia and in Thailand in particular.

The Chinese – I’m sorry but I have to say the presence of them in Thailand, and in Chiang Mai in particular was overwhelming. Partly it’s because of the sheer number of them as they seem to travel in groups of 10 or more. Partly it’s because their vanity and obsession with technology knows no bounds (the women take pictures of themselves incessantly and the boys do the same but also play computer games incessantly too). Partly it’s because they don’t seem to have any spacial awareness (they take up half the road when you are trying to walk down it as they seem to like congregating in one big cluster with no acknowledgement of others trying to go about their business). Partly, I don’t like this umbrella business because I know that if they were carrying them because they didn’t like the heat then they could just choose to go to a colder country and not come to one of the hottest, and I do not believe it’s simply because of the strength of the sun. I believe that they are desperately trying in earnest not to get darker. I know this because of the products they buy to lighten their skin that are sold on the open market and which they feel no shame about buying. 

And partly, it’s because they are far too loud. I don’t know whether it’s because they are deaf or whether their volume increases when they have had a drink but they are bloody loud and if you are in a restaurant trust me you are going to know about it!

The Ugly and the Busted

I don’t think there is a busted part of Thailand (apart from Bangkok perhaps, lol). Overall Thailand is a place with a rich culture, beautiful landscapes, good food, friendly people, amazing beaches and an abundance of things to do. The only part I really don’t like is the sex tourism which is tacky beyond belief and not particularly pleasant to encounter and the stray dog situation but other then that I think that Thailand is a wonderful destination for anyone to visit.

But I guess the ultimate decider is whether I could live here? Whether WE could live here?

Well we’ve been to Thailand twice now and I know that there are still many other islands to discover but from what I’ve seen so far, no, I wouldn’t want to live here. Koh Samui is too touristy, and Chiang Mai is even more so and I wouldn’t live there because it’s too busy, too noisy and too polluted. It’s a city, a unique city undoubtedly but I’m just not interested in living in a city longterm.

But Bali however, and Canggu in particular..Yes. We could live there happily (if our families weren’t so far away).

We have had many amazing experiences in our travels, and these are just a few!

#walkedwithelephants #playedwithmonkeys #swaminthesea #dancedlikeabalinesedancer #sunbathedonthebeach #hikedupawaterfall #modelledinbali #dinedinatreehouse #massagedonthebeach #dancedinthesea #visitedamidnightspa #fireworksonthebeach #sailedwithdolphins #bathedinaflowerbath #survivedanearthquake #dodgedavolcano #dinedinthesky #spentchristmasonthebeach #shoppedatthenightmarket #dinedlikeaqueen #spaintherainforest #visitedabuddhisttemple #watchedamuaythaifight #dancedatabeachclub #watchedmonkspraying #sawfiredancersonthebeach #drunkkombucha #visitedmyauntinbali #ateveganinbali #partiedonthebeach #visitedsometemples #livedamongstricepaddies #sunsetonthebeach #massageinthejungle #daytriptokohphangan #dinneronthebeach #sawmysisterinthailand #scammedabillionaire #rodeinasongthaew #spentvalentinesdayinsingapore

Places of Note:

Zazen – a magical place. Hidden away from prying eyes, once you meander through the maze like Japanese gardens your heart stops a beat you and find that you have fallen head over heels in love. Like I did. Twice.

Saffron – What better way is there to experience Thailand then from the stunning views overlooking a private beach cove? And transportation by golf buggy will be an experience I will always remember.

Service 1921 – Despite the owner being a questionable individual who seems to take pleasure from siphoning off as much as possible from the local communities his opulent hotels are located within, his restaurant Service 1921, fashioned from a colonial style secret service was top knotch.

The Jungle Club – Incredible views from one of the highest points in Samui which overlooks the whole island and offers one of the most zen like atmospheres to be discovered there.

Coco Tam’s aka Coco Piss – For the nightly fire shows that can be seen from your seat at their restaurant which offers the tastiest pizza in town!

Beach Republic – A firm favourite. Beautiful beach, great food, chilled out vibes and serious tunes. A winner.

Haad Thong Reng Beach, Koh Phangan – The sheer beauty and tranquility of this beach was astounding. It moves into first place as being my favourite beach in the world so far.

Dom Cafe – Everything in Dom’s is tasty and uniquely presented. We went to Dom’s almost everyday for a whole month and I never tired of their Steamed Chicken Bun or Coconut Rolls!

Fern Forest – We were surprised at how busy and touristy Chiang Mai was when we first arrived but what better place to escape the craziness then Fern Forest, a tranquil cafe that looks like it’s within an actual rainforest.

The Ethical Elephant Sanctuary – The best place to see elephants who have been saved from a life of servitude. Elephants who are well looked after, not ridden by humans and who live simple but happy lives in the northern Thai mountains.

Peace Tropical Spa – I had the best Thai massage ever here. Despite the paradise like beauty of Karsa Spa in Ubud, or the tropical abundance of the Anantara Spa in Bophut both which I loved, when I arrived at the Peace Tropical Spa in torrential rain I wasn’t convinced that I was even in the mood for a spa treatment but the massage I had ended up being so wonderful that I was almost floating when I emerged from my thoroughly relaxed, zombie-like state.

Week 2 in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Week 2 in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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Now that we’ve settled into life in Chiang Mai a little more, I can see why it would be very easy to live here. For one thing the weather has continued to be glorious. The sun has been shining everyday but it is not humid at all – it’s dry and rather spring like. There are lots of restaurants, bars and cafes etc.

 Now that we have seen the elephants and we are approaching the end of our travels, there has been a natural anti-climax. Infact spending the day with those amazing animals seems quite a long time ago now but thankfully I have some pictures and videos to remind me of what an amazing and surreal day it was.

Despite the fact that Chinese New Year is in mid February – the Chinese have swarmed this city like a plague so I can only imagine what it’s going to be like when Chinese New Year arrives. Being in a city – walking on concrete pavements, with no beach or nature in sight as such is a little wearing, and despite the ease of living here, I don’t find Chiang Mai much different from living in any other city. We loved Bali in particular for the fact that it was so natural but also had a uniquely Balinese atmosphere.

We have exhausted the shopping mall and the night market and have no real interest in going shopping anyway. We have almost exhausted the fine dining restaurants here because there aren’t many to choose from to start with (most people seem to eat in casual restaurants or from the street food sellers who have their food carts posted on almost every roadside). Many of the tourist attractions include the mistreatment of animals in some way – whether that’s riding elephants, making monkeys do tricks, putting on a show with drugged up tigers or teasing crocodiles. None of which I am interested in experiencing.

I have no interest in seeing anything that is cruel to animals so we have made a concerted effort to avoid doing any touristy things here that exploits them in any way. That leaves extreme sports, such as white water rafting, bungy jumping and zip lining still available but apart from zip lining, and perhaps quad biking, none of those things really appeal to me either, partly because they can be done in most places in the world. And I have seen enough temples to last a lifetime. So basically, what I’m saying is, we have kind of run out of things to do! The highlight of our trip thus far has definitely been seeing the elephants at the elephant sanctuary and I’m not really expecting to be able to top that but I would have at least expected to find some interesting things to do here other than visiting imprisoned animals and going shopping.

We haven’t tried out any of the spa’s yet here so that’s something we are going to do very soon, and then there’s the national parks, of which they have plenty of and which look amazing, but other than that, there’s only so much pounding of concrete I can do and afterall, I’m from London, we have plenty of concrete to pound.

We went to the cinema today – the one that is in the shopping mall. Surprisingly, the cinema was almost empty, despite it being their discount cinema ticket day and despite them hyping up this film that I didn’t know the name of or what it was supposed to be  about. It was an American film with Thai subtitles so needless to say, it was another ultra commercial American blockbusters with special effects up the hoo har type of film. Not my kind of thing. But they were advertising the new Black Panther film which is coming out on the 15th February which was cool. Before the film started, before the related promotional films came on suddenly everyone in the auditorium stood up and on screen a picture appeared of their since deceased King (who died last October I believe and who they are partly still in mourning for), and unbelievably, everyone there (including us_ was required to stand and listen to the kings song which was played with an accompanying film of him standing very solemnly whilst people bowed and bestowed blessings upon him for about 7 minutes. It was very odd I have to say.

Food here has been a bit of a challenge. We are walking distance from lots of restaurants in theory but most of them are Thai restaurants and I have been having Thai food almost everyday for 2 months so I’m getting kind of sick of it. This means that we have had to go to the shopping mall for food which has it’s own food hall but most of the restaurants are Japanese (which is fine if you want sushi everyday but we’ve had it twice already since being here). The other restaurants in the mall are just peculiar – the menu’s are either not in English, but in Thai or even Chinese sometimes, or they don’t have a list of the ingredients in the foods they are offering. Instead of knowing what is in the food, you have to look at the pictures provided and guess what might be in it. That does not appeal to me and of course, being in Asia, they do eat a lot of questionable things such as Duck Lips for instance (trust me that IS a thing).

My eyebrows need doing and I can’t find a salon that does eyebrow threading. Thankfully my beauty regime is minimal at the best of times and even more so here as even though my skin is probably the worst it’s ever been in the 4 months been here (due to the fact that we’re in the city which is full of pollution and despite the glorious weather are spending more time indoors due to the fact that it’s both busy and noisy outside), I have been able to keep it in check with my trusty Liz Earle skin regime, but the eyebrow thing is beginning to annoy as I can only seem to find salons here that do eyebrow waxing but not threading.

I walked into the only salon I could find the other day that advertised that they did eyebrow waxing and finally after much towing and frowing as the lady couldn’t speak a word of English and had a mouth mask on (very popular here in Asia due to the pollution), I finally understood that she wanted me to follow her to another salon. I didn’t really understand why as the sign outside said that they done eyebrow waxing there but I was so desperate to have it done that I decided to follow her. About 4 minutes walk and we arrived at another salon (which looked new as it didn’t even have any signage up) and I followed her inside. I wasn’t sure whether she was dropping me off so that another person could do my eyebrows or whether she would be doing it herself but after asking me to follow her into a private room I understood that she would be doing it.

Since I hadn’t planned to go to the salon that day I was still wearing my eyebrow pencil but I assumed she would just wipe it off as all technicians do but she didn’t. This woman was by far the most gentle I have ever experienced doing this technique, which by rights should hurt as it’s removing hair from it’s roots in one yank. But everytime she pulled the waxy strip off my skin she apologised and patted the sore area as if to ease the throbbing. I couldn’t work out how she could possibly do a decent job when she hadn’t even removed the eyebrow pencil that was still on my eyebrows – how could she see what needed waxing even?

But I was left assured that she was infact fully committed to doing a good job when I felt a cooling gel being gently applied to my eyelids to ease the soreness and rose water being dabbed on my forehead and above my brows, the sweetness of which filled my nostrils and magically seemed to numb the pain. She was so gentle that I couldn’t even feel the tweezers plucking the stray hairs or the scissors trimming the unruly ones but by the time she had finished I was delighted and surprised to find that she had done a good job – a great job infact, better then many I’ve had in England – my eyebrows were neat, she hadn’t touched the eyebrow pencil at all – it was still in one piece and I now smelt like of a bed of roses. Happy days.

Whilst I was having my eyebrows done Josh was at the local barbers having his hair cut but rather then coming out looking like a well groomed Josh, his hairstyle came out more closely resembling Kim Jong Un’s, lol.

When I get back to the UK, which is in a mere 2 weeks would you believe, I am looking forward to seeing my cats of course, getting my house back in order (as I have had 2 strangers living there for the past 4 months and have no idea how they have left it), seeing my family  – of course a big highlight, and then believe it or not I am going to need to prepare myself for work as I will be back to work on the Monday and I also have my perfume workshops to prepare for as despite me not doing any advertising whatsoever whilst I have been away I have sold out almost 3 of my workshops.

Chinese Picture Taking

There are a couple of things I have noticed since being in Asia for a substantial amount of time and that is the clone like way of the Chinese who seem intent on looking exactly the same and doing exactly the same things. Tis annoying enough having to dodge their umbrella’s for fear of them getting darker but there is another thing I find annoying too, and that is of course their constant picture taking. It is something that I noticed first when I was in Santorini, Greece when literally swarms of them turned up with camera’s, tripods, selfie sticks and phones and took pictures from dusk til dawn, allday everyday of themselves mainly, but occasionally of the staggeringly beautiful surroundings. I found it odd then and I find it odd now that they seemingly are unable to function without either of these devices especially when it’s pointed at themselves. They are on their phones taking pictures of themselves incessantly, and it doesn’t matter whether they are alone or in a group, infact they scarcely talk to one another if they are in a group asides from to show, take or share pictures. It is both predictable and a little sad I have to say. For if everyone you know is doing exactly the same thing at exactly the same time always, how do you become an individual? If you all share exactly the same interests with exactly the same tastes, how can you be different? I would say it’s fascinating but I don’t find it to be so really. I find it more than a little peculiar and a little bit sad.

 

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Monks lose their way too 🙂

Songthaew Commuting 

Songthaews are the main local mode of transportation in Thailand. Unlike in Bali, when we got around using our motorbike, and in Koh Samui, when we hired a car, we have been commuting via this very popular and regular mode of transport in Chiang Mai. These vehicles are like converted lorrys/buses with the windows more like slightly wider slits that you can barely see out of, the back where you enter has no door and rather then having individual seats facing forwards they have two long seats adjacent to each other where about 7 or 8 people can get in either side. There are lots of them around the city and you just hail them like you would a black taxi. The difference of course between them and the black taxi’s are that the ride isn’t as comfortable and you share it with others who the driver picks up along the way BUT the price is UNBELIEVABLY CHEAP. CRIMINALLY CHEAP. INSANELY CHEAP. For a mere 80 p you can basically be taken anywhere in the city you want to go and most of the time because there are so many Songthaews in the city, you don’t have to share yours with anyone. It just makes you realise how expensive things are in the UK and ultimately, how much we are all being ripped off!

Asides from being a reliable and cheap way to get around we have also got into conversations with a couple of tourists in the Songthaew too. For some reason, despite the fact that it’s so cheap, the locals do not seem to use the Songthaew. I guess most of them have a scooter but for all of the other tourists in Chiang Mai is seems ridiculous not to take advantage of something this reasonable and thus we have met and got talking to people all the way from Canada, to Sweden to Bangkok. And they all have the same story: They’re here to escape the winter!

Since being here I am pleased to say that I still haven’t seen ANY stray dogs whatsoever. I’ve seen a few gecko’s but none in or around our apartment and despite me not wearing any insect repellent at any point in time whilst arriving here I have literally only been bitten once on my ankle. Other then that I have been mosquito and therefore Skeeter Syndrome free! Usually I am terrorised by mosquitoes so this really is something special as it’s very hot here and I haven’t been wearing any protection. Unbelievable. It must have something to do with the climate, which as I’ve described is very hot but also very dry and quite chilly in the early morning and evenings which is when they usually come out to munch on people.

Fern Forest

Despite my love of Dom’s Cafe, with it’s tasty steamed chicken buns and coconut rolls, I was determined to find another cafe that we could go to so when I came across one called Fern Forest Cafe, near the Old Town, which had a rainforest theme, surrounded by trees and plants in a pretty and quaint courtyard, I was sold. When we arrived to see the dappled streams of sunlight coming through the trees with the feeling of being in an English country garden in spring I was very happy. I had been searching for a place like this in Chiang Mai. Somewhere that was in the city but didn’t look or feel like it was in the city and here it was. Off a busy road, hidden from view, we arrived to find a natural, leafy sanctuary, surrounded by fern trees within it’s own walled garden. Within it there was a waterfall and steam being gently pumped from a multitude of hidden mechanisms which created the look and feel of you being within an actual rainforest. The sound of birds relax you and the service is friendly but calm. It is a magical and tranquil place. Fern Forest is definitely our favourite place in Chiang Mai thus far and they have live jazz on Sundays too which we look forward to checking out!

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Fern Forest Cafe – a rainforest in the city!

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A Fern Forest special -pancakes with fruit and cream

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Dom’s Cafes legendary Coconut Roll Cake

Reject Westeners

I thought I’d left the perves behind me in Koh Samui but it appears they are here too, in Chiang Mai. The amount of Western men who are here with their Thai brides or seeking Thai brides is staggering, and I’d like to think that this is mostly a perfectly normal union but alas I fear it is not. Most of the Western men I have seen here are with Thai women who are far younger, and far more attractive then them, understandably can hardly speak a word of English (and vice versa it’s fair to say), and similarly to what Trump (who is a big fool) said of the Mexicans “They’re not bringing their best”. Well I can certainly confirm that the men here, waltzing around with their Thai women are most definitely NOT the best of the West. Infact I could say that in most cases from what I’ve seen, they are the worst.

The worst how you ask? Well put it this way, the men I have seen here, are not the most attractive, not the most intelligent, not the most interesting, and not the most well to do – so they are indeed some of the dregs. They are the ones that that the Western women do not want and therefore they come here to be welcomed with open arms by the Asian women who either do not know any better or who have been brainwashed into believing (as have most of the world), that any white man equals a prize to shout about. It does not. Sorry. Some of these men are bloody awful! I have seen them, I have heard them and all I can do is shake my head. A terrible, terrible state of affairs.

The Bed of Rock

The bed in our apartment is bloody uncomfortable. It is so hard that it actually gives us aches and pains when we wake up in the morning! I couldn’t tell you the last time that I’d actually had a restful sleep – it was probably back in Bali at Sense, Canggu where the bed was huge and luxurious, not to mention creature free. In our villa in Koh Samui I slept badly too as I was constantly awoken by the sound of gecko’s and tookay’s running rampant and now our bed is so hard it hurts. Not great!

Saturday Night Market

I thought I was all nightmarketed out but we heard about yet another nightmarket, called the Saturday night market which was supposed to be one of the better ones so we decided to check it out. We arrived late but still we could see that it was far better then the ones we had been to previously because we could actually walk as the streets the stalls were posted on seemed a little less narrow, the sellers were selling some original things lots of which we’d never seen before, and of course it was huge. We didn’t get to see all of it but we did get the general scale of its so we concluded that it would definitely be worth going to earlier and checking it out properly. Whilst we were there we went to a cafe for dinner where our meal cost £6 (TOTAL not each) including alcohol. These kinds of obscenely low prices is why Chiang Mai is so popular! The food was delicious too.

On our way home we came across two stall sellers, a couple, and they had 2 adorable dogs with them, one of which was a Pomeranian (the breed of dog I’ve always wanted) and one of which was white, smaller and fluffier breed that I didn’t recognise. They were utterly adorable, and just sat on their designated areas – a box for the fluffy white dog, and a chair for the caramel coloured Pomeranian who was wearing a fitted checked shirt. These dogs were clearly pampered pooches but unlike the pampered pooches that I usually see around town, these two were very well behaved! They didn’t bark, they didn’t mind people oohing and ahhing over them as you couldn’t help but do, they didn’t mind being stroked and they sat obediently on their respective posts. They were so cute it was painful! Especially the boy in the tailored shirt, who had been groomed to have a big fluffy head and a short haired body. He looked like a mini fox. A cute mini fox I hasten to add!

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The fluffy one 

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The adorable Pomeranian

The Pong that Ponged

Whilst we’ve been in Thailand we have had a few massage treatments, though not in Chiang Mai yet, one of which was a herbal compress treatment which incorporates the use of a bunch of herbs, specially chosen for their health benefits, bound tightly in a woven fabric which is then emersed in water and heated then applied to the skin and massaged with. It is said to relieve tightness and relax the muscles and I had tried it myself in Koh Samui and thought it was great but I wasn’t a big fan of the smell, afterall it was herbs and not necessarily supposed to be olfactorily pleasing. So when we came across a seller selling these herbal balls in various sizes at the market I wasn’t inclined to buy any but Josh has been suffering from a bad back for the past couple of weeks and said he wanted to buy one to see whether it worked to ease his pain and afterall, it was only a pound! A pound I tell you! I said I would be interested in trying it too since my Mum suffers from a constantly aching arm so perhaps she might benefit from it so we got one.

The following day I used the herbal ball on Josh and I got the shock of my life. The thing was POTENT. We had to sprinkle some water on it first and then put it in the microwave to heat it up but when I opened the microwave door a pong such as I never believed could be produced from such a harmless looking thing rushed up my nose and almost knocked me out. This thing smelt like weed and Cerasee, a vile tasting bush plant that’s grown in Jamaica and is drunk to cure ailments, and suddenly our whole apartment stunk of the stuff. I gave Josh a massage with the thing but the smell was so intense and getting steadily stronger as the herbs were released with each kneading stroke it that I had to cease breathing through my nose and switch to breathing through my mouth and Josh, the patient himself, was also getting a whiff of the stuff and said that the fumes were making him high, lol.

As I had done the massage on our bed I was dismayed to later find the smell of the herbs had permeated the bed all the way down to the mattress and I was convinced that had anyone walked past our apartment at that very moment, they would have thought that we were growing weed up in there! I’m not sure that I can transport this thing back to the UK!

Calm Massage

A massage at this perfectly sweet place called Calm Massage is as cheap as £11.00 for an hour so needless to say Josh and I were only too happy to pay that to get 60 glorious minutes of  authentic thai relaxation. And I did feel very calm afterwards. Positively lightheaded infact!

 

 

Week 1 in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Week 1 in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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As soon as we arrived in Chiang Mai we were greeted with a sun so intense it almost scorched both our eyebrows off. Before we had left Koh Samui for Chiang Mai we had been warned by various people there, including our villa’s cleaners and the staff at the Anantara hotel in Samui, that Chiang Mai was cold at this time of year so we were a half expecting to have to purchase coats when we arrived but as it turned out it couldn’t possibly have been hotter.

When we checked the forecast for the coming week all we could see was wall to wall sunshine on the horizon and it was due to be even hotter then the time we spent in Koh Samui and Bali combined! Woo hoo!

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I hadn’t done much research on Chiang Mai before we arrived there so I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that it was a very popular destination for travellers because of it’s temperate climate, had an abundance of things to do, and was even cheaper then Koh Samui. And I also knew that this was the home of Thai Elephants.

Seeing elephants, up close and personal in their natural surroundings, living their lives happy and free, was something that I always wanted to see whilst I was in Thailand. And in Chiang Mai, because it was located in the mountains, there was an abundance of elephants, lots who had been taken into good and into not so good care by sanctuary’s once the law was passed a few years ago that they mustn’t be used for work. But many of the sanctuary’s, indeed the vast majority of them in Asia, used the animals instead as ploys for tourism and allowed these beautiful, intelligent creatures of majesty and awe to be ridden. Not only did not I not want to ride an elephant, I also did not want to even see them being ridden as the thought of an elephant, so graceful a creature, being used in this way for our cheap human titillation made me feel very sad. So Josh and I had decided that the only way that we would want to see an elephant in Thailand is if it were free, and by that we meant no chains, no ropes and NO RIDING.

Our accommodation whilst we were in Chiang Mai was in the heart of the city. This time I knew that we had picked the right location for our travels as our condominium was located just a few minutes walk away from the very glamorous MAYA shopping mall, and just off the hugely popular Nimmanhaemin  Road, considered to be the most upmarket area of Chiang Mai with it’s abundance of boutique shops, bars, spas, restaurants and luxury condo’s and though our condo was not as new as two of the other properties we had stayed at, namely Pumpkin Village in Ubud and Bali and Sense in Canggu, Bali, The Nimmana, where we were going to be staying for the next month, was one of the newest condominiums in this part of Chiang Mai, which meant that we were one of only a handful of people to stay in our apartment which we had booked directly through the owner on Airbnb.

Chiang Mai itself I soon found out was actually a very busy city. It offered access to the mountains, vast national parks and temples but it was still a city with lots of traffic and noise and absolutely no beaches but I was thankful when we pulled up to our new apartment that it was largely shielded from the noise. The Nimmana was a high rise building, with around 350 individual private apartments. With high security posted at the entrance 24 hours a day and key card access to the lift, rooms and floors, it felt very safe indeed. Along with it’s great location on Nimmanhaemin Road, it also had a huge pool, a sauna and a gym, which for Josh and me, meant that we would have to find yet another reason to evade exercise, lol.

Our apartment was on the 4th floor and in stark contrast to our previous villa in Koh Samui, was a bijou 1 bedroom apartment which was ultra modern, extremely clean and had a balcony that overlooked the pool area. The owner was Chinese and perhaps had never even stepped foot in the property judging by how immaculate the place was and the choice of glamorous interiors. Perhaps she had just purchased the apartment as an investment and hadn’t even lived there.

After being what was seriously beginning to feel like being under siege by the steady stream of gecko’s that were waltzing brazenly into our home back in Samui, I breathed a sigh of relief as I knew that now, finally I could get some undisturbed sleep as I realised that somewhere as clean and new as this was extremely unlikely to have any gecko’s at all. And I was right. There were absolutely no gecko’s to be found! And unlike in Bali and Koh Samui, though admittedly Bali was far worse, since arriving in Chiang Mai we had seen absolutely no dogs whatsoever!

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Our apartment at The Nimmana in Chiang Mai 

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The feeling of Chiang Mai, when we dropped our bags in our apartment and went for a walk couldn’t possibly have been anymore different from how it felt to walk in Koh Samui. It was very busy, with people, cars, bikes and taxi’s everywhere and it had a real buzz about it. The climate was dry and intensely warm, like the best summers day in England you could possibly imagine. It was nothing like Bali’s climate, which was very humid, and nothing like Koh Samui, which was generally overcast for our entire stay. Instead here it was sunny, warm and dry – almost spring like. The weather was ideal – I couldn’t for the life of me work out what on earth the people in Koh Samui were talking about – it was by far the best weather we had experienced so far!

Strolling around we could already see why Chiang Mai had such a good reputation and why there were so many people walking around with backpacks (who were clearly travellers like us). It was because it had a distinctive vibe about it, wasn’t overly commercial but it had lots of shopping centres, cafe’s, quirky little shops and restaurants serving everything from Japanese to Iraqi cuisine but it was still very Thai. The highly rated MAYA mall, when we got to it, looked to me like a smaller version of Westfield back in London and it was very glamorous indeed. Infact I was quite shocked to see how much money had clearly been spent on this shopping mall, and the surrounding area. MAYA looked like a huge crystal maze and another glamorous new shopping centre named One Nimman that was due to be officially open looked like Thailand’s version of Covent Garden. It was lovely!

These establishments clearly had some money behind them – they looked far better then any shopping mall I had been to in Koh Samui, infact right now, Chiang Mai was putting Samui to shame!

We checked out the mall which was a multi-storied extravaganza of floors selling a minimal amount of clothes (compared to UK stores) on the 1st floor along with makeup and fragrance, on the second floor there was sports ware, some clothes shops and homewares, the third floor the entire floor was pretty much dedicated to electronics everything from phones to camera’s, the fifth floor had a food hall, where we popped into a Japanese restaurant called Fuji to have some sushi  – so good! And then on the floor above that was an arcade, a social hub/co-working space, a cinema that was also showing 4K movies, a normal gym and a Muay Thai gym where you could sign up and learn Muay Thai in just a month. And the best thing about it was that even if you didn’t want to learn Muay Thai you could just sit there and watch them spar. So cool! And then on the floor above that there was rooftop bars that were only open in the evening.

London had a lot to learn when it came to the variety of shops available in it’s super duper shopping malls as far as I was concerned. In particular, when it came to providing places for people to work, such as this co-working space which almost took up half the 6th floor of the MAYA mall. It was amazing. Lots of break out spaces and private meeting rooms aswell as desks and benches to work from and it was open 24 hours a day allday everyday.

On our way back down the escalator we almost walked smack bang into an Anantara Vacation Club presentation table. When Josh saw it he pointed it out to me and we had a private chuckle amongst ourselves but again, the lure of the free gift vouchers proved to be too strong and by the time we had arrived back at our apartment we had decided that we were going to go again meaning, that we were going to approach Anantara pretending to be yet another couple (for the third time in our travels) in order to try and get some more of these vouchers. We decided that tomorrow would be the day!

We had a clear plan in mind. All we wanted was to get the free Anantara vouchers and for that we knew that we would have to sit through another one of their presentations only this time, we would have never been to the Chiang Mai Anantara before so we didn’t need to worry about being spotted (unless of course the Koh Samui branch had alerted them of our scam), lol.

The way we saw it was we were just claiming what they were offering though of course to claim what they were offering we would still need to pretend to be someone else then who we had been previously, lol so when we approached the Anantara desk in the mall casually as if to enquire about their Vacation Club out of interest, we gave them the names of Vanessa Thomas and Rob Jackson, a mixup of my mums maiden surname and my current surname and his brothers and my sisters first names to allow us to remember them more easily, and a new address etc and then they booked us in for the presentation the following day. Since we didn’t have any transport yet and we were staying in an apartment not a hotel we knew that it would be fine if they picked us up from our apartment this time since the security guards at our apartment didn’t know the names of who was staying in the condo’s. Once again, so far anyway, our audacity had taken us through to the next stage and we were feeling very confident indeed!

Ginger & Kafe

That night we went to a Thai fine dining restaurant in the Old City called Ginger & Kafe, which was in a part of the City that still retained some of the earlier Chiang Mai before it was rebuilt and expanded. The restaurant was very quirky and colourful and the food excellent. It had come highly rated and I could certainly attest to the quality of the food and the thoughtfulness of the interiors. It also had another more casual restaurant attached which looked pretty good also and there was a garden which looked like it might be a nice place to go for afternoon tea in the daytime.

Anantara Part 3

The fact was that we quite enjoyed hearing these presentations. Well I did anyway. Partly, I was interested in luxury travel and that was what they were selling, partly, I really liked the brand, partly I was amused by William and his antics and partly I wanted those generous vouchers again. Since they were picking us up from home and dropping us back, offering us tea and coffee and taking us around the resort to promote the Anantara brand, I thought that it was a pretty good deal for a couple of hours of our time. And at no point in time were me and Josh in the market for signing up to a Vacation Club anyway even if it was one of the more appealing ones. Still, when we arrived I felt the familiar buzz of anticipation, both with the excitement of possibly getting found out, wondering what kind of sales person we might get and what they might say as it seemed to me so far that every presentation was different depending on who you got. The first girl wasn’t very convincing at all, the second guy was better and we were given more information about the vacation club then the girl had provided. We wondered who we’d get this time?

We got an English man. As soon as I saw the guy I started to feel slightly uneasy for if there was going to be anyone to sniff out our identity’s then this guy would be the one to do so. He seemed nice enough though so I told myself to just relax and keep to the story of me being Vanessa and Josh being Rob and we’d be alright.

He began the presentation by trying to find out a little more about us, our travel habits, our holiday plans, our holiday budget. I had previously been warned by Josh to let him doing the talking since this being our third time it was likely to be a little more tricky with the details. I was under the impression that since there was no possible way for this man to convince us to sign up to his scheme it didn’t really matter what I said, but I vowed to listen to Josh. I would keep it zipped. It didn’t take long before I think we both realised that this guy, coupled with the fact that he was a native english speaker from our own country and so naturally had more in common with us then a Malaysian salesperson, he was actually pretty good.

So much so infact that by the time he got halfway through his presentation, despite me hearing this presentation 2 times before just a few weeks ago, despite the offer being pretty much the same, and despite the fact that we were only there for the vouchers and were not in the market for a timeshare at all, I was almost ready to sign up. And so was Josh! But surely he was just telling you what you had already heard? I hear you ask. Well yes and no, he was throwing in a few extra’s but also, more importantly I think, he showed us ways of getting the most out of our “points” and scamming the system that was trying to scam us in a way, he showed us more options then we knew had existed before and also he took us around the hotel grounds and to a show apartment to give us an example of what we would be getting if we signed up and of course I liked it very much.

The show apartment, which highlighted both the spaciousness and the distinctive Asian inspired Anantara style, was great, and getting access to all of the facilities in the hotel was a bonus. Perhaps to the salesman, whose name was Julian, it was starting to look as if he was wearing us down and maybe he was, well me anyway, as when I thought about all of the amazing locations the hotels were located in, many of where I’d never even considered going before such as Abu Dhabi and Mozambique, coupled with the ones I had such as Sri Lanka and Brazil, it was starting to make sense to me.

Did we like this brand? Yes. Could we afford it – technically yes if we were able to pay in installments. And the key question from him to us: Would there be anything that would stop you having a holiday within the next 5 years time? – this is where I had to keep schtoom because I knew in my heart of hearts that there was literally nothing that could keep me from travelling within the next 5 years time but I knew that Josh didn’t want to be backed into a corner by this guy as though he was also feeling the pressure with the deal looking more and more impressive by the minute, he was the logical one and had no intention of signing up to this club. But when Julian went to go to the toilet Josh admitted to me that if we hadn’t fraudulently used different names in order to get the free vouchers then there was a very strong possibility that he would have considered signing up. But now obviously we could not.

When we walked out of the Anantara with our third lot of vouchers in hand, this time we felt a little differently then the times before. It didn’t have the sense of naughtiness and excitement attached to it, perhaps in part because we’d played this game a few times now and maybe had gotten used to winning. But it was also because we felt that an opportunity had been missed that though expensive yes, would have opened up new and exciting possibilities for Josh and I in our travelling life and thus we have decided that when the time is right we will revisit the idea again for the purpose of seriously considering it.  So in that way, maybe they will win afterall!

IMG_1458The Anantara at night: Schmancy even then!

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Night Bazaar

The night bazaar is a huge area spanning 1 kilometre of food stalls, craft sellers, clothes, art and trinkets. You name it – the night bazaar has it. Open every night from 18:00 till around midnight like Fisherman’s Village the stalls can be browsed for literally hours in a continuous succession of shoppers delight. It is infact so big and so spread out with side streets here there and everywhere, coupled with live music, restaurants and spa’s vying for attention, that it almost impossible to deny yourself the lures of the things being sold even despite the fact that many of the same things are being sold just a few tables down. Night markets are a hugely popular part of the Thai culture and the tourists just love it. Strolling around Josh and I almost (almost!) managed to ignore the pull of the stall sellers but then I saw some pink fisherman’s trousers that I liked so I bought myself a pair and Josh got himself some blue ones. These are the kinds of things people buy here in Thailand knowing that they are probably never going to wear them again once they get home but I really like mine and they were only £4. Bargain!

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Tasty, healthy food from The Salad Concept

Soul Singer Kim Jung Un

We arrived at another part of the night market called Ploen Rudee Night Market to find an area filled with food stalls and benches which wouldn’t have looked out of place in England. It was obviously very popular as it was packed to the rafters with people from all over the world and then a band came on who apparently was going to entertain us with Soul Classics. Normally that would suggest something like Stevie Wonder or Michael Jackson, which though I had nothing against, I really would like to hear some proper soul music and not the predictable kind. So I was left left surprised and I have to say quite amused when a small, innocent looking Thai guy who looked very much Kim Jung Un, came along with a full band and started belting out the likes of Earth Wind and Fire, Roy Ayers and Rick James! And though he didn’t have an amazing voice and the backers were clearly struggling to do the harmonies that were required, I was very impressed with his attempt at singing such obviously soulful tunes that many people wouldn’t dare trying to sing and he was singing with true conviction – the man was loving every minute of it! I loved Kim Jung Un.

Chiang Mai is a huge city. There doesn’t appear to be a “centre” per say but there does appear to be a lot to discover as we have done just driving through the city. It’s a fascinating place.

Service 1921

Service 1921 was Anantara’s secret spy themed restaurant fashioned after the British consulate which the building actually was at one stage in time. The vouchers they had given us this time around they had cleverly only listed tours on the island and businesses they owned such as their spa and their restaurants but thankfully we wanted to go to their restaurant anyway so we booked a table there. Chiang Mai is a funny place as it seems quite difficult to find “fine dining” restaurants of the abundance and level that we can find elsewhere but thankfully Anantara’s Service 1921 was supposed to be one of the finest. And it was. A combination of Thai, Chinese and Japanese cuisine we had our most amazing meal there by far since arriving in Chiang Mai and the setting was suitably ambient. We used our vouchers so we didn’t pay a penny for our 3 course meal with cocktails but we enjoyed it so much that we will definitely be returning!

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My delicious and impressive “Gold Leaf” Cocktail at Service 1921

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Lip smackingly good!

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Menu’s are given to you in a spy like folder to keep with the secret agent theme 🙂

There are Chinese people everywhere here! Everywhere I tell you! Infact, there are so many Chinese people that I’m beginning to think that there’s more here then Thai people, they seem to be in the majority by far and that I guess would explain the investment in the area. We had a walk through One Nimman, the new shopping area that’s not officially open yet though alot of the shops there are and it looks amazing. It’s very high end and almost all of the shops in it are boutique brands that I’ve never heard of before including a fragrance brand called Pan Puri which I have discovered since arriving here that I’m a little obsessed with (though I refuse to pay their ridiculous prices). I refer of course to the branding itself and not the smell of the products as thus far from what I’ve smelt I haven’t been very impressed with their scents but I appreciate their eco credentials (they only use essential oils in their products) and have utterly captivating names and scent descriptions. I am definitely going to take some inspiration from them in my own business!

 But back onto the Chinese. There’s loads of them. This is clearly their number one travel destination outside of their own country and judging by the number of them in our apartment they are either living here or own properties here. Most of the businesses have signs in Thai and English but also in Chinese too which I don’t think I’ve even seen before and on some occasions there is only Chinese writing, no Thai at all! In our apartment we have a list of all the people who have stayed here and they all appear to be Chinese too like the owner.

The Chinese seem to travel en-mass, like a multi-generational group of people as if none of them have been on holiday before and what makes it more apparent when they travel in such large groups is the fact that there are hardly any pavements here (yes, no pavements), which means that you have to dodge them and their umbrella’s when you are trying to walk down the street.

The Business of Bleach

Is it raining? I hear you ask. No, it is not raining. It is infact the dryest, hottest and most pleasant climate I have experienced in a long while. And though it can get quite chilly in the evenings and early morning during the day it is lovely but these people, mostly Chinese but a few Japanese and Thai’s too I have to say, walk around with umbrella’s because they are afraid to get darker. They have an obsession with protecting their skin from the sun not because of any health reasons of course or else they would just wear sunscreen. No, they are absolutely terrified of getting darker and for a proud brown skinned lady such as I, I not only find this ridiculous for if they don’t want to get a tan then don’t come to a hot country (duh!) but also offensive, as both Josh and I have been trying to cultivate our tans and see it as a sign of good living and being well travelled, not the opposite! Some of these girls look so pale they almost look as if they are deceased. Why are you seeking the look of death? Why do you wish to appear as if your life has come to an abrupt end? WHY?- I honestly do not get it.

Of course this obsession with staying pale we all know is not just restricted to our Asian counterparts because in the black community we are just as bad if not worse, for over here, this kind of white seeking is the social norm, whereas we perhaps have not quite admitted it and overall like to pretend that we are proud of what we are whilst lusting after the opposite and buying under the counter face lightening creams – prevalent in both Nigeria and Jamaica not to mention other blessed brown places in the world.

It is upsetting to me. And utterly pointless. In almost every shop I have been in here from their small local shops to Boots they have skin lightening ingredients listed in almost every one of their products, proudly being displayed on the packaging as a benefit to the product and infact Josh has found it hard to even find a men’s face cream without the dreaded skin lightening ingredient in it. This isn’t being sold under the counter but very much on the counter, on brazen display and even in advertisements on gigantic billboards around Chiang Mai.

But what of I? – am I to also feel ashamed of my skin? Something that is a continuous battle in my own community, in my own country and certainly in the wider society? OH HELL NO. I do not seek the look of death and I would suggest that if you do that you do it in your own time and not try and force this completely un-natural nonsense upon me. For the sun is there to give you energy and colour to bring vibrancy to your skin and to your life. To hide from it is the very definition of self hate not to mention the fact that it’s not healthy to do so (in moderation of course) and I’m not down for it. Bring on the sun!!!

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Bleaching L’Oreal products for men found in Boots would you believe?!

Dash Teak House 

We went to Dash Teak House for dinner and it was great. I did try and make a reservation on the phone first but they wouldn’t take my reservation – they just told me to come down so we jumped in a taxi and went. Located down a dark and dingy, and quite frankly questionable alley with the perves of the foreigner variety, there with their short skirted Thai brides who were there scouting for more perves of the foreigner variety in small and distinctly looking seedy bars, we finally arrived at Dash.

Had we not been following our Google Maps, with the guarantee that Dash, one of the best restaurants on the island was located there, we would almost certainly have turned back as this particular road, with it’s dodgy looking unattractive English, American and French men sniffing around the much younger, and much more attractive Thai women, was not the kind of location for me. I felt dirty just venturing down it to be honest but finally we arrived and we could see that the place was heaving with people with a large Chinese contingency of about 10 people vying to get in, not to mention 6 other people in front of us but the guy at the door told us it would only be 20 minutes to get us a table so we went to the local bar and got some cocktails and less then 5 minutes he was back telling us that our table was ready.

The place was buzzing with live blues being played upstairs. We were seated in the garden so we couldn’t see the band but we could hear them and they sounded pretty good. As we had come to expect in Chiang Mai the food was both delicious and cheap! I was starting to think it was really quite criminal for food to be this cheap. It was certainly starting to become understandable why people made a life here. High quality of living and cheap as chips!

We encountered 2 cafe’s in our search for cafe’s where we could both work, one was open for 24 hours and was called Tom Tom’s fashioning itself off the Costa Coffee brand but it was huge and had actual meeting rooms in it! And then there was Dom’s, a uber cool cafe/dessert place/coffee place serving up some of the tastiest and most unique desserts I had ever seen! Things like Honey Toast with Milk Ice Cream. It is multi-level and has lots of places to sit and work and indeed we saw lots of people there with their laptops out doing just that. Reliable internet, great decor and great food, including their amazing Mulberry Cheesecake and Coconut Cake which are both to die for! What more can you ask for?

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Salmon Teriyaki, Miso Soup and Caramel Macchiato at Dom’s

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Some of my favourite snacks 

Elephant Dreams 

Finally our dreams came true and we made a plan to visit the Elephant Sanctuary. We walked into a local tour office on the high street and enquired about their Elephant Sanctuary’s whereby of course they immediately produced about 5 which allowed you to ride the elephants. I was insulted but soon realised that that is exactly what the vast majority of unthinking tourists wanted to do, and infact it was quite rare to find ones that did not allow any riding of the elephants whatsoever but that is exactly what we wanted. I did not come all the way to Thailand to see the abuse of these amazing sentient beings. Perhaps people don’t know that riding them hurts them. Perhaps they don’t care. But I do.

After finally explaining to her that I wanted a sanctuary that did not allow the riding of their elephants finally she produced some options. And it didn’t take me long to find the one I wanted to give my money to. The Ethical Elephant Sanctuary is a charity committed solely to the preservation of these amazing creatures. A family business passed down from generation to generation and providing employment to the Karen hill tribe, the elephants there have free reign, with their own personal mahout to ensure the happiness and welfare of each elephant. Local, ethical and a place that knows and cares deeply about the animals they look after. That is where I want to go. So we booked to be picked up the following day from our hotel for the almost 3 hour journey into the mountains to visit the elephants. The elephants who were truly free.

For some peculiar reason, they couldn’t give us an official time to collect us from our hotel. All they told us was that we would be collected somewhere between 6:30 am and 7:30 am in the morning for the journey into the mountains. Now that is bloody early and even earlier when you factor in the reality that for more then 3 months I haven’t been getting up any earlier then 10:00 am on average which has been really quite delicious, lol. Anyway we were picked up around 6:45 am by a fluent speaking Thai guide who so it wasn’t too bad and then we made the journey to pick up other passengers before making our way to the hills. Half way we stopped off at a local market, where we were told that we could go to the toilet and buy some food and drink if we wanted to but by the time I had seen the state of the place I decided that there was no way that I could eat there. I could just about make it to the toilet I was so freaked out that a rat or something would appear out of nowhere.

The journey into the mountains was treacherous indeed so I was very thankful to have such a skilled driver in charge of taking us there. And what made matters even worse was the fact that there was cyclists everywhere navigating the almost vertical roads on some adrenalin junkie business that I just did not understand. It was so steep that I could see that there was no way for them to stop for a rest otherwise they would just roll back down the hill, lol.

With a mixture of genuine excitement and anticipation I went to meet the elephants, for though I knew these were gentle giants I didn’t know whether today might be the day where one might decide to buck me with it’s huge head, afterall they are wild animals. But most of all, I was utterly terrified of seeing one being mistreated. I of course had never met an elephant before so wasn’t sure what to look for but in my heart I believed that I would just know and if I felt as though they weren’t being looked after and loved to within an inch of their hugely loving lives, I feared that my heart might burst with sorrow. Humans have done such harm to the world, to ourselves, the planet and to animals and I have kind of seen it all before where we’re concerned but harming an innocent animal is one of the most despicable and evil things that I can think of as they cannot protect themselves.

Thankfully I needn’t have been concerned for after we all changed into a traditional hill tribe shirt (so that they could recognise we were there to visit them so we were told), we were introduced to around 8 elephants of varying sizes and ages with 2 itty bitty babies which were the cutest things I’d ever seen in my life. And they were FREE! There were no chains, no ropes, not even an indication of any of these things and they looked both happy and healthy and very used to visiting humans. Indeed, they were the gentle giants I had imagined and hoped them to be. Thinking, feeling beings. I could sense it and my heart soared with joy. There were around 6 men and the guide there to watch over them and they spoke to them in Thai, which unbelievably the elephants seemed to understand! They were very well looked after, of that there was no doubt.

Soon we were given big buckets filled with banana’s and we were instructed to feed them one by one. A few of them were so big that I was a little afraid for I realised that if one decided to stomp on me he could very well do so without a moments hesitation and I would be done for, but I soon realised that all they wanted was their banana’s, and even though they were huge and could clearly do damage if they wanted to, when you reach out to them to hand them banana’s I could sense both the gentleness and strength in their grabbing of the banana from my hand. I didn’t like the wet, slightly rubbery feeling of their nose grabbing the banana from my hand but what did I expect? These were animals, it wasn’t going to be a clean, sanitised experience, lol. The more banana’s I gave them the more relaxed I was with them and thus they were with me. Of course I was in love. Who could not be?

After the feeding, which was surprisingly civilised considering they can eat up to 10 % of their body weight every day we were allowed to meet and stroke them including the adorable babies who were as cute and naughty as could be. Unfortunately before one of the elephants had been rescued it’s foot had been injured in a landmine incident on the border with Burma but other then that all of the elephants looked very well and relaxed. Their mahouts who stood by to play and interact with them aswell as ensure that nobody got hurt including them, and they seemed to have a wonderful and close relationship with them.

After feeding and meeting the elephants we followed them down to a mud bath where we were instructed to get in the stream with them which was filled with mud and wash them. When I envisioned bathing the elephants I had imagined it perhaps being with clean water but perhaps that was a little naive of me. Elephants loved mud of course. And it was good for the skin so after some reluctance I got changed into my bikini and got in there with them! Realising that I could get crushed between these huge beasts who seemed to be loving every minute of being in the water and having us splash them with it and rub them down with mud, I made sure that I checked my footing. The baby in particular was having an absolute blast! He loved it when we chucked water all over him and submerged himself completely in the muddy water wailing and kicking his legs as he went. He was adorable.

Afterwards we followed them into a river where we continued washing them and I was enjoying myself very much until I saw 5 gigantic lumps of doo doo floating towards me. That was when my foray into nature came to an untimely end. I had just about got with the mud situation – realising that they loved it, it was completely natural and was probably good for my skin but a doo doo bath I simply could not do!

Today I walked with elephants and I was left humbled. Truly this was one of the most memorable if not the most memorable experience of our travels thus far. 

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Baby loves his banana’s! 

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Standing next to Gentle Giants 

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They love the water! 

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Who couldn’t love these amazing animals?

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Josh with the little one 🙂 

 

 

 

Week’s 3 and 4 in Koh Samui, Thailand

Week’s 3 and 4 in Koh Samui, Thailand

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The night before my sister arrived in Thailand we were still hunting for the giant lizard that was on the loose in our villa.

We still had not found the tookay who had seemingly set up permanent residence in my sisters bedroom, and even though we could clearly hear it scratching about and running up and down the ceiling late at night, his long talons clinging, scaly tail swooshing about as he went, we simply could not locate him for love nor money and so in the end we had to call in the assistance of our villa manager Khun Tor.

When Khun Tor arrived we explained to her that Josh had sighted a tookay in my sisters bedroom more then a week ago, and we could hear it clearly every night around the same time seemingly running across the ceiling but despite our efforts, we still hadn’t managed to find him. Khun Tor went onto tell us that there had never been a tookay in the house before (as if we somehow had invite him in!), a tookay in the home was considered to be good luck by the Thai people (no thanks!), but she said that she would look for him herself.

I knew that there was no way that she was going to find him as as we had clearly stated in our text to her, we had already supposedly confined him in the bedroom but we had checked it multiple times only to find he wasn’t there and the cleaners had looked for him too and hadn’t found him, plus we had recently discovered a hole the size of a letterbox in the overhanging coving in the ceiling which he could probably fit through.

It appeared that the stupid builders had thought it a good idea when they built the villa to leave a hole in the ceiling where the ceiling light’s wiring went and it was big enough to allow tookays and gecko’s alike a perfect place to hide. This also made sense as it sounded to me as if this beast was running up and down within the ceiling as if he were trapped there or something. No, this was a job for the professionals, and by that I mean lizard removal men! Alas Khun Tor didn’t listen. She was determined to locate him herself.

She got a ladder and took it upstairs into the bedroom to attempt to peer through the hole in the ceiling to see if she could see him, to no avail. 10 minutes later she comes downstairs. It appears as though she had no idea that there were large holes in the ceiling and says that she will call someone out to come and have a look. In our short time here in Thailand, Khun Tor has impressed us with her ability to fix almost any situation with speed and ease. She seems to know everyone in Thailand and we have had a succession of cleaners, tookay hunters, pool men, gardeners, electricians, scooter rental and car rental reps at our door within a matter of minutes after alerting her to an issue. Undoubtedly she is a very busy woman, but she seems to enjoy her job and is very good at it. Though she doesn’t seem to ever respond to text messages, her command of English is very good, far better then most of the service people she deals with.

Minutes later a very small man arrives, along with one of our cleaners (the one who couldn’t find the tookay the last time), and an adorable baby girl in a pink Hello Kitty outfit who she holds on her hip. Standing next to Josh, who is 6’2, this little man looks ridiculous. What on earth will he be able to do? Yet it is him who is able to stand on the top of the ladder and almost climb right into the hole because he is so small. Plus being a local I’m sure that he has come into contact with these little critters before!

STori, Mother of Dragons, Guardian of the villa

Thankfully, whilst we were waiting for the professionals to arrive Khun Tor actually heard the tookay for herself which made me very happy as I realised that by now I was probably starting to sound as if I was going mad! Yet despite the little man, despite Josh, despite the cleaners, and despite Khun Tor, nobody could locate this bloody tookay!

By this time, with the arrival of my sister getting closer and closer I told Josh that under no circumstances could we remain in this villa if this thing was not found. Was I prepared to move again? you ask. Yes, I most definitely was. Even though we were really enjoying staying in the villa and were very comfortable there I was simply not prepared to share my home with a dragon.

So these people best find it!

Josh and I had already decided that unless they physically saw and removed this beast we would have to sleep in the main house and give up our own bedroom in the small house to my sister. They returned defeated but then seconds later another group of people, this time around 4 guys that looked like actual professionals, dressed to the nines in protective clothing, gloves and a top jaw rope – those ropes with a hoop on the end that they use to catch CROCODILES, arrived. These guys meant business! And since we knew we were dealing with a crafty fellow this is exactly what was required – professionals. The very fact that they came with this piece of equipment to deal with a tookay meant the thing I had heard about them were true: they were potentially dangerous.

Unfortunately, even though they searched the inside and outside of the house thoroughly they still did not find it. But as they were leaving and Josh and I were waving goodbye to them on the porch, with Khun Tor in her usual position talking frantically on her mobile phone, I spotted a tookay crawling gingerly on the outside of our roof as if to attempt to evade capture.  At first it did not occur to me that it could possibly be the same tookay that we had been hunting for almost 2 weeks because that one, I was convinced, was trapped in the house.

Or was it?

I pointed the tookay out to Khun Tor who looked as if she couldn’t believe her eyes upon sighting him and she yelled to the guys who were literally just about to leave that she had seen a tookay! They came back, extended this top jaw rope towards the tookay who looked very displeased to see them and then abruptly, with lightning light speed they threw the loop over his head and yanked him down and into an awaiting sack which they promptly closed and sealed firmly. But this thing wasn’t going to let them get away that easily. Oh no. He proceeded to squeal a murderous squeal before riggling violently and hissing loudly at them. This was no household pet – this was A BEAST.

It didn’t occur to me to think that this tookay, who had mysteriously appeared was infact the same tookay that we had supposedly trapped in my sisters bedroom, because they said that they hadn’t found it when they had looked and as far as I could see there wasn’t a way out, but undoubtedly, it did seem to be a big coincidence. They took the tookay away and then we said goodbye to Khun Tor.

For the next couple of hours we listened out to see if we could hear the “remaining tookay” but we didn’t hear a thing. It was really odd as usually this would be the tookay’s prime roaming time and at the time I just could not explain how it would have been able to get out of the house if it had been trapped in that room so we decided that to be on the safe side we would sleep in the main house for the next 2 nights so that we could assess the situation. This meant that when my sister arrived the next day she could sleep in the small house for the first night so that we could ensure that it was safe for her to move in.

I was a little on edge that night as although we were not sleeping in the room it had been spotted but in the twin bedroom next door, I still didn’t know whether this thing had managed to escape or not. Also, as it was twin beds that we had pushed together I kept on slipping into the cracks, but other than that I can honestly say that it was the most restful sleep that we had both had since arriving at the villa, partly because the bedroom seemed far less frowsy (or musty) then the other bedroom in the small house (perhaps this was because of the abundance of curtains that the owners seemed intent on using in it), it was far less dusty, and there were less places for gecko’s and other questionable creatures to lurch. And the bed’s were far more comfortable than our own!

The following day we got up bright and early so that we could go and pick up my sister from the airport. Since arriving in South East Asia almost 2 and a half months ago, I had had the pleasure of seeing my Aunty Jac in Bali, who had come over for a holiday with my Uncle and now, I was getting to see my sister, who we had invited over to spend some time with us in Thailand. Being a huge family person, and blessed with a close and loving family, it was important to me to maintain those family connections whilst I was away living my dreams, so to have them along with me on my travels at various points was a blessing indeed. I knew that my sister had been suffering from exhaustion back in the UK, both physically and mentally, and was desperate to get away from the doom and gloom of winter in England and get some much needed sun, and I knew that coming to the exotic natural beauty of Thailand would be just the remedy!

When we arrived at the airport we found her flight had been delayed. She had been travelling nonstop for 13 hours, with a stop over in Malaysia so I knew that she would be absolutely bushed when she arrived. I was relieved when she arrived safely and I was very happy to see her but unfortunately we had no suitable food in the house for her to eat since she is diary and gluten intolerant so I suggested that we drop her off at home first so that she could sleep whilst me and Josh went to Tesco’s to pick up some bits. Alas she said that she would rather come along so off we went to do some shopping with my sleepy sister in tow!

When we arrived back at our villa we told my sister about the current tookay situation and advised her to sleep in our bedroom for her first night there. She loved the villa, both how private it was, how well designed, comfortable and spacious it was and said that she would be happy for us to spend lots of time there just chilling out but I had other plans for her!

She had less then 2 weeks with us in Samui and I wanted her to get the very most out of it and what it had to offer. Being that it was now mine and Josh’s second time in Thailand, and in Samui specifically, we knew that we had a pretty good understanding of the very best places to go and the best things to do and I wanted her to go back having experienced a good portion of it, but of course I realised that she was tired so after a leisurely dinner, where we chilled out and chatted about what was going on back home, she retired to bed.

Tomorrow, I promised her, the fun would begin!

Fisherman’s Village Night Market

I had made a list of all of the things that I felt she should experience in her time in Samui, trying to make sure they were as varied as possible and that morning over breakfast, we went through them to identify which ones she really wanted to do and which ones we would do if we had time to and then I set about identifying which ones were weather dependant or needed booking and made the relevant reservations but the first one was really easy, as it was only a short drive away, free, and was where we went most nights for dinner: Fishermans Village.

Every Friday night Fisherman’s Village in Bophut had their legendary nightmarket and tonight was the night.

Nightmarkets were a big part of the Thai experience, and everywhere in Thailand, from Bangkok to Phuket to Samui, were capitalising on their growing popularity. It was something that seemed to be unique to Thailand, and I had certainly not experienced the sheer scale, variety and originality of this anywhere else in the world. And in Koh Samui, the Fisherman’s Village nightmarket, was the best one of them all.

Transformed into a pedestrianised street, stall sellers selling anything from dried crickets to fake handbags, handmade soaps to Bob Marley t-shirts were sold on the Fisherman’s Walk and surrounding roads by the locals. The variety of items on offer, even if they were not to my taste, or not particularly of a good quality, were still mesmerising to see in such unbelievable abundance. And the vibrancy of the streets lit up with live music, restaurants and spa’s all heaving with customers and seeing people from all over the world, who came to touch, smell, look and haggle with the local sellers over the various items for sale was quite intoxicating. Even if you weren’t there to buy, or had no interest in trying the questionable foods being sold on the food stalls (like us), it was still something worth experiencing, and admittedly the market had a little something for everyone to draw you in. My sister was completely mesmerised by all of the things on offer, and being a slight shopaholic, lol, she set about haggling with the Thai people with ease!

The Thai people are very relaxed about most things in life, and selling fake goods such as designer purses, bags and jewellery was among them. At this market you could buy all manner of designer goods, some which came from the very same manufacturers that made the “designer” goods, on brazen display, infact there were even retail shops in Samui selling fake goods such as these and they seemed to be doing very well indeed!

When we were in Samui last I picked myself up a bag and Josh got himself a watch (which is now no longer working I hasten to say). Alas, it was so cheap that he could afford to buy more then 10 of the watches for the price it would cost him to buy 1 that is why they were doing such good business here.

After escaping the lures of the nightmarket we experienced a bit of Thai hospitality at a lovely Thai restaurant called Krua we had been to before which overlooked the beach.

The tookay that we were convinced had infiltrated the villa and was hiding in my sister’s room never made another appearance, therefore it became clear to us that the one that they had removed was the same one we had heard. The following day I went into my sisters room to double check that there was nothing lurching there and almost immediately I spotted a gecko scurrying across the wall. This gecko was a slightly larger gecko, bigger then the ones that frequent our bedroom but it was a gecko nonetheless.

Could this be the “tookay” that Josh said that he saw? – it certainly made sense.

  1. The tookay they removed from the property had clearly been the same one that we had been hearing on the roof running, scratching and searching for prey as since that night we hadn’t heard a dicky bird.
  2. We never actually found the tookay that Josh reported seeing despite confining it to a bedroom, where it was too big to hide and a literal army of people searching for it. 
  3. This was a gecko that perhaps upon initial sight could have been perceived to be a tookay when infact I could clearly see that it was a gecko.  

I pointed it out to Josh and my sister and Josh got rid of the unwanted by using his favourite weapon: Dettol.

Of course I’d like to say that this gecko murder wasn’t neccessary. That I would be able to coexist with the beast shitting all over our house, scaring the bejeezers out of me everytime I opened a drawer or went to the toilet or chirping above my head whilst I was in the middle of a deep sleep, but that just isn’t true. This gecko business was starting to become unbearable. And since they did not want to take their cue that the outdoors is where they should reside and NOT my house, we had no choice but to take action. Did I feel good about giving Josh the go ahead to eradicate this critter from my life? No, I didn’t, infact I felt very sad about it as I know that it was essentially a small and defenceless creature but that doesn’t mean that I must be forced to live with it. I want it to live and I want it to thrive but NOT IN MY BATHROOM. Alas, it had to go.

On a positive note however: now that we had finally identified what the unbearable noise was that we had been hearing, seen the professionals remove the tookay from the property and dealt with the roaming gecko, my sister could now move into her room with no stress, and we could move back into ours.

Lamai and Muay Thai

We had stayed in Lamai in our previous time in Samui and though it wasn’t as quiet as Mae Nam it was still pretty lowkey in comparison to Chaweng, asides from the nights when it had it’s own nightmarket and it’s Saturday night event: Muay Thai Fighting.

The beauty of being in Thailand of course was not just it’s beaches and stunning landscapes, but it’s buddhist temples, amazing food and of course: Muay Thai. In Samui, as I’m sure all over Thailand, they were big on Muay Thai, and you could see the big fights in a huge local arena almost every week here, however I knew that they had a tradition of selling tickets to tourists at “tourists prices” and I didn’t particularly fancy sitting there watching 12 other minor fights whilst waiting for the big one to begin therefore when we found out about a Muay Thai fight that you could go and see for free, in the middle of popping into a local restaurant for a Pad Thai or perusing the local stalls for various unnecessary goods, we were sold.

The last time we saw Muay Thai fighting here it had been between young children (who seemed to be somewhere between 8 and 10 years of age) and girls, interspersed between ladyboy’s dancing in between the fights but this time, though there was a fight between young boys again (one of whom was far too cute to be fighting I thought), there was also a fight between older boys (teenagers really), young men and girls. Of course the fighting between the girls was the most enjoyable. For some reason the butch and ugly looking one seemed to believe that she was a winner as she had a very aggressive style of Muay Thai and had seemingly a large portion of the audience rooting for her, but I was rooting for the other one, who to me though less aggressive and explosive, had a more unique fighting style which if used right would certainly be the victor.

At the end of the rounds the butch looking girl started yelping and jumping up and down as if she had won but I don’t know why she thought that as the other girl clearly had the edge on her. You lost love! 

With the combination of the tasty Thai food, the variety and excitement of the nightmarkets and the Muay Thai fighting, free for all on the streets, my sister was certainly hitting the ground running with her authentic Thai experience and she was loving every minute of it.

Beach Republic

Beach Republic was one of the few beach clubs in Koh Samui, and in my opinion, the best one. It was located on a seemingly private stretch of beach and had a really cool, laid back, chilled out vibe about it. We happened to stumble upon it when we were in Thailand before and had liked it so much that we went back a further 2 times so now that we could verify both it’s quality and consistency, we decided to take my sister there. Beach Republic was great firstly because of it’s location. On a picturesque stretch of beach in Lamai, it was both private and peaceful and had an eye catching colour scheme of red which was splashed liberally throughout it’s sunbeds, beach sala’s and lanterns that were dotted all over the resort. Aswell as being a beach club, it was also a spa and a hotel, but it was so laid back there that each time we had gone there despite them telling us that the beach sala’s were reserved for hotel guests only they had allowed us to use them, and the sala’s had a great invention: they had a button on them which allowed you to call a waiter over without even having to move your head or raise your hand: Genius!

We arrived at Beach Republic in time for their Sunday Brunch, which they had every Sunday. For the cost of your ticket you could get a free cocktail and an unlimited supply of their very delicious and abundant beachside brunch. Their brunch options were so vast that it would simply be impossible to try all of what they had but I remembered in fondness how despite the fact that they were putting on essentially a buffet (which I personally am not a fan of), the food was always fresh and delicious. In the main course section you could have sushi, fresh salmon, a Sunday Roast (which was pretty good actually and had all the trimmings), various types of meats, pasta’s, salads, Thai food, fish, vegetarian dishes, rice, noodles, and there was another section where you could get fresh lobster, steaks and prawns cooked for you there and then. The Pad Thai was also cooked fresh with your choice of ingredients aswell as the pasta dishes.

Desserts, which included cheesecake, brownies, carrot cake, fresh fruit, cheese board, pana cotta, chocolate mousse and icecream were kept cool in a temperature controlled room. And the best thing of all was that there was a crepe van there too – a van where a man made fresh crepes from scratch with your choice of fillings and sauces. I chose a caramel, coconut and banana one and it was very tasty indeed. My favourite dessert combination was having a fresh caramel, coconut and banana crepe with a scoop of vanilla bean icecream on it. Deeelicious! For my main course I had vegetables in oyster sauce with egg fried rice and a mojito and I was very happy. I really didn’t need anything else.

After having lunch in the restaurant we were shown to a lounge area with big sofa’s and cushions that we could stretch out on and enjoy the stunning views of the Andaman sea lapping gently against the shore. We had completely unobstructed views but could see other islands on the horizon and with the combination of the chilled out music that was provided by the very talented resident musician who we remembered hearing play the last time, we were completely blissed out. The sea was calm, the sun was shining and it was very refreshing having a leisurely swim in the sea whilst the music was playing in the background. The musician played acoustic guitar (but acoustic guitar that was devoid of the usual cheesiness associated with acoustic guitarists), and once he finished playing the resident DJ started playing (who coincidentally, along with the resort manager was from the UK), and he was excellent. He played a combination of soul, funk and house music and played tune after tune after tune. He certainly kept the chilled out vibe going. And then we had another surprise: A saxophonist came on and played along with him for the rest of the afternoon and he was great! It was such a lovely, unusual surprise but the saxophonist was clearly very good at improvising and was able to play along with every single song even when it was booty shaking house. I loved it.

Since the beach sala was unavailable when we arrived we had been keeping our eyes open for when it was so that we could move onto it as soon as it became available and so when we saw one was empty we retreated there where we continued enjoying the good musical vibes. My sister was enjoying herself so much that she spent an extended amount of time in the sea dancing to the music and then took herself off to have a Thai massage on the beach for an hour and a half. I was glad that finally she had completely left the UK behind, with all of it’s stresses and strains and was absorbing herself fully in the moment. It was a great day. And of course I got to press the service bell which filled me with a totally unneccessary kind of joy.

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A chilled out Sunday afternoon at Beach Republic

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Beach Sala’s. Ring the bell for service!

Greenlight Cafe

The following day we took my sister down to a healthy cafe we had encountered on the island – one of a very few I’m afraid to say! Unlike Bali, which is very much a health conscious island, perhaps because of the abundance of health conscious Aussies on the island I’m not sure, Koh Samui has an abundance of fine dining results with exceptional cuisine but they aren’t so up on the allergy thing, which means that for someone like my sister who tragically is both gluten and diary intolerant, there are not many places she can go where she will have a full menu to choose from.

But Greenlight Cafe offered peace and tranquility, located down a quiet part of Fisherman’s Village, and health conscious food, a combination of vegetarian, gluten, organic and allergy considered menu and the staff there was very friendly. We both chose the gluten free pancakes as though I am not allergy ridden, I liked the sound of the pancakes that came with fruit and honey and was felt like having something sweet to eat. Josh chose a healthy salad and a fresh shake, which was named “Heaven on Earth” a bold statement indeed, but when he tasted it I could immediately tell that something heavenly had occurred as he refused to share any of it! It contained almond milk, almond butter, dates, cinnamon and cacao and when I did manage to get to sample it I really could not believe how heavenly it tasted either. It was so good it was bad. Surely this cannot be good for you! I thought.

Our pancakes, as expected were very good, but the portion size was ridiculous. As soon as I saw the 2 pancakes, which were big and fluffy and had an abundance of fruit between and on top of them, I knew that I was going to have trouble eating them, especially since they were not buttermilk ones, which tend to be a little less dense and heavy. By the time I had eaten one I was really starting to struggle and so was my sister. The last thing I wanted to do was offend these people by sending it back because it was very good but portion control was clearly not happening here as Josh’s salad was huge also. Josh managed to finish his salad but my sister and I got about 3 quarters of the way through our pancakes before we had to give up.

Chaweng Beach

The weather was glorious so we decided to take ourselves down to Chaweng Beach, the best beach on the island, for a leisurely beach day. Samui had many beaches to explore but Chaweng is the finest one of them all. It is well developed with lots of resorts and restaurants on the beach but is big enough to take them all without it becoming overcrowded or too commercialised. You could still find a lovely stretch of beach without anybody on it, plus the sand was a soft, powdery white and the sea an aquamarine blue, with almost no seaweed or floating rubbish whatsoever. I’m not a fan of swimming in dirty sea water but thankfully the sea here was crystal clear, clean and warm. It was so glorious that it was extremely difficult getting out of it and my sister certainly did not want to leave at all!

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Chaweng Beach and their £5 an hour massages 

Dinner was at a Thai restaurant in Chaweng called Red Snapper. Chaweng High street with it’s vibrant nightclub, retails shops and massage spa’s a plenty was not renowned for it’s food but Red Snapper, a Thai seafood restaurant, served some very delicious and fresh seafood including the best starter I’d had since we had arrived here: scallops and prawns on a vegetable pie with a creamy, spicy sauce. It was really really good!

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Scallop and prawn starter at Red Snapper 

The Anantara vouchers we had managed to scam so elegantly, we had decided to use in one of the most expensive restaurants, infact perhaps the most expensive and certainly the most highly rated on the island: Tree Tops. Essentially a small collection of private treehouses with their own butlers serving an extortionately priced Mediterranean menu from it’s perch above the trees and overlooking the beach and tropical gardens of the Anantara Hotel, Tree Tops was described as being the most unique dining experience Samui had to offer.

When I had come across the restaurant before and looked at the price to dine there my jaw had literally dropped. I simply could not believe that Thailand were trying to ask for more money then many of the best European restaurants, even despite the fact that it was supposed to be a once in a lifetime experience, but when I established that it was another William Heineke establishment as Tree Tops was actually a part of the Anantara Resort brand and was located on the grounds of their Chaweng branch, coincedentally which is where we went to get our second round of vouchers, I wasn’t surprised anymore as William is on a scam!

The price to dine there was so high that even our vouchers (worth just under £250 in total), was not going to cut it.

I made our reservation for a couple of days before we left the island and I sincerely hoped that they blew me away with their offerings because I had not been frequenting shoddy establishments and I knew what quality such monies should give me!!

Dr Frog’s

Dr Frog’s, despite the name, was not a French establishment serving up frogs legs, but an Italian restaurant in Lamai.

It was one of the most popular restaurants on the island for it’s food, which was fresh, good quality, authentic Italian, and it’s scenery, which had a backdrop of staggering beauty with uninterrupted views overlooking Lamai beach and the sea beyond.

Dr Frog’s also happened to be somewhere that we could use some of our vouchers at and after our disappointing experience with Happy Elephant I really wanted to use them somewhere worthy. We arrived around 17:00 just before the sun went down and we did indeed have wonderful views. My sister in particular was very impressed with how beautiful the island was in this light and we got to see a lovely sunset as we were having our cocktails. I remembered the head chef, who seemed to make a point of going over to each and every table (there were only a few occupied), and making small talk with them. He was an Italian man, and despite the many years he had clearly been working and living in Samui he still had an impressively strong accent. This gave me hope regarding the food as the appearance of him to me solidified my assumption that we were going to get some authentic and hearty Italian food. 

But instead of him going back into the kitchen to begin rolling my spinach and ricotta pasta parcels he just stood around looking bored as if he had nothing to do. But he did have something to do: My pasta! Now I was worried. Had this man fallen out of love with cooking now? Did this mean that he was getting a Thai chef to cook his authentic Italian menu? Was I going to get inferior food??

Unfortunately, yes. When our food arrived (we had all ordered various pasta dishes as we thought that they would be cooked the best), it was a disappointing experience. Josh could even have sworn that they had given him a reheated lasagne! Unacceptable!

The head chef didn’t even bother to go into the kitchen during the period that our food was being cooked to check on the quality or presentation of it. He didn’t seem even remotely bothered and instead kept on walking around with his hands behind his back, belly protruding forward whilst a Thai chef tried in earnest to follow his Italian Grandmothers recipe!! This will never do I thought: Get back in the kitchen!!

Alas, the man refused to go into the kitchen. And thus the food was average. Perhaps average was a little strong- it was still tasty, but it was without a doubt far better the last time we had been there and that was a damn shame.

Firedancers on the beach

The following day we had dinner at Coco Tam’s, the beach bar and pizzeria on Bophut beach. It’s a great place to chill out because of it’s strategically placed position on the beachfront with a view of the firedancers who performed on the beach nightly. So far we had seen them perform around 4 times already, but they changed up their routine so that it was new each time and it was always great fun and a spectacular show.

The pizzeria was a new feature of Coco Tam’s and seemed to be doing very good business. It was packed each time we went there and on a few occasions when we had wanted to eat there we couldn’t because they had no available tables and they had only been open for a couple of weeks. The pizza there was unbelievably good – my favourite is Margherita, always has been even before I stopped eating meat, and this one was unbelievably tasty. The base was fresh and perfectly cooked, the tomato sauce on the pizza was juicy and the cheese was both buttery and salty. So good!

After dinner we moved to the beanbags on the beach to watch the firedancers do their thang. They had a few new routines, some that didn’t go so well but overall it was an awe inspiring thing to watch and completely free! If this was in London they would have charged alot of money for people to see it yet here we were on the beach watching firedancers for free.

Big Buddha and the climb of death

Now that we had ticked off a few things off our list we wanted my sister to experience the more cultural side of Thailand. One of those things was going to see the Big Buddha statue and visiting Numuang Waterfalls, one of Samui’s most impressive natural waterfalls. Both of these things we had seen before, but though we told my sister that we had personally found the Big Buddha statue underwhelming, my sister still wanted to see it, which we completely understood if someone hadn’t seen something like that before, so we planned a trip to visit them both on the same day.

When we arrived at the site where the Big Buddha statue was located we were left underwhelmed again as similarly to at Tanah Lot, though perhaps not quite as desperate, there were sellers of various cheap and nasty wares posted up around the site ready and waiting for the tourists who had come to visit what was supposedly a sacred site. I was struggling to understand the correlation between the monks, who were there dishing out blessings to individuals who paid them for it, and who insisted on visitors covered up their arms and legs up before making the climb up the stairs to see the big gold Buddha and not adorning themselves with items depicting Buddha because it was offensive, and the many retail stores that surrounded the site selling cheap knick knacks to unsuspecting tourists.

Again I wondered about the validity of their claim that it was sacred when they allowed such unsacredness to occur in front of their very eyes. But perhaps they didn’t have a choice in such matters, who knows. All I knew was that once we got to the top of the staircase that lead us to the buddha all 3 of us were left underwhelmed yet again. We could see that he had had a fresh paint job that much was certain, but I could see still the unmistakable sign that he had been painted and thus the mystery remained completely nonexistent. I could see that this buddha had upkeep, I could see that he was within a supposedly sacred sight that didn’t feel very sacred at all and overall, I felt as though it would have been much more believable if he was actually a gold buddha, not just a painted gold one. Overall, I wasn’t very impressed with this tourist attraction and my sister wasn’t particularly impressed either. We left the miserable place and started making our way to Numuang Waterfalls which was on the other side of the island.

We arrived quite late to the waterfalls as the drive was much longer then we anticipated but as soon as we got there we had the pleasure of witnessing a herd of majestic elephants on their walks around the grounds. The last time we had been here we had witnessed elephants chained up in cages and it broke my heart. I love elephants and seeing them outside of their natural habitat, being ridden by humans or being chained up and prevented from living their natural, wise, immensely humbling and awe inspiring life was a painful thing to see. I remember looking into the elephants eyes and seeing a knowing there and elephants have and will remain one of my favourite animals, along with monkeys, because of the depth of understanding and emotion that you can seemingly read in their eyes. They are beautiful animals.

On this site, along with the waterfalls, they also had an area where you could do quad biking, zip lining, elephant trekking and the latest attraction: “taking a picture with tigers” which I was also not very impressed about. I wondered how on earth it was possible to take a picture with a tiger unless it were not operating within it’s normal characteristics and I had heard stories of tigers being injected by people in order to stop them from being their natural tiger selves which was just terrible. No, I did not wish to see a paralysed tiger thank you very much!

The waterfalls were located at the top a very steep hill which I remembered Josh and I had walked the last time we were here but nobody else seemed to bother because they had a contingency of 4×4 jeeps ready and waiting to take people there.

This time we decided the smart thing to do considering it was getting late and take the jeep there rather than walk. So my sister and I jumped onto the roof and away we went up through the surrounding jungle where our heads almost touched the top of trees to the beginning of the hike up to the waterfalls. When we got off we were greeted with an almost vertical climb to visit 2 of the magnificent waterfalls. Josh and I had done this hike before so we weren’t at all concerned about how strenuous the climb might be and  began making our way to the first point of the hike.

Strangely, there was now a rickety looking make shift wooden bridge crossing, that had been put up over the rocks that before we had just climbed over. I wondered what had happened that they felt they had to erect a wooden bridge? Had someone had a terrible accident here? That was entirely plausible since it was quite a treacherous climb, and was certainly not suitable for alot of people since it required climbing up steep inclines, crossing streams and balancing on rocks. But what was most disconcerting was the fact that according to the sign posted up at the start of the bridge, we should only go over it one by one!!

Why was that I wondered? And, was it one by one Asian style or one by one Westerner style? – because we have all seen the size and weight of alot of Westerners and in some cases they are worth approximately 3 Asian people on average. This was concerning. None of us were overweight but would this rickety bridge hold our weight? – we decided to take no chances and crossed it one by one with the stream rushing violently by underneath our feet. Thankfully we made it across it one piece and now we began the real climb, up the side of the waterfall to get to the next level which was hidden out of sight. Once we got there we allowed ourselves to marvel at the natural beauty and power of this water display, which cascaded over rocks with wanton abandon with a stream of sunlight from above illuminating it and tropical, dense woodland on either side. We sat on the rocks for awhile taking in our surroundings. There were a few others there too – a group of French people, who were sat on the rocks taking pictures. But apart from that it appeared that we were late to the party as we had arrived at the waterfalls just before the park was closing so we decided that it would be best to press on.

The last time Josh and I had climbed this waterfall we had done it from the other side of it, which provided a much more user friendly experience, though it had still been strenuous. But Josh, for reasons unbeknown to me, decided that he knew that way to the top of the waterfall and thus me and my sister should follow behind him. There was absolutely no signage posted up to tell us which way to go – not with text, not even with an arrow so we trusted him with the directions implicitly, but when we started climbing up essentially what was a vertical rock face which required my hands and legs to get into positions that just did not seem physically possible, I knew that something was wrong.

Did Josh know where he was taking us??

Something inside of me told me that something was not right. Partly it was because Josh isn’t the best person for directions in this relationship: I am, and partly because I know that he is a little bit fond of getting himself and therefore me into dangerous situations. But he was insistent that this was the way, even when the foot holds became smaller and smaller and further more inconspicuous and even when my eyes could see no end to this evil climb. I was especially terrified for my sister, knowing that if any one of us did have a fall (and right now I could see that it was very possible if not inevitable because this trail was not meant for random tourists), then we would be in some serious shit because we couldn’t even describe where we were.

To top things off, as if they couldn’t get any worse, was the fact that it was rapidly getting darker and being that we were in the middle of borderline jungle, we had already started hearing sounds such as none of us had ever heard in our lives and apart from us, there wasn’t anybody else around.

What kind of sound was that? A silverback gorilla perhaps??

After an especially hairy part in the climb, which required us to grab onto nonexistent rocks buried within the soil in order to hoist ourselves up, my sister had finally had enough. She said she couldn’t go further and I agreed. We seemed to be going deeper and deeper into the jungle and we didn’t even know if there was another crossing. We could just be climbing further and further then how would we get back down??

Alas, when I told Josh I did not think it wise to go any further because I knew for a fact that he was just “chancing it” and didn’t actually know whether there was a way down that way at all, he seemed positively gleeful. He was actually enjoying this! Josh was taking pleasure from our pain!

Rage and Fear

The emotions were rage and fear. My rage and my sisters fear. My fury was growing as Josh, grinning from ear to ear, tried in earnest to convince us to keep going. But my sister could not go any further and I did not want to go further because I knew that he didn’t know where the bloody hell he was taking us!! Sweat was streaming down my face at this point and my thighs were literally shaking they were being put under such pressure. I did not want to scramble further into the darkening jungle just to satisfy his boyish danger fantasies and I did not want to be responsible for anyone of us having an accident which to be completely honest, would not have been me but probably him or my sister because I was far too enraged to fall!

The biggest concern of all was that if we went any further we wouldn’t be able to get back down and that wasn’t something that I was prepared to chance especially since I couldn’t see anybody else attempting this climb but us.

Thankfully, Josh agreed to go on ahead to have a peek up the waterfall for himself to see if indeed I was right and there was no reasonable way up and finally he agreed that we should divert our journey and go across the waterfall instead, via the way of the protruding rocks which the stream was rushing over. Below that was a vertical drop but trust me when I say this was the best way down.  

One by one, we gingerly made our way over the rocks, which required a lot of skill, patience and confidence – and since there was some algae on the rocks we took our shoes off to avoid slipping.

All in all it was a horrendous experience and despite Josh’s enjoyment of the scenario I can assure you that there was nothing funny about it!!

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Big Buddha 

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Numuang Waterfalls

The following day, after the trauma of the waterfall experience my sister and I decided that we were very much in need of a spa treatment so we booked one at a resort that was nearby and we took ourselves off to Chaweng where we had a walk through the main road, which had an abundance of retail shops and markets, where both Josh and my sister were seduced into buying watches (fakes of course but very good ones!), and after that we started discussing having a spa treatment at one of the many spa’s on the high street. Another thing Thailand is renowned for, asides from their amazing cuisine, Muay Thai and famous nightmarkets are their spa’s, which they have literally hundreds of from bargain basement to ultra luxury.

You can get one in someone’s home, at your hotel, on the beach, and in many many spa’s on the road of varying quality but though Chaweng wasn’t somewhere that I would choose to walk the street looking for one necessarily (because it was a tad bit tacky), It DID have lots of spa’s and I saw nearly all of them occupied with Westerners getting a rub down before or after their night out so I chose the most luxurious and cleanest looking one that I could find and all 3 of us booked ourselves in to have an hour and a half worth of treatments. Such a thing would be unheard of in London as it was approaching 12:00 am midnight at Dusit Spa, which was when they closed. Alas the Thai people are extremely hardworking and are always accommodating so of course asking for 3 massages at 12:00 am midnight was no trouble for them at all!

We were whisked inside and almost 2 hours later – 2:00 am in the morning, we emerged refreshed and feeling limbo. My sister and I had gone for a spa package and had had both a facial and a massage and in comparison to all of my experiences in UK spa’s, the treatments here are far superior and need I say FAR FAR cheaper!!

It seems completely criminal to me that when you go to a spa in the UK, even some of the best ones simply cannot give you a proper massage. It’s almost as if you are being tickled such is the pressure they give you. It’s rubbish! And another thing is that masseuses seem to pass onto you what they themselves are feeling so for instance if they are feeling tired then they will give you a “tired massage” and if they are feeling lazy then you will get a “lazy massage”, but here in Thailand, the quality of the treatments is pretty consistent, so you feel like you always get your moneys worth, even if you’ve only spent £5 for an hours massage on the beach!

Unbelievable. Needless to say, we very much enjoyed our midnight massage and we certainly did need it after our horrendous experience at the waterfall the day before!

The following day we had booked ourselves in for a long and luxurious massage at a more pricey establishment the Peace Tropical Spa in Bophut and then we were going to a meal at one of my favourite restaurants, the wonderful Zazen.

As expected, our massage at the Peace Tropical Resort, despite the torrential tropical rain, was divine. Better then I expected and infact the best I’d had since arriving in Koh Samui. The woman who gave me the Thai massage was expert at kneading out the knots in my back and calves until they had dissipated and I was eternally grateful. I was finding that as the day went on my body, and my thighs in particular, were aching more and more, which was directly related to the strenuous and stressful hike we had done at the waterfalls. In some respects I was glad, as with all of this fine dining, occasional meat eating and minimal exercise I was feeling a little guilty for how lazy I was being, but I knew that the exercise that I done yesterday was worth about 10 sessions in the gym because my body was telling me so!

Zazen

I was so glad when I found Zazen. When Josh and I went a couple of weeks ago we had loved it so much that we vowed to return and I thought what better time to do it then when my sister was here and on their traditional Thai dancing night which they had every Thursday and Sunday.

My sister, as expected was completely blown away by their elegant but dramatic decoration and the anticipation they had created with the long coconut tree lined entrance that was sparkling with hanging fairylights on the trees.

The magical entrance required a meander through their tropical gardens which were maze-like with their complexity with huge secret doors scattered throughout. Had we not been here before I’m sure we would have lost the way alas we managed to find our way to the restaurant where we were taken to our table to enjoy the show. In all fairness, the traditional dancing seemed pretty poor in comparison to what I had experienced in Bali, and there was a male dancer who was wearing very heavy makeup, including foundation and lipstick who was a little off putting but as far as the decor, ambience and food went: Top marks. My sister absolutely loved it and even enquired about their room rates! Lol. Needless to say, they were pricey.

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Crepes Suzette at Zazen

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The magical ambience of Zazen

The Jungle Club

According to the weather forecast, tomorrows weather was going to be good so I had booked a table at The Jungle Club, a restaurant/resort located high up in the mountains with magnificent views that overlooked the whole of Koh Samui, but as my sister was leaving in a couple of days she wanted to get one last trip to the beach so we decided to go that day and then go to the beach tomorrow.

The Jungle Club, I’d had no knowledge of when I had been here previously, so it came as a great delight and surprise to me to find that such a place existed here. Located up a very steep mountain, with completely unobstructed views, was a place that had some of the best views I’d ever seen, but seemed completely secret. It was as if only a handful of people knew about this place, but I was so glad I was one of them when I saw how beautiful and tranquil it was. From this height you could see the beach, the sea and the mountains, and because it was so high, there was absolutely no noise, not from neighbours, traffic or even nature. It was almost as if we were so high up that we were above nature. I could have slept there it was so peaceful.

I wasn’t sure that the food would be anything to write home about but I was elated to find, when they brought me my raspberry, coconut and pineapple juice and then my lunch: Chicken Massaman, that everything was fresh and delicious!!

I haven’t had a massaman since being in Thailand as it’s usually made with beef but I’m telling you this one was the best I’ve had. The chicken was on the bone so it retained all of the flavour and the sauce was a rich, creamy and spicy luxuriant curry that I will remember fondly for a very long time afterwards. Delicious!

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The staggering views from The Jungle Club

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Perve Town

It is most unfortunate to say but there is a distinctly perve quality to Thailand.

I’m sure it is FAR worse in places like Phuket and Bangkok but still, the persistence of sleazy behaviour, cheap women and gold diggers persist and I feel as though it has definitely increased since we were last here. Perhaps these women decided to move to Samui from Bangkok, as more Western men were holidaying here, who knows. All I know is it’s something that you don’t get used to as more and more women seem to be standing on the street corners outside “spa’s” or “massage parlours” wearing next to nothing and even though you don’t quite understand what they’re doing there, their body language is warning women not to approach. Infact, they don’t seem particularly bothered with their own Thai men either: the only thing they seem to want is Western men, and no doubt Western bank accounts, and they flaunt their sexuality openly to get them and of course the men lap it up.

This means that sex is being openly sold everywhere, whether discreetly or otherwise and almost every Western man has a Thai girl in tow, often much much younger then him. The disparity in both culture, age and language is very blatant and I feel that both the women and the men are taking advantage of each other. It doesn’t seem to be a relationship of equals in most cases and it is a sad (and a little sickening I have to say) thing to see. This kind of sleaziness is spoiling Thailand and no doubt vexing the humble local men.

We went to Chaweng beach again but it wasn’t anything like it was the last time we went when the sun was shining and we had beautiful cloudless skies. In reality I really wasn’t feeling it as I don’t see the point in going to the beach when the sea is choppy and it’s not hot alas it was my sisters final day at the beach and she wanted to make the most of it and make the most of it she did! She had a great time splashing about and flirting with the men folk 😉

Afterwards, we thought it would be criminal if we didn’t get a massage on the beach to end our time there so we went to the first 3 masseuses we could find and each got a massage. Unfortunately, after my massage at the Peace Resort, I knew that my masseuse didn’t stand a chance in impressing me, but since it was so cheap I allowed her, however what I did not appreciate, was the strong smell of Vick’s Vapour Rub that was seemingly enthused throughout the bedding and pillow that I was lying on. I was almost choking on the bloody thing. I asked for a Coconut Oil massage NOT a Vick’s Vapour Rub massage! I wasn’t too impressed with her capabilities and method either. 

William’s on a scam

This William guy (William Heinecke), the owner of the Anantara brand, the man with 40 vehicles, and multiple businesses, so we were told by his employee’s, is on a scam. You already know about the ridiculously priced Vacation Club scam that we were so unimpressed with that we decided to sting them twice for. You already know about the Tree Tops restaurant, which is far and beyond what any restaurant should be charging in Thailand, irrespective of whether or not they have a unique location. But what you don’t know is about William’s many franchises. William has franchises of various persuasions. He doesn’t just stick to what he does well: hotels and resorts, he also has retail franchises too, such as GAP and Burger King.

There is no coffee culture to speak of in Koh Samui, perhaps because it’s more of a holiday island, but the one coffee place we had managed to find was called The Coffee Club, an Australian coffee brand which has been franchised in Thailand by none other than greedy William. When we ventured in there to get some coffee’s we were horrified to find that we were being charged over £9 for a coffee and a hot chocolate. 9 freakin pounds! What a liberty! But it did not stop there as William also wanted your passport details in return for internet access! And he only allowed you a measly 45 minutes to use it too!

Gusto

The owners of Gusto are an Italian man and his wife based in Fisherman’s Village who served up delicious, authentic Italian fare beachside. Since I wasn’t eating meat I was surprised and delighted to find an abundance of Italian restaurants on Samui serving up wonderful pizza’s and pasta dishes that I could have to replace the meat dishes there was on seemingly every other menu. And in comparison to Dr Frog’s, which was a pretty disappointing experience overall, Gusto’s was great. The owners were very warm and friendly and had managed to decorate their restaurant in such a way that it really transported you straight to Italy. Since my sister is wheat intolerant it is difficult finding Italian restaurants in particular who cater for her allergy but thankfully Gusto was only too happy to oblige and we had a wonderful meal there where she was finally able to indulge in some gluten free pasta that actually tasted good!

Lulu’s

Unbelievably, we had been without a washing machine in each of our accommodations.

In our first one in Ubud, Bali, we had been staying in a villa where there was no washing machine, and in our second place, another villa – Uncle Tom’s Cabin, he had no washing machine and neither did the following 2 hotels where we had to pay for them to do our laundry and now in our 3 bedroom villa, the largest place we’ve stayed in yet, that sleeps up to 6 people, it too, has no washing machine either! How do they justify not having a washing machine in a villa for 6 people that is big enough to accommodate one? I was so desperate to have ultra clean clothes that I had literally been dreaming of putting on a wash as soon as I moved into the villa but no.

I had been hand washing my smalls and saving my dirty clothes up to take them down to the local laundrette (of which there were many on the high street). The shops on Mae Nam high street are really more like shacks, and it is really hard to decipher what it is they are actually selling in them as they all look pretty much the same so when I saw a big sign that said “Lulu’s Laundry” I told Josh to park up. This was where I would take my laundry. When I walked into the shack like shop I was immediately taken aback by how small and cramped it was in there. There were piles of clean, ironed clothes in plastic bags to my left and to my right was an old, small and lonely looking washing machine.

I was greeted warmly by a middle aged woman carrying more piles of clothes towards me from a room down the hall. It seemed as though this “shop” might actually be this woman’s home. Lulu was very friendly and I took to her immediately. There was something in her genuine nature that reminded me of my late Aunty Cynth.

When I went to pick up my clothes from Lulu the following day at first I couldn’t see her. It appeared as though she wasn’t in the shop. We had agreed a time for me to collect my washing however so I decided to wait but after a few minutes of waiting around and nobody arriving I started to think that maybe she was in her house somewhere. I began by calling her name a few times and then started slowly walking down the passageway, all the while calling out to her as I went, before I heard the sound of a Television. Soon I came to a room and there she was, fast asleep on a bed with the covers pulled over her. I called her name gently a few times and then she roused from what was obviously a very deep sleep. I felt awful. This woman had clearly been up all night and all day washing and ironing other people’s clothes and she was knackered!

What kind of an existence is this? That she should have to live in the same place as where she works because she’s too poor for anything else? And when I heard the price she was charging for my 2 bags full of dirty clothes I couldn’t believe my ears. It was CRIMINALLY CHEAP. Something like £2.50! She was getting paid far too less. After paying her and taking my clothes I vowed to return with more clothes for her to wash and tip her generously.

Unfortunately, the clothes that she had ironed so earnestly, were not completely clean and there were still stains left on clothes that I was hoping she would have got out but after meeting her, and seeing what she was using to clean the clothes I wasn’t bothered about the clothes anymore, I just felt bad for her. The woman needs a new washing machine!

The next time we went to Lulu’s I was with my sister and she was also shocked to see the conditions this woman was living and working in but Lulu lit up when she saw me and seemed touched when I tipped her double and she even gave me a hug so hopefully I brightened her day if even just a little bit.

It was my sister’s last day in Koh Samui tomorrow and I was determined that I was going to make her last dinner a memorable one. So far, in her short time with us here she had experienced multiple massages in various settings, seen breathtaking views at The Jungle Club, chilled out and listened to some great tunes at Beach Republic’s Sunday Brunch, indulged in some retail therapy in Fisherman’s Village nightmarket, been hiking up Numuang Waterfalls, was entertained by Thai dancers, firedancers on the beach and Muay Thai Fighting, was wined and dined at the finest establishments Samui has to offer Zazen and spent days of sun soaked indulgence on beautiful white sand beaches. So I felt she had a full experience of what Samui had to offer and tonight, I was taking her to Saffron, a traditional Thai restaurant located in the hillside of the Banyan Tree’s five star resort.

Saffron

What better entrance to Saffron’s hillside location overlooking their private bay, then by golf buggy? Josh and I had experience of being transported to a restaurant via golf cart a few times whilst in Thailand and it was always a nice experience. In the main because you know that since it requires a golf buggy to get to it, you are almost certainly going to be rewarded with wonderful views when you get there. And the journey to Saffron was as exciting as it was long, as the buggy went up steeper and steeper up the hill through mysterious, coconut tree lined inclines until finally we arrived at the restaurant.

We were greeted warmly by staff wearing authentic Thai uniform and taken to our table which did indeed have the wonderful views that were promised. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that along with the menu, which was a completely Thai menu (some of the restaurant menu’s are mixed with a few select Western dishes), the restaurant had been decorated with a distinctly Asian style and they were playing traditional Thai music. The food, when it came, was also very impressive – perfectly cooked and wonderfully flavoursome.

We all agreed that Saffron had been our favourite dining experience yet. To finish the evening off we were transported back to the bottom of the hill by golf buggy. What a night!

My sister almost missed her flight as we were having a leisurely lunch at The Coffee Club when we looked at the time and realised that she should have been at the airport around 20 minutes ago and she still hadn’t packed! Time had gone by so fast whilst she was here it seemed very cruel indeed that she should have to leave so soon. Thankfully, she did make her flight in time though and then we went home to start our own evacuation procedure as we were leaving the island of Samui to go to our next destination in Chiang Mai in just a couple of days time.

We returned home to no internet so we had to go back to greedy William’s coffee shop to use the measly 45 minutes he gave to check us into our flights, communicate with our next host regarding our arrival time, plan our route to Tree Tops, which we were going to tomorrow,  and our trip to to the pier as we were going to Koh Phangan the day after, book our taxi to the airport and inform Khun Tor about our lack of wifi situation at the villa. All in 45 minutes. To say it was stressful was an understatement but we done it.

Tree Tops

Tonight was supposed to be the night to end all nights. Tree Tops was the restaurant on the island that everyone was talking about. It had won awards, was in all of the best publications touted as being one of the most unique dining experiences on the island and was charging a ridiculously extortionate price to dine there. Tree Tops, as with most of the places that Josh and I had frequented, was basically a honeymoon destination, as it was far too fancy and far too expensive for the average couple, alas we knew that we would not be going to Tree Tops either if we didn’t have the vouchers so generously given to us by Anantara. The situation with William and his greedy ways, had backfired on him terribly as chancers like us was going to use his gift voucher offer to pay for our entire meal at the Tree Tops as we were determined not to give him a penny!

I was expecting big things from this place. Of course I was. They were charging European prices and I had already been to some of the best restaurants on the island who were charging far less and were comparable to some of the best restaurants in Europe. We had the anticipation of waiting for this day to arrive for a couple of weeks now and had timed it perfectly to coincide with good weather and one of our last meals on the island.

When we arrived at the Anantara in Chaweng, which was where the Tree Tops restaurant was located, we were taken to their “sky bar”, an elevated bar area that overlooked their immaculate grounds below. There we had a cocktail and a sparkling wine, before being shown to our table, located with our own private treehouse that was accessible by a wooden candlelit staircase. We were informed by our private butler that because we had booked in advance the best table in the restaurant had been reserved for us. The view from our spacious treehouse which was above the trees and jutted out over the tropical gardens below, had a perfectly serene view of the beach, sea and mountains and the treehouse itself had been decorated very tastefully with comfortable wooden high backed chairs and gold lanterns. Undoubtedly, it was lovely but was I blown away? No, I’m afraid to say I was not. 

We decided to dine from their “candlelight degustation” menu which was their 5 course meal that came with an accompanying 5 course wine option and cost almost 4,000 baht per person, which is the equivalent to about £100 per person. We knew then that we were going to have to pay William for the privilege as our gift vouchers only totalled £180 and the meal alone was costing more. Nonetheless, we looked forward to the arrival of our food as I had specifically eaten less in order to accommodate it!

Firstly they gave us a shot each, but I still had some of my sparkling wine left so when the first wine and course arrived I started to get a little concerned because rather than giving me a little taster they had given me a full large glass of wine. However I was impressed, more with the wine I have to say, which was a Sauvignon Blanc which went with the salmon perfectly.

By the time the second course had arrived I had already been to the toilet once, which required a pretty treacherous walk in my high heels up and down steep wooden stairs with a low balcony from our treehouse. I figured that if I didn’t go to the toilet and flush out these alcoholic toxins there was a real danger of me getting very tipsy indeed. With the arrival of the second and third course I was getting more and more intoxicated. The food portions were minimal, and though cooked well, they were not sufficient both in portion size and quality to stave off the effects of the alcohol which were taking hold of me. However, despite the fact that I am not a big alcohol drinker, I like to think that I’m reasonable knowledgeable when it comes to good quality wine and these wine pairings were excellent.

For the first time perhaps, I was enjoying the wine more then the food, hence why I was draining each and every large glass they brought me and then wobbling to the toilet afterwards to drain my rapidly expanding bladder. I was now getting drunk. This I knew because the intensity of my toilet needs and my inability to walk straight had me genuinely concerned that I was going to fall from this bloody treetop to my impending death. When the fourth course arrived I was officially drunk. My head was spinning, I was barely in control of my speech and I had tried to call my brother, my mum and my sister to warble nonsense to them down the phone, thankfully to no avail. The call did not connect.

The fifth and final course I enjoyed immensely because it was a wonderful chocolate, peanut and vanilla construction that had been presented perfectly with an accompanying wine to take me over the final edge. I was now DRUNK BEYOND BELIEF.

Thankfully, even though Josh had had the same menu as me and therefore the same wine, he was driving so he didn’t drink all of the wine they gave him but in my drunken stupor, after I had been to the toilet for the seventh time since arriving, and Josh was hit with another £70 in restaurant bill even after the £180 vouchers we gave them, I finally understood what had happened: Bloody William.

This man was determined to make as money as possible, needless to say at the expense of the hard working Thai people he employed since most of his establishments were located within Thailand, and from us, a couple seeking luxurious experiences in exotic locales at reasonable cost. But this was not reasonable. The thing I treasure about being sober, is my ability to think clearly and despite my drunken status, I was still aware of the nonsense I was talking, how I was walking etc, I just didn’t or couldn’t care to do any better. But even in my drunken state, I was aware that though the food was good, and the surroundings elegant, this was not my best dining experience in Thailand.

That award had to be given to Saffron. Or even Zazen. And they both were charging FAR FAR less. But their strategy here you see, was to ply people with alcohol so that they were unaware of this fact, and it might have worked perhaps if people were a little weaker of mind, but I knew that the wine, granted, was wonderful, it went with the food well and the food was good also, but it was not exceptional, and it was Mediterranean cuisine afterall, which let’s face it, cannot compete with Thai food when it’s done well.

I was drunk because they plied me with alcohol when I arrived – a sparkling wine, a shot and then a further 5 large glasses of wine within 3 hours but the food in its portion size was not equivalent to the amount of drink they gave me. Infact, I could have eaten more.

William was greedy but he could not fool me. Despite the fact that we had paid £70 extra which we were definitely not expecting, it was still a small price to pay for the experience, which was hilarious and I will remember for a long time afterwards.

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Tree Tops

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The view from our “treehouse”

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A chocolate extravaganza!

Koh Phangan

The one thing we had yet to do whilst being in Samui was visit one of the surrounding islands. Samui was a fantastic jumping off point as Thailand had other very beautiful islands within close reach with their own lovely beaches and sights and as yet we hadn’t seen any of them so we had booked a trip to Koh Phangan, one of the closer islands, located a mere 20 minutes ferry ride away, and the site of Thailand’s famous Full Moon party, a FULL ON party that thousands of revellers from the world over attended wearing day glo and all manner of tacky wares. Taking the ferry to Koh Phangan required us waking up around 6:00 am in the morning to catch the ferry at 7:30 am from the pier but not only was I feeling completely destroyed from the drunken night before but we had also both had a restless night due to yet another freakin tookay who seemed determined to scratch his way into our abode from the rooftop. It was unbelievably loud and got louder and louder until eventually we had to change rooms (again).

I’m telling you this tookay and gecko business was becoming the bane of my life!!

We were not interested in partying, what we were interested in was their beach, one of the best in Thailand we had been informed, so when we arrived at Koh Phangan pier we booked a taxi to take us straight there.

30 minutes later and we arrived at the beach. Naan Thong Beach, almost entirely deserted by the time we got there at 8:00 am in the morning! was a lovely beach, but I didn’t see how it was better than Chaweng. Despite it being completely devoid of the commercialism that Chaweng was notorious for, with no large hotels or beach clubs in sight, I didn’t see how it could be better then Chaweng when the sea in Chaweng was bluer and the sand whiter. But as the day grew on and the sun grew stronger, casting it’s gaze on the bay, I finally I began to see the magical and unique beauty of this place.

Untouched, unspoilt, and beautifully natural with shallow, transparent coloured waters,  surrounded by mountains on both sides with a view of the misty horizon and rocks protruding from the sea, with hammocks swaying lazily between coconut trees, quiet and tranquil, finally: I understood. In Naan Thong I had found a paradise and by the end of our time there, after I had spent a hugely enjoyable time splashing in the waves, sunbathing on the rocks and burying my feet deep in it’s soft, powdery white sands, I understood: This was my true sanctum.

Tomorrow we move onto to our fourth and final destination in our travels: Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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True Sanctum in Koh Phangan 

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Bali: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and the downright FUGLY

Bali: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and the downright FUGLY

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Joy Berries Kombucha at La Brisa 

After two glorious months in Bali, “The Land of the God’s”, we have finally reached the end of our time here.

Tomorrow, we travel onwards to Thailand “The Land of Smiles, where we will be spending another two months in Koh Samui and Chiang Mai.

So, what can I tell you about Bali?..

Well, I can tell you that it is a land of contradictions and immense natural beauty and I can also tell you that we have both enjoyed our time in Bali so much that if our families weren’t so far away we could happily live here.

Bali has recently been named by Tripadvisor as, and I quote “The best destination on earth” and now that we have been here for awhile we understand why.

Since we have lived in essentially 4 different areas in Bali, including Ubud, North Kuta/Seminyak, Legian and Canggu, I feel that we are both reasonably knowledgeable about what to expect in each of these places.

Ubud is Bali’s Spiritual Centre. A magical place with an abundance of ancient temples and ancient Balinese traditions. It is a place of staggering natural beauty – a land full of magic where you can see the most beautiful rice fields, rainforests and rolling green hills. Though it wasn’t the easiest to live there, the sense of peace and tranquillity I experienced there I will always remember fondly. People go there to experience it’s beauty of course, but also for it’s more laidback way of life – the pace is much slower there then in the other places we visited. It is also well renown for it’s yoga and wellbeing culture, which I could attest to after stumbling upon places such as Karsa Spa and Clear Cafe.

North Kuta/Seminyak where we lived for 3 terrifying nights in Uncle Tom’s Rotten Cabin was a horrendous experience all in all. To cross the road to get into Seminyak Village you were essentially gambling with your life as seemingly the whole of Seminyak was on a motorbike or scooter and with no foreseeable traffic lights or road safety period, it was truly an everyman for himself type of situation, including you if you were on foot. Timing and bravery was imperative just to survive.

Though Seminyak wasn’t a bad choice of areas to stay because it was close to lots of fancy restaurants, coffee and retail shops, it was perhaps a little too busy for us and unfortunately our accommodation there left alot to be desired. Uncle Toms Cabin was a bloody shambles. To think that he had succeeded in tricking us into booking his miserable establishment via Airbnb still vexes me. I knew as soon as the cab started meandering down a dark and narrow alleyway that something was amiss. And when we clapped eyes on the bedraggled Lena the Cleaner who didn’t so much as smile at us upon our arrival I knew that we had made a grave mistake. I will also remember the dead eyed expression on her face and her monotone answer when I enquired after information about the villa. She said: “No information”

What do you mean “No information” you abominable woman?! – we booked this villa on Airbnb and it was not cheap, yet you don’t seem to know fuck all about it and have had the audacity to try and lock us out of one of our own bedrooms!

What a bloody cheek.

This slovenly looking woman didn’t even know the WIFI password for goodness sake. Plus the pool was dirty with questionable looking things languishing on the bottom. Pray tell how she can be described as a cleaner or a villa manager?! What a joke.

I felt uncomfortable the entire time I was in that place. Dirty and uncomfortable. We literally had a family of gecko’s living in our villa. Now I have nothing against gecko’s per say but they are supposed to be seen and not heard yet these ghetto gecko’s were literally fighting for territory on our ceiling!

What on earth is going on?!

Initially the notion of having an outdoor kitchen and living area sounded great! We imagined that we would sit there in the afternoon having a leisurely lunch cooked by ourselves in our kitchen and then a dip in our pool buck nekkid. Oh yes. We were very much looking forward to the ultimate sense of privacy we would feel in our very own private garden and pool. But OH NO. I was scared in that bloody place! I honestly didn’t know what I was going to see next! In the 3 short days that we were there I had seen every conceivable creature one could imagine. I know that we were inundated with those bloody caterpillars in Ubud and they were really annoying but that is something you would kind of expect living near a jungle in the middle of the countryside but this villa was in a busy city!

Why on earth are there giant snails in the garden? a worm in the pool? a spider in the bathroom? a bat on the floor? a gecko on the ceiling? rabid dogs in the alley? cockroaches on the roadside?

I’M NOT INTO IT I TELL YOU!!

After our experience at Uncle Tom’s Rotten Cabin I do not recommend outdoor kitchens at all. They look nice in the pictures but in theory unless you are happy with creatures crawling around in your cornflakes then it’s not a good look. In our villa we had to keep the 4 doors in it closed so as to not invite creatures i.e mosquitoes into our bedrooms. It was not a user friendly experience at all.

According to the pictures online the villa looked brand spanking new, clean, stylish and modern. So what the bloody hell had happened?!

Josh reminded me of our first foray into town from Uncle Toms Cabin just last night  – he asked me if I remembered seeing a lump of dog poo on a patch of artificial grass on our way there. Now if that isn’t a sign that we needed to get the hell out of there then I don’t know what is!

Legian was the worst of all. When we arrived at our hotel The Akmani we initially thought that we had done bloody well. We hadn’t been happy with Uncle Tom’s Rotten Cabin and finally, through sheer determination and a little strategy we had found a way out of our contract to stay there for a month and move to a new place, but when we arrived at our new hotel it soon became abundantly clear that we were in the wrong area: AGAIN. Despite doing my research before we had come to Bali and identifying either Seminyak or Canggu as being the best areas to stay in we had somehow been tricked into booking this Legian nastiness.

In Legian, there only seemed to be one type of person there: Loud, drunken Australian’s. I simply could not identity any other type of person asides from the Indonesian’s themselves who compared to the ones we had experienced in Ubud, also left alot to be desired. In Legian, the streets were even busier then in Seminyak with an overwhelming amount of motorbikes, cars, taxi’s and scooters crowding the roads and lots and lots of market stalls selling cheap tatt to drunken barefooted Australians crowding the pavements. There was also suddenly lots of beggars which we never saw at all in Ubud.

I reached my lowest ebb the same night we arrived when we went for a meal at Mama’s German, which had been recommended to us by staff at our hotel, but which was literally one of the most foul restaurants I had had the misfortune to dine in. Coupled with the abominable German man in there with his German sausage and far too young Indonesian girlfriend and the American man who looked like he had just escaped from Iraq, also with an Indonesian girlfriend who he never spoke a word to, and the fact that almost everyone in the restaurant was smoking a cigarette with their dinner (yes, that is okay here), I simply could not deal. Needless to say the food matched the decor and the clientele: Horrendo.

Had we of left it just a little bit longer, had we of decided to give the Akmani, and Legian as a whole more of a chance, we would have found ourselves up shit’s creek without a paddle. In short: we would have been stuck in Legian. This is because we had booked the hotel on Booking.com, who had a policy of allowing you to cancel only up to midnight on the day you arrived to incur only a minimal charge and thank goodness we had had the sense to look into those terms when we arrived in order to make the decision on the same day that we were moving. Again.

Moving to Canggu was a no brainer. We had been looking at staying there initially but eventually had become tempted by this villa in North Kuta/Seminyak that turned out to be a nightmare. Since being in Canggu I haven’t seen not one cockroach. Compare this with just 4 nights of staying in Legian/Kuta where I saw on average around 7 cockroaches looking like they were very much at home there and you will understand what I mean when I use the word FILTH. Canggu reminds both Josh and I of Ubud here, and has confirmed what we already knew: we don’t like busy cities. We don’t particularly enjoy it when there are lots of people around, or when it’s too noisy and for us cleanliness is of paramount importance. We have had that here. And what we have also had is an abundance of healthy eateries, even more so then in Ubud infact. Because Canggu is the place for healthy bodies and minds. There are lots of Yoga studio’s here and a huge surfer lifestyle.

Infact if you don’t surf (like me), then you are in the minority. It is far more chilled here too, unlike in Legian and Kuta which I assume has lots of cheesy nightclubs. The music playing in the restaurants, cafes and coffee shops in Canggu has been nothing short of amazing.  The play better music here then in any other public place in any country that I’ve been to. And that includes London. How could this possibly be? you ask. Well I really haven’t got a clue but it is a fact. I know it because I’ve shazamed music more times here then anywhere else!

Finn’s Beachclub we visited a few days ago and we had the best of times. In part this is because it’s a really cool place to go during the day, partly because of the food (I had some crepes there and they were delicious!) and partly it’s because of the music that this particular DJ was playing there. Shazam was simply unable to return any matches for my searches.

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Delicious, fresh coconut!

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Another magical sunset at Finns

A country of wonderful contradictions

Stay away from Legian and Kuta unless you like frowsiness, traffic, dirt, beggars, cigarettes, fry ups, cockroaches, or drunken Australians and Europeans on the prowl for young Indonesian girls.

Seminyak remains a good choice if you want to stay in a fancy hotel close to the beach where you can still be in walking distance to all of the great Seminyak establishments such as Sisterfields and La Favela or do some retail shopping. They also have lots of amazing interior design shops there.

Canggu is for people who want a more laid back, quieter stay in Bali that’s close to the beach but in the middle of picturesque countryside. Though it is quite developed in some areas with fancy coffee shops and healthy food restaurants etc, it is still essentially a residential area that is mainly inhabited by Indonesians. We could easily live here and be happy.

Ubud is a remote area in the centre of Indonesia, famed for it’s tourism due to it’s infamous landscapes that it has in abundance but for us it ended up being a little too remote. It does however have a special kind of magic and is a perfect holiday destination for nature lovers. And thus of course, we will be back!

Burns Victim

I have been a victim of being burnt by a boiling hot kettle.

Living with a black woman, Josh has had to endure his fare share of afro haircare duties and trials and tribulations that at the time must have seemed completely alien to him, lol.  He has (albeit extremely reluctantly and with moaning and complaining throughout) helped me to remove my micro braids, my faux locs, and just recently, I asked him to help to dip my freshly twisted hair into a kettle of boiling water (which is a technique braid and locs hairdressers use to create waves or curls) as I couldn’t quite reach the back. Now before you (Mum!) tell me how dangerous this is, I was wearing a towell at the time, and we have done it before, but on this occasion I was sitting in an awkward position on the edge of the bath and as he was dipping the ends he started telling me that the towell wasn’t on properly so naturally I began to adjust it and as I done so he accidentally poured the boiling water down my back!

I let out a loud yelp!

He felt really bad about it afterwards and I used his guilt to good effect as I played patient and he played doctor for the rest of the day. Thankfully it didn’t burn my skin, it just irritated my mosquito bite is all, which is probably a good thing!

METIS

The restaurant we went to before our party was a fine dining French restaurant in Petitenget, which incidentally wasn’t too far away from our beloved Som Chai. Petitenget was renowned as having a “restaurant strip” with some of the best restaurants in Bali (including Som Chai, Merah Putih and METIS amongst others) within walking distance of one another. I had identified METIS as being somewhere that I wanted to go to because it wasn’t just a fine dining restaurant but a fine art gallery too!

The setting, understandably considering it was an art gallery also, was suitably refined, with lots of statues for you to peruse on your way into the restaurant and the gallery had many many beautiful pieces of art, including a particularly stunning collection of paintings featuring beautiful African women and children. Alot of what they had there was vintage and clearly extremely expensive. Obviously I’m no art collector but I could see that what they had there was rare and beautiful. The food was good, Josh thought it was just okay, but it was the setting was what it was really about. Clearly the owner wanted to showcase this wares and what better way to do it then to combine the two.

The gardens that the restaurant was built around was magnificent. While we waited for Josh’s souffle to be cooked we meandered around the gardens which was essentially a huge Japanese garden with a difference. It was beautiful and very well done! In it there were various water features, statues, flowers, trees and ponds. You couldn’t possibly be bored in this garden of wonders.

La Brisa Rave Up!

La Brisa had a party to celebrate the opening of their new expanding beachclub which I didn’t quite understand as trust me this place didn’t need to be expanded AT ALL. I don’t know how many people you could get into this place, but it surely had to be thousands! Looking at it from the beach it looked deceivingly small, but once you entered it it was like a neverending maze of a place, with multiple levels, a huge swimming pool, an area for hundreds of bean bags, hideouts, lounge areas, dining areas, and if you were really smart, sleeping areas! It was still our favourite place of all in Canggu so when they invited Josh and us to their upcoming party that was happening 2 days before we left Bali of course we said we’d go. As it was, we had been there, to Sisterfields and to Peloton enough times that the staff remembered us in each place. Not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing!

When we got to La Brisa it had just started to rain but that didn’t stop the people from arriving in their droves for the best party on the island! What I loved most about La Brisa was it’s mystery – it had so much magic to offer and most people didn’t even know it existed! But I had seen posters advertising this party as far as Seminyak so I knew that the place would be jumping. And it was. The DJ was playing some bangers, and for the first time since arriving in this sleepy part of the countryside I was about to really get down and it felt GOOD. By the end of it both Josh and I were sweating hard as La Brisa had the benefit of a good sound system and great house DJ playing.

When we got too hot we were able to go directly from the club onto the beach and watch the waves crash against the shore. It was a luxury I had never experienced in London and knew that I never would.

The Motorcycle Accident 

On our way back home following a great evening at METIS for dinner and then onto the party at La Brisa, we had a motorcycle accident and I injured my foot. This time, it was because Josh had misjudged the space between our scooter and the literally thousands of others that were parked on the beach, and when he went to drive through a very tight space at speed between the parked scooters he accidentally scraped my foot against one of the parked vehicles causing me to yelp loudly! again.

Josh has asked me not to report these abuses as he feels too awful and embarrassed by them but what good is the story to leave such scenarios out? lol. My foot is fine anyway, I just scraped it a little but the irony was not lost on either of us as we have literally had a scooter everyday for a whole 2 months driving it here, there and everywhere and we have never had an accident of any kind despite being in many hairy moments on the road! Josh is a very safe driver normally yet 2 days before we leave Bali we have an accident in the bloody car park! Typical.

 Unique Indonesia

At Clear Cafe, they have a restaurant and a spa.

At METIS, they have a fine dining restaurant and a fine art gallery.

At Deus Ex Machina, they have a motorbike shop, a cafe, a barbershop, a surfboard shop and a tattoo shop.

At Dandelion (which coincedentally had the friendlist staff I have encountered anywhere!), they have a restaurant and pet rabbits.

THIS is essentially what makes Bali unique – the ability to blend so many different concepts so effortlessly. For some reason all of the randomness works here, even better then that – it’s what makes Bali so special.

The choices at breakfast at Sense hotel haven’t been great. On our first morning here we went for the popular choice of sourdough bread with avocado and poached eggs though suspiciously it came with hollandaise sauce. When it arrived I was sickened to find that I couldn’t even SEE the poached eggs nor the avocado as it had been drenched in this hollandaise sauce and when I tasted it was FAR too buttery and salty and so completely drowned out the delicate flavour of the eggs and avocado. After two mouthfuls and literally feeling sick, I couldn’t continue. After that experience I didn’t order it again but there were other choices on the menu such as the continental breakfast option which consisted of toast (which was really bread as it was practically white in pallor), and dry croissants and fruit. It was clear that the pastries had been bought in bulk and had not been made freshly on the premises. How disappointing.

Another option was their American breakfast, which came with eggs,  sausage, bacon, tomato, toast (aka white bread), croissants, fruit, juice, tea or coffee and cheese. Or you could have what they liked to call a “Healthy Breakfast” which was just a small glass of Granola. Since I had tasted their American breakfast and found it wanting I went for their Granola Parfait instead, but because the portion was so tiny and there was no fruit following I asked for a croissant aswell (despite it being dry as a bone) but was told that no, I couldn’t have a croissant because I had “coconut flakes” in my granola, as if that was somehow comparable to having 3 full plates of food!!

Needless to say every morning I walked away from the breakfast table STARVING HUNGRY.

VROOM VROOM

Unfortunately, being in Bali for so long has made me yearn for the most dangerous of pastimes: Motorbike ownership. This is solely down to the sheer amount of BAD ASS MOTORBIKES I have seen whilst here, and more specifically about one particular instance when I saw a girl with two massive tattoo’s, one on each thigh whilst she was a top of her HUGE FAT WHEELED MOTORBIKE. She looked immensely cool and dare I say sexy as fuck! Now I’m not a lesbian but tis true – the girl was sexy! And I could tell that she didn’t know it and probably didn’t even care which was the best thing about it. She was just going about her business, but unfortunately, now I want one too, lol.

Now before you start to lecture me about the dangers of owning a motorbike: I am FULLY aware of them trust me. And currently I don’t even own a driving licence with which to pursue my motorbike dream BUT it has been on my mind ever since and should the situation present itself i.e when I am NOT LIVING IN LONDON, then there is a strong possibility of me getting one. I have even seen the type of motorbike I want!

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This one will do!

But, what’s wrong with a scooter I hear you ask? – No thanks. Scooters are lame. Sorry, obviously there’s nothing wrong with a scooter but it cannot be compared to a motorbike which looks HECTIC and sounds just as good! Also, I love the fact that a Motorbike is basically considered to be a vehicle for men. Well, I like them too! Especially the custom bikes like the ones by Deus Ex Machina and the Vintage Motorbikes. They are so cool!

Anyway for now I can’t drive so don’t worry yourself (Mum), lol. Josh has said that he is not keen on me getting one in London as it’s too dangerous and I’m inclined to agree with him there. But if/when we move to the South of France then it’s all on!!

There has been absolutely no indication of crime here. Josh has accidentally left his phone in the front of the scooter on too many times to mention and on all occasions it has either been returned to him by the staff of whichever cafe or restaurant we have gone into or he has gone back outside to get it and it has still been there. Apart from the danger on the roads because of the overwhelming amount of motorbikes and scooters, and the potential for a volcanic eruption, cyclone or earthquake (all which we have experienced since we’ve been here, lol), I have felt no danger posed by the people. This is rare in my experience. I have felt far more unsafe walking through Rome during the daytime then I would ever feel at night in Indonesia. This is despite them being far more poor economically then alot of countries, which lets face it is the main reason why people commit crimes in the firstplace.

Why is that? you wonder. Well, it’s a cultural thing. I don’t think they believe in doing harm to other beings, which is a concept that is severely lacking in many other countries despite what they claim.  They may not have much materially but they are far more rich in other ways which bring them a true sense of happiness and contentment. I know which I prefer!

These bloody dogs are so annoying. Why can’t these people sort out this dog situation? – they are taking over for goodness sake! Everywhere we go there are dogs on the roadside. Now because we are hardly on foot, and before you say we are lazy then please be aware that nobody else is on foot either! we don’t have the “special experience” of having to deal with these mutts directly but they do bark at you suddenly from the sides of the road, they do sit there scratching themselves raw, they do waltz into the road as if they own it causing you to have to swerve suddenly so as to avoid hitting them, they are on the streets all hours of night hanging about in dog gangs and some I assume do have rabies.

Also in some questionable restaurants (such as one called Monsieur Spoon for instance) which served nasty food and had a nasty waiter with zits on his face who felt no way to rub a stray dogs head in the middle of serving food in the restaurant!, dogs are allowed to just walk right on in! Nawsty.

Places of note:

Clear Cafe – a unique, vegetarian cafe with an onsite spa and beautiful decor. Ubud’s best kept secret!

Karsa Spa – heavenly spa treatments set in the middle of rice paddies, lily ponds and tropical gardens. Paradise discovered!

The Hanging Gardens of Bali – the world’s first 7 star boutique hotel and thus extortionately priced but worth it for the astounding views of the jungles it is set within with some really great spa treatments.

Jungle Fish – a really cool beach club, without the beach or the sea! Worth it just for the unique setting.

The Sayan House – a combination of Latin and Japanese food that works surprisingly well. Nestled in a dramatic position perched on the edge of a cliff face.

Peloton – a vegan cafe with a difference. Simply delicious food, great service and an original, healthy menu.

Sisterfields– Consistent food, great menu and the best burger I’ve ever had! (well worth giving up my vegetarianism temporarily for!)

La Mexicana – The perfect place to go when your really hungry as they do great, authentic Mexican food with HUGE portions.

La Brisa – what can I say about La Brisa? – well, it remained both mine and Josh’s favourite place in Canggu of all. Unique and absolutely stunning decor with an amazing attention to detail. Comfortable. Versatile! – so many seating areas to choose from we didn’t even touch the surface of what they had to offer there. Great service, definitely overstaffed rather then understaffed. A great place to watch surfers in the morning and to watch the sunset in the afternoon. The food was fresh and delicious – the seafood served is caught that same morning and you can really taste the difference. We particularly enjoyed the black cod croquettes! SO GOOD!

Finns –  though a really cool place in general, makes the list because the food (in particular their crepes with cinnamon, orange and lemon marmalade sauce) was to die for! And because of the DJ, who was playing a ridiculously high level of tuneage with an impressive degree of consistency.

Som Chai – Best meal we had in Indonesia. And in such beautiful and seductive surroundings. This restaurant could be anywhere in the world and receive rave reviews no doubt about it!

Btw, this is not an exhaustive list, just some of our favourites. There are infact many, many excellent places to be unearthed in Indonesia and I’m sure, many more to come!

The Good

The people – Friendly, respectful, open, happy, curious. Definitely the cool cats of Asia!

The place – Untouched in many places. Beautiful landscapes with the greenest grass you’ve ever seen, stunning sunsets and idyllic beaches (some idyllic beaches, though not Legian obviously!)

The Culture – Unique, interesting, sweetly scented and colourful!

Kombucha – a natural, non alcoholic fermented sparkling tea we discovered for the first time here. We particularly enjoyed the Joy Berries variety.

The Bad

Broken down dogs all about the place. Why on earth don’t they sort this bloody dog scenario out?! It’s nawsty. I saw one doo doo on the beach the other day with wanton abandon. What kind of thing is this?!

The traffic in Bali is INSANE. If you’re not lucky you could get yourself into some serious trouble as these people drive like loons. Indonesians start riding scooters from the tender age of 8 and everyone and their grandma (including their grandma and even their great grandma) is on one. They carry animals on there, farming equipment, luggage, sleeping children, newborns, trees, even entire families (I have seen up to 4 people on one scooter before) so these people aren’t here for games with this scooter and motorcycle business.

The Ugly and The Downright Fugly

Tanah Lot was ugly, disappointing and pretty pointless.

Our food at Sense was pretty shoddy but now that we are representatives of the hotel as we have been plastered all over their bloody website and promotional materials I feel it is my duty to give them a breakdown of where they are going wrong and urge them to fix it forthwith so as to not associate me or Josh with such questionable goings ons!

The chef at the restaurant needs to start again. Since it has become abundantly clear that he has never eaten western food in his life he needs to try some first and then perhaps go to cooking school to learn how to cook it. I would suggest that for now he sticks to cooking Indonesian food (though to be fair he’s no good at that either!)

Also, the clientele in Canggu are generally pretty health conscious so offering them a menu that is predominantly meat based is not a good idea. And for us, it was a challenge ordering from it as it seemed we could only have either Margherita Pizza, Chips or Pasta. Not the most original of offerings.

Legian is fugly beyond belief. No self-respecting person who like cleanliness, comfort and peace and quiet would wish to venture there. It is a place for dodgy individuals on the prowl for the cheapest beer they can find and nothing more. They are not interested in having a “cultural experience” or infact any kind of experience that doesn’t involve alcohol. In addition, though perhaps unsurprisingly the place is crawling with cockroaches. STAY AWAY or be it on your head!

In conclusion:

We have been happy here and travelling has brought us even closer together. We have had our fair share of trials and tribulations and alot of laughs but essentially travelling has confirmed that we are both looking for the same thing: To experience life. For the very first time for both of us, we have felt as though finally we are actually living, not just existing, and we like it and want to continue! Commuting to work day in and day out, spending most of my days with annoying individuals, living in a dreary grey country that’s soulless and only obsessed with making money and fleeting success, essentially living a mundane existence, is not for us. Should we somehow manage to find a way a way to make it happen where we can travel more often then this is how we would love to spend our time.

We finished watching Greenleaf finally and we are now onto Season 3 of Narco’s.

On our last night in Bali we had a choice of watching Narco’s or having a candlelit bath, and after much ponderation we finally decided to do both at the same time and it was wonderful!

Farmers, Craftsman, Surfers alike. For two months I lived among them and it was beautiful.

I will miss Bali but like Arnie said:

I’LL BE BACK!!!

(stay tuned for my upcoming Thai Adventures!)

STori x

 

 

Week 7 in Bali

Week 7 in Bali

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The photoshoot at our hotel that we were asked to participate in went pretty well in so far as it was quick and wasn’t too taxing.

We didn’t know it at the time (though perhaps we should have known judging by the dithering antics of the photographer) but the photographer was an amateur. He didn’t really give us any direction during the shoot and considering neither of us were professional models that wasn’t very cool. In the end we just done the best that we could to try to convince the camera that I enjoyed fooling around on the inflatable gold swan (I did not), and that we both found the food that was presented to us delicious (we didn’t).

Nonetheless, we looked forward to receiving the images to provide memories of our travels in Bali.

When we received the photo’s back we were a little disappointed with them as the quality of the images was poor. The resolution on the camera seemed very low – infact we could have taken much better images on our iphones! Considering these images are going to be used on their website and other promotional material (we even had to sign a waiver agreement), I don’t see why they didn’t employ someone with a better camera and better skills to take the pictures but hey ho. Of course, they’re not all bad.

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The Golden Swan and Me 

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Josh and me with our floating platter of food outside our Lagoon Pool Access Room

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Happiest on the beach 

We have had a few issues since staying/living at this hotel. My main one I have mentioned before: The food, which is questionable to say the least, but another pet peeve has been the inconsistency of service.

Since we are still the only couple at this hotel (well we had a family here for 2 days and another couple have just arrived), it seems to me that we should receive exceptional and consistent service the whole time we’re here, but while the manager skives off, he has left us with a whole host of staff who it seems, are on their first jobs straight out of catering college. They are eager and friendly but what they aren’t is efficient. And they don’t seem to employ the gift of common sense particularly either.

Some days at breakfast we will receive a pot of tea, other days just a cup. Some days magically pool towels will appear rolled up on the sunbeds, other times we won’t get a sausage.

Occasionally we will receive a food menu to choose from at breakfast, or our waiter will write our order down, other times a piece of paper with multiple choice food options will be presented with a pen for us to indicate what we wish to eat.

Most times the pool bar isn’t open for business (despite the huge sign indicating that it is). But what IS consistent, and infact highly predictable, is the question asked every morning of us by the waiter who it seems simply must know where we are going that day. This is despite us repeating the same answer each and everyday of “we don’t know yet, we will decide later”. Guaranteed, this simple answer does not suffice and it does not dissuade him from asking us with a highly predictable regularity and sense of urgency it seems.

Our answer, given to him every morning without fail does not indicate to him AT ALL that a) it’s none of his business and perhaps we don’t want to tell him or b) we are quite spontaneous and do what we want as and when the mood takes us or depending on the weather. None of this occurs to the man. He just stands there with an urgent look on his face as if our answer has the meaning of life or death to him. It is VERY odd and EXTREMELY annoying.

Another thing that is consistent is the music played at breakfast every morning. It is Bob. And by Bob I don’t mean Dylan, I mean Marley. These people rinse out Bob Marley’s album like there’s no tomorrow. Initially, when the distinctive drum beat for “Is this Love” made it’s entrance on cue whilst I was raising my granola parfait heaped spoon to my mouth I assumed it was some kind of announcement of my presence at breakfast. Really.  Well you’d be surprised what simple minded ways people find to try to let you know that they’re feeling your culture and I remember in Thailand that they were obsessed with my braids and with Bob Marley in particular.

So it didn’t offend me, I just found it a little amusing is all. But after about the 11th day in a row of hearing the album playing it was starting to jarr a little bit. Thankfully that Bob Marley album is a classic so it didn’t jarr too much but why on earth must they rinse the same album over and over again??

Well I was left speechless this morning when at breakfast there was two car loads of Indonesian officers wearing their uniform also at breakfast and I was convinced that the staff wouldn’t be brave enough to take off their traditional Indonesian music to put on Bob Marley but they did! And the funniest thing of all was one of the officials started singing along to it, tapping his feet! Well I never!

Because of the poor standard of food at our hotel I’m ashamed to admit that we go out for food every afternoon and every night without fail. We do not want to find ourselves in a position where we have to eat the food at the hotel as it is a woeful affair. The only meals we eat here is breakfast and even then I only have granola.

Shopping in Seminyak

We went for brunch in Seminyak for a change. There’s so many great, healthy cafe’s around Canggu that we really haven’t had a reason to leave it but we thought it would be nice to go back to Sisterfields as we had been really impressed with the food the last time we went there. Seminyak wasn’t as busy as we remembered it being, undoubtedly this was because of the volcano situation that was still ongoing. The reports of this volcano which thus far hadn’t done any damage at all, was scaring people off the island, an island which depends almost exclusively on tourism.

For them, this natural disaster was an absolute disaster and even though they had taken all of the necessary precautions to make sure there would be no fatalities this time, somehow the media had taken the opportunity to make it seem as though everywhere in Bali was in imminent danger. The exclusion zone and surrounding area this applied to yes,  but not here.  Nonetheless, it had been successful in keeping literally thousands of people away potentially crippling small business owners and guaranteeing that we had this brand new hotel to ourselves.

Josh and I thought back to Pumpkin Village and Jihwa, who had been a wonderful host, we wondered how she was faring considering she was running a boutique hotel, with only 5 villa’s in it and being in Ubud, was closer to the volcano site then we were. I hoped her business wasn’t being affected by all of this because she had only been open for 5 months! – No idea what it is with us and newly opened hotels!

We had brunch at Sisterfields which was really nice and then I went off on my own to see what I could find in the shops while Josh stayed there working. Technically, apart from short forays to coffee shops and the like, this was our first time apart. We are always better together! lol. Alas, I wanted to shop and he did not so I went on my own and before I had even turned the corner I heard a group of fairly old Indonesian men call me out of my name, trying to get my attention by calling out “Blackie”

Now I did not have the luxury nor the desire to find out whether this was meant to be an insult or said in fondness, but I did not appreciate being yelled at across the road and I found the name “Blackie” ignorant if not insulting. Nonetheless, I very much enjoy being a “Blackie” and since it was clear that they really wanted to get my attention I could only take it as a compliment. On the way back from shopping during which I picked up 2 dresses from Bamboo Blonde they were sitting in the same exact spot yelling at a bunch of white girls who were across the road too so they clearly had nothing better to do but chat nonsense allday! FOOLS.

Overall, my experience here as a black woman in Indonesia has been pleasant. I get the occasional looks but as a people they seem very tolerant and not as ignorant as other nations I have come across in my travels and of course there is the thing about me modelling to advertise a Balinese hotel! It is a different experience being a single woman walking on her own though, and I’m sure that Josh has shielded me from that just with his presence on a few occasions, but still, I would say that it is very safe to be a woman here, a woman of colour and a woman travelling on her own. Safer then even Thailand perhaps.

We decided that it would be a beach day so we took ourselves down to La Brisa to work. The tunes were pumping, the surfers surfing, and we got talking to a couple from Las Vegas who had just arrived the night before and began telling us about their life in Las Vegas and about their travel plans. They were nice but the girl was pretty much telling us her whole life story and in the end she was draining both of our energy resources with her nonstop chat. Even her boyfriend left her to it, and after 30 minutes of it we decided to do the same!

When we got back to our hotel we spotted the beginnings of a stupendously beautiful sunset so we jumped on the scooter and took it the short 30 second ride down to the beach! That was the benefit of being where we were – being surrounded by miles of emerald green rice paddies, hills and valleys but with a view of the sea being only walkable distance. When we were living in Ubud I never thought that being by the sea would be that big of a deal for me since I am more a lover of countryside, vast green pastures and vibrantly coloured flowers but having the best of both worlds here really was a treat. And I really couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d been before that was quite like it.

When we arrived at the beach we were left simply astounded at what we saw before us.

“Honeymooners Santorini” had nothing on this sunset and I had been pretty impressed with Santorini, but this, well this was just off the chart!

The colours of the sunset were like an exploding rainbow, with the primary colours of blue and red on the scene aswell as purples, oranges, pinks underlit by a luminous gold and yellow sky. I honestly was in shock by the magnificent beauty of the sky. And I could see that many other people were too. People began to gather. It was the most beautiful sky I have ever seen in my life, brought together by a culmination of a setting sun and underlit by the fluffy white clouds. Devastatingly romantic. Of course I made an exception and took LOTS of pics for this one!

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Sunset on Echo Beach

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The view from our hotel

Tanah Lot

We haven’t done many touristy things since being in Canggu because we haven’t really felt that inclined to. Being in Ubud gave us access to the “real Bali” which provided us with a taste and feel of living there. Without having to seek them out we got to see the temples, and the beautiful, dramatic landscapes that Ubud was famous for. The sheer abundance of temples on offer on a casual walk down the road meant that you really didn’t need to bother visiting one, but in Canggu, religion and temples was a lot more understated.

Tanah Lot was considered to be one of Bali’s most sacred sites. Essentially a Hindu temple in the middle of the sea, Tanah Lot, which means “Land in the Sea”  was supposedly so sacred that people from all of the world regularly done pilgrimages there. To access it you had to cross a group of large rock formations when the tide was low but once there you were treated to a view of an old temple dating back to the 16th century that provided stunning sunset views and a dramatic panorama of the surrounding coastline that stretched for miles.

To enter the temple you had to dress conservatively – women had to wear a sarong covering their arms, shoulders, knees and below. Also, women (these types of things are always directed at women aren’t they?!) were forbidden from entering if they were pregnant or menstruating. So that was me out then! But the curse of the period was a personal thing, known by me alone, how could they possibly know if I was on my period or not?

It was simple: they could not.

So, disrespectful though it may have been, I thought that it would be far more disrespectful if I didn’t bother going at all or completely ignored their dress code then not enter because I had the misfortune of being in my time of the month!

So I put on a sarong and off we went. The weather was glorious and the ride pleasant. It was only about a 30 minute ride away so we got there on the bike in no time. When we arrived we expected to see lots of signage giving us directions to the temple and general information about the site but it just seemed to be one huge barren area that was poorly signed and it looked very disorganised and rundown. We had to pay to get in and the lady at the kiosk didn’t seem to be particularly concerned with what we were wearing and already I could see plenty of other “Westerners” and others wearing casual shorts exposing their knees and more. Meanwhile I was sitting there in full garb sweating like there was no tomorrow! In addition we weren’t given any pamphlets or any directions as to where this temple was.

We began to get annoyed as we couldn’t find any signs for parking or anything. Also, we were beginning to understand why the woman at the kiosk seemingly couldn’t care what people were wearing to visit the temple, as we were soon starting to see that the entire area was teaming with cheap and nasty looking market stalls selling cheap and nasty looking tat. There were loads of them! I found it really hard to believe that here they were marketing this as some kind of sacred site when they are allowing cheap clothing sellers onto the site to sell their nasty wears. And there was nothing of quality – it was all just bargain basement t-shirts and print dresses that had absolutely nothing to do with Tanah Lot or anything within it. They had succeeded in cheapening their own offering, and it was very disappointing to see.

We hoped and prayed that this wasn’t a sign of things to come!

After parking we stumbled our way around the huge, dusty complex, which was very confusing to say the least with no adequate signage whatsoever, and came out to a clearing where finally we could see this temple. By now there were lots of other tourists in the area (lots with professional photographers following in their wake), taking pictures of the scene before them and as if on cue I too was asked to take a picture with an Asian lady who clearly hadn’t seen a black person before. But this phenomena is pretty normal for me when I travel so I agreed with pleasure.

The temple did indeed look impressive, standing tall and grand in it’s majestic position in the middle of the sea but Josh and I began to wonder just how we would get there as to us it seemed that there was no way to cross – the tide was in. Alas, there was no information as to an alternative way of viewing this famed temple and no information telling us the most appropriate time to view the temple and soon it became abundantly clear that we weren’t going to be able to. It seemed that the entrance was not the only area littered with these “retail” businesses either – there were hawkers everywhere trying desperately to sell their abominable wears and it was starting to get ridiculous. Everywhere we walked we were inundated with offers from various people trying to sell us things that were completely unrelated to the thing we had come there to see.

It was not only disheartening but for me, disappointing. In Ubud, Bali’s Spiritual Centre, it was easy to experience what it was Bali was most known for: their spirituality and wellness traditions but for some reason coming here I was experiencing quite the opposite.

This place wasn’t sacred at all – it was consumerism all the way and for a non religious person like myself, perhaps this shouldn’t have bothered me, but it did. If a sight is sacred, then let it remain so. Bali: Respect and uphold your traditions for goodness sake.

On the way outside of the main area where people were gathering on land to watch the temple from afar, we were again surprised to find that Tanah Lot had an entire road dedicated to retail stores selling absolutely anything and everything to unsuspecting tourists who had to pass by. It was in very bad taste. I went into one of them though as they were claiming to have Agarwood for sale, which is a very expensive and very rare Absolute. Infact it was so rare and pricey that I hadn’t even smelt the pure essence yet. Ony dilutions or imitations of the real thing. Since I had picked up some rare and beautiful Lotus Essential Oil in Ubud I felt it was my duty to find out whether I could smell and perhaps even buy some Agarwood here in Tanah Lot. But after smelling it I could tell immediately that it wasn’t pure, and the shop assistants in the shop were trying a little too hard to get me to buy something. It was coming over a little desperate to be honest so in the end I thanked them and went on my way without the essences.

The next shop I walked into was another branch for a women’s clothes shop that I had remembered seeing in Ubud but hadn’t had the chance to go into. The clothes there had a distinctly bohemian feel with beautiful hand embroidery and jewelled flourishes that gave the summery, floaty dresses a bit of glamorous sparkle.

We were met at the door by a middle aged Indonesian woman who greeted us into the air conditioned, well stocked shop to take our time and peruse the aisles of brightly coloured clothes. Already, without even looking through the racks I could clearly see that there was at least 3 frocks that should belong to me. Considering I had already identified this shop in Ubud as being somewhere that I wished to shop it was pretty obvious to me that I was going to find something here that I would love. However Josh did not agree with this shopping spree, particularly since he was already peed off about wasting an afternoon in the grossly underwhelming tourist trap that was Tanah Lot. In theory I was in agreement with him, but I also knew that I wasn’t going to be going back to Ubud anytime soon so the chances of me being able to go to the shop again were slim to none.

No, this was the time to purchase some wares!

I tried on about 6 different outfits and chose 2 but noticed that one of them had a stain on it so we told the shop owner that we would take it provided she give us some money off. This is standard practice in any clothes shop I’ve ever gone to and these dresses were not cheap. Neither of us anticipated that we would essentially have to argue with this woman to tell her that we qualified for a discount because the clothes she was selling as new were grubby. Not only that but the table where the till was situated had one of their traditional basket of Balinese flower offerings on it along with other food items including bars of chocolates and biscuits which we had regularly seen stray dogs eating when they came across it on their travels. Because there was food in this basket it had attracted flies. Lots and lots of flies both big and small and they were literally swarming the thing. It was DISGUSTING.

How this woman could sit there whilst flies were swarming her customers and her face while she is trying to sell boutique clothing is beyond me! How she could bare standing there whilst flies were swarming the place was beyond me. It was pure nastiness. Clearly this thing had been sitting on her desk for a very long time for it to have attracted so many of them but more importantly, this feisty woman was trying to tell us to WASH THE DRESS she was trying to sell to us rather then give us a discount! AND to make matters worse, the friendly and helpful attitude that she had employed earlier had now gone and was replaced with a stank face while she repeating the request for us to wash this garment without acknowledging that she was trying to sell us dirty wares like a robot.  Moreover, she didn’t even try to give us a reason as to why she was unable to give us a discount and wouldn’t answer our question as to why she was selling dirty clothes in the firstplace. The woman was FEISTY I tell you and I could see that Josh’s patience was wearing thin and he was about to blow!

In the end he asked me whether I still wanted the dress and I said yes, because of course I did but when we pondered on it later we both agreed that out of principle we both should have done the right thing and walked out without it.

As we were leaving the miserable place that was Tanah Lot I told Josh that I needed to go to the toilet so before we walked out of the exit I went towards the toilet sign which had the word MANDI and price 6,000 rupiah written on it and another word with the price 3,000 rupiah written on it. Unsurprisingly as with everything in this bloody place, they wanted money for the pleasure of going to the toilet but I never quite understood what exactly “Mandi” meant. The old lady who was guarding the entrance to the toilets said to Josh and I:

“If you want pee pee, 3,000 rupiah”

“If you want doo doo, 6, 000 rupiah”

Yes, MANDI meant DOO DOO in Indonesian and if you needed to do one then you would have to pay this woman 6,000 rupiah to do it! How they could possibly know what you done once you were in there I did not know but I wasn’t even going to bother trying to find out. I certainly had no intention of telling this woman my toilet plans or any other.

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Merah Puriah

We went to this restaurant in Petitenget and had a wonderful evening. The decor in this place was stunning and the food was great. The appetiser they gave us was particuarly memorable – they said it was a fish soup but it tasted far more amazing then that!

The Jamiroquai Concert

Back in March I had purchased some tickets for the Jamiroquai concert that was due to happen in June. The tickets were EXTREMELY difficult to get ahold of and infact on the first attempt of getting some tickets they completely sold out and had to release additional dates because of the overwhelming demand. Both myself, my 3 brothers and sister was brought up listening to Jamiroquai and none of us had seen him perform live before so this concert was a pretty big deal for us. In the end I managed to get 3 tickets: 1 for myself, one for my brother and 1 for my sister. My youngest brother already had tickets for himself and his girlfriend. But before the concert had arrived I received an email from AXS the company who I purchased the tickets from notifiying me that the concert had been rescheduled until December as Jay Kay had suddenly become ill. Now knowing what I do about his habitual drug habit I was immediately suspicious but when I did further investigation it did indeed appear that the man was ill in hospital with back problems. I checked the new date of the concert and was horrified to find that it fell on a date that I could not do because I would be here, in Bali, then.

So I contacted AXS and requested a refund. There was nobody else I knew who was keen on paying £60 to pay Jamiroquai so it made sense. AXS processed my refund and told me to just destroy the ticket I had got a refund for as it would no longer be valid. So I forwarded on the original tickets to my brother and sister who would still be going. Since they didn’t issue me with any new tickets these tickets were clearly still valid but just to be sure I also sent the email from AXS confirming the cancellation of my ticket.

9 months later and the day of the concert came around. Being in Bali I was none the wiser about the concert and had already gotten over the fact that I would no longer be able to attend it, I was just happy that at least my brothers and sister would be able to experience what could possibly be his last concert ever (if he persisted in his druggery exploits). The following morning I looked at my phone to see multiple missed voice calls and Facetimes from my brother, sister and Mum who had been desperately trying to get hold of me as my brother had been refused entry to the concert.

Frantically and with an overwhelming sense of guilt as I hadn’t heard the phone (I was 8 hours ahead so they had been calling me at 3:30 am in the morning) I opened my messages to find the horrific situation reveal itself before me. My brother didn’t get in. He was denied entrance because I, as the named person on the ticket, wasn’t there. But how could I possibly be there when I wasn’t in the country I fumed!

I had already provided proof of my refund so why were they harassing my brother when he had a perfectly valid ticket?! I was absolutely SEETHING. I was so angry that I found it very hard to formulate the words to adequately convey to Josh how furious I was. How dare they?! I fumed. My poor brother!! I felt utterly awful. He had waited 9 months to see Jamiroquai, almost an entire year, paid £60 for the pleasure AND the date had been rescheduled. How could he have possibly been happy about this? I could just imagine his shock as he presented them with tickets but was still told that he wasn’t getting in. I felt sick to my stomach at the thought. I was powerless to change the current situation but I was determined to at least get his money back. I contacted AXS and a feisty woman called Agnes who was supposedly their senior adviser responded saying that “unfortunately she was unable to help”. What does she mean she is unable to help? – Of COURSE she can help – she can give me my fucking money back!!

This duncebreed woman was basically trying to tell me to contact the O2 but as far as I was concerned it had nothing to do with the O2 since they couldn’t process refunds on their behalf. She clearly thought I was stupid. I purchased 3 tickets from AXS and got a refund for one of them but the remaining tickets essentially became null and void as soon as I done that as they wouldn’t let the other ticket holders enter because I wasn’t present! Since it was impossible for me to be present as I was out of the country I failed to see how any of this could have been avoided by us in any way and I was most certainly not going to let them just get away with it!!

My brother had been left embarrassed by the whole episode and there was absolutely no excuse for it. He had the PDF of the tickets therefore they should have let him in. End of. The tickets make absolutely no mention of the fact that the named person on the ticket needed to be present in order to validate the tickets and their idea of calling me when I was 8 hours ahead was ridiculous. I had not been informed by AXS that there might be an issue when I refunded my ticket and if there was going to be one then they should have changed the names on the tickets to my brothers name.

No, I was going to WAR with these people. After weeks of back and fourth emailing this abominable Agnes woman I haven’t got much further. She has a strategy of not answering questions, being sugary sweet with her responses (which could be conveyed as sarcasm), taking absolutely no responsibility and trying to pass the buck over to the O2. She hasn’t bothered to give me a reason as to why I’m not due a refund. I’m sure it was an overly excited doorman at the O2 who blocked my brother from entering but since I didn’t purchase my tickets from there I fail to see how they can help.

Abominable Agnes has got me so mad with her non responses that I have had no choice but to demand the email address of her manager. Furthermore I am also in talks with the O2 to admit their fault in all this and additionally I am going to complain about abominable Agnes to an independant complaints company for AXS. Kind of like the Ombudsman.

If someone doesn’t apologise and pay up soon all hell’s going to break loose because I’m not having it!!!

In one more week we’ll be gone from this wonderful paradise which we have spent such wonderful, memorable moments.

Legian Beach

We decided that we would drive down to Legian Beach as we had never been to that beach before and it was supposedly one of the most picturesque of the Balinese beaches. Down at Echo beach where we were, the sand was dark, in some places even black due the volcanic ash that was naturally a part of Indonesia. Did you know that they have 76 active volcanoes?! They have more active volcanoes then any other country in the world!

When we got to the beach we parked up and walked down to a very wide and sandy stretch of beach where we were immediately approached by a man asking us if we wanted a sunbed. We said we did and chose two close to the shore. The beach was massive and clearly well prepared to accomodating thousands of tourists but due to the volcano unfortunately there weren’t thousands there. I really felt sorry for them. This must be excruciatingly bad for some of these business owners and considering how calm and sunny it was it was hard to contemplate that people would be scared to come here. Alas, for now, this was Bali’s reality and as we had never been before, it was no different to us anyway.

The bed, though a little well worn was actually REALLY comfortable. It was so thick it was almost like a mattress! The beach itself however left alot to be desired. If this was one of the best beaches in Bali then I was seriously underwhelmed. Yes the sand was lighter then at Echo beach but it still wasn’t white. It was like a dirty brown. Hardly picture postcard perfect. And of course you still couldn’t swim, it was far too rough here. But it was infact the sea itself that was the problem. It was spewing out all kinds of rubbish onto the beach and there was literally a TRACTOR on the beach going around clearing it all up. It was a mammoth task. The beach was positively filthy, with everything from seaweed, tree bark, discarded clothes and lots and lots of articles of plastic strewn about the place. Obviously it was coming from the sea and being washed up here but I was astonished by the scale of it.

When I went for a dip hoping that I could at least get to splash some water on my overheated body I literally couldn’t go in such was the level of filth that I was seeing before me. The water was brown and there were unidentified objects floating about the sea that I didn’t want touching my bare skin. In addition, because there was so much plastic in the water I knew that I would probably freak out and mistake a floating bottle for a floating box jellyfish and that would never do. We fell out of love with that beach after that. Even though our beach had black sand the water was MUCH cleaner, and there was much less hawking going on- we literally couldn’t relax for touts trying to sell us their cheap and nasty wares on this beach. One woman even started picking at my toe nails such was her desire to paint my nails. Funny thing was her feet were horrendous – crusty with uneven nails. Not a good selling strategy if you ask me.

No, our beach was much better. It was FAR less touristy, with absolutely no hawkers whatsoever, the sand was strangely beautiful, with luxurious black sand with bits of silver shimmering in it, and aside from the occasional natural debris that swept onto beaches naturally, there was nothing nasty floating about in it. Plus, our favourite beach club La Brisa and all of the really good surfers were down here!

Som Chai 

Bali is fast becoming the foodie capital of the world and I’m not in the least bit surprised. We have had so many great meals here and been to some utterly stunning restaurants that rival many that we have frequented in the UK. We passed Som Chai on the bike on our way home from the beach. We didn’t know what it was but it immediately caught BOTH of our eyes when we passed it and we were wondering what it was. Mysterious and dark the only thing we could see were the lit up words Som Chai but even that was done well enough to get our attention.

When we got home we were looking for somewhere to go for dinner when Josh came across a Thai restaurant that had been highly rated on The Bali Bible. He didn’t know at the time that it was the same restaurant that we had been ogling earlier that day but when he told me the name of it I knew it was the same place immediately. I don’t believe in fate but this was a fate of some kind.

When we arrived at the restaurant a huge iron door opened without us even touching it to open into a devastatingly dark and sumptuous room with luxurious furnishings, including even a swing and mood lighting throughout. Then we were taken for a walk through this area which I had assumed was the restaurant (it turned out to be a bar and a very nice bar it was too!) through another absolutely HUGE gold door, which again opened by someone automatically operating it from the other side into the restaurant where both of us almost dropped our jars in amazement. It was AMAZING. Beautiful lantern like lampshades swung delicately from the highest ceiling in a restaurant I think I’d ever seen. It was also very dark and seductive, with a waterfall and pond providing the simple, magical sounds of nature.

Rather then giving us a normal wooden chair at a table I could see that ALL of the chairs in this illustrious restaurant were actually sofa’s.  One seaters and two seater sofa’s in luxurious velvet fabrics. These people weren’t here for games. Comfort was clearly their number 1 priority.  I also really appreciated the pearlescent table mat that was before me. It’s the little details that make all the difference and that done it for me. That and the music which to this day I would say was the best compilation of music I have ever heard in a restaurant. There have been alot of firsts for this trip but the musical consistency has been the most surprising of all. These tunes were SERIOUS. I began to Shazam them because they were so good but then decided against it since I realised that we were basically in a fine dining restaurant. It was not appropriate to Shazam in a fine dining establishment, but honestly I had never had to use it in such a place before. These people were playing Robert Glasper for goodness sake!

First we ordered some cocktails – I had one called Siem Julip, which sounded very sophisticated. It was a combination of honey, nutmeg, rum and other delights and I was curious to see how it might taste and was left surprised by the freshness, the strength of the alcohol (it was VERY strong), and the complex yet tantalising flavours. Josh was suitably impressed with his so I knew that this place was going to be a winner.

Well when the food arrived it was a winner, and coupled with the cocktail which I decided was my best yet, I was absolutely loving the place. The food was AMAZING. The drinks were amazing and the decor was amazing. What wasn’t to like?

Turns out for me and Josh: nothing. We loved the place and thus Som Chai has made it’s way to our top recommendations list, where it sits in it’s rightful place.

INSTA FOOLS

There has been a strange phenomena circling the internet lately and that is IDIOTS (and usually women afterall as they are the most vein/insecure), who have gone to the exclusion zone near Mount Agung and taken pictures of their scantily clad bodies striking various poses with the steaming mountain in the background. I have a few problems with this. Partly, haven’t you got anything better to do is a question I would LOVE to have an answer to. And then there’s the issue of them being so up their own asses that they would think it’s okay (or more likely not bother thinking at all), to make a mockery of people who had lost loved ones in the last big volcano explosion that killed literally hundreds of people OR the ones who were currently displaced because of it, losing their homes and livelihoods. You would think that that would override their instafoolishness, but no.

Unfortunately, the rise of selfies has in many ways been the worst thing to happen to civilisation as suddenly it has bred a different, less self aware, more selfish and far more self absorbed and hideously vein type of person. All they want to do is receive “likes” on their Instagram pages for pathetically staged photo’s, mocking other people and cultures shamelessly in pure ignorance and who they haven’t cared to help or care the slightest about in the process. I find it utterly abhorrent.

Week 6 in “Ubud by the Sea” Bali

Week 6 in “Ubud by the Sea” Bali

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First there was an earthquake, then there was a volcanic eruption and then came the cyclone!

Unbelievably, we are still the only guests in this hotel. Events have conspired to keep it this way and we are more then happy with the outcome.

The volcano finally DID erupt, months after flirting with the idea, and it ended up being so bad as to close the airport as Josh predicted it would. This gave us the much needed leverage with Airbnb to get our refund as it was all over the news, both local and international, and thousands of people were stranded in Bali unable get home for days, leading to mass panic. Luckily for us we still have another 2 and a half weeks here so we don’t need to worry about the flight situation just yet.

After days of not hearing anything from the stupid Airbnb woman who initially promised Josh a refund and then tried to backtrack on her offer, he escalated the issue to her superiors and was immediately offered a refund by Airbnb for our entire stay, not just the remainder of our stay as was offered initially. FOOLS.

In the current situation where the airport was closing and then reopening every other couple of days due to the ash cloud, it was a completely unpredictable situation, and one that only mother nature was in control of. Thousands of Indonesian people had been displaced because of it, and thousands of holidaymakers were stranded on the island because it wasn’t deemed safe enough for them to leave. The airports were in chaos. Tourism, which makes up to 60% of Indonesia’s GDP was at risk.

They knew that they could no longer deny us what we were due. They had to pay up!

Even though technically we were not affected by the volcano at all because a) we were too far away from it to be affected by it and we were not leaving Bali for another couple of weeks (though they didn’t know that, they thought we had already left and were currently in Thailand, lol), it no longer mattered. Bali’s volcano, potentially the biggest one they had had in over 50 years was erupting, and it was all over the news in all of it’s sensationalised splendour. Even people back home had been messaging me frantically demanding news of our safety, but most days we were lounging poolside in bliss. Though we heard about the cyclone, we honestly couldn’t be none the wiser about it’s presence. Again, we were too far away from it to be affected.

When we moved to Sense Canggu Beach we had no idea that it was a brand new hotel that had only just opened. We didn’t realise that we would be only the second people to ever stay there when we booked it, or that we would essentially have the place to ourselves. And when we were welcomed into the hotel like long lost friends by the general manager and introduced to the staff, we still had no knowledge that our experience there would feel much more like we were millionaires in our own villa with an army of staff looking after us. But it did feel a lot like I would imagine a private villa with staff to feel like because not only did we have the run of the place with no other person in sight in a brand new luxury hotel with all of the fixtures and fittings you would expect from such an establishment, but the constant presence from the staff was a constant reminder that they wished to make our stay there as good as it could possibly be.

And is it right to complain about such a thing? Should we bother to complain at all? Even when we love the sense of peace and quiet and privacy that such a place provides? Especially since we moved TWICE to escape the dirty, noisy, polluted concrete jungle that is Kuta and Legian?

Perhaps not BUT what I will say is that I don’t particularly like to have people breathing down my neck all the time, trying to get all in up in my business, to find out where we’ve been or where we’re going. What I do want is to be left alone sometimes. On the very first day that we arrived at Sense we had no less then 7 knocks on our door from different members of staff trying to see if we needed anything. From the pool towel boy, to the boy who picks up the dry cleaning, to the general manager, room service and cleaners, we had them all. And it was really beginning to jarr. There is no mistaking the fact that we’ve lucked out here, that much is obvious, but I just wish they would chill out a little is all.

Soo Santai

The beanbag at our hotel is very comfortable. It is made with a special kind of material that is flame resistant aswell as waterproof and resistent to UV rays. Not that we go around sampling hotel pool furniture or anything but this thing is seriously impressive. It floats, but you can also use it as garden furniture, or indoors if you wish – it doesn’t retain water so it doesn’t stay wet, it can take 2 fully grown people (and some who don’t act grown like Josh on occasion), and it is so sturdy and wellmade that you can literally stand on it without it even wobbling. It is without a doubt the most comfortable beanbag ever. So what? your asking . WELL we were both so impressed with it that we looked on the label to see what the brand name was and when we found out (it is called Soo Santai – silly name I know) Josh emailed them to enquire about wholesale opportunities! They got back to him too, lol, and have practically offered him a part of the business so that he can expand it in different territories. He has been even been sent a copy of the contract! Just like that! Things move fast here in Indonesia presumably because there isn’t as much beaurocracy.  Alas, they obviously don’t know him like I do so they weren’t to know that the ease in which they offered the opportunity that he sought has only managed to put him off!

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Hard at work on the Santai floating beanbag!

Our room here is stunning. We are very comfortable and would happily stay here for the month and beyond iuf the airport situation doesn’t improve! The materials used is of a very high quality throughout, with candlelit nights spent soaking in the luxurious tub the highlight for me. The marble floors, walls and table tops are a delight and I appreciate the generously appointed storage, which is a rarity in most hotels of this size. The bed is one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in, and Josh, who suffers from a bad back agrees. But of course the piece de resistance is the “lagoon” pool access which delights everytime because a) there is never anyone in it, plus it is vast, clean and the water warm. The hotel is located a short stroll from the beach and is nestled amongst rice fields with cows grazing contentedly. Birds tweet, butterflies flutter, cicada’s call. We  are in the middle of the countryside here and it is both beautiful and peaceful.

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Love my Bathtub

In Canggu, which unsurprisingly is nicknamed “Ubud by the sea”, we have discovered 2 specific places that are worthy of note. One is called La Brisa, a stunning and uniquely themed beach club and the second is Peloton, a fantastic vegan cafe. Like Clear Cafe and Karsa Spa in Ubud, these places are the ones we have returned to time and time again and we have yet to be disappointed with their offerings.

La Brisa is the sister to La Sicilia, La Favela and La Laguna, that other unique beach club that Aunty Jac took us to on our day with her in Canggu. Despite the “La” preluding it I had no idea at the time that they were all linked despite being VERY impressed with the unique decor in all of these places when visiting them. And once I found out that they were all designed by the same husband and wife team it immediately made sense. They were all themed – La Favela was fashioned off the favela’s in Brazil and even had a Jesus Christ the redeemer statue that looked scarily similar to the original one, La Laguna, felt like some kind of shipwreck, with vintage artefacts scattered everywhere. La Sicilia, was a stunning multi storied restaurant, cocktail bar, club, with a uniquely Sicilian/Italian Vintage feel and La Brisa was a seafood beach club, in a HUGE ship, the scale and intention to detail the likes of which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. During the day it acts as a beach club, with a perfect position on Echo Beach which overlooks some of the best surfing spots and framing a stunningly beautiful sunset in the afternoon.

The food is fresh seafood that is caught daily and it really is some of the freshest and tastiest seafood I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. The DJ that was playing when Josh and I went there just in time to watch the sunset was AMAZING, playing a mixture of tunes that I could only describe as super soul. I couldn’t name any of the artists and I couldn’t place the time in history that they came from (though I would hazard a guess at the 70’s), but it was so chilled, so cool, so random, so head bumpingly good that I just had to give the guy props. It’s so rare to find a DJ (who incidentally was a local Indonesian man), who can consistently play good music and introduce you to artists who you’ve never heard of before, and for which you cannot quite describe but he was good! And I have to say, the music in general in Indonesia has been exceptional. I’m not referring to their local music I’m afraid because I haven’t been impressed with this cymbal banging music they keep on carrying on with but the music they play in the cafes and restaurants is so good I have shazamed more times then I care to mention and alot of the time nothing has come up! (and to me that’s a sign of good music right there!).

Anyway, I digress. To describe this place is to test one’s vocabulary because it is so varied, with such a staggering array of trinkets sourced from near and far and such an attention to detail that I hesitate to even try as I really want to do it justice – to give you the sense of scale and ambience that this place possesses and to share with you the magic they have somehow managed to conjure up.

This husband and wife team are something else. Most people, when they decide to offer “themes” for restaurants just come across as tacky or not very well executed but not so with these guys. When they say they are going to do a fisherman’s domain then that is exactly what they do. By creating a supersized wooden boat structure with multiple levels, and using trees, bark, rope, lights, shells, fishing nets, buoys and swings, all made out of natural materials conjuring up a feeling of a wizened old fisherman’s abode in it’s perfect location in the sea they have created something very unique that simply cannot be replicated. Even the staff walk around dressed up in sailors outfits. The consistency is so awe inspiring. Sitting at the front of the beach club overlooking the beach feels like you are at the helm of a very large ship with the waves of the Indian Ocean crashing before you. Sometimes words are not enough to aptly convey an experience and this is definitely one of those times.

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Josh and I after a lovely evening at La Sicilia in Seminyak

Peloton, a bicyle themed restaurant, offers great food, great ambience and is totally guilt free since it is a healthy food cafe, offering a menu that is exclusively vegan. And the food is better then average – the food is amazing. They do healthy salads, smoothies, and deconstructed meals using purely plants and no diary (such as their vegan hot dog and “tricken” burger for instance), that will blow your mind away with it’s tastiness and again, consistency. We have gone there to work on numerous occasions and have found both the service, the food and drinks great.

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Healthy Salad at Cafe Vida 

Indonesian Culture & Temples

There are temples everywhere. Infact I have never seen so many temples before in my life and these people are not joking with their worship – they even have mini temples in their homes and they are in almost every restaurant and hotel too. They are amazingly varied and intricate – mostly made out of stone. The Indonesian’s stonework is legendary. They regularly leave “offerings” to the God’s on the roadside and outside their homes and businesses and burn sweet incense constantly. I love the smell of the incense but can’t take the thick smoky air particularly as we are travelling exclusively by scooter. But I’m impressed by their dedication.

The Indonesian People are such peaceful, happy people. Living amongst them for almost 2 months has been an absolute pleasure. Humble, light-hearted yet deeply religious (most are Hindu’s), they seem to be very tolerant, open and recipient to other cultures and people. I have been pleasantly surprised at how welcoming they are to black travellers (which I have seen a few of, though not many and they are mainly women), which is much more then I can say for other nations who see black people regularly (Italy comes to mind!) yet insist on treating them despicably. They seem to be comfortable with who they are as a people and are very serious about but are relaxed with their traditions and customs.

Country Bumpkins 

Now that we are here in Canggu we have finally relaxed. We feel very much at home here and being here is such a complete contrast to the horror’s of Kuta and Legian it’s almost as if that was in another life. In a completely different place. We have realised that we really don’t like the busy, dirty, noisy parts of Bali – we much prefer the peace and tranquility of living in the countryside even if it means we have to commute for just a little further. Not much apart from the beach and a few local restaurants are in walking distance here but that’s okay. Waking up each day to fresh air, vast countryside and the smell and sound of the sea is perfectly okay with me!

Greenleaf

Josh brought his Apple TV with him so of course we have been keeping up to date with the relevant Netflix programmes, namely Billions when we were staying at Pumpkin Village and now Greenleaf now that we’ve moved to Sense. If you haven’t already heard of Greenleaf it is a fabulous series with an entirely black cast (which I personally cannot remember having ever seen before), about a rich and powerful family of the church. There is scandal, there is dirty deeds and there is excellent acting. We absolutely love it and watch one every night. We finished watching the first series back in the UK so are onto the second series now which we both agree is even better then the first. If you haven’t seen it already “Netflix and Chill” it now!

The Weather

The weather here is quite predictable. We are in the rainy season so despite the first couple of weeks of our arrival not having hardly any rain at all we were not so naive as to think that would continue to be the case. It has rained consistently everyday almost every afternoon. The weather is sunny, with cloudless blue skies in the morning but then in the afternoon it almost always rains for a bit. When this has happened and we have been on the bike we have just ducked into the nearest cafe and we also have some pretty heavy duty waterproof jackets that we carry with us.

Surfing and Motorbikes 

Deus Ex Machina is a Custom Motorbike Shop/Barbershop/Surfboard Shop/Cafe/Live Music Venue, it might even have a Tattoo Shop – basically an everything cool shop! We went there for lunch, and then later on Josh got his hair cut there whilst I popped into the local spa Spring Spa to get my eyebrows did and have another massage whilst I was at it. Not that I’m counting anymore (well I’m trying not to anyway), but that massage was like my 7th in Bali!

Canggu is the home of surfing and motorbikes. When I came to Indonesia I had no idea this was the case but being here has opened my eyes to a completely new lifestyle. One that revolves around eating healthy and being healthy. There is such an abundance of healthy eating restaurants and cafes here that it would blow your mind and people look great – toned and tanned. We have not struggled AT ALL to find vegan and vegetarian food here and the ease at which healthy food is available is incomparable to anywhere else we’ve been in the world. Similarly to Ubud (afterall this is Ubud by the sea), they also have spa’s and yoga studio’s galore, but unlike Ubud, Canggu has the unique benefit of being by the sea. And for us staying at Sense, the sea is just a short stroll away. Here you can watch surfers of all abilities surf from dusk til dawn honing their skills in the formidable Indian Ocean. The sea here is rough, made for playing in and surfing in not for swimming in, but the crashing waves and the surfers riding the waves at sunset is utterly mesmerising. There is definitely something magical about the sea, which draws me into a deep sense of peace and relaxation whenever I am near it. The smell of it is unique and magical and reminds me of holidays past. The Indonesian’s not only surf, but they are really into their motorbikes too (both men and women), and Josh and I have seen some truly enviable custom motorbikes being here, and alot of them have been carrying their surfboards with them as they ride. So cool!

In my opinion, Indonesian’s are the coolest Asian’s on the planet. They have something of a swagger about them that reminds me a little of Jamaican’s and they always seem really relaxed and happy. They are like the cool cats of Asia!

Models R US

The manager of the hotel we are staying at approached us the other day about being models for the hotels promotional material. I’m not kidding. He asked us if we would model for them, and the pictures are to be used on the website and other promotional material! I tell you, Josh and I really do have a VERY unconventional life! The things that happen to us, situations we get ourselves into, and the occasional fantastic strokes of luck we get sometime never ceases to amaze me. Our life is never dull!

Of course we agreed, in part because we found it hilarious, and partly because we didn’t feel that we could say no considering we were staying in their most expensive suite for no additional cost for an entire month, but also, we wanted the pics! The manager also offered us a complimentary candlelit dinner at the hotel after the shoot. In our travels we almost never have any pictures, either of ourselves or of the amazing places we’ve been/experiences we’ve had. This is in part because we are far too busy enjoying ourselves and partly because we find it a bit of an effort to take them. Getting pictures of ourselves together hardly ever happens because we don’t like the idea of constantly asking people to take pictures of us. Neither of us are that vein. Sometimes I wish we had more pictures of us together but being together is always better then wasting precious time showing that we are.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Dogs are a plenty here. Stray ones and pet ones, but the difference between them in alot of cases is very slight. This is because they look similar – most are big dogs, they hang around in “dog gangs”  together on the streets or sleep in the middle of the road and there’s LOADS of them.  For some strange reason that I haven’t yet been able to work out people, (to be fair mostly Australians who come to Bali to live) own AT LEAST 5 dogs each. One night we passed about 30 dogs in 2 big groups on a residential road. Since they just stroll into the road like they own it without any concern for being run over Josh had to swerve in and out of them in order to avoid hitting one of them. It wasn’t a pleasant experience particularly since I’m not a big fan of dogs anyway, half expecting them to bite me and the lighting out here in the countryside is almost nonexistent. And on another occasion we saw one man with 10 dogs! 10 dogs!! And he wasn’t a dog minder trust me.

Potatohead Club

We went here after trying to go to the beachclub Ku De Ta but after finding out that there pool was undergoing maintenance we made a swift exit. How can you run a beach club without a pool?? Potatohead Club was our next choice in our beach club adventures but it turned out to be better then we expected, perhaps even better then Ku De Ta?

Firstly, it was HUGE. Spread out on a magnificent beachfront, it had multi-levels and multiple restaurants serving both Indonesian and Western food, bars, lounge areas, not to mention sunbeds for rent, and even a retail shop. There was no charge to hire the beds, but they did have a minimum spend. The pool was massive and included a compulsory swim up bar serving magnificent cocktails that was impressive in their inventiveness not to mention their size! Spending the day there was somewhat of a luxury as the beds were super comfy and if you didn’t fancy eating there then you could just take a quick stroll to one of the 3 restaurants on site, and the food was GOOD. Josh and I ordered a deconstructed Banoffee Pie and it was AMAZING! Best I’ve had. Watching the sun go down was really lovely and there were playing some serious tunes too, of all genres, I even heard West African music up in there. Hi-Life all the way!

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Potatohead Beachclub

Bali Hotel’s Next Top Models! 

Lol. Today we did our “photoshoot” at our hotel.

The day before the shoot we met with the owner of the hotel and two of the girls directing the shoot who gave us a rundown on the locations of the shoot and what we should wear.

We were initially told that we would be required for a full 4 and a half hours but then they changed it to 2 hours at the lastminute (likely because they were afraid that it would rain). This worked for us as I for one didn’t have any idea what they wanted from us and despite initially losing weight on this holiday when we first arrived I have put it back on and then some, lol. We have frequented a Mexican restaurant called La Mexicana on a few occasions and had a real blow out each time because the food is SUPER!! It’s the best Mexican food I’ve ever had and they even do good guacamole! So good!

Anyway my belly isn’t the flattest at present and I haven’t done any modelling for years and Josh hasn’t done any before period, lol. I wonder whether they even know his age? He looks so good for his age that people regularly think that he’s about 10 years younger then he is. I’m always telling him that “black don’t crack” and that he must cream his skin accordingly and thankfully he has listened to me and thus his skin continues to look great. Mind you I do think his good looks is partly hereditary as his whole family look far younger then they are.

We were told that we would be doing a photoshoot beside the pool, then at the bar and then at the beach. When we had gone to the beach the other day we had been openly laughing at all of the people who pathetically were posing it up and doing mini photoshoots on the beach like as if they were in there final days. We thought they were bloody ridiculous but now we were being told that we’d be doing the same with a camera crew in tow! Great. At least, I reasoned, we are going to actually get some professional pictures of us and it’s going on their website – it’s not just for us to use on our bloody Instagram feeds!

The first shoot I had to be in a bikini and as soon as I turned up to begin modelling they directed me to a HUGE inflatable swan that Josh and I had been mucking about with in the pool the day before. I was mortified as this thing was lethal! It took 2 guys to hold it for me to get on it without falling in and then it was really wobbly. I did like it though – it was the one I had been considering buying on Asos but it was £50 and I really could not justify spending £50 on an inflatable gold swan when I didn’t even own a pool. We took some pictures of me “swanning about” on it, lol. Afterwards Josh and I had to pretend to eat some snacks at the swim up bar. It did feel very fakery as we had to smile and laugh like a pair of fools whilst pretending to eat the questionable looking meat based dishes placed in front of us. And it wasn’t just the fact that it had meat in it that was the problem, it was the fact that the food at this hotel didn’t leave alot to be desired.

Unfortunately for us we were on a photoshoot and had to pretend the hell out of it plus the chef was there standing there watching us expectantly as was the entire hotel’s staff. It wasn’t the most relaxing experience but at least it didn’t take that long – 30 minutes tops. Afterwards we had to pretend again to eat breakfast (another shoddy variety of food – they really do need to do better with that!) with a floating tray outside one of the lagoon pool rooms. The tray looked amazing though – the food DID look good but being here for almost 2 weeks already we knew different.

Afterwards we went down to the beach which was my favourite part because it didn’t require us to cackle away and give each other googly eyes, it just required us to be our natural selves walking along the beach in the surf which we could most certainly do with no issues at all. Needless to say they were my favourite pictures of the day.

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Our “Modelling” schedule

IMG_0445Candlelit Dinner at our hotel

We are now taking bookings for further modelling opportunites in exotic locales if anyone is interested! lol