Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Travelling Thailand: Chiang Mai Elephant Nature Park

Chiang Mai Elephant Nature Park
Elephants in Chiang MaiTravelling in Thailand

During our time in Chiang Mai, we took a day trip out to the Elephant Nature Park. Josh and I had decided before we went to Thailand that we didn't want to take part in, or give any money to, trips or tours that used elephants cruelly or just for tourists' benefit. Finding an elephant park that didn't provide rides on the elephants for entertainment was quite hard, but then we finally found the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai.

Set 60km out of the city, the park is a rural sanctuary and rescue center for elephants that have been abused or mistreated for work or tourism. Domesticated elephants are rescued from abusive work and situations, then live as free as they can be on 300 acres of land in the park with food and care provided every day. It's as close as they can be to the wild, but as they're already domesticated and have been for many years, they need humans on hand to provide food and medical care which the park provides. 

Volunteers pay around 50GBP to visit the park for the day, all of the money goes towards maintaining and improving the park and care for the elephants. Throughout the day the volunteers learn about the elephants' histories, how they're cared for, but also help the park staff feed the elephants and wash them too. It was such a fun day and I genuinely felt like our money was going towards a good cause and that the money was put to the best possible use too. The staff work so hard every day, there's currently 30 elephants in the park and every single one has been rescued from an abusive situation. Some of them were chained up in the middle of busy cities and forced to take tourists on rides on the busy streets at all times of the day. The park also takes in stray dogs, if you've ever been to Thailand you'll know there's hundreds of them around, so they all need looking after too! 

The elephants had created their own 'families' and herds within the park, even though none of them are related. It was so nice to hear how some of the elephants had adopted others when they were new to the park, one blind elephant arrived and was quickly adopted by another elephant who now acts as her guide! There were also two very young elephants, a one year old and a 6 month old baby (pictured above)! They were so cute! The one year old hadn't quite mastered how to use it's trunk to get food into it's mouth so kept missing, it was so funny!

It was amazing to see the elephants up close, they're such beautiful creatures and I'm so happy I got to experience them when they were well looked after and happy! If you ever go to Thailand you really have to go to Chiang Mai (you should go anyway it's a fun city!) and the Elephant Nature Park!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Travelling Thailand: Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is Thailand's second city and it was our second stop in our Thailand adventure. After 5 days in Bangkok, I was very happy to be moving on and had high hopes for Chiang Mai. I'm very pleased to say that it definitely didn't disappoint and I loved every minute in the city, it's been my favourite place so far!

Travelling Thailand

We took a sleeper train from Bangkok, leaving at 7.30pm and arriving in Chiang Mai (Thailand's second city) at about 11am the next morning, as demonstrated by the photo above (please excuse my general face/hair/tourist style front-backpack...). It was meant to be much quicker, only taking about 14 hours, however it seemed to be running on what Josh and I call 'Thai time' and then decided to stop at one station for almost two hours for some unknown reason. I actually really enjoyed the sleeper train, we started off in little armchair-like seats, then a little while into the journey the staff came round to convert the seats into beds. We had pillows and blankets fresh from the packets and the staff were always on hand to order food and drinks from, I thought it was a really good service. Seeing as you sleep for most the journey, the time passes quickly and soon enough you've arrived at the station!

As soon as we left the train we knew Chiang Mai would be so much nicer than Bangkok, we instantly noticed how much less 'hassle' there was from tuk tuk drivers and sales people. It took us a while to get our heads around how friendly the people were, people would just stop for a chat in the street, but we were always wondering how they were going to turn the conversation into selling us something... but it never happened. Bangkok had turned us into paranoid/dubious travellers. In my first few days in Chiang Mai I had three separate conversations with Thai ladies about how pale my skin is... pretty surreal that they were stroking my arms and telling me how much they liked it! It's so different to the UK where most people want to be tanned.

Travelling Chiang Mai
Backpacking thailand

There's so much to do in Chiang Mai, even if you just wander round the streets and take in all the temples and buildings. We hired bicycles one day and just cycled round to see the sights. We also went on a Thai cooking course which was such a good day! We booked the course through our hostel's tour service, pretty much every hotel in Thailand provides this service which is pretty handy, and we were picked up from our door for a 5 hour course. We were taken around the local food market to learn about the different fruit and veg, then taken to the cooking school where everyone had their own little gas burner and wok to learn the recipes! We were lucky to be on the course with some really fun people, so that made it even better :) I'm really looking forward to making some of my favourite Thai dishes when I'm back at home... if I can remember how!

Chiang Mai has an amazing Night Bazaar, which again, I just wanted to buy everything from! It's a massive street market, lined with stalls, selling everything you could possibly want. It also has a large food court full of portable vendors and restaurants, at the back of this food court we came across a Ladyboy cabaret show which we were lured into. It was such a good show, they were amazing dancers and so beautiful too. Put me to shame with my minimal travelling makeup! Josh got accosted by one too, which was pretty funny!

Chiang Mai also hosts two 'Walking Street' markets on both Saturdays and Sundays every week, which are great and are renowned for locally made and handmade products. It's the perfect place to pick up souvenirs and gifts, I definitely recommend the Sunday Market - I picked up loads of gifts, fairy lights and also a cute handmade skirt for only 2GBP (I don't have a pound sign on this keyboard!).

We also went to The Elephant Nature Park while in Chiang Mai, but I want to write a whole post on that as I have so many pictures, so I'll leave that for another day :)

I would really recommend visiting Chiang Mai if you're ever travelling Thailand, or even want to go there on holiday. There's so many nice food stalls, restaurants and bars too as well as the numerous day trips you can take from the city. If you ever want to know any good places and hotels to stay in Thailand, just let me know and I can try my best to recommend!

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Travelling Thailand: Bangkok

So, despite my complete hatred and fear of flying, the 17 hour flight from Birmingham to Bangkok was relatively stress free. That was until we arrived at the baggage carousel in Bangkok and realised that our bags were not there... along with half the other people on our flight. They'd somehow been left in Dubai, where we had a 2 hour wait between flights. We flew with Emirates and they have been absolutely rubbish in helping us get this sorted, or pay any kind of compensation for the extra clothes and toiletries we had to buy while we had no bags (which was 5 days in total)!

Anyway, rant over, we were only intending to stay in Bangkok for 2 days and then move on to our next destination but the 5 days we had gave us plenty of time to explore and get to know the city. We stayed in ultimate tourist central of Bangkok, Khao San Road, which is horrendous but fun at the same time. The streets are full of markets stalls, food vendors, bars, restaurants, plus millions of people trying to sell you stuff. After a couple of days I was pretty sick of Bangkok, you can't go anywhere without being hassled by a tuk tuk driver to take his tour, or someone tries to drag you into their shop to buy a suit, or just buy absolutely anything. I completely understand that's what they have to do to make their living in a city where there's so much competition, but it's a bit stressful after a while.

We started our tour of the city in the first few days with our first ever tuk tuk ride (picture evidence above), and our driver took us around some of the main tourist attractions in Bangkok, including attempting to take us to the tourist information centre so he could get commission, cheeky. Riding in a tuk tuk is like nothing else, it is terrifying and so funny at the same time. Pretty sure we've only just missed being in fatal crashes several times since we've been here, there doesn't really seem to be any road rules, you just bully your way into the lane you want to be in or just defy death and go for it haha.

One of my favourite places that we visited was the Grand Palace. This is the home of the King of Thailand and it also houses a very impressive temple too. The grounds were full of amazing buildings, everything is so intricately decorated here, every ceiling/roof/wall/door is covered in tiles, jewels or gold.

For the evenings, we found a much more chilled out road than Khaosan Road to have dinner and some drinks on, it's called Rambuttri Road and it's the road that runs parallel to Khaosan. We met some really cool people in the bars on this road, saw loads of live music and watched some amazing teenage breakdancers. They were so so good and so well rehearsed and even did perfectly timed routines together. The youngest guy did a massive flip over a row of 6 people lying on the floor! Rambuttri Road is way less 'magaluf-y' than Khaosan, I would definitely recommend checking it out if you end up in that area of Bangkok!

We met a girl who had heard about an amazing falafel restaurant in Bangkok (when I say restaurant, it was a stall on the street with some tables and chairs outside), and being falafel fanatics Josh and I decided to go with her for lunch there. It was amazing! I love falafel so much and this was the best stuff. I know falafel isn't exactly very authentic Thai food... but there's only so much Pad Thai, curry and soup a girl can eat before you start craving some other food too!

There's much more to Thailand than just the tourist attractions too, Josh and I love wandering round the streets and seeing what we come across. Sometimes we just come across a cool market, bar or food stand but one time we came across this awesome tree tucked into a back street. Buddhist Monks tie sacred pieces of material around trees to prevent logging, it just so happens that these pieces of material are colourful and pretty... just like loads of other normal things in Thailand! This is one of my favourite non-tourist attractions that we found :)

We've been in Thailand for 2 weeks and 2 days now and we've long since moved on from Bangkok, but as this post is the longest I've ever written (I think), I'll write some more about the other places soon :) I'm really excited to write about our trip to The Elephant Nature Park though! Follow me on Instagram or Twitter if you'd like to see a little more of what we've been up to :) x

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Lifestyle: today we leave for Thailand

Travelling in Thailand

So today is the day.. Josh and I are flying out from Birmingham airport at 8.30pm for 8 weeks travelling around Thailand! Despite moving out to Switzerland and France for a while (read about that here), this seems like a much bigger adventure. Probably because I've never been to that part of the world before, never been anywhere that far away before and I don't know any of the language - but I'm so excited to experience the country and culture.

We've got a 6 hour 45 minute flight to Dubai, where we have a couple of hours wait, then another 6 hours flight before we arrive in Bangkok airport. I am the worst possible person to sit next to on a flight, I absolutely hate everything about flying, so I feel pretty sorry for whoever ends up next to me! This will be the longest flight I have ever been on, so I hope it all goes smoothly, I'm actually really glad we have the change at Dubai in the middle haha it'll give me a chance to calm down!

Once we're in Bangkok we've got a hotel pre-booked for the first couple of nights, after that we're just planning on winging it and moving around when we feel like it. I've been reading my trusty Lonely Planet guide book above, to scope out the most interesting attractions across the country. I'm really excited to see temples, Buddha's, monks, elephants (only visiting sanctuaries that look after the ill/old elephants), visit the beautiful islands, go snorkelling, shop at the night markets and water markets and towards the end of our trip, experience Thai New Year. One of our friends is currently travelling in the countries around Thailand at the moment, so we're going to be meeting up with her in April to celebrate Thai New Year and relax on the islands for our final weeks!

My blog is going to be quite quiet on the fashion and beauty front while I'm away, however I might try and do a couple of travel updates, would that be something you'd be interested in seeing?

Also if anyone has been to Thailand and has any recommendations of places to go or things to see then please please leave them in a comment below, I would love to hear them and I'll be able to pick them up on my phone while I'm there! :)    

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

A Purse Friendly Wishlist from George at Asda

George Asda Fashion Clothing Wishlist
All George at Asda. 

I've been saving and trying to conserve money for mine and Josh's travels for a while now, however the thought of travelling has not managed to suppress my constant crave for shopping! It's so bad, I have wanted to shop more than ever recently - spotting loads of items I'm lusting after, at the time when I need to save money the most! 

I've never really thought to have a look at supermarket clothing lines when it comes to fashion, I don't know why, I am instantly regretting that now! Some of the pieces currently on the George at Asda website are so on trend and so reasonably priced. I love the cross hatch jumper and skirt set, I think as a set it would be great for office work but both pieces would work well on their own too. The shift dress with sheer panels reminds me of a Little Mistress dress some bloggers were sporting a while ago, however the price tag for this George dress is a good £30 cheaper!

I'm definitely going to be checking out George for future shopping sprees, my money's going to go a lot further there! Have you bought from supermarket clothing lines before? What do you think of George?

*Disclaimer: this post contains sponsored content.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Eye of Horus: Jewel Amethyst Goddess Pencil

eye of horus cosmetics
eye of horus eyeliner
purple eyeliner
purple amethyst
purple eyemakeup look
Eye of Horus Goddess Eye Pencil – Jewel Amethyst*

Eye of Horus were a new brand to me, when a press release for their new shades of eye pencils dropped into my inbox. However since discovering the brand and finding out more, I've been intrigued by their branding, inspiration and message. The brand base their products on ancient Egyptian makeup formulas and ingredients, even using Moringa Oil in their makeup which is claimed by the Egyptian Gods to have beautifying and regenerating qualities. 

I love the luxe look of the black and gold packaging, combined with the brand slogan 'Awaken the Goddess within', it makes for a very glamorous product. The eye pencil is double ended, with the pencil on one end and a blending sponge tip on the other. The eye pencil itself is a deep purple shade with purple and gold micro glitter, which when applied straight to the eye is so pigmented and vibrant, however the colour can be made more subtle by blending with the sponge. Eye of Horus suggest you can either use this as a vibrant eyeliner or blended to create a more wearable purple eyeshadow. 

The oils included in the formula of this eyeliner ensure that it's super creamy when applying, however when applied over an eyeshadow and slightly blended with the sponge tip it becomes more muted and almost matte as you can see in the image. The fine glitter flecks still shine through beautifully when caught in the light.    

This is a lovely eyeliner to add a bit of colour to my, usually nude, eye makeup and I will definitely be checking out the other colours in the range. I've got my eye on the Emerald green pencil already!

Have you tried any Eye of Horus makeup? What's your go-to eyeliner shade? Would you try something more vibrant?

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Afternoon tea at Catwalk Cafe: Our 3rd Anniversary

afternoon tea imagesafternoon tea
vintage tea party
tea and scones
vintage teacups
vintage tea in knowle solihull
tea shop knowle

Today is mine and Josh's 3rd anniversary of being a couple, yay! To mark the occasion we decided to pop to a local-ish town to try out a vintage style cafe that had previously been recommended to us.

We booked a table a couple of days ago, then headed to The Catwalk Cafe for lunchtime today. We were met at the door by a waitress dressed in a traditional, almost victorian style, waitress outfit and we were shown to our little table. The walls of the cafe are covered in vintage artwork, alongside chalkboards showing today's specials plus upcoming events at the cafe. One of the upcoming events included a Mother's Day tea complete with 1940's musicians and singers! It would be so lovely to be enjoying your afternoon tea while listening to a vintage band too.

There was so much food; sandwiches (a plate of extra veggie choices for Josh too), cakes and scones plus unlimited tea for the whole time we were in the cafe. Once we'd filled up on food we had a look round the rest of the cafe, where there were loads of cute vintage inspired goodies for sale. There was a lot of jewellery, handbags, shoes and even Lily Lolo makeup. Attached to the inside of the cafe is also a bespoke corset and wedding dress company, which I had a quick peek at. The dresses are so unique and beautiful, definitely something to make an impact at a special event. 

We both had a lovely day out today, it was a nice but cheap way to celebrate our anniversary :) we're trying to conserve our money for some exciting adventures in Thailand - only 4 days to wait! How do you celebrate anniversaries, Valentine's Day or any other special occasions?         

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