Thursday, 23 October 2014

Exploring The Temples of Angkor - Cambodia

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angkor-wat-cambodia
tomb-raider-temple-cambodia
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sunrise-at-angkor-wat

After our slightly stressful arrival into Cambodia, we arrived in Siem Reap and our French owned accommodation - The Dancing Frog Hostel. We were really excited to be there as it would be the first of our proper tourist destinations - with a trip to the amazing Temples of Angkor! We watched a programme (although I did turn over to watch Strictly half way, oops) on these temples before we left the UK, so we couldn't wait to see them in person! 

The Temples of Angkor are the largest religious monument in the world, with many of them now in ruins and overgrown with jungle, they're a pretty impressive sight! After settling in to the area, we hired a tuk tuk and driver for the day, to take us around some of the best known and most impressive temples. There are over one thousand sites and temples across the Angkor area, all in varying stages of ruin - some complete rubble and some still standing. We heard it's best to get between the temples via tuk tuk (a kind of taxi, like a trailer pulled on the back of a motorbike...), although our guide book did suggest cycling?! No way was I attempting to cycle those distances in this heat!

Our first day consisted of seeing some of the slightly smaller temples. I was surprised with how close you're able to get to the ruins. You just walk on through these crumbling temples, up ruined steps and through half collapsed corridors. In the UK it would be health and safety and conservation crazy, there's no way you'd be allowed near! But I'm glad that Cambodia see the appeal of being able to get this close - it's amazing to experience. I was also really pleased to see that every tourist was so considerate with the sites too, there was no litter or grafitti or anything like that. See UK, we can be allowed near something and not completely destroy it!

My favourite temple was called Ta Prohm, also known as the Tomb Raider Temple - where Ange/Lara Croft was famously filmed back in 2000. It was just like walking onto the set of a film, jungle trees and vines were crawling over the ruins and breaking through massive pieces of stone. We spent ages wandering around the site, possibly getting slightly lost at one point, amazed at the power of nature. Even if you're not interested in the rest of the temples, or temples in general, I would recommend making a special trip to this one if you're ever in Siem Reap. 

After a full day of temples and ruins we headed back to our hotel, but first asked our driver to pick us up the following day... at 4.30am. Still jetlagged, we didn't get much sleep before 2am so we were in a bit of a daze at that time in the morning! After a sleepy tuk tuk ride back to the site, we entered the main temple - Angkor Wat. We were almost scammed once again as soon as we stepped over the temple threshhold - an official looking man had planted himself infront of a monument and was charging $10 for incense sticks to offer to the relic, implying that it was compulsory before entering. It's not complusory, but he managed to convince the people in front of us anyway. We found our way in the dark to where a large group of people had gathered, then were sleepily lead to a little makeshift cafe with the lure of coffee and a 5am pancake. After eating we planted ourselves in a good spot in front of a lovely lake lying in front of the main temple, then waited. The sunrise was lovely, despite there being a few clouds in the sky, the colours were amazing! I'm definitely glad we decided to make the early start to experience it. After the sun had risen, we explored the rest of the temple in the light which was lovely because it hadn't yet gotten too hot. Since we hadn't slept well at all, we were shattered after walking round the temple, so decided to head back to bed - we were asleep again before 8am! 

Looking back on these photos, I can't believe I was there in person just a week or so ago - it was such an incredible experience. In my opinion, every trip or holiday to Cambodia has to include a visit to The Temples of Angkor. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Crossing the Thai/Cambodian border at Poipet by land:

We've been away for two weeks now, so it's about time I did a little blog post. After we landed in Bangkok, we stayed in the city for a couple of days to adjust then travelled by bus and crossed the Cambodian border at Poipet by land. It was a pretty stressful journey, we were still jetlagged and being cramped into a little minibus for hours isn't the best remedy! This isn't really much of an update/pretty pictures kinda post, it's more informative for anyone hoping to do this themselves, who might find this through google. Hopefully our experiences will help people know what to expect!

Crossing-Cambodian-Border-by-land-Poipet

We were fully aware that border scams are very common on this crossing - with companies and visa touts misinforming tourists of the cost of the visa, or trying to get you to pay extra to be 'fast-tracked' through the queues, but we still didn't manage to avoid it! Our minibus dropped us on the side of the road, with no idea where we were, and a man told us he would arrange our visas for us then get us transport to the border. We were very dubious about this, not keen on handing our passports over in this situation at all. With no passing taxis and no idea where we were, we didn't have too much choice. We were over-charged for our visas (they should cost you about $20 USD) despite us telling him we knew how much it should cost, he started to get quite aggressive so we paid. True to his word, the man did return with our passports, complete with Cambodian visa stamps. It's not the end of the world and we didn't lose much money in the grand scheme of things - but it's just frustrating that we knew that this could happen and still couldn't avoid it!  

We were packed into the back of a pickup, with benches for seats, with a couple of other French and British guys then taken to the border. Before we got to the border the visa guy took us to an ATM and said it was best to withdraw as much money as possible in Thai Baht, then exchange it for Cambodian Riel at a certain place at the border. We thought this was a bit weird, we could just withdraw either US Dollars or Cambodian Riel from a bank or ATM once we were in Cambodia? We already had some dollars so didn't need it urgently. We felt sure that the visa guy was doing this so that his friend at the border would exchange it for a rubbish exchange rate and earn him some commission. It might sound cynical but it happens, so we didn't get any money out, even though he tried his hardest to convince us. Most of the group did however, we lost them once over the border so we're not sure whether our suspiscions were correct or not. Something weird was going on though, I don't know why he'd be so persuasive otherwise - we listened to a 15 minute talk on why we should withdraw and exchange there!

We walked through the border by foot, much the same as having your passport/visa checked at the airport by customs, but there was about an hour queue. That was the easy part! Thankfully, we had no problems with our visas and there were no more apparent scams. We did hear from some other travellers we chatted to that some men posing as officials/guards in uniform did try to make them hand over money to be fast-tracked outside the official border buildings - they declined.

Once through the border checks, we hopped on the free shuttle bus to the bus station. We shared a private minibus from here with another couple (splashing out at $15 each), to cut our journey time to Siem Reap down by over half! Definitely worth the expense after the day we'd had.

Doing this crossing again, we'd book a public bus/coach from the bus station in Bangkok to the border and arrange transport from the other side ourselves - not book a combined journey from a tour agent. This just takes away the chance of the minibus driver/tour operator being able to leave you somewhere with no choice but to buy the visa through them. You can get your visa from the office at the border, just make sure it's the official one and not a tout. I can't advise too much on this as obviously we didn't manage to do it - but next time!   

My next post will be much more fun, complete with photos, for my usual readers - promise! We haven't been able to upload any of our own photos yet, as none of the internet cafes have had card slots in the computers! We're going to try and track down an SD card reader this evening, there's so many tech shops here hopefully we'll find one! Also, apologies for any spelling and grammar mistakes, I'm writing on a computer that's stuck in Vietnamese... so I've tried to look out for mistakes but every single word has a red squiggle underneath, argh!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

3 months of travel starts... now!


My blogging schedule went right out the window over the past couple of weeks, oops. Josh and I have been touring around the country running Headphone Disco events for loads of the UK's universities - did anyone go to one during Fresher's Week? If you did, you would have most likely seen us there, DJing on stage or armed with thousands of headphones for you to listen to! Being that busy and moving around all the time unfortunately meant that blogging just wasn't a priority for me - it happens sometimes and luckily you guys are still here on my return, which is nice! If you're interested in reading what we got up to on our Fresher's tour, then you can read Josh's write up here

I've had a few days to recover from the Fresher's madness, so now it's time to start getting excited and plan for our next adventure! Tomorrow we leave for a 3 month trip to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, New Zealand and Australia! This is the final leg in our crazy year - so far we've lived and snowboarded in the Alps, travelled to Thailand, spent the summer moving from festival to festival - now it's the last 3 months of travel, then home for Christmas and finally settling down. I'm probably manically packing as we speak [/type], it's a bit harder than just packing for Thailand - I feel like I need some more fashionable outfits, compared to the usual travelling clothes, to wear in Australia! I cannot wait to get to Aus and catch up with Kim - I've missed her so much since she's been living out there, we've gone from seeing each other almost every day to not seeing each other for a whole 12 months!

The writing style of this post seems pretty erratic right now ha, but it's the excitement I promise! I had planned to schedule up loads of posts before I left for travelling, but that just hasn't happened [oops again]. I do have a couple of guest posts from some lovely ladies for you to read, then I will get some things scheduled and as with Thailand last time, I will be posting about our adventures as we go along! This blog definitely won't be going quiet for the whole three months, but please stick with me anyway. My Instagram and Twitter will be easier to update, so keep an eye on those if you'd like. I don't even know how to end this post, apart from going AHHHHHH! Wish me luck on the plane, let's hope they have good films to occupy my flight-hating mind!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

I Heart Makeup - The Wow Sticks - Review & Swatches

The Wow Sticks - Makeup Revolution - I Heart Makeup
I Heart Makeup - Super Wow Sticks swatches
The Wow Sticks review swatches
Swatches on hand are in same order as image above showing names. Top - bottom = left - right.

Another new product to the Makeup Revolution website and it's already popping up on blogs all over the place. Makeup Revolution and sister brand I Heart Makeup [stocked on the same website] really have got their blogger fanbase sorted, especially as I saw a tweet a while ago saying they only launched 6 months ago - they have absolutely flown in that time, amazing! 

The Wow Sticks are a set of waterproof, matte lip products designed to stay put through almost everything. And they do - they really do. Usually swatches on the back of your hand will smudge and blend in no time at all, due to the frequency you touch the area and how much it's used compared to your face. However, these swatches would not budge. The packaging of the products does state that they're a 'high-gloss' product, now I'm not sure if there was a production mistake here, but that is not the case at all - they are an incredibly matte product and in no way glossy. Just wanted to clear that up for anyone that might be buying these in store, rather than online where the matte element is made clear.

There's a good range of colours in the collection, although some of the pinks are quite similar to each other. Colour-wise, my favourite shades are Sunday Girl, Atomic and Dreaming. I'm not quite so sure about Heart of Glass, it's almost a concealer shade which isn't for me personally. Naming the shades after Blondie songs has definitely given them big kudos in my books. Before application, the darker shades need warming up a little on the back of your hand but then they will apply easily. Being a stick, the application isn't the neatest, so a lip brush may be handy to accurately apply around the corners and cupid's bow. I found the lighter shades very tough to apply well, then they ended up looking patchy and cracked on the lips - not a great look. Light, matte, lip shades are notoriously hard to get right and unfortunately, the lighter Wow Sticks just don't work for me. Dreaming may be my favourite shade in terms of colour, but definitely not when applied.  

Despite having a few problems with Dreaming and Heart of Glass, the other shades apply well and are incredibly long lasting as promised. They're much creamier to apply, then dry to a matte finish. You can apply a gloss or balm over the top to take the product from matte to a slight sheen, which I quite like for a change. For £2.99 a pop, these are great products to test out brighter colours and a matte finish - just stay away from the lightest shades. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Surviving London as a Tourist

London-transport-apps
Until I started full time office work when I was 21, I had only been to London once or twice to do the normal tourist things. Whilst working, I spent more and more time at meetings, events and visiting venues in London - probably quadrupling the amount of my lifetime visits in a few months. I was never the most confident London transport user, with it being nothing like the rest of the UK's transport systems and pretty manic, but I slowly got better and more confident. There have been a couple of apps that have helped me get to grips with the system, so I thought I'd share them for any other tourists in their own capital city, like me.

surviving-in-london
Navigating London
Citymapper

A friend has just moved to London and swears by Citymapper - rightly so. It's a free route planner app that's not just limited to London - if you ever find yourself in New York, Boston, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin or a few other cities, it'll work there too. 

Choose 'Get Me Somewhere', plug in the postcode, area name or nearest tube station and Citymapper will provide you with a selection of transport options to get you there. Compiling results from the underground, buses, taxis, Boris bikes and walking - it'll let you know how long it's going to take you for each method, how much it'll cost and even how many calories you'll burn! It'll even let you know the current weather situation at your destination. It's all well and good being told by an app that you need to leave from so-and-so tube station, but if like me you have no idea where that is, it's not much help. Once you've selected your preferred method of reaching your destination, Citymapper will show you as a little dot on the map and guide you to the start point of your journey - whether that's the tube station you need to be at, or the bus stop. 

All in all, Citymapper is a handy bit of kit - it's already got me out of a couple of embarrassing lost-in-London situations. Without this app, I'd have no idea how to even get hold of the London bus times, or have any idea whether it's quicker or cheaper to get a bus, tube or taxi. Definitely something I'd recommend downloading before your next trip into the city.

This has turned into a pretty long post, so read more after the break :)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Emma Hardie Amazing Face Cleansing Balm - Review

Emma-hardie-cleanser-review
Emma-hardie-cleansing-balm-review
Also available here.

This product is well known in the beauty world, as a gentle yet luxurious cleansing balm that gives Liz Earle herself a run for her money. I personally love the Liz Earle Hot Cloth Cleanser so I was interested to see how Emma Hardie's product would compare. 

Upon opening the tub, you're met with the most amazing scent. The website tells me that the lovely smell filling my nostrils is a combination of orange, neroli, mandarin, jasmine, cedarwood and rose - I'm not the best at identifying scents in products, I just know it smells citrusy and nice. At room temperature the product has an almost wax-like look, it's not as solid as wax though it's more like soft vaseline, easily allowing you to scoop a dollop out for use. 

I warm a 50p size blob of product in my palm, melting it to an oil-like consistency, then smooth over my face. I've been enjoying using this as more of a face mask than a cleanser, although both work well, leaving a coating of the product on my face for about 10 mins while pottering around the bathroom. I then remove the product using the cleansing cloth [posh word for flannel], which is double sided for multi-use. One side is a very soft microfibre towelling, ideal for smoothing the product off the face if you don't need to exfoliate, whereas the other side is similar to a muslin cloth, ideal for gently removing dead skin. I find that leaving the product on for longer increases the hydrating qualities and leaves the skin feeling completely revived and moisturised. 

All in all, whether you use the product as a cleanser or a mask, it leaves the skin looking rejuvenated, hydrated and feeling amazingly soft. It's definitely lived up to the hype and deserves to have been mentioned as much as it has in the blogging world. Although, at £36 a pop it is classed as an indulgent product for me, so I'm inclined to save it as an occasional treat for my skin and continue to use my Liz Earle cleanser in my daily routine. 

Have you tried any Emma Hardie products - what do you think? Which is your favourite cleanser?

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Blogging: Where do I fit?

Where do I fit in blogging categories?

I was taking part in an #lbloggers twitter chat a couple of weeks ago and it soon came round to the busiest part of the chat, sharing and swapping blog links. I saw a tweet that went something along the lines of 'please send me strictly #lbloggers links only, no beauty or fashion posts'. Now, this is completely fine, if a blogger is only interested in reading lifestyle posts then that's their personal preference and there's nothing wrong with that at all. But it got me thinking - do I fit into the lifestyle bloggers category... do I fit into any category? Does that matter?

I enjoy taking part in the lifestyle chats, just as much as I enjoy the beauty and fashion chats too. I do post lifestyle related posts talking about day trips, recipes, restaurants and more, but I do feel like my blog is a pretty even split between beauty, fashion and lifestyle. My fashion posts are focused around my personal style and purchases, I don't claim to be a trend-setting fashionista in any sense of the word, but I do really enjoy fashion. I also really love beauty, skincare and makeup in my day to day life, so it's only logical that I share that on my blog too.

Sometimes I feel like not having a dedicated blog topic slows the growth of my blog down, but I'm not sure if that really matters or not - I don't think it does. It does make sense though, I feel like people are more likely to follow and regularly read a blog that posts purely about their interest. For example when reading a dedicated topic blog, every post will appeal to them, as it's always focused on their favourite topic - whereas my blog flits between various topics, all of which I enjoy personally but not everyone will. But, I think I would rather write posts covering a variety of topics, like I do at the moment, and carry on blogging for me - as selfish as that might sound. So that considered categories shouldn't really matter, but I'm just curious to find out what everyone else thinks about blogging pigeon holes. Also, how am I meant to know which category to select on Bloglovin'!? First world problems...

Do you feel like your blog easily fits into one category? Or do you flit between various topics like me? Do you find that you'd rather follow a blog that fits into one specific category? I'm really interested to hear what everyone else thinks!