Patong is a Lady (boy) of the night

The heat hits you like a slap in the face as you walk out of Phuket airport. Thai men are lined up along the airport pick up area all vying for your attention, “Where are you going miss? I take you there!” Luckily, I had received the best piece of advice I’ve needed to date from my friend Moff – keep your head down and walk straight to the metered taxis!  Finding the whole scene so hectic and surreal I tried to reason with the men, “Sorry I have a ride already.”

“Who with?” they replied.

“I am going to take a metered taxi”

“There are none!” a particularly brazen man pointed to a stand that had ‘Taxi Meter’ emblazoned across the top, which to my horror had a sign ‘No Taxis’.

“I’m just going to go talk to him and come back ok” and I wandered away. Arriving at the stand I inquired, “are there really no taxis?!’

‘Where you going’ the man replied so fast I could hardly understand him.

“Patong” and I showed him the address.

“500 baht! You wait!”

And so I waited about twenty minutes by the taxi stand taking in my surroundings. Others were doing the same as me, some having the luck I did and others being turned away for unapparent reasons as it seems I wasn’t the only ones having the language problems with the fast-talking taxi-dealer.

The window of the taxi stand was roughly pushed open “Miss your taxi two minutes away! Go now!” Being said incredibly fast so I can only assume this is what was said.

Getting in the air conditioned taxi was like finding heaven on earth. The heat in Phuket at even 8:30pm was incredible, and such a dry heat that I could feel my clothes sticking to me immediately.

My taxi driver was all smiles but unfortunately spoke little English. I was disappointed as I was hoping he would double as a tour guide as I took in Phuket through the window. He did try though and pointed out things he thought I would be interested in, “Shopping Outlet” he said gesturing eagerly, followed by “Sea Pearl Resort” for which the entrance was quite magnificent set against the run down surrounds we were driving through. I followed up with an obligatory “ohhh, wow” and he was pleased with himself. There was a huge billboard for a Fantasea show and my tour guide pointed and said “Show!”, “Good show?” I replied. “Yes, good show” (I have since been warned by another friend that this is not the case). This was the extent of our conversation, although it was a blessing in disguise; I was exhausted from a day of traveling and trying to take in everything I could.

The cars are the king of the roads, swerving and ignoring lanes and speed limits. My heart only stopped about three times – I take this to mean my taxi driver was a good driver. Scooters outnumber the cars and have their own lanes – they are chaotic, and many, each with anywhere between one and four (probably more) passengers, and some with so much cargo that I wouldn’t have thought would fit in a car let alone a scooter. Some of the locals didn’t wear helmets and I shook my head – they must have more luck than me on those things.

For a Monday night there were people everywhere. It appears Phuket, especially Patong, never sleeps – it is a lady (boy) of the night and through it’s boisterous charm and smiling, friendly people it has utterly seduced me.

*Meter taxi to Patong Terrace Boutique Hotel was quoted as 500 baht and ended up costing 312 Baht. Knowing that tipping is customary but still getting used to the currency I still paid 500 Baht and was offered no change, although satisfied with the drive I decided to let it slide.

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The Hawaii Diaries: Day 7 – The Infamous Road to Hana, Muai, Hawaii

 Day 7: 20th October 2012 – Maui

In preparation for our trip I read Lonely Planet’s Hawaii travel guide and was transported by their description of The Road to Hana in Maui…

“Of all the jaw-dropping dramatic drives in Hawaii, this is the Big Kahuna. A roller coaster of a ride, the Hana Hwy winds down into jungly valleys and back up towering cliffs, curling around 600 twists and turns along the way. Fifty-four one-lane bridges cross nearly as many waterfalls – some eye-popping torrents, others so gentle they beg a dip. But the ride’s only half the thrill. Get out and swim in a Zen-like pool, hike a ginger-scented trail and explore the wonders along the way.”

Completely mesmerised, it wasn’t hard to convince the rest of the family that this should be on our must-do on Maui list. The ship had its own tour, but we had been warned the day before it was a ten-hour drive and that the passengers had felt that it wasn’t the best way to see the journey as the stops were limited and it was a long time to be on a bus. As such, we hired our own car.

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It didn’t take long before we saw that Lonely Planet’s description was appropriate – the road was littered with waterfalls, beaches, stunning greenery and great views.

Our first stop was at Twin Waterfalls which was on private land but open to the public for free. The owners had cleverly built a juice stand at the entrance though, as the forty minute walk to the waterfalls and back in the humidity certainly had everyone lining up for fresh coconut juices and fruit. I found it quite amusing that they took credit card there when we thought we were in an untouched part of the island and it was literally a little wooden shack.

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Our next stop was lunch at a ‘plate-lunch’ stop on the side of the road which had BBQ’d chickens. The men cooking had a trailer on the back of their car with a BBQ on it and would sit listening to music until the next car stopped to eat. The food was delicious and we sat on a rock fence on top of a cliff staring straight out to sea. It was such a great view and great food – I still have cravings for that chicken to this day.

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Another noteworthy stop was Black Sand Beach which was visually spectacular with the beach being black pebbles the size of potatoes formed from volcanoes set against the lush trees and the blue surf. There were also a lot of sea caves and Ben and I went for a quick dip but the beach was quite rough and chilly.

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As the saying goes, it is all about the journey, rather than the destination. A typical tour of the Road to Hana does not stop at Hana and continues past to many more beautiful natural attractions including Seven Lakes which was recommended to us, however, we couldn’t miss our curfew and have the ship leave us behind so dad rushed back, causing me incredible car-sickness which was not pleasant.

The Road to Hana was one of my favourite parts of our holiday. If I were to do it again though, I’d make sure we left first thing in the morning; we were held up by problems with car hire. This also means you beat all the tour buses – on a one lane road you do not want to be stuck behind them! You also need to plan the trip carefully – there are so many sights to stop at, it is impossible to see all in a one day trip, especially if you have a curfew like us and I wouldn’t choose to drive that road at night or in the rain.

It is hard not to imagine yourself living an island life after spending time at Maui, if that doesn’t relax you I don’t know what will.

– Wish you were here xx

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The Hawaii Diaries: Day 6 – Snorkelling in Maui, Hawaii

Day 6: 19th October 2012 – Maui

We did one of the boat’s snorkelling tours today. Given that Ben and I were two of about 20 people under 30 on the boat (and the only single people in seemed). We hoped not too many would come, but there was about 100 and most of them were older Americans who had problems swimming let alone snorkelling…

Ben and I a bit apprehensive about diving into the deep blue sea

Ben and I a bit apprehensive about diving into the deep blue sea

The first stop was a crater Island called Molokini. It is crater shaped and apparently half of a rim of an underwater crater but our guides told us this wasn’t the case and it was actually from lava flow. Either way, it was like a big rock in the middle of nowhere and we just jumped off the boat and snorkelled which was pretty intense given my severe fear of sharks. It was worth getting the heart racing though as I saw 1000’s of fish, eels and even an octopus.

Photo courtesy of www.mauiguidebook.com

Molokini Crater

Our next stop was turtle cove which was another jump off the boat in deep ocean but seeing huge turtles and swimming only a metre from themmade it worthwhile. It was such an amazing and educational day and certainly one of my favourite on the trip.

Photo Courtesy of www.scuba.com

Turtle Cove

The girls working on the boat were so passionate about their cause (saving whales and educating the public about marine life). They made the enjoyable trip even more enjoyable.

We watched a good show on the boat that night: Lights, camera & action

– Wish you were here xx

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The Hawaii Diaries: Day 5 – Boarding the Pride of America Cruise Ship

Day 5: 18th October 2012

Ship day!

Ben and I went shopping to Ala Moana – the largest shopping centre in Hawaii but were sadly disappointed. It wasn’t anything special and we lasted less than two hours which is very unusual for us.

Then it was time to board our ship –  the Pride of America for a seven-day trip around a few of the Hawaiian islands. We got lei’d again and spent the afternoon exploring the ship. Ben and I shared a room and it had its own balcony which I’d recommend as whilst the room was bigger than I expected it still was a tight squeeze and it was nice to be able to enjoy the vista by ourselves or enjoy a vino while the sun set. The ship even had its own basketball court, 14 restaurants and lots of shows. Mum and I watched the opening show that night which was great but since we were so tired we were in bed by 9:30pm. 3815_10151153099942587_764714934_n

Our itinerary:Courtesy of ncl.com

– Wish you were here xx

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Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

Source: irishcentral.comNothing can lift you up from a bad week more than a girl’s weekend. By definition, a girl’s weekend is a short getaway where the focus is on wine, whining, food and fun. On the weekend just passed, I travelled to Noosa, Queensland, Australia with four of my girlfriends to do just that.

           Source: booksunshine.com.au                           Source: hightide.com.au

There are a few key ingredients to the perfect girl’s weekend:

Pampering

Unfortunately we didn’t have the time or the budget to invest in massages, manicures or pedicures but we did spoil ourselves and stay in a penthouse at Noosa Hill Resort. The penthouse was surprisingly affordable and one of the few choices closes to Hastings Street that would accommodate five people at short notice. After I booked I did a bit of research on the Resort and started to worry as the reviews weren’t great. I warned the girls to prepare for the worst and we were all pleasantly surprised – it was a spacious two-bedroom apartment with a large private roof area which included a heated spa. The room also had separate living, dining and eating areas as well as multiple balconies. The view of the hinterland was absolutely stunning and that evening we enjoyed one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen.We pampered ourselves by lounging in the air-conditioned room, followed by lounging in the pool area on pool beds (we may have all fallen asleep at one point it as it was so tranquil), followed by lounging on our rooftop in the spa cracking open a champagne bottle. It was divine.

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The view from our penthouse apartment!

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The amazing sunset we witnessed from the rooftop. Photos do not do it justice!

The staff were also lovely and allowed us to have both and early check-in and late check-out. The resort is older, but has aged well and our apartment was well maintained. Keeping this in mind, it is a great place to stay for the price (and the ability to boast to your friends that you are staying in a penthouse!). I highly recommend the Noosa Hill Resort and would go back again. The only negative comment I have is that the walk to the resort from Hastings street was up-hill and in 95% humidity it was not a pleasant experience. My friends had to put up with me whinging about the heat for the rest of the weekend (which of course they thoroughly enjoyed…)

Food

imagesCASLSG4NI think everyone on the trip can agree that our eyes were bigger than our bellies, although by the end of the trip this may not have been the case.When we first arrived in Noosa we all had a bizarre craving for scones with jam and cream. We enjoyed being very lady-like drinking tea and eating scones at Aromas café on Hastings Street. This café stands out in Noosa because of its Paris-like seating arrangements where the seats face the street. Craving sorted.
After snacking all afternoon on store bought goodies and BBQ chicken, we then went to Zachery’s Pizza Bar for dinner. I had been there before and knew it would impress the toughest pizza critic. We ordered a couple of pizzas and nachos. It was to die for. I must admit, the mix of pizza, cocktails and attractive waiters makes for a very enjoyable night. Again, however, my only complaint was the heat… it was very warm and none of the fans were on at the restaurant. My friends had to put up with my whinging again. I must have looked like I was going through menopause desperately fanning myself with the menu.

Wine & fun

We started off drinking cider in the sun on Saturday afternoon and then moved on to a bit of vino and champagne in the spa. Multiple cocktails were consumed at Zacherry’s followed by more drinks at Catos. Some us of continued to Noosa’s sleazy enjoyable dance club and had a bit of a boogey for the evening. Let’s just say some of us were fresher than others come Sunday morning!

It just so happened that the Noosa Ironman Competition was on Sunday morning so we enjoyed watching the gorgeous hunks athletic prowess of the competitors. I swear I had no previous knowledge this entertaining spectacle was on! We also had a wander through the marina markets which were so reasonably priced which is surprising these days as markets become more and more overpriced. I was trying to be responsible given my upcoming trip but the girls bought some beautiful necklaces.

Enjoying our wonderful girls weekend

Enjoying our wonderful girls weekend

Memories

After dining at Aromas again for lunch on Sunday, we wearily headed home. A girl’s weekend rarely recharges the batteries but it sure did recharge the brain. We had so many laughs and came away with so many memories that I will cherish. Thank you to my beautiful friends for making my last weeks in Brisbane very special. x

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[Repost] Our Top 10 Picks for Thailand, Laos and Cambodia

Will be using this as my must-do list for my trip!

Our Asian Stomping Ground

We packed a lot into six weeks and three countries; Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Barely touching the surface of Thailand, we spent just four days in bustling Bangkok before heading to Vientiane, the beautiful, weathered capital city of Laos. After 2 and a half or so weeks in Laos, we ended up in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where we frolicked amongst temples from sun rise to sun set. Another 2 and a half or so weeks in Cambodia, and it was time to leave for Australia, while still feeling as if we had only barely scratched the surface of our Asian adventure…which is true, really. During those 6 weeks, however, we did more than we might’ve done all year back ‘home’…

We met so many people; travellers and locals, and shared memories we’ll hold with us forever. Our lives and perspectives were changed, and we learned so much about not only…

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The Hawaii Diaries: Day 4 – Jetskiing in Honolulu

Day 4: 18th October 2012

Today we had a very relaxing day and finally a sleep in as jet-skiing wasn’t until the afternoon.

Another surf – my muscles were killing me but bring it! I am determined to be a surfer if it kills me.

Our hotel, the Moana Surfrider was built in the early 1900’s, in it’s centre courtyard overlooking Waikiki beach stands a huge Banyan tree which shades the tables and hotel bar. I spent hours here reading, eating nachos and drinking my favourite Pina Coladas (nowhere makes them as good as the Moana Surfrider hotel!)

Source: http://www.moana-surfrider.com/

Source: http:/www.moana-surfrider.com/

 Source: http://www.moana-surfrider.com/

The beautiful Bayan tree:

Source: www.gohawaii.about.com    Source: www.travelandleisure.com

Jet-skiing was  bit more legit than Lucy’s establishment. The men were lovely (as all Hawaiians seem to be, even though dad keeps reminding Ben and I that it was the Hawaiian’s that killed Captain Cook).

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Ben and I shared our own jet ski and so did mum and dad. Mum didn’t last long on the ski though. I let Ben drive first and being a typical male he had to go fast and wild and ended up throwing us both off and I lost my sunglasses. After that I let him ride by himself and then I had my go. It was much easier to drive without him and lots of fun. Dad loved it too – hopefully he buys us one!

On the way back into shore we ran into a little Hawaiian girl who had found some very young stray kittens. She decided to wash them (in the waves) and carried hem around like shopping bags in either hand. All of the jet-skiiers were entertained but worried about their safety (even dad intervened and he hates stray cats). Hopefully they made it through the night.

We had a Korean BBQ for dinner, which meant we cooked our own on a BBQ plate which was delicious. We just can’t get over how fresh and tasty the food is in Hawaii.

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Although you might not have time or tools when travelling, this is a great way to use up all the little knick knacks you pick up on your trip and a way to re-live the experience when you get home. If only I was a bit more crafty…

Prada For Breakfast

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Snail mail is one of my favorite things to receive. There’s nothing like opening your mailbox and (after sorting through all the junk catalogues and bills) finding a letter from one of your best friends, or even a Christmas card from distant relatives. There’s a quality to handwritten mail (and postcards, short as they may be) that just can’t be surpassed with smart phones, Facebook, and tweets.

As far as postcards are concerned, they’re super easy to send and require much less effort than letters, but are just as wonderful to receive! In my experience, the funnier and shorter the message the better — the dull (and jealousy-generating) “We’re in Ireland, it’s so beautiful here! Miss you!” will never beat something hilarious or an inside joke. I’ve gotten some pretty funny postcards from friends, and I’ve saved every one.

Postcards are not only a great way to catch up…

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My favourite Hawaiian Souvenirs

Sometimes if you have limited space in your suitcase (like I always seem to) you need to be a bit picky about what souvenirs to take home. This is why I always leave my souvenir shopping until the last few days of my trip.

When going to Hawaii I knew that I definitely wanted Hula girls to give to my friends and that I should buy them on one of the smaller islands. Unfortunately, I hardly found any, other than at the ABC Stores which are a mass-produced items. I held off buying as long as I could but in the end they were the best quality and price. I particularly liked the chubby hula doll!

I also stumbled across vintage-print postcards and thought they were a great find, until I kept seeing them again and again.

I bought these from islandartstore.com and love them!

I bought these from islandartstore.com and love them!

Of course, there are leis and frangipani hair pieces available everywhere and markets stock bracelets and other beaded jewellery. In Waikiki there are high-end souvenir stores with higher priced and unique items, although I know that I never put my souvenirs to good use (unless they are gifts) so don’t buying cheaper ones – there are much better things to spend your money on when on holiday!

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The Hawaii Diaries: Day 2 & 3 – Pearl Habor & Hanauma Bay Snorkelling

Day 2: 16th October 2012

Up at a ridiculous hour to go to Pearl Harbour (Harbor for some). We soon learn that Hawaiian coffee is bitter and strong and proved quite hard to find a decent one much to our disappointment. In serious need of a good coffee hit we did finally stumble upon Island Vintage Coffee. The coffee here was smooth and creamy and the food was always fresh. I can highly recommend the cafe and their Acai bowls; I think I became their best customer as I was always awake well before the others and knew if I waited there long enough they would turn up – the never did disappoint!

The delicious food at Island Vintage Coffee

Our Pearl Harbour tour was a long one, it was organised with the rest of our booking Flight Centre. We had a great tour guide who knew what he was doing but because of the crowds there was a lot of waiting around in extreme heat and minimal shade. The historical video and the floating memorial were really interesting and the tour also included a bit of sightseeing around Honolulu but because Honolulu traffic is always at peak house it was quite slow. The day was worth it for me, but if you are in Hawaii purely to relax and you’re not really interested in history (no judgement passed – it is your holiday!) then I probably wouldn’t suggest it.

One of the last remaining battleships. This ship was used in the movie Battlship     Remains from the Pearl Harbour attack

That afternoon meant another surf and I was quite fatigued from the day before so struggled to have a strong paddle but caught a couple of waves.

Day 3: 17th October 2012

Up quite early again (Ben was not happy!) for a day of snorkelling.

Our tour driver to Hanauma Bay for snorkelling was a Vietnamese lady who told us her name was Lucy. We then named her Lucy Do after the Australian/ Vietnamese Anh Do as she was out there… I’m not even sure how to describe it in words other than to say she was definitely quite the character who spoke a million miles a minute. The extent of her instructions for snorkelling were to “not breathe through the nose” and to “just think about it”.  We found out later that her tour was a bit on the dodgy side – she didn’t have a permit to enter the bay so parked in a random car park and made us walk up a very steep hill.

Hanauma Bay

When we got to Hanauma Bay it was beautiful (but so dry and hot!). I had never been snorkelling on a reef before and although the coral wasn’t very colourful there were fish everywhere. It was amazing. Ben and I even saw a couple of turtles. The bay is a key tourist destination so there are a lot of people around; I was surprised that there was still so much wildlife.

The family waiting for Lucy to wake up

When we got back to Lucy’s van she was asleep in the back and so of course dad stared at her, at which point she instantly woke up. Lucy had to slap herself in the face numerous times to freshen up – it was quite comical.

Another day, another surf… minimal progress.

Wish you were here xx

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