Sunday, 14 September 2014

Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and a Whole Lot of Mischief

The Travelling Series

After spending a night in the lovely Lime N Soda Resort in Koh Phangan (mentioned in this previous blog post), it was time to secure some longer term accommodation in preparation for some partying! 

We actually moved down the beach to Coco Gardens, which consisted of a number of cosy bungalows complete with a porch, hammock and sea views. The resort had it's own restaurant, bar and chill out areas and it was an ideal base for the remainder of our time on the island.

The best party we went to was the Jungle Experience; it's basically what it says on the tin - a party in a jungle - with a few cool extras such as Fire Breathers, Thai Boxers and international DJ's. We ended up meeting our friend from Uni, Katie, and her travelling buddies there which was absolutely insane. It's weird how you can live less than an hour away from someone in England and not have the chance to meet up, yet somehow find them halfway around the world! Kane and I both loved seeing her again and her buddies were all awesome which made the experience even more enjoyable!

After Jungle, we also did the Full Moon Party. This was the one I'd been waiting for and, in all honesty, I'd have to say that I was disappointed overall. It didn't quite live up to the hype - it was okay, just not as amazing as it's made out to be. I suppose it didn't help that I was extremely drunk by the time that we got there and peaked too soon, which meant I couldn't last until sunrise! Doh. 

We also ran into a bit of trouble on this island when my feet decided to swell like balloons. After a panicked visit to the doctor, it turned out that my feet and ankles had swollen due to long haul flying. Apparently it's something to do with the air compression in the cabin, so the blood pools around your feet instead of circulating normally. The doc said it would clear up in a few days and to elevate my feet as much as possible, but they still look like elephant feet at the moment! Lesson learnt: always wear compression socks on future flights. 

After Koh Phangan, we hopped on the ferry to Koh Tao. I actually preferred Koh Tao to Koh Phangan as soon as we stepped off the boat, as it has more of a community feel and everything is much more compact and closer together. We had Katie with us too which was good as she's visited Koh Tao twice before, so she could show us what to do and where to go.

We had a bit of trouble finding good value accommodation in Koh Tao - the first night we went to a basic guesthouse but I didn't like the fact that there wasn't a sink and the toilet didn't even have a flush on it. One thing that people never tell you about Thailand is that having a toilet with a flush is a luxury! Then the second place we went to had an ant infestation - not ideal! We didn't stay there in the end because I thought my Mum would kill me if she realised how much of a dive the place was. However, we struck third time lucky with the hotel we ended up staying in. Samatha B&B was a few minutes' walk from Sairee Beach and one of the cutest places I've ever stayed in. 

Speaking of Sairee Beach, we got to spend some time on the actual beach there and it's so gorgeous! It has the softest sand I've ever felt in my life and sea that feels like you're stepping into a lukewarm bath. 

I've always wanted to try diving and Koh Tao is the perfect place to go as it's well known for it. I went with one of the bigger companies on the island but didn't have the best experience. I had a lot of trouble trying to adapt to breathing underwater - because the air comes from a nitrogen tank, it feels odd and not at all natural. We only did one of these 'try dive' day things, which was tough as there is so much to learn and cramming it all into a few hours just doesn't work (in my opinion). After learning the theory, you don't have much time to practice before you're thrown in at the deep end (literally). I was nine and a half meters deep in the open water at one point with barely any training and I just panicked, so unfortunately my diving experience had to be cut short. I suppose these things aren't for everyone so I'm glad I tried it - but I'll stick to dry land in future, thank you very much. 

After the day of the 'try dive', I felt like I needed a drink (or five) so we followed around the famous Koh Tao Pub Crawl. It was such a good night - I particularly enjoyed Choppers with the live music, Lotus with the Fire Breathers and Fishbowl with the incredible vodka and passionfruit buckets.

The three of us got a ferry this morning to Chumphon and now I'm on a 7 and a half hour bus journey back to Bangkok to explore the delights of the capital. 

That's all for now until my next instalment! 

Take care, Katie-xo

Saturday, 6 September 2014

One Hell of a Journey

The Travelling Series

Hi, all!

I'm currently writing this while sat in a beach hut on the lovely Thailand Island of Koh Phangan - this is the life!

However, the journey so far hasn't been the smoothest.

We began our journey on Wednesday 3rd September with a flight to Dubai from Manchester. It was our very first leg of journey and we had such bad luck! The flight was delayed by two and a half hours due to the front carriage door not being able to close properly. This was fixed fairly quickly, but then the back carriage door decided it didn't want to close either! Typical.

Once we had finally taken off, the delay resulted in Kane and I panicking for rest of the six and a half hour flight that we wouldn't make our connecting flight to Bangkok. We originally had 2 hours and 50 minutes in transit in Dubai airport - but, because of the delay, it only gave us 20 minutes to go through security checks and then get on the plane.

Unbelievably, we managed to do it (with the help of the airport staff) and we arrived in Bangkok on Thursday 4th September at the local time of 12.45pm. We were chuffed that we'd got there in time, according to plan - wahoo, we'd made it! Unfortunately what we didn't realise at the time is that our baggage hadn't. 

Due to the manic rush in between flights, our baggage hadn't been put on the connecting flight. We were frustrated, to say the least, but we were told by Emirates that our baggage would be delivered to our hotel that night, no problem. 

This was reassuring until we realised at the hotel later on that night that our baggage wasn't coming, as originally promised. We had another flight booked early the next day to Koh Samui, another one of Thailand's Islands, but it soon became clear that we couldn't get on that flight without our baggage or else we might have never got it back! 

After phoning Emirates several times and getting no answer, we went back to the airport so we could speak face to face with a representative. She wasn't entirely helpful, telling us that we should get on our flight to Koh Samui regardless and then phone Emirates to request to have our baggage delivered to Koh Samui instead. This seemed ridiculous, like it would be a wild goose chase with our backpacks. Plus, I had medication and all my stuff in there - I desperately needed my baggage!

We had no choice but to go back to the hotel, cancel our Koh Samui flight and then go back to the airport again in the morning.

Luckily, when we arrived at the airport the next day, we were taken back through Baggage Claim where our gorgeous little backpacks were going around and around on the Dubai conveyor belts. Well, I've never been so happy to see anything before in my life EVER! By this point, it was over 24 hours later and I was convinced that our baggage was never going to arrive. 

We soon discovered that our backpacks actually arrived at 6pm the day before, after we arrived at 12:45pm, but Emirates hadn't bothered to let us know or deliver them to our hotel like originally promised. We were offered one day's compensation of $50 per person, but we'd actually lost a lot more than that due to having to cancel our Koh Samui flight and buy toiletries in the mean time to tide us over. I'm still fuming with them, as they're supposed to be one of the best airlines around, and if we hadn't shown up to the airport again on that day to chase our baggage then we may have never got it! It's shocking and I will be putting in a formal complaint about it!

Anyway, we had to spend an extra night in the hotel in Bangkok and book another flight to Koh Samui for today (Saturday 6th) which was more expensive than the price we originally bought the flight for. 

The flight to Koh Samui went fine without a hitch; I was a little dubious about having to hand over my backpack to go in the hold after only just getting it back, but I needn't have worried. The flight and overall experience with Bangkok Airways was pleasant! Good job, guys!

After arriving in Koh Samui, we hopped on a ferry to Koh Phangan. The sea was super choppy on the ride over - I'm not usually bothered by boat rides but my stomach was doing backflips on this one, it was so bad! But it was only for half an hour, then we arrived! 

The baggage system was a bit bizarre as they made everyone dump their stuff at the front of the ferry and sit down to start with, then they made everyone get off before taking baggage off and making a massive pile of bags on the pier. It was like feeding time at the zoo as people rushed forward to claim their backpacks before other people touched them! 

We then had a short walk to our accommodation for the night, Lime N Soda Resort, which basically consists of little beach hut bungalows on the cheap. They are super cute with a pool and bar - it would be heaven if it wasn't for the fact that it keeps raining on and off!

We are hoping to meet up with our Uni friend tomorrow before heading to Haad Rin for the Full Moon Party - wish us luck!

(Speak soon! Katie-xo)

Friday, 29 August 2014

Packing To Go Travelling

The Travelling Series

Hello, everybody!

The time is almost upon us; in a few days I will be jetting off on my travelling adventure with my other half.

I've spent the last month struggling to figure out what I'm going to take and how on earth I'm going to make these few possessions last for the entire three month trip. I wanted to show you what it has all boiled down to.

My backpack contents:

My airport attire and daypack contents:

Now I just need to figure out the packing part!

I'm so pleased with my backpack though. I spent a good couple of weeks researching the highest quality backpacks at the lowest possible price and I managed to stumble across this 60 litre Berghaus beauty from the Millets website.

It's big, it's sturdy and it's purple - a bit like Barney the dinosaur. It's also made specially for a woman's body with shape and comfort in mind - I can't ask for more than that!

Wish me luck with packing!

Whilst I'm away I will try and keep you updated on what I'm getting up to, which means this will turn into more of a travel blog over the next few months - I hope that's okay!

Now all that's left for me to say is adios and I will see you on the other side!

First stop: Thailand.


Saturday, 23 August 2014

What to Wear to a S/S Wedding

I once wrote a post with my advice on what to wear to an Autumn/Winter wedding. This was back in 2012 (wow, time really does fly) but I'm happy that I can finally do the Spring/Summer version, even if it is two years later!

I recently went to the second wedding that I've ever been to in Swansea. It was my boyfriend's Uncle's and I was flattered to be invited as I'd never met his extended family. Of course my initial thought was, meeting these people for the first time and being a typical fashion blogger, what on earth am I going to wear?!

I decided on this gorgeous shift dress from the ZARA sale. I wanted a summery colour palette and print so I thought to myself - what could be better than this ditsy floral number?

I wanted to pick out and highlight the pinky/orangey hues in the florals by teaming it with a coral fascinator. A lot of people shy away from hair accessories at weddings and I don't quite understand why. Sure, you have to be pretty brave to rock a hat, but a cheeky little fascinator? Why not? When else can you wear them?

Being such a giant, and the fact that at weddings you are on your feet a lot of the day, I decided on flats rather than heels. I threw on these gold sandals and co-ordinated them with subtle gold jewellery to dress up the outfit, whilst still maintaining the emphasis on the statement dress.

Beauty-wise, I put on my party make-up; this includes dramatic winged eyeliner and bold lipstick, which just had to be coral in colour this time. I then scrunched my hair for a summer beach babe look and pinned a few pieces back to make room for the fascinator.

It was such a good day and I wish every happiness to Kane's Uncle and his new husband!

(Have you been to a wedding this S/S? What did you wear? Thanks so much for reading! Katie-xo)

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Sunday, 10 August 2014

Travel Trip To Do List

The Travelling Series

Hey y'all!

Sorry about the lack of post last week - I've had a very hectic couple of weeks! My boyfriend and I recently moved up the country from our flat in Milton Keynes to my parent's house in Wetherby. It's been manic and stressful, to say the least, but we're here now!

A little while ago (in this post) I revealed that Kane and I are going travelling at the beginning of September, which seems to be fast approaching! There's been so much to sort out and organise, and we haven't even finished yet! 

When we decided to go travelling a couple of month's back, I was scrawling the internet for lists and tips on everything that needs to be done before a big backpacking trip like ours. Sure - there's bits and pieces out there, but nothing simple, straightforward and to the point. 

So this is my first post in the travelling series, if you're looking to go backpacking, for everything you need to do before you go away. 

I'm by no means an expert, as this is my first backpacking trip, but this is what I've found and apologies if I've missed anything off!

Travel Trip To Do List:

1. Book your flight(s).

If you want to book multiple flights in advance, like we did, then it's a good idea to go through a travel agency as they can tailor make your flights using the airlines with the best deals. STA is a popular choice, but we actually found a cheaper package with Round the World Experts.

If you want to just book your first flight, so you have maximum flexibility on your trip, then I suggest you use price comparison sites (such as Expedia and Skyscanner) in order to find the cheapest flights possible.

2. Sort out your visa(s).

Even if it's only for a short period of time, certain countries (such as Australia and Vietnam) will only permit entry if you have a granted visa. Use Government websites to research, apply for and obtain the correct visas before you go. It's fairly straightforward and one less thing to do while you're out there!

3. Think about daily transportation.

You've booked your flight(s), you've obtained your visa(s), but how are you going to travel around once you get there?

It's no secret that it's easier (and cheaper) to use local methods of transport in each country - like trains, buses and even ferries. Some countries also have coach providers specifically for tourists and out-of-towners with hop on/hop off passes and different routes which will help you cover a lot of ground on a tight budget. For example, check out Stray or Kiwi Experience for New Zealand, or Greyhound for Australia.

4. Get the relevant injections.

This is a very important one, as you don't want to be struck down by a life-threatening illness when you're travelling. Protect yourself by getting the required vaccinations. You can book an appointment with a nurse at your local GP for this. Another option is to visit a travel clinic (such as STA Travel Clinic), but these will generally be more expensive.

5. Book some hostels.

For every flight that you've booked in advance, it's a good idea to research and book some accommodation for the night upon your arrival in the country. It goes without saying that you will be jetlagged and just need somewhere to crash temporarily, pronto, so try to arrange a hostel or hotel that will pick you up from the airport as part of the package. The Hostel World site is a great resource for this.

6. Sort out your finances.

Again, another important one, as you're not going to get anywhere without money! Move the money that you've saved for travelling into your current account, so it can easily be accessed when you need it. Then investigate getting a travel card, where you can use their website or an app to upload money as you go along, as you won't be charged using these abroad like you usually would with a debit or credit card. My Travel Cash is a good provider to use, but make sure you also take a credit or debit card in case of emergency.

Also, get a little bit of cash converted to the local currency just before you leave, so that you have some money on you in case you need to get a taxi from the airport upon arrival.

7. Think about your phone options.

If you want a phone for just calling or texting home, a lot of people suggest taking a Pay As You Go cheap phone that you can top up as you go along. I do understand the reasoning behind this, in case your phone gets lost or stolen. However, it is also a good idea to take a smart phone as a lot of places have free wi-fi these days, which means you can use Facebook and email to stay connected with people (for free)!

8. Make a list of everything that you need to take.

There are some pretty extensive ones currently on the internet. I personally like Wordly Nomads his and hers backpacking lists as these helped us a lot. One of the most important things you can buy though is the actual backpack. Make sure it's sturdy and of good quality as you will be taking it everywhere with you! Also make sure you have enough space for everything that you need. 45-60L is recommended for a three month trip, similar to ours.

9. Photocopy important documents.

Make sure you make photocopies of all your important documents before you go and keep them in a different place to the originals. This is worth doing in case something happens to the original documents.

10. Use Lonely Planet books to help.

Finally, it's a good idea to research the place(s) you are going to before you leave for your trip. It's a well known fact that you meet people along the way in hostels or on tours, as well as locals, who will help you get your bearings while you're out there. However, it's good to have a bit of a heads up beforehand so you know what you're getting yourself into! I recommend getting a Lonely Planet book for the place(s) you're going to, which are filled with answers to every possible question you can imagine.

Also, it goes without saying, ask around if you know any friends or family that have been travelling. You need all the help you can get, especially if you're going to multiple countries!

I hope this helps, guys! Please leave me a comment if you've got any thoughts or questions - I'd be happy to answer them. 

Good luck on your trip and stay safe!


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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Tips for Tough Times

This post is for anybody going through a tough time. Whether it’s a break-up, bereavement, a fall out with a friend or just an awful period at work – I’m hoping that, by the time that you’ve finished reading this, you will feel better (even if it’s only slightly).

My friends and family tell me that I give good advice – my Mum calls me their ‘councillor extraordinaire’ - which makes me wonder if I’m in the wrong profession. But I have to hold my hands up and say that I’m not an expert on these types of situations, not by a long shot, so please don’t expect me to radically change your life. My only aim is to help people. This desire comes from my own experiences - I particularly hate seeing the ones that I love down so I try my best to comfort them in any way I can.

Below are just a few tips for anyone feeling negative or down about anything in life. It is my hope that you will read them and they will provoke a more positive way of thinking, to help you tackle or come to terms with what you’re going through.

1. Try to see the bigger picture.

What you’re going through probably feels like the worse thing in the world right now. You might feel like you’re never going to get out of this slump that you’re in. You might feel that life is hopeless, maybe even not worth living. But remember, you are just one person out of seven billion people in the world. There are kids starving in Africa, there are people on the streets without a home and there are natural disasters happening every day. You have to put what you’re going through in perspective and try to realise that there are worse things going on in the world.

2. Try to see the positive.

This sort of touches on the first point, but this time I’m referring to your specific situation. Your boyfriend made a drunken mistake on a night out? He could have been having an affair for months behind your back. Your Nan died of cancer? At least she’s not suffering anymore. You had a massive argument with your best friend? At least you’ve cleared the air and got to say everything you’ve been feeling for so long. I often think that a bad situation could always be worse. Of course, it does depend what the situation is and I do appreciate that each one is different.

3. Allow yourself to feel what you want to feel.

I think it’s important that you allow yourself to feel whatever you want to feel during this difficult time. If you’re mad, rage. If you’re sad, cry. The truth is, you will probably go through a whole range of emotions whilst the situation is still raw – and that’s okay. One thing that I realised when I lost my Grandparents is that it’s okay to cry. I originally made the mistake of thinking that I had to be strong for everybody else, but it only led to me breaking down at a later date. Crying is good as an emotional outlet – I always feel ten times better afterwards. So allow yourself to let it out, however and whenever you feel comfortable. There isn’t a right or wrong answer in these types of situations. Those who love you will understand and won’t judge you for it.

4. Use your support system.

Friends and family are there for a reason. They are the people that are supposed to pick you up when shit happens in life. You need a network of people around you that care for you and are there for you no matter what. They should want the best for you and only want you to be happy at the end of the day. And they will do their damnedest to make sure that happens. Whether it means being a shoulder to cry on, or letting you rant to them on the phone for hours, they will be there if they’re true to you. It’s times like this that make you realise who your true friends are as well. The ones who care will look after you, no questions asked. I’m not saying that the ones who disappear or fade into the background don’t care, some people honestly don’t know what to say - especially if they haven’t been through what you’re going through. In my opinion, they should at least send a message offering some sympathy or small words of comfort, just to show you that they are thinking of you. If they can’t take two minutes out of their busy schedule to even send you a text, then how much can they really care? Don’t waste your time and energy on people who won’t do the same for you. As for the ones that clearly do care, use them to help you. Are they offering to meet for a coffee to chat things through? Then meet them. Do they want to call you to check up on you? Make sure you answer the phone. Are they inviting you to go for cocktails to take your mind off things? Have a bloody cocktail! The truth is, you need to be around people right now. Don’t wallow in your own pool of self-pity. This brings me onto my next point nicely.

5. Distract yourself.

There will be times where you have a moment’s peace, usually first thing on a morning and last thing at night, to think about everything that’s going on. While it’s important that you process it and let it digest, you also need to make sure that you’re not dwelling on it. If you find yourself sat in the corner of your room in the dark going over and over everything in your mind, stop it. You need to steer your mind in a totally different direction to avoid over-thinking which leads to negative thoughts and emotions. The best thing you can do is find a distraction – watch TV, call a mate, go to the shops and get the thing you’ve been meaning to buy for weeks. Please don’t sit and dwell. It won’t help. You’ll just work yourself up into a frenzy and, at the end of the day, it won’t do anybody any good. It achieves nothing.

6. Everything happens for a reason.

I know a lot of people hate it, but I’m a big believer in fate and the saying ‘everything happens for a reason’. I always think, for example, if I hadn’t been to my Uni and met my course mate then I wouldn’t have met Kane, who lived in her halls, and I wouldn’t have got into a relationship with him and I wouldn’t have lived in Milton Keynes and I wouldn’t have got the job at Fossil and I wouldn’t have been able to save up to go travelling and I wouldn’t be about to embark upon the adventure that I’ve always dreamed of (etc etc). This can also work the opposite way. I do believe that there’s a set path that we’re all destined to take, as cheesy as it sounds. There’s lessons in life that we have to learn and you learn a lot from these difficult experiences. You might be kicking yourself because you made a mistake and you, yourself, have caused the negative situation that you’re in. But we’re only human at the end of the day and nobody’s perfect. Plus, if you hadn’t have made a mistake, you wouldn’t have been able to learn from it. It’s the mistakes and tough situations that make us stronger in life and the people that we are today. Be thankful for that. All the pain and anguish will be worth it in the end – it prepares you for the journey that lies ahead.

7. Remember life’s too short.

This is my favourite saying of all time. Yes, this big thing has just happened to you. It’s terrible. You’ve probably been angry/upset/frustrated for days. But how much longer do you plan on having this major battle with yourself? Not meaning to sound morbid, but you could die tomorrow. You never know what’s around the corner and there’s no point wasting your life being down. Life is for living and you should take every opportunity you can to be happy. We all deserve happiness. You deserve happiness.

8. Have faith.

In the end, you just have to believe that everything’s going to be okay. I’m also a big fan of the saying: ‘Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end’. You have to believe that things will get better because they will, in time. It’s proven. Just look at celebrities, for example. David Beckham cheated on Victoria – their marriage is still going strong. Angelina Jolie lost her Mum to ovarian cancer and then was diagnosed with it herself – she is still smiling and speaking out to help others. Granted, it’s not going to happen overnight. But you’ll reach a point where you will start to feel better with each day. Hours will turn into days, days will turn into weeks and, before you know it, you’ll feel like your old self again. There’s no set amount of time that it takes and you can’t rush it. But when the dark cloud has lifted, you’ll know it, and that’s where the new chapter of your life starts. Welcome back.

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(I hope I have managed to help at least one person with this post! Good luck with everything and remember, chin up! There is light at the end of the tunnel. Much love, Katie-xo)

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

What's In My Bag?

I decided to jump on the bandwagon and write my own version of the ‘what’s in your bag’ post - I know how much I like reading them when I see them pop up here, there and everywhere across the blogosphere!

There’s just something quite fascinating about seeing what girls have in their handbags – I don’t really understand why, but I think it just comes down to being extremely nosy! But at least I’m not alone, judging by how popular the ‘what’s in your bag’ post seems to be.

Without further ado, here’s what I carry around with me on a day to day basis:

First of all, I'm currently using my Fossil metallic tote handbag (more than any other bag) as the neutral colour goes with anything I happen to have on in the day. It is also very roomy, so it can include bottles of water or snacks that I might need depending on where I’m going and what I’m doing.

In this Fossil bag, I always carry a purse (obviously). At the moment I’m using this Fossil one as it’s fairly new and I absolutely adore the giraffe print (almost as much as I adore giraffes in general). It’s quite wide and rectangular, with both a card section and a change section, so fits in everything that I need money-wise!

Then, because it’s summer and the weather has been very sunny lately, I carry my trusty pair of Primark sunglasses with black, circular lenses. I’m currently loving circular lenses for SS14 as they’re a bit kooky and dramatic – two of my favourite things in fashion!

When it’s not sunny, I usually carry my black Primark umbrella just in case there are any unexpected downpours.

Moving onto the beauty section, I always have Vaseline in my bag to banish dry lip syndrome. This pot is particularly great because it has Cocoa Butter in it, so keeps my lips nice and smooth. I also tend to carry a cheap lipstick or lipgloss in case I’m going somewhere fancy and in need of a little colour on my lips. The one I currently carry is Model’s Own lip crayon in fuchsia pink. It’s such a strong hue so you definitely need a mirror to apply it, hence my little heart-shaped compact.

Of course I also carry my phone, which is currently an iPhone 4S. I’m due an upgrade at the end of August and will most likely be upgrading to an iPhone 5 as I can’t imagine not having an iPhone. Yes, I’m one of those people. It means I will also have to buy a new phone case, which I’m kind of gutted about, as I love my purple retro cassette case. I got it from a stall on Briggate in Leeds and it was such a steal for a mere fiver. I’m sure you’ll be able to buy them for other phone models though, so we’ll see!

Finally, the last thing that I carry is a silver case full of business cards for my blog and my brand. You never know who you’re going to meet, or run into, so these are definitely worth having - not just for professional purposes, but if you bump into someone from school that you haven’t seen for ages and you want to keep in touch. It’s easier to just give them one of your business cards, especially if you’re in a rush, than faff about with your phone trying to get their number.

That’s everything, guys! I hope you've enjoyed being nosy and I look forward to reading some more of your ‘what’s in your bag’ posts very soon!

(Have you already done a 'what's in your bag' post? Please link me by leaving me a comment. Many thanks for reading! Katie-xo)

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