22 February 2017

Ao Nang: The Low Budget Version of Miami Beach

Thailand Travelling Series

After spending the first week of our month-long travelling trip around Thailand in Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, where we experienced an unfortunate bout of bad luck (read about it here), we were ready to embrace Ao Nang with open arms.

Ao Nang is the touristic hub of Krabi, one of the southern provinces of Thailand. My sister and I had both heard good things about this beach town prior to booking our trip and, as I hadn't quite managed to venture there during my first backpacking stint in Thailand due to lack of time, we thought we'd take the golden opportunity to check it out! Put it this way: it did NOT disappoint.

I have to say though, in a strange way, it reminded me a lot of Miami Beach which we visited last July, but a low budget version of Miami Beach OBVS as Thailand is classed as a second world country (cheers, Google)!

It was the layout of Ao Nang that reminded me of Miami Beach more than anything. It has a busy road running parallel to the main beach, not too dissimilar to Ocean Drive which is also packed with shops, bars and restaurants. Although, with the Thailand version, there's stalls rather than shops. BUT I did spot a McDonald's AND a Burger King. (Go, Ao Nang!)

Admittedly, Ao Nang beach isn't a patch on Miami Beach's South beach. It's not a bad beach at all, don't get me wrong, it's just less maintained and a bit rougher around the edges. (For instance, be prepared to sunbathe next to a wad of seaweed and maybe even a few Coca-Cola cans!) However, that being said, I could not help but be enticed by Ao Nang's undeniable character and charisma.

In terms of nightlife, there's a cluster of bars known as Ao Nang Center Point down a back street off of the main road opposite the beach. It is here where you will find fellow backpackers and holiday-makers aplenty. It's true that it takes a little while for the atmosphere to get going at night but, once it does, it makes for a really fun time! Our favourite bar was called Cairo Nights where they had drink offers every night, as well as unlimited Shisha for a couple of hundred baht! (That's about a fiver for all the Thailand virgins out there! *geek emoji*)

Furthermore, the people you come across in Ao Nang are really nice.  You find a lot of like-minded, down-to-earth travellers! Nic and I had a run-in with the sweetest wee girl from Shanghai and two lads from Quebec on the first night and clicked so much with them that we all just kept meeting up! In my opinion, that's one of the best things about travelling: you just cannot top the people you meet. Everyone has such unique and interesting stories and, because we're all in the same boat so-to-speak, it's very easy to bond with people almost instantaneously.

All in all, Ao Nang was a hoot! We only spent three nights there, but could easily have stayed five. We heard of a few people doing the Four Island Tour which we missed out on (this is exactly what it says on the tin, by the way - you visit four nearby islands in one day - and they're supposed to be beautiful). However, other than that, we did manage to cover all bases. After our battle with sickness, flooding and poor accommodation in Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, it really did make us appreciate our time in Ao Nang so much more! We LOVED it!

After Ao Nang, it was time to head to, arguably, the most famous Thailand island - Koh Phi Phi... And I don't think we were ready for the carnage that was in store for us!

Until next time...

K xo

(Editor's note: As you're reading this post, I'm packing my suitcase in preparation to jet off AGAIN in the morrow. Green Bay calls, to see my Nathaniel! I can't believe I have to get on YET ANOTHER PLANE - I worked out the other day that I've done around thirty flights in eight months - can you believe it?! Anywho, as I'm far from being finished with the Thailand Travelling Series, I just wanted to let you know that I will be posting regularly when I'm in the U.S., so WATCH THIS SPACE you lovely lot!)

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19 February 2017

3 Bits of Bad Luck That Set Your Thailand Trip Off to an Unfortunate Start

This is my first official blog post in the Thailand Travelling Series.

I desperately wanted to blog whilst I was out there and share my experiences as and when they were happening; however, anyone who's been to Thailand before will tell you that the wifi quality in the country is absolutely SHOCKING. Admittedly, it's not terrible everywhere - but generally in most places.

As an avid lover of having a great wifi connection to be able to blog, use social media and follow the news regularly - I struggled with the Thailand wifi SO MUCH at times. Therefore, I had to ultimately accept that blogging while I was backpacking was just out of the question. Hence why I'm a little late with these posts, but NEVER FEAR, I would never leave you for long!

Here's 3 bits of bad luck that will set your Thailand trip off to an unfortunate start:

1. When your first port of call, Koh Samui, decides to flood a few days before you're due to arrive.

I spent the last couple of days before we flew out to Thailand frantically Googling the weather forecast at every opportunity. Uncharacteristically for Thailand in January (the coolest and driest month), they had a severe amount of rainfall and flooding this year affecting almost one million people in ten of the country's southern provinces. People even died. (Yes, it was THAT bad!)

Koh Samui is an island in the Gulf of Thailand and one of the worst places affected by the flooding, with many of the main streets being engulfed in dirty brown water overflowing from the lakes and rivers. As January is the peak season for holiday-makers and backpackers visiting Thailand, many tourists were left stranded on the islands as several flights, buses and ferries were cancelled. 

At one point, Nic and I didn't think we'd be able to fly out there. Luckily, the rain eased up the day we were flying (we had to do a flight from Manchester to Dubai, then a flight from Dubai to Bangkok, before heading to Koh Samui from Bangkok) and we made it over there in one piece.

We've never been so apprehensive about travelling to a place before though and, sure enough, when we arrived there were definitely some sights to see! I've never EVER seen flooding like that before - there were people floating down the roads on inflatables to get from A to B, for goodness sake! 

A lot of the flooding had been cleared up before we were due to travel onto Koh Phangan via ferry a few days later, so even though the flooding was disruptive while we were in Samui (let's face it, what can you really do when it's tipping it down and it's impossible to get anywhere?!) we managed to make it out in one piece.

Hallelujah, PRAISE THE LORD!

2. When a sickness and diarrhoea bug decides to attack your sister a few days in and then makes it way around to you.

In my previous post, my first one since returning from travelling around Thailand, I talked about 10 things that no one tells you about backpacking (read it here).

Number two read, and I quote:

'Never book an important party at the start of your trip as delayed transportation or nasty tummy bugs are bound to happen meaning you miss out on your party :( SADFACE.' 

Needless to say, this happened to us. When I say us, I'm referring to my sister (my Chief Travelling Buddy) and I. It started with her and then inevitably - as we were sharing the same bedroom, bathroom, toilet, door handles, you name it - I caught the B******. (I don't usually like to swear on my blog, but this tummy bug definitely warrants it. It was NASTY!)

The main reason why tourists visit Koh Phangan (another island in the Gulf of Thailand) is to go to the infamous Full Moon Party. This is, essentially, a rave on the beach. With ten thousand people. Everyone dresses in neon gear, throws on a load of face paint and acts like animals in the jungle.

I've been before and I wasn't a fan (can you tell?!) because it is super overrated and you get a lot of, yes I will say it, ABSOLUTE IDIOTS off their faces on alcohol and lord knows what else. I was willing to give it another chance, however, for my sister as she's never been and really wanted to experience it.

BUT the tummy bug had other plans. It struck a few days into the trip and it struck HARD - first with my sister, who had both sickness and diarrhoea, and then with me, but I managed to skip the sickness bit (no idea how)! This meant we had to miss the Full Moon Party, the Waterfall Party and whatever other parties were going on. #gutted

I was more upset for Nic than I was for myself, but I just wanted to be healthy again more than anything. Traveller's diarrhoea is not fun, it's uncomfortable and it really does wipe you out for a good few days. Plus you miss out on FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD and even drinking water is a struggle.

We learned the hard way that it doesn't help matters such as these if you're in a two star resort, which brings me nicely onto number three.

3. When you're staying in a place with bed bugs, mosquitoes and lack of housekeeping.

I'm not really sure if it's fair to name names here or not, as it was my personal choice to stay in this accommodation after staying there once previously during my first backpacking trip in 2014.

The first time around, I remember getting bitten by mosquitoes a little bit. But, this time around, we got bitten to death - and not just by mosquitoes. The islands are well known for their lingering mosquitoes, but we also had a different type of bites this time around... Bed bug bites. (FACE PALM!)

Bed bugs are horrible. They are tiny but it doesn't make them any less irritating. They live in sheets and bedding and attack you when you're sleeping. I don't remember this particular accommodation having bed bugs previously, so it's such a shame that they have let their standards go. It's possible, of course, that they didn't know that bed bugs were present in our bedding as they're SO FREAKIN' TINY. Or, they did know bed bugs are an issue and they haven't boiled the sheets properly to get rid of the infestation.

Anyway the bed bugs, combined with the mozzies and the tummy bug (which was NOT THEIR FAULT, obviously) made our stay at this accommodation absolutely miserable this time around. It didn't help that we were sleeping in a tiny bungalow with no quilt on the bedding (this is awful when you have a fever with the tummy bug and you keep going hot and cold) and you have to go to Reception to request housekeeping, otherwise your room won't get cleaned. You can imagine how badly we needed the room cleaning on a regular basis when we were both pooing for England and my sister was vomiting all over the place uncontrollably. (Sorry to be graphic, but it's TRUE!)

It just wasn't pleasant.

To be fair to the resort, they did clean the room whenever we asked them to (and cleaned it well) and maybe it's our own fault for not having the energy to complain about the bed bugs (because then they might have done something about it)! But you LIVE and you LEARN...

...And we did get to look upon this view every day as the resort was on the beach, so it wasn't all bad!

These 3 bits of bad luck meant that the first week of the four-week backpacking trip around Thailand hadn't got off to the greatest start!

Fortunately we were back on our feet by the end of week one, ready to proceed to Ao Nang in Krabi where our luck was about to change...

Stay tuned, folks!

K xo


13 February 2017

10 Things That No One Tells You About Backpacking

Having recently returned from travelling around Thailand for ONE WHOLE MONTH, which I first mentioned on the blog here, I am just about managing to get the jetlag under control enough to able to start sharing my experiences with you! (Happy dance!)

This first post derives from some key lessons I've learnt from this trip, as well as my previous backpacking trips. Here's 10 things that no one tells you about backpacking:

1. Wifi is like gold dust. If you're not specifically choosing restaurants, bars and cafes because they offer free wifi then you're totally doing it wrong. 

2. Never book an important party at the start of your trip as delayed transportation or nasty tummy bugs are bound to happen meaning you miss out on your party :( SADFACE.

3. You will inevitably spill something down yourself on the first day and then you'll have to spend the rest of your time backpacking in dirty clothes. It's grimy, it's sweaty and it's disgusting but when in South East Asia! #yolo

4. Carting your backpack around in 30 degree heat is like slow torture. ONE LIMB AT A TIME.

5. If you're travelling to Thailand, for example, you will get bitten to death by mosquitoes. And then you have to deal with the itching all day every day, as well as all night every night while you're trying to sleep... OH LORD, the itching! It's enough to drive you insane.

6. You'll spend a good amount of time at the sink in your hostel or hotel room cleaning your dirty pants because you've ran out of clean ones... YET AGAIN! It won't be long before you learn that Fairy soap is like magic!

7. There will come a time where you have no choice but to use the nasty squat toilets. This time will make or break you. You'll either suck it up, tackle it head on and accept that there's a great possibility you might pee on yourself - or cry and refuse to use them, thus running the risk of damaging your bladder by having to hold it until you come across a *proper* westernised toilet.

8. Speaking of toilets, they might not function properly, hence you having to put all your dirty toilet roll (if there is toilet roll as, more often than not, there won't be!) in the same open bin as everybody else's dirty toilet roll. You will see some sights that will scar you for life - GOOD LUCK.

9. In some countries, like Thailand, your plug adapter won't fit into the wall plug sockets properly meaning that charging your phone is a nightmare as it keeps falling out! Say hello to 5% phone battery, your new best friend.

10. For some reason, in various budget hotels, the shower heads are halfway down the wall in the
wet rooms. Be prepared to have to bend your head backwards as if you're doing some strange sort of bathroom limbo dance in order to be able to wash your hair. TRUE STORY. (I am five foot eleven, for goodness sake, give a gal a chance!)

All jokes aside, backpacking is one of the most enriching, fulfilling and, quite frankly, LIFE-CHANGING experiences you will ever have. You will never appreciate your own country and home comforts more than ever following a stint with your backpack. It also puts things into perspective massively in terms of how lucky we are to live in such a wealthy country such as the UK, with all of our little luxuries and privileges that we often take for granted on a daily basis. I have never been so grateful for our cleanliness and hygiene standards, in particular, and how we don't have to deal with the pesky blighters that are mosquitoes! 

We have much to be thankful for. I always very much enjoy my backpacking experiences, as it's good to be out of your comfort zone and do things that unsettle you, but I also very much enjoy coming home. 

There is a lot more to come on the blog regarding my Thailand travelling experiences, so keep your eyes peeled! 

Furthermore, I am so happy to be able to say that I will be visiting my love in Green Bay in a couple of weeks time, for ONE WHOLE MONTH, so I will be able to post regularly and share more with you whilst I'm in the US! It's super exciting! 

Until next time...

K xo 

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13 January 2017

8 Highlights of Wisconsin

If you read my last blog post, you'll know that I visited Las Vegas AGAIN in November (three times in two years, such a lucky ducky)! I went with my sister and CTB (Chief Travel Buddy) for five days and then we flew onto Chicago as a pitstop.

While she was grabbing her connecting flight back to Manchester, I was hopping on a coach to Wisconsin... to see A BOY *shocked face emoji*!

Said boy is from Green Bay (home of the Packers) and I probably wouldn't even have thought to venture to the state of Wisconsin (home of cheese curds - SO YUM) if it wasn't for him.

I was in Wisconsin for just over two weeks so I had a bit of a whistle stop tour, starting with the coach journey from Chicago O'Hare airport to Milwaukee (where Nathan picked me up).

Here are my 8 highlights from my time in Wisconsin:

1) Eating perch for the first time at a supper club.

Supper clubs are pretty famous in Wisconsin, especially Friday night's all-you-can-eat fish fry. It's a pretty social experience, where diners come to drink alcohol and talk before they eat, and afterwards STUFF THEIR FACES with fish. (Om nom nom!)

I tried perch for the first time in Green Bay at a suppers club called Farrs Grove... and it was LUSH.

2) Wine tasting in Door County from 10am.

Wisconsinites are massive drinkers - this is a well known 'thing' in America. Nathan helped me fit right in by taking me wine tasting one day at 10am to the wineries in and around Door County.

For those of you who don't know, Door County is on a peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, north of the city, and it's a pretty scenic area with a lot of parks and shorelines where Wisconsinites like to visit. This brings me onto my next highlight nicely...

3) Visiting Fish Creek.

Fish Creek is the cutest little town in Door County, right on the lake. Because we visited in December, out of season, it was really quiet and peaceful.

It looks like something right out of a film set - so charming and understated. It actually reminded me a lot of Wilmington, North Carolina, which Nic and I visited in January 2015.

I fell in love!

4) Going to the cinema to see 'Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them'.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a massive Harry Potter fan, so naturally I had to go to see the latest instalment set in the Harry Potter world. The cinema in Green Bay has a traditional-old-school-cinema-style exterior which made it feel like an even more special experience.

When the film first began, it was quite slow-paced and, in all honesty, I wasn't sure I was going to like it. But it soon picked up and, by the time it had finished, I had really enjoyed it!

Of course it doesn't compare to any of the Potters, but I cannot fault anything J.K. Rowling does. That woman is a bloody GENIUS.

5) Spending a snowy weekend away in Madison.

It was really nice to use Green Bay as a base and then venture off to other places in Wisco, like Door County and Madison.

Madison is the capital city of Wisconsin; it's downtown area is situated between two lakes which makes it VERY PRETTY indeed!

The weekend that we chose to go, it had snowed so it looked EVEN MORE GORGEOUS.

It's quite a foodie city, so we spent a lot of time in nice eateries. We also did a wee bit of shopping (one of my favourite past times) and then I had my first experience in a comedy club on the Friday night which was a lot of fun!

On Saturday night, I got a nice little surprise...

6) Going to see The Nutcracker ballet.

We had previously talked about events going on in Madison the weekend that we would be there, and the first thing that came up was Madison Ballet's The Nutcracker at the Overture. However, the tickets were a little on the pricey side, so we had no choice but to skip it.

I was pretty gutted as I wanted to see the ballet ever since I was a little ballerina myself. (Yes, I used to dance! And yes, I used to love it!)

Then Nathan decided to surprise me by getting us tickets as part of my Christmas present which was really, really lovely of him. (That's how you know you've got a keeper, gals!)

The actual show was incredible with unbelievably talented dancers. I remember having this moment where the music was so powerful that it resonated within my soul, and the dancing was so beautiful, that I couldn't help but tear up. YES, I'M A SOFTIE!

Let's just say, it was an amazing experience and worth waiting 26 years for!

7) Watching the Packers play for the first time.

Another first while I was in Wisconsin was going to watch the Green Bay Packers play the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field.

I always wanted to go to an American football game to experience how it compares to Super League rugby here in England.

My Dad took me to countless Wakefield Trinity rugby games growing up, which I never fully got into but enjoyed all the same, so I was keen to see what all the fuss was about with the Packers and if American football lived up to the hype!

Sure enough, it was such a fun experience and the atmosphere at Lambeau was on fire! The only downside was that it was -5 degrees celsius when we were watching the game and, for a gal who has a crappy immune system, that wasn't good!

8) Going to Wisconsin single and leaving in a relationship.

Isn't it weird to think that I met Nathan in January 2015 in Nashville as friends whilst we were both on nights out? Afterwards we didn't speak for almost a year whilst I was busy with my ex and then we randomly started speaking again. And, since then, he took me out in Chicago (read about it here), came over to England in the summer and drove us up to Edinburgh (read about it here) and now I've just been over to visit him in his home town to spend 16 days with him *cheesy grin emoji*!

Life is weird. I find it so strange that something that I never expected to be anything, turned out to be everything.

Sure, I have to deal with the fact that I'm in a super long distance relationship now (that distance being 3,700 miles) but I simply cannot envisage myself with anyone else. He is worth the hassle!

All in all, I had the most amazing time with Nathan in Wisconsin and I'm thoroughly looking forward to returning in the near future!

So, what's next I hear you ask?!

My sister and CTB are starting the new year with a BANG and going to Thailand. For a whole month. PINCH ME!

By the time you read this, I will already be there... sunning myself, exploring the paradise islands and making the most of my final travelling trip in this series with Nic! BRING IT ON.

Until next time, dolls...


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3 January 2017

New Year, New Specs with GlassesShop.com

Having been a speccy-four-eyes for a good number of years now, I find myself constantly on the lookout for new glasses to add to my ever-growing collection.

Sometimes I have the patience and time required to reach for the contacts; but, more often than not, it's easier to just throw on a pair of my glasses and I'm good to go! I'm also more inclined to grab my glasses these days because wearing them has become somewhat of a fashion statement in recent years, with people opting to wear frames if they don't even need eye correction and have the perfect eyesight that most of us can only dream of (sister, I'M LOOKING AT YOU)!

Shopping for glasses nowadays is like shopping for a handbag or jewellery or some other kind of outfit accessory, therefore it's important that they look good! People spend a lot of money on the perfect pair and they are seen as more of an investment piece due to the fact that they are fitted with your personalised prescription... and you could have that prescription for years!

Recently I fancied a change and decided it was time to expand my glasseswear range.

The folks at GlassesShop.com kindly sent me the following beauties. They are cat-eye shaped and navy blue with a floral design on the sides and, in all honesty, I AM IN LOVE. I haven't been able to stop wearing these glasses since I received them!

GlassesShop.com provide trendy glasses frames, as well as high quality prescription lenses, because they understand the need for fashion-forward specs in our lives! They also sell prescription sunglasses for those warmer, brighter days.

They are an American-owned online retailer, but ship worldwide. If you provide your prescription requirements when ordering, they will fit customised lenses and send you your new glasses as part of their quick and pain-free service.

I've teamed up with them to offer you lovelies 50% off all full-priced eyeglasses and sunglasses (with free lenses!) when you use the online promo code GSHOT50.

Start your 2017 right by grabbing your own stylish pair of statement specs now! The amount of compliments I receive when I wear mine are never-ending so, trust me, you won't regret it!

Prescription Eyeglasses - GlassesShop.com (*)

(Thanks for reading! Katie-xo)

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